I have received some criticism from my fellow board members in the past week about my negative tone. I feel I should explain why I am constantly writing letters to The Medium, and why the tone of some of my letters seems negative.
UTMSU has a board of directors, which is elected every year at the same time as the Executive. Last year, when you were walking around through the halls, avoiding the Yellow team and the Blue team, you were also avoiding people that were not with a team but who were running for our board of directors. UTMSU is structured in such a way that the membership is the most powerful body that makes decisions, followed by the Board of Directors, and then the Executive.
The membership can vote at Annual General meetings or General meetings and can overrule the decisions made by the Board of Directors or change the way that UTMSU is run, by voting to change the constitution, bylaws, and policies. The job of the Board of Directors is to ensure that the union is behaving properly, responsibly, and accountably. To be able to do so, the board has several committees, and must approve all the actions of UTMSU. At the same time, the Board of Directors has a legal obligation to be loyal to UTMSU and its interests. That said, the board also is the check to the executive committee, ensuring through a few different means that the Executive is earning their $21,951.50.
In effect, it’s the board’s responsibility to ensure that the union is doing what it’s supposed to do. But there are roles in the Board of Directors that seem forgotten or ignored. One of the jobs of the board is to communicate with students, and pass on to the board what the students want. Students have opinions and questions, but they might not know exactly all the ways the union works.
It’s my job as a board member to listen to students and help explain how the union works. I have had a few concerned students contact me regarding things the union does. But for the most part, besides explaining how things work and representing student views, there’s little I can do at the board. Actually, a board member told me that I am “negative” and surround myself with “negative people”. This should be more troubling to that board member than to me. In reality every student needs representation. It’s not in our job description to only represent people that feel as though UTMSU is the best thing since sliced bread.
Last board meeting, I put forth a motion as students had asked me to. This motion read: “Be it resolved that prior to unfinished business, at every UTMSU board meeting a public question-and-answer period is allowed, where the membership may ask the board members questions.” It would set aside some time in each board meeting for listening to students and addressing questions. This is sort of the role of the board, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be able to hear students in an official forum with all the board members present?
Last year, Student’s United, Renew, and every board member, ran on a campaign of transparency and accountability. All the same, this motion I made failed, and all week I’ve been trying to understand why it would fail. The argument put forth by the Executive was confusing. It was that “we are transparent, and we have means in which students can participate already—so why add another?”. An argument was that “the role of the board is to listen to students 24/7”.So a question period doesn’t count as “listening to students”? The last and most troubling argument was made by Vickita Bhatt, president of UTMSU, and Zexi Wang, UTSU VP External. This argument was that “students don’t understand the way the union works, and a question period would force the board to sit through redundant questions”.
That’s the point. Redundant for whom? How are they going to find out? Doesn’t it matter?
One of the greatest issues I hear about the union is their lack of transparency and accountability. Well, the way they’re used now, these are just buzzwords, words without meaning. I would ask that the UTMSU Executive add some meaning to these words. I would love to see what UTMSU thinks makes them transparent or even accountable. I have heard those words used a lot, and although it might be “redundant”, I would love to see what president Vickita Bhatt suggests as a definition. Perhaps this could be done in a public forum such as The Medium so that all students would be able to see and understand it. Maybe then they’d have somewhere to start.
As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to your responses.