Despite debates, URSU adds board positions


URSU’s AGM wasn’t without its opposition

John Cameron

The University of Regina Students’ Union board of directors is going to need a bigger ballot.

One of the most hotly-debated resolutions to come out of the students’ union’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 8, makes space in the URSU constitution for four new board positions: a differently-abled students’ director; a Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) liaison director; a Francophone students’ director; and an LGBTQ Students’ Director.

Though nearly all of the new positions faced resistance, the most contentious new membership proved to be that of the CFS liason director.

Former students’ union president Mike Burton told the assembly that the position is redundant, given that URSU executives currently represent Local 9, the URSU CFS chapter, to both CFS-Saskatchewan (CFS-Sask) and the organization’s national assembly. When URSU president Kent Peterson asked the assembly what they know about the operations of the CFS and CFS-Sask, including operating budgets on both a provincial and a national level of the organization, Burton replied that providing such information was the executives’ responsibility.

“The reason you don’t know that information is because the people who have been on CFS-Sask this year didn’t tell you that stuff,” he said. “The reason you as students don’t know that information is because the board is not bringing the information back to its faculties, and also because the people who are in executive positions doing those jobs right now aren’t telling you … There isn’t a need for a voting director who’s a liason between [URSU and the CFS]. You have four votes; they’re the executive.”

Amendments to separate voting on the new positions into four distinct motions and to remove the CFS liason from the motion both failed, however, and the motion was passed as presented by the roughly 160 students present.

In an interview after the AGM, Peterson clarified that the CFS liason would serve as Local 9’s elected representative to CFS-Sask, a relationship modeled on the University of Winnipeg’s students’ union to CFS-Manitoba, and added that the creation of a CFS director was meant to provide clear lines of sight from the student body to the CFS.

“The arguments were about transparency and accountability, and that’s what members voted on,” he said.

The only new position that didn’t generate controversy at the meeting was the LGBTQ directorship, a position which existed in URSU’s election bylaws but didn’t exist in the constitution. Peterson characterized the failure to address this previously as “an embarrassment,” and pointed out that another motion on the AGM docket, which makes the election bylaws defer to the constitution on the matter of board members, seals up the loophole that made the ratification of the LGBTQ chair an annual bit of business.

Another contentious motion addressed the Students Initiative to Change On-campus Systemic Racism, the group circulating a petition to make Indigenous Studies 100 a mandatory course for all degree programs at the U of R.

Students in favour of the motion, which compels URSU to support the petition and its aims, included URSU education director Mariah Perkins, who seconded the motion, and former Campion director Andrea Nelson, who were part of a long list of speakers both supporting and opposing the motion.

“As there are already classes mandated in our studies like maths and sciences and writing and reading, let’s talk about thinking and privilege and marginalization,” Nelson said.

Several students voiced their displeasure both with the petition and with the idea of URSU supporting it. One student who addressed the AGM, Mackintyre McKay, suggested that making Indigenous Studies 100 a mandatory class could open the door for further expansion of academic programs, a move he saw as unnecessary.

“If one group of people decides that one of their classes is mandatory, what’s to stop more groups of people from saying that their class should be mandatory?” McKay asked.

“It’s high school all over again,” one attendee shouted from a back row.

Despite the vocal opposition, the majority of remaining AGM attendees – around 90 people – voted in favour of the motion after twenty minutes of debate.

Julianne Beaudin-Herney, the student circulating the petition, said after the meeting that she was “really happy” about the motion passing and added that she appreciated the opportunity to make her case directly to those gathered at the meeting.

“I have a huge faith in the student body, and I know that we’re going to move forward positively,” she said. “Like I said, nationhood is important, and in education, we develop that.”

Outside of these two motions, however, debate was light, and many motions passed with little or no comment outside of that provided by the student moving the motion.

This development was a pleasant surprise for Patience Umereweneza, co-chair of the U of R chapter of World University Services Canada. Umereweneza, a former beneficiary of WUSC’s refugee sponsorship program, said that WUSC representatives at the AGM were concerned that a motion to raise the program’s student levy from $2 per student per semester to $3 wouldn’t pass, and that students voting to accept the levy increase was something of a relief.

“You ask people to invest their time and their energy, and it doesn’t get passed, it’s a blow,” she said. “And so this shows how much our university is supportive of world issues, and it shows how open we are to diversity, how much we’re aware of what’s going on, and how much we’re trying to make a change.

“It would really suck and I’ve missed, like, a lot of classes,” she laughed. “ So it would not be worth it if it didn’t get passed.”

“I came prepared to throw down and face a couple haters,” WUSC co-chair Aurora Elig added. “So the fact that there were no questions raised was shocking and really uplifting.”

With files from Kyle Leitch.

Note: in this week's print issue, we ran the headline "Despite debates, URSU adds executive positions." This is hells of erroneous. URSU only added board positions, not executive positions. We regret the error.

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