Transparency starts with knowing what you do.
Author: Jason Chestney
Recently, the University of Regina Students Union (URSU) voted down a resolution (Volume 57, Issue 15, p. 5) to define roles for their executive members. The resolution also called for punishments for executive members if they failed to carry out these duties. At best, I believe that URSU voted against this motion in order to avoid constraining the executive members and discouraging inter-cooperation and groupthink. However, at worst I believe this is a further attempt from the URSU executive to avoid being accountable and transparent, not only to students, but also to fellow executive members, in my opinion. While there may be well-intentioned motives behind this vote against the resolution, the potential consequences of not having defined roles outweigh any potential positives.
What most concerns me is the lack of oversight and incentive for the URSU executive to carry out their duties. Without the resolution, I believe the executive can carry out their assigned tasks with no method for ensuring accountability and no motivation to act to a high standard. Previous URSU motions, such as banning audio-recording devices at URSU meetings, have established a precedent that they shun accountability towards students. Therefore, there are already difficulties in ensuring that URSU remains accountable to students. The lack of a method to keep URSU accountable creates a further concern: that URSU will become more secretive and concerned with perks rather than representing students and encouraging further student participation within URSU.
I also believe URSU’s failure to define roles will create immediate and long-term problems. In the immediate future, the lack of defined roles will create internal divisions within URSU as executive members will step on each others’ toes while focusing on projects. In addition, the lack of defined roles could result in insufficient resources being given to particular projects while over-allocating resources to others. A lack of communication could also prevent the discovery that multiple people are working on similar projects; this could result in needless resource duplication and depletion. As well, the lack of defined roles prevents the executive from ensuring project accountability by not having assigned responsibility for common executive duties. If certain issues or projects are not dealt with, it could result in blame shifting and no one taking responsibility for not dealing with the issues.
It is in the long run that I believe the most serious problems would occur; the lack of assigned roles would seriously hurt an incoming URSU executive and board. I believe that for a new executive, unclearly defined duties and responsibilities would cause great problems at the outset. It would result in this executive coming in untrained, except for those members who were re-elected last year, on their duties and responsibilities. This would lead to wasted time and energy, with the new URSU executive essentially floundering along as they attempt to figure out how they can work together.
In my opinion, the resulting lost time and energy that this new executive would take to figure out their jobs could be easily avoided through deciding in writing what each executive’s role is, how the various members are supposed to work together, and the methods and procedures for ensuring accountability. The latter is especially important, as I find it considerably lacking.