Yet another URSU executive resigns

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Carillon minuteman returns/Brett Nielsen

In last week’s paper, my colleague Sara BirrelL compared the recent trend of URSU executive resignations to a long-running joke on Murphy Brown where the title character’s receptionists kept quitting. This week, in keeping with their apparent trend of emulating beloved media classics, URSU is having a Groundhog Day moment: doing the same thing all over again.

For the second time in two weeks, a member of the URSU executive has resigned. Karminder Singh, the Vice-President of External Affairs, tendered his resignation to the Board of Directors hours before Tuesday night’s board meeting, citing family reasons. He is the fourth URSU executive in 16 months to leave their post.

Singh was responsible for developing marketing and sponsorship opportunities for URSU and educating students about issues related to post-secondary education, and as of last week, also served as one of URSU’s four emergency signing authorities – replacing Usman Kahn, the former VP of Operations and Finance who resigned last week. That responsibility has now been passed to Harmeet Singh, the VP of Student Affairs and only remaining VP on the URSU board.

URSU President Victor Oriola says that working plans will be discussed at a staff meeting tomorrow morning, and that official updates are pending – both for the board, if it is determined that substantial changes are necessary, and for the student body.

“The board will be releasing a statement sometime this week,” Oriola said. “URSU continues to be about the work of the students, and we look forward to being a collaborative partner in enhancing a holistic student experience.”

During the meeting, Oriola was adamant that this recent spate of resignations is simply an unfortunate coincidence that could have happened to any student union.

“These are things that we could not have seen coming,” he said. “It’s not as if we had incidents where the four execs were involved in royal rumbles and wrestling matches and it was a hostile place to work and people decided to just bounce because it was so terrible. This is essentially just life happening at unfortunate times.”

Other members of the Board view Karminder Singh’s resignation, especially coming so quickly on the heels of Kahn’s departure, as a potential symptom of a larger problem.

“I think this speaks to a bigger concern around recruiting people to run for executive positions for our organization who understand that, if they accept the position, there are [16,000]-plus students counting on them to do that and remain in that role,” said Jacq Brasseur, URSU’s Equity and Campaigns Director. “I’ve been on the board for a couple years, and we hemorrhage executives, and I don’t really know how we can fix that. … Of the hundreds of student unions across Canada, this is not happening to all of them. Some of them, yes, but not all. I think this had led to a bigger conversation.”

Board members bandied about a number of potential solutions for increasing executive retention, everything seriously discussing the idea of making one of the VP slots into an appointed position to Board Chair John Lax jokingly asking “Can I get a motion that Harmeet and Victor are not allowed to be in an automobile or an elevator together, as a contingency plan?”

One policy the board will be implementing for the upcoming elections, which will be taking place at the end of March, is aimed at helping potential executives get a realistic perspective on what their workload would be like.

“Anyone considering to run for an executive position [will have] to go through a personal interview with myself first, so they have a full appreciation of the responsibilities of the job and what’s expected of them before they even enter their nomination papers,” said General Manager Carl Fils.

There was a quiet chorus of thank you’s from the Board at Fils’ announcement, indicating some optimism that this will be an effective measure. Oriola also emphasized how the demands placed on student executives place them in a somewhat unique position on campus.

“When you’re a student and an exec, you’re living a very strange life in that a lot of your life is still in flux,” he said. “A lot of factors that you can’t control affect how you live, and then you have this job that essentially requires you to function as a grown-up with a degree in whatnot. So we don’t live the life of a normal student.”

Oriola was also quick to point out that resignations happen to everyone, citing departures from the University of Saskatchewan Student Union and from a number of Ontario universities’ student unions this term.

“While I don’t want to say executive resignations happen all the time…” he began.

“They do if your name is URSU,” Brasseur responded.

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