By: Elizabeth Iwunwa
While students of UPEI rested two Sundays ago, the Student Council decided our collective fates. It was the first meeting of the semester and had been four months since it last met and so almost by the default, it went on for over four hours. Although scheduled to begin at six that evening, the Information Session took off a few minutes before. Nathan Hood, current President of the UPEISU introduced newly elected councillors to the structure and purpose of the council. By using the Organizational Chart, he demonstrated that students were really the ones steering the affairs of the Student Council.
Hossein Mivehchi, the new Chair of Council was introduced. This fellow has a pretty impressive background. He possesses a BSc. in Physics, an MSc. in Mechanical Engineering, and an MBA in Business Administration. He will be responsible for presiding over council meetings and assist with the interpretation and enforcement of the UPEISU’s constitution and by-laws amongst other things.
Council appeared considerably smaller as there were positions yet to be filled (it is election season by the way). The newbies were taken through Robert’s Rules, which is a set of guidelines used to improve effectiveness and fair process during proceedings. At 6:10pm, the meeting began and the first order of business was the swearing in of councilors. Each councillor promised to fulfill their duties and represent students to the best of their abilities. Each councillor, previously on council or recently sworn in, partook in the declaration of conflict in which they disclosed anything that may impact or influence decision making during the future meetings. The agenda was amended and approved and the minutes of the meeting on the 26th of April was approved as well.
Next on the agenda, was the executive reports. Laid out in months, each executive outlined what official activities they had engaged in for the past four months. In May, Nathan Hood, President of the UPEISU, met with CBC to discuss the increase in tuition by 3%. He noted that the increment was an unwelcome development. June came along and he published an open letter to students on ongoing labour negotiations. This publication was featured in the Guardian and earned him a CBC interview. Hood also became a recipient of the COCA “Student Member of The Year Award” although Kaylee Jabbour accepted said award on his behalf. And worthy of note, he Facetimed his speech. In July, the meeting which led Tim Horton’s to land a spot on our campus took place. In August, he attended the launch of the School of Engineering valued at $26 million. And in this wonderful month of September, he attended NSO and hosted the SU barbeque.
VP Academic and External, John Rix took over and outlined his activities as well. He worked amongst other things on the SU development summit on behalf of UPEISU and CASA. The report on the importance of receiving timely feedback which he worked on, was voted on Friday the 16th when the Senate had its first meeting.
VP Student Life, Kaylee Jabbour stated that in May, her transition week included teaching and learning from the old exec. She learned about policies, bylaws, and steps to planning and executing a successful event. She attended a COCA conference in June and met with Treena Smith from Student Affairs about accessibility issues for UPEI students in July. During August, she worked on logistics for Prowl to Paradise and this month, she planned and effectively executed the Welcome Back Barbecue and Back to School Pub respectively.
For Clayton Smith, the new VP Finance his position got expanded to include HR duties. In May, he worked on a comprehensive HR policy, goal setting, and performance evaluation forms. He attended the AGM of the Finance and Negotiation Committee and attended a golf tournament with the Alumni in June. In July, Smith created a spreadsheet to keep track of budget and spending and began work on Financial Literacy Week. Last month, he continued work on the HR policy and sat on hiring boards. This September, he worked with John to hammer out a revised committee bylaw and served at the Welcome Back Barbecue. The Senate and Board of Governors committees had not met at the time of this meeting. Next up was the presentation of the executive mandate which highlighted the priorities for the school year.
Nathan went first and stated that a Student Centre refresh was due. This prospect began last year through NIFT and plans are underway to look at all aspects of Student Centre and the was a survey in the summer to collect broad feedback. Further feedback session in mid-late September will help to gather further information. The architect engaged in October will provide additional suggestions and quotes. In February, Council will determine the winning bid for the contract and work commences between May to August. Also, he outlined ways in which he intended to implement the recommendations for the restructuring of council. The included the overhaul of council retreat and emphasize skill development rather than general development. He is also pursuing a review of governing documents to ensure that rules are in the best place for the organization. In addition, he intends to improve relationships with and participation from the student body and special constituencies. The focus will be on improving the relationship with the AVC, Graduate, and International students. He aims to achieve this by developing constituency-specific committees to engage constituents and address constituency-specific issues.
Kaylee’s focus is on inclusive and diverse programming. The goal is to improve life on campus for all students by programming events that are welcoming and inclusive. She intends to program many events so people attend at least one they enjoy. In addition, Ms. Jabbour hopes to further club development by making sure all clubs have a good understanding of their relationship with the student union. This will give them the opportunity to showcase themselves and take part in events.
VP Finance Clayton Smith this year, intends to implement HR policies, help improve students’ understanding of personal finance, make the process of student funding more transparent and accountable, improve performance of SU businesses/services to improve the sustainability of the organization, and improve the knowledge of the incoming employees and improve consistency in procedures. VPAX John Rix will deliver a white paper on addressing real cost of post-secondary and deliver on his campaign promise in 2016. He will also focus on SU policy solutions to all the different areas that need to be factored into the cost of post-secondary education. He intends to improve stakeholder relations by working to connect councillors to the community. Building data will allow us to poll students on issues most important to the. A much-needed recess was granted at 8:02pm and lasted for about ten minutes. It might be worth mentioning at this point that the meeting had a few glitches as the new chair was still in the process of learning the ropes on how to chair a council meeting.
There was a motion passed on the Education Representative Election Process. The Education people are a bit different from the rest of the UPEI student body as they begin their program in May and have an elected rep in May. Through this current process, it is not recognized. They want a process by which they can be recognized from May to April as opposed to five months.
Mr. Hood presented Council Restructure Report Recommendations. The first was to change ration from 1:400 to 1:600 students for both the Science and Arts representative positions. The residence/first-year/health & wellness will also be phased out. This overhaul is as a result of the fact that these groups are already represented. The recommendation also includes a plan to clarify executive and councillor descriptions and better utilize full-time and student staff to support. The committee recommends further evaluations, one of the councillors evaluating each other and another of council evaluating the executive.
There was a little back and forth among councillors as to how exactly these evaluations were to work. This lasted over twenty minutes. Referendum questions were approved and motions were passed. There was also a motion passed for the proposed constitutional amendments. The amendment in question would give council the power to tinker the student fee to reflect the Consumer Price Index. There were a lot more activities that were ongoing but at this point, yours truly was tired and headed home to prepare for her 8:30am class. Head over to the UPEISU’s website for the detailed minutes. I hear councillors eventually bade each other farewell about an hour before midnight. This current system is lacking in efficiency and councillors recognize this flaw and are seeking avenues to rectify it.