The first SU Council Meeting took place on Sunday, September 10th and featured an ambitious agenda totalling over 20 items. The meeting covered executive members’ summer reports and their plans for the year, the SU’s advocacy priorities for the year, updates on student centre renovations, and more. It also featured uncharacteristic silence from councilors, which was only broken when Council debated the lengths of their meetings.
President Hammad Ahmed gave his summer report first. Ahmed highlighted a slew of meetings, including one with the Mawi’omi Centre regarding the George Coles Bursary and another with PEI Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidates James Aylward and Brad Trivers. He also referenced a meeting at which he learned that Student Affairs will move into Dalton Hall following its renovation and that the space currently occupied by Student Affairs will become a new interdisciplinary health centre operated under the direction of Dr. Gulrose Jiwani, the Dean of Nursing. Ahmed also discussed his work in collecting student feedback on Project Beacon, noting that are still unresolved issues. He also mentioned that with the Campus Login being replaced by myUPEI, the UPEISU will now rely on Simply Voting as its new platform for SU elections voting.
Ahmed travelled with Vice President Academic & External Taya Nabuurs to Ottawa in May for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA)’s Foundations Conference and to Banff, Alberta in July for the Policy & Strategy Conference. There, Nabuurs was elected as Vice-Chair of the Federal Policy Committee, and CASA approved its new policy themes for the year; they are health and wellness, Indigenous students, educational materials, international students, and financial barriers.
Nabuurs then took the floor. She spoke in-depth about the UPEI Sexual Violence, Prevention & Response Task Force. The task force is currently investigating current procedures and policies on sexual violence and will look to conduct consultation with the campus on these matters. The task force will be co-chaired by Nabuurs and the UPEI Vice President Administration & Finance Jackie Podger.
Nabuurs attended the Canadian Federation of Students’ semi-annual national general meeting in support of reforms proposed by multiple Canadian student unions. She noted that a number of reform motions were not approved or tabled until future meetings, and stated that the conference was “a rather frustrating experience.”
On the government front, Nabuurs spoke about Careerconnect, which allows students to claim employment insurance while studying. She observed “inefficiencies” with the program and said she is working with SU staff to produce a report that would outline issues with the program and provide recommendations to improve it.
Vice President Student Life Megan Rix spoke next. She said that a new clubs and campaigns coordinator had been hired and that planning for events and campaigns is ongoing. Rix listed some events that have been planned for the year, including Consent Week, Financial Literacy Day, and Diversity Week. She plans to increase consultation with students regarding which events they would like to see on campus.
She also spoke about attending the annual Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA) national conference in London, Ontario with the SU’s Director of Communications, Fallon Mawhinney. There, Rix was elected as an eastern director on the COCA board of directors and cited running for the board as a way to improve the SU’s relationship with COCA.
Vice President Finance William McGuigan spoke last. McGuigan attended the Campus Trust conference in the spring. He noted that a new smoking cessation package was added to the Health & Dental plan because of the recent implementation of the university’s smoke-free policy.
Speaking about SU businesses and services, McGuigan noted that he is planning to analyze whether the Yearbook is financially sustainable. He also mentioned that he and The Cadre’s Editor-in-Chief, Lorelei Kenny, had successfully secured $5,000 from Development and Alumni Engagement to renovate The Cadre’s office. Lastly, McGuigan said Mickey’s Place was intended to close but the executive decided against it over the summer. He added that it will now serve local products such as Receivers Coffee and Lady Baker Tea.
Each executive presented their executive mandates, which are effectively a list of goals for the executives’ year in office.
Ahmed’s presentation was focused on four points. The first was the Student Centre Refresh, a project to maintain and improve the student centre which began during the 2015/16 year. Ahmed stated he had “pulled the plug” on The Wave portion of the project and that it will be looked at in future New Initiative and Future Directions (NIFD) committee meetings.
Ahmed addressed gender-neutral washrooms as his second point, noting that the library and Main Building do not have gender-neutral washrooms. He said the university is taking action to address the issue and he would speak more on the topic at a later date.
Ahmed also spoke about improving the SU’s relationship with the student body, expressing plans to meet with the GSA president once a month and the international student advisor. He also expressed an interest in bridging the gap between councilors and their constituents and wants to attend an event from every “minor” constituency.
Finally, Ahmed noted that the SU’s 3-year strategic plan is expiring this year, and although work hasn’t started on the project, the NIFD committee will begin working and consulting with students soon.
Nabuurs spoke about writing annual policy papers, that would provide in-depth looks at specific SU policies for government and other external groups. In addition, she would like to cost the SU’s asks, which would provide those groups with an accurate price tag for the implementation of SU policy. She spoke about a developing a membership engagement strategy, that would engage underrepresented student groups (i.e. LGBTQ+ students) in the policy development process.
Nabuurs also expressed an interest in engaging with youth councils at all levels of government. She noted her involvement with the PEI Youth Futures Council and how postsecondary education is often a discussion point. She hopes to present at these councils following the completion of the union’s 2017-18 lobby document.
Rix mandate addressed hosting inclusive events, attracting new and unique acts to campus, citing acts like Scratch and Bang who performed at Back to School Pub and organizing meaningful and successful campaigns, which she hopes to accomplish by shortening their lengths. She also said that Sex Week would be renamed to Love & Sex Week so that the campaign can focus on both a healthy sex life and creating healthy relationships. Rix said the shift was made to be more inclusive of those who are asexual and those who hold religious beliefs that forbid sex before marriage. Finally, she discussed improving the SU’s relationship with COCA and increasing first-year involvement in clubs.
McGuigan’s plans for the year centered around improving HR practices, including the introduction of transition documents and exit surveys for outgoing staff. He also wants to improve marketing of Campus Trust, specifically to international students, and he wants to evaluate the sustainability of the SU’s businesses and services.
McGuigan plans to invest more time into SU services The Cadre and Neus Yearbook to increase awareness about these services and to ensure they can be operated as sustainably as possible. Moreover, McGuigan wants to determine what direction The Wave and Mickey’s Place are heading by assessing their performance on an ongoing basis to ensure that losses are not out of control.
McGuigan and President Ahmed gave a brief update on The Wave which was scheduled to be renovated this past summer. Ahmed said they had to cancel the project because the bids stemming from the request for proposals exceeded the budgeted amount. However, McGuigan said the menu had changed and noted: “The hot donair dip is literally the shit!” (The Cadre could not independently verify this claim at the time of publishing.)
Rix then addressed Council on changes to the Future Executive Development Program (FEDP). The program was launched in 2015 to provide prospective club executives with the training to successfully lead a club. Rix said the SU will hand over control of the program to the Recruitment and International Relations Office for this academic year, with a further decision at the end of the year. The Cadre will provide more details on this story in a future article.
Nabuurs presented on policy areas which were approved for development in the spring; these included mental health support, a sexual assault policy, Indigenous & equity-seeking groups, and lifelong learning & skills development. Motions to approve the recommendations of the mental health support and Indigenous & equity-seeking groups were passed with no opposition. Nabuurs said the other two policies will be brought forward following consultation and the completion of the university’s stand-alone sexual assault policy.
Council voted to approve October 4th, 2017 as the date for the SU’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). The AGM will feature executive mandate presentations and other updates from the executives. This date coincides with the final day of voting for the SU’s fall general election, and it was hoped that candidates would appear at the event to learn more about the SU.
Several Items for Next Meeting
Several agenda items were tabled until the next meeting because Council had exceeded the time limit set for the meeting. Among the items tabled were bylaw amendments, including one which would establish a permanent clubs and campaigns committee, and another which would have the Director of Communications become a non-voting member of the executive committee. The Director of Communications position was preceded by the Vice President Communications, but the SU had transitioned it away from an executive position following a successful student referendum in 2015.
Council is also expected to discuss its evaluation of the executives’ summer performance. The evaluation, which will be completed over the next weeks through a survey circulated to councilors via email, will be discussed in a closed session.
Editor’s Note: The Cadre is 100% financially subsidized by the Student Union BUT we totally swear this isn’t fake news.
By: Nathan Hood & Lorelei Kenny