By: Fallon Mawhinney
The UPEI Student Union meeting on March 13 began with reports from all executives. President Dana Kenny described several points, since he and Vice President Academic and External (VPAX) Johnathan Rix were not present at the last meeting two weeks ago. Kenny described his trip to Ottawa for two conferences, notably CASA’s policy meeting and annual general meeting. Another point of interest was the new UPEI School of Arts Innovation will be approved soon.
Next, Rix went into detail about several initiatives since he was last present at council. Rix noted as well his involvement at the CASA policy meeting in Ottawa. Most notably, he held meetings with Rona Ambrose, the leader of the opposition. UPEI students also met with Peter Bevan-Baker, and the caucus of the official opposition. Rix also reported that the student loan minimum will be successfully raised. Among other projects, Rix noted that he is currently dealing with academic grievances, and most have been resolved.
The Vice President Student Life’s (VPSL) report was fun-filled as always. Nathan Hood went into detail about several events. He noted the success of the recent Beach Blast tournament and party: 120 people participated in the volleyball tournament and the party was almost sold out. He also mentioned how pleased he was with the recent Diamond Award nominations. Among other initiatives, Hood met with the UPEI Cheer Team about ratifications and generating more interest in the group, and he congratulated the new VPSL-elect Kaylee Jabbour on her position.
The Vice President Finance (VPF), Zach Tweel, mentioned his meeting with The Cadre Board of directors regarding new websites and equipment for The Cadre. He also noted that he would go over financial reports later in the meeting.
The Senate and Board of Governors had nothing new to report.
Next, the meeting went into camera, removing everyone from the room who was not a part of the student council, and turning off all electronic devices. The period lasted longer than usual, about fifteen minutes. Upon returning, the council approved the 2016 election results. A number of councilors abstained from voting on this motion.
Following this vote, Travis Gordon, former VPAX and UPEI Graduate, presented on his review of the size and structure of the UPEISU Council, which he created as part of a professional writing course. The report detailed serious structural changes to the UPEISU, including several cuts to current councillor positions and the addition of a graduate student position. He also mentioned the possibility of an honorarium for the remaining councillors. Gordon noted that fewer roles in council would lead to more responsibilities and more hours, therefore councilors should be reimbursed for their time.
Gordon answered a number of questions afterwards, particularly regarding the cutting of several council positions. Some councillors spoke positively about the idea. Jack Stultz, the Nursing Representative, noted that the smaller proposed group would lead to a more streamlined decision-making process. A number of questions were raised about the idea of the proposed honorarium. Notably, Zach Tweel inquired about how the determination of the honorarium would be decided. Nathan Hood asked Gordon how he believed that the proposed system would impact the somewhat tense relationship between senators and councillors. Megan Rix, Arts Representative, raised concerns that the potential changes were happening very quickly and should be considered more thoroughly. At the end of a very long discussion, Johnathan Rix, moved to make a motion to create an ad-hoc committee to further examine the proposed changes. The motion was amended several times, and debated heavily and heatedly, and after forty-five minutes of discussion the amendment was passed and will be discussed at the next meeting.
The next item discussed was proposed form changes.
Dana Kenny, President of Student Council, brought up the issue of cell phone bill remuneration for the Director of Communications, to the amount of 20%. The issue was moved around, putting the Director of Communications (DC) into the former position of VP Communications, giving the DC the power to have up to 50% of their cell phone bill paid for by the Student Union.
Next, Kenny brought up committee nominations to which two councilors were appointed.
Johnathan Rix gave a report on a potential Fall Reading Week on the basis of a three year trial. Rix quoted a rough estimate of 70% of students in favor of this new break, based on a Twitter and UPEI Campus Life Facebook page. Stultz inquired about the proposed break pushing the last day of classes further into the holiday season. Andrew Simmons, Engineering Representative, brought up the fact that perhaps the decision should be based off a more reliable data collection method. Tayte Willows, Science Represenative, and Kaylee Blackett, Accessibility Representative both spoke against the motion, noting that although students want more days off, they do not want a shortened Christmas break or a shortened summer. After a number of concerns were raised, the motion to further discuss a Fall Reading Week was called into question and amended several times.
A number of other items followed on the agenda, putting the meeting well over the four hour mark. Additional agenda items included Business Reports from VP Finance Zach Tweel, a report on graduate student funding, and proposed by-laws on councillor responsibilities and a on external policy from VPAE Johnathan Rix. Dana Kenny, President of the Student Union proposed summer employment for the VP Finance, and also gave a legal update. The meeting was then adjourned.