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Students’ Union proposes elected official reporting reform

By Scott Strasser, November 18 2016 —

The Students’ Union Policy Development and Review Committee (PDRC) has proposed a change to the SU’s elected official reporting mechanism for Students’ Legislative Council meetings. The policy recommends eliminating SU faculty representatives’ weekly verbal reports and replacing them with monthly verbal reports.

SU vice-president operations and finance Branden Cave — who chairs PDRC — presented the proposal to SLC on Nov. 15. He said the policy would address a long-standing issue of the quality of SU faculty representatives’ verbal reports.

“It’s something the last few years we’ve been working on and have been trying out different solutions. This is the policy recommendation we’ve come to,” Cave said. “Students deserve to know what their elective officials are up to. We want to make sure those [reports] are the highest quality and this is the way we plan to address that.”

Faculty representatives’ weekly verbal reports currently take up roughly 20 minutes of every SLC meeting. Each of the 18 faculty representatives have to tell council what they did in the previous week that relates to their job as an elected official.

More than a half hour of debate among SLC members followed Cave’s presentation.

“I think that reporting structures need to be efficient, they need to ensure our reports have quality to them and we want to make sure we’re accountable, not only to ourselves, but to one another and our constituents,” said Faculty of Nursing representative Jessica Revington, one of three faculty representatives who sit on PDRC.

During the Nov. 15 discussion, SLC members brought up a stigma that surrounds faculty representatives who have “nothing to report” at some meetings. Members brought up how representatives often feel obligated to say something, leading to irrelevant information in reports like attendance on committees or SU events and conversations with student constituents.

“That being said, I think it was very clear in the meeting we had on Tuesday that we’re trying to push aside that stigma with these changes and almost instil a culture change in SLC,” Revington said.

Proponents for the policy argued there is often overlap in current verbal reports when faculty representatives work on the same initiative or attend the same events.

“The reason we have reporting is to ensure elected officials are doing their jobs,” Cave said. “I think that’s better encapsulated by the monthly reports than by the [weekly] verbal reports. The weekly verbal reports give you a snapshot of what an elected official has been working on. The monthly reports give you the story.”

While the majority of SLC seemed in favour of the policy change, some faculty reps were adamant that PDRC’s policy is the wrong solution.

Werklund School of Education representative Carson Reveen was one of the more vocal opponents of the policy change. He said a bi-weekly reporting structure would better fix the problem.

“The problem with monthly is it’s just too infrequent and I think a bi-weekly solution is frequent enough to keep us accountable and allows us to get in on collaboration on the ground floor,” Reveen said.

Reveen also believes there shouldn’t be a stigma for odd weeks when elected officials have nothing to report. He said talking to executives before SLC about what elected officials plan to report is a solution to increasing the reports’ quality.

Faculty of Kinesiology representative Sagar Grewal also opposed the recommendations. He said if anything, verbal reports should be even more detailed.

“I think reports are actually really essential to inform students as well as other [elected officials] of what’s going on. That information is really essential to know what other people are doing and what challenges people are facing,” Grewal said. “Right now, reporting is not perfect. The solution they brought forward on Tuesday is a solution, but not the one I would prefer right now.”

The proposed policy also suggests increasing the frequency of written reports for SU executives from tri-monthly to monthly and for committee chair reports to be given on a monthly basis instead of weekly.

The current system has been in place since 2009–10, when the SU performed their last governance review.

SLC members will vote on PDRC’s proposed policy on Nov. 29.

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