URSU Executive gets a raise

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Article: Michael Chmielewski – Editor-in-chief [Interim]

All four executives of the union will be paid $5000 more per term.

The University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) executive has given itself a $5000 per term raise. The URSU Executive salary raise was carried as a motion after the last winter semester ended, during the May 13th, 2013 Board of Director’s Meeting.

In the May 13th minutes, the motion called 6.1 URSU Executive Salaries, firstly states the reason for the raise: “WHEREAS the cost of living and inflation are constantly devaluing the worth of the Canadian dollar and the URSU Executive salaries have yet to been brought up by these percentages in the past.”

It continues on saying that “WHEREAS through the excellent efforts of last year’s executive the URSU has grown and achieved multiple new avenues of income and will continue to in the coming year.”

This raise comes the same year as a tuition increased across the board for University of Regina students. Returning students will notice an increase in their payments, with undergrads paying 4.4% more, graduates paying 10% more and international students paying 25% more.

Where the magic happens. /Kyle Leitch

Where the magic happens. /Kyle Leitch

The motion claims that the URSU executive is underpaid, arguing “the executive salaries of the URSU are greatly behind the salaries of other full-time employed executives across Canada.” The motion cites the wage of the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU) Salary is $32,941 for each executive, according to their 2013-2014 budget.

At the University of Calgary, the executives of the University of Calgary Students’ Union make $37,469 annually per term, which is May to May. Just like the URSU, the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union pays all its executives the same wage, according to the Vice-President (Academic) at the U of C Students’ Union.

The URSU motion concludes, saying “BE IT RESOLVED the executive salaries be expanded from 24,000 per term to 29,000 per term in order to better reflect the hard work and efforts of the executive.”

The URSU executive is made up of four positions: the President, Vice President (External Affairs), Vice President (Operations and Finance), and Vice President (Student Affairs).

“The executive of the students’ union, for the amount of work they put in, which is about 50, 60, sometimes even 70 hours a week, they’re grossly underpaid” commented Nathan Sgrazzutti, President of the URSU. “The problem is that we’re expected to do this job to the best of our ability, [so] we need to be able to support ourselves financially while doing this as our sole kind of thing, alongside our schoolwork and our other extracurricular.”

In a document called Agreement as to Expectations for Executive Members of the University of Regina Students’ Union which “is meant to be an agreement between the Member and the Students’ Union Board of Directors, with respect to the work expectations, acceptable behaviour, and methods of interactions with the public for members of the Executive,” it says that  “The [Executive] Member agrees that” during the fall and winter semesters “the Member ought to be available and on campus for 40 hours per week.” The URSU Executive Policy says that Executive members must “follow office hours set by the Executive Committee at the beginning of each term of office.”

Sgrazzutti claims that the executive puts in 50 or more hours a week.

The URSU Executive salaries motion contains a byline that says “Motion to move In Camera.” Sgrazzutti acknowledged that, “motions can’t be made In Camera.” He explained that what happened here was that “the part that was in camera was there was some things that needed spoken about about the actual lives of the executive. They wanted to come clean about some things, some issues they were having, and they didn’t want that to be public knowledge.”

Devon Peters, a fourth year education student and member of the URSU Board of Directors as the Francophone Students’ Director disagrees.

“The decision to do it In Camera was a poor decision. It’s definitely one that could use some justification,” Peters said.

He went on, saying, “the reality is that we’re at an institution that is facing a leadership crisis on the basis of the fact [the Administration has] refused to release budget books… I don’t want our students’ union to look like that.”

Peters emphasized that the URSU should, in fact, be a role model for the U of R and “we, as students, want to see an open and well-managed university, and we’re going to do that, starting with our own policy.”

Peters also expressed concerns over other aspects of the raise, particularly the timing of the motion, saying he didn’t like how the union decided to “have this meeting during the summer, immediately following an Annual General Meeting where they raised their levy. So they went out, they told the student body that they didn’t have enough money to continue the functions they were providing… It seems disingenuous to me. If the budget really was that tight then is this really the time to be raising executive salaries?”

At the last URSU Annual General Meeting (AGM), which took place during the last academic year on April 10th, 2013, motion 6.4, entitled Index URSU Fees to Inflation was carried. The motion argued that the URSU had not increased its levy since the 2010 AGM, and that it has one of the “lowest membership fees” among Canadian students’ unions, and that the URSU must meet inflationary demands in operational costs to “maintain quality of its staff and services.”

The carried motion ends saying “THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the University of Regina Students’ Union fee be indexed to inflation yearly.”

On the URSU website, the most recent information on the fee structure is from 2010. In 2010-2011, a member of the student union would pay $60.05 dollars as union dues. In 2013, students will be paying $69 in union dues.

At the University of Saskatchewan, returning students will pay $71.72 in their union levy.

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URSU’s Headquarters. /Kyle Leitch

Another issue that Peters points out is the May 13th raise motion was a “decision made by a new Board [of Directors],” having recently been elected in March of 2013. While not trying to discount the new board, Peters said “the board of directors just received on August 20th an email from the President, Nathan, with essentially their terms of reference, which explains what the role of a member of the board of directors is.”

In the email from Sgrazzutti to the new Board of Directors on August 20th, the 3652-word document, entitled “Role of the Board of Directors,” details basic aspects of the job, such as URSU’s mission statement, different terms, voting members, the executive, etc.

Under “Section V. Board of Directors’ Duties,” the Preamble says, “the primary of the Board of Directors is to uphold the objectives and principles of the U of R student’s union. The Board of Directors is also responsible for the administration of the affairs of the URSU. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that all directors take this position very seriously, and contemplate all decisions carefully. Every vote has an impact on the way the URSU fuctions, and the direction in which it is moving.”[sic]

The preamble goes on with a warning: “Any director as an excuse for negligent decision or action CANNOT use ignorance. The information necessary to make informed choices within the URSU is at all members request and disposal. It is expected that all board members will seek any information they lack”[sic]. The end of the document is signed “Nathan Sgrazzutti, President.”

Peters elaborated on the situation.

“The new Board of Directors felt these people were thrust into a situation in their very second meeting of term, where they were being forced to decide if we should make a fairly large expenditure or a raise in salary for these students’ union members, without having received any documentation like how to do your job, or without necessarily having any familiarity of past functioning in regards to these matters.”

Peters was not at the May 13th Board meeting, citing that he was out of province.

The URSU Constitution states that Minutes from the Board of Directors meeting “must be published on the URSU website and in hard copy within fourteen days of the meeting… The Board of Directors shall ensure that the books and records of the Students’ Union are accurate.” The last alleged meeting was August 6th, and no minutes have been posted as of Sep 1st.

“The thing is, where is this raise coming from? Who’s paying the students’ union this raise?” said Kate Nimegeers, a fourth year Business student. “Do other students think it’s worthwhile? I personally don’t.”

Nimegeers also expressed concern about how the URSU gave itself this raise.

“I don’t feel as though I’ve been represented, or even really talked to about it.” She went on saying, “at the AGM I attended, I felt kind of ostracized by the whole situation. When I voiced my opinion, I wasn’t fully listened to, because there’s two minutes where you get to talk, even less than that, and then you’re just drowned out by everyone else. I didn’t feel represented or listened to, so I haven’t really paid attention since that point.”

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2 comments

  1. ES 9 September, 2013 at 22:15

    “I don’t feel as though I’ve been represented, or even really talked to about it.” She went on saying, “at the AGM I attended, I felt kind of ostracized by the whole situation. When I voiced my opinion, I wasn’t fully listened to, because there’s two minutes where you get to talk, even less than that, and then you’re just drowned out by everyone else. I didn’t feel represented or listened to, so I haven’t really paid attention since that point.”

    I remember walking out of that AGM feeling that URSU was run by a slimy and incompetent group of people. Something is really fucked up when one of the vice presidents openly accused Nathan of trying to subvert the democratic process by trying to get all of his friends to leave so that the AGM wouldn’t have quorum.

    I’m not surprised at all that Nathan Sgrazzutti would try to do something like this in the summer when no students were around and that the other members of Board of Directors didn’t have the backbone to vote no.

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