author: kristian ferguson | news editor

you gotta fight for your right jeremy davis

Students and executives discuss changes to URSU

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, the University of Regina Students’ Union [URSU] held their Annual General Meeting [AGM] and it was met with controversy, debate, and interest by a lot of the university student body. 

The Carillon was at the AGM in order to provide a rundown of motions that were passed, discussions that were had, and amendments that were made. A link to the full agenda will be made available at the end of this article. 

To start off the student questions, a student inquired as to how their student fees were being distributed. Due to their religion, the student, Rashad Haque,did not want their money being spent on alcohol. 

Heather O’Watch, Vice President External Affairs, attempted to answer the question. 

“I think that this is the type of concern that our organization should hope to address,” said O’Watch. “When it comes to our identities, and our understandings and where our money goes as students, that is also a concern to myself in regards to us being an inclusive campus. It is definitely something I want to bring up in the future.” 

Jermain McKenzie, Vice President Student Affairs and interim president, tried to discuss the matter in a more material understanding. 

“We do collect money from all of our members and we do a lot of great things with it. We don’t just purchase alcohol,” said McKenzie. “I do understand the position you are coming from, but when we get to pick and choose which services we want to support, we can run into issues very quickly.” 

Another student, Sara Wysman, asked what measures are being taken to ensure that the Owl is profitable. 

McKenzie responded to try to clarify about the role that the Owl plays on campus. 

“I have raised, multiple times, a need for us to look at alternatives as to how we organize the Owl,” said McKenzie. “Whether or not it has to remain a bar from now into eternity is a question that should be put to the membership. Many student unions have closed their bars because they are not sustainable.” 

Not long after, a motion was raised that looked to create a new director position. This position would serve as a representative for those in the Centre for Continuing Education as they are also members of URSU. The motion went through without any issue and was passed. 

An amendment to the constitution was proposed that looked to ensure “consistent executive accountability.” The amendment looked to require executives to have a minimum 20-hour work week during the open hours of URSU, publicly disclose “honorariums, payments, or gifts received from any party that works with or for URSU,” and not engage in secondary work such as a co-ops or internships. 

Mover of the motion, Shawn Wiskar, advised that the executive not speak on this particular comment as it could pose a conflict of interest. 

Alternatively, Sara Wysman proposed that the executive be heard on the issue. McKenzie agreed and began to address the motion. 

“This motion makes it impossible for a lot of students in Education, Kinesiology, Social Work, and Nursing to be able to serve as an executive,” said McKenzie. “Having a clause like this, which removes many great candidates, should not be supported.” 

McKenzie also proposed that the current URSU hours do not serve all students and neglect students that are on campus for night classes and used an example of his work in the evening. 

“These hours should be within the timeframe that students are available. I have met with more students after hours than I ever did during office hours,” said McKenzie. 

Tokini Briggs proposed an amendment to the motion that if the motion is passed, that the salaries of the executives should be paid hourly, rather than salaried. Briggs further found issue with proposing that students on internship would be unable to be executives as URSU is committed to helping students excel academically and that those would be contradictory. 

The amendment was voted and with a 20 yea to 38 nay vote, the amendment was defeated. 

Jacq Brasseur then proposed an amendment that would ensure a designate or designated alternate to represent URSU at meetings or events if their secondary work would impede their ability to attend. 

The amendment was defeated with 31 yeas to 34 nays. 

An amendment was voted to change the language from URSU’s operating hours to scheduled class times. The motion succeeded with 39 yeas to 21 nays. 

The next motion looked to change a motion that was approved at the previous AGM. Mover Shawn Wiskar argued that a ruling from last year effectively extended the potential term limit of executives to eight up from two, and that it is healthy for a system to have turnover in executive positions. Wiskar moved to change the ruling so that rather than executives only being limited to two terms per executive position, they would be limited to three terms in any executive position. 

Briggs approached the microphone and spoke to looking to extend the term limits to encompass more students. 

“Sometimes people spend four or five years in university. I feel that a five-year term limit would better represent the amount of time that students spend at university,” said Briggs. 

The amendment was later defeated. 

Next, Wysman proposed an amendment that would limit executives to a two-year term limit. 

“Moreover, this amendment would apply to any future executive who as of today had not signed an employment contract,” said Wysman. 

Wysman’s amendment was defeated with 22 yeas and 40 nays. 

The motion then proceeded in its original form where it carried with 41 yeas and 19 nays. 

A later motion looked to resolve the issues that had arisen with the Canadian Federation of Students [CFS]. A motion moved by Wiskar looked to provide a refund to any student who could prove that they had not made use of any CFS provided service in the previous year. This would not come out of the levy that URSU pays to CFS, but as an additional budget line. 

O’Watch looked to gather some more clarity as to where and how the refund would be provided. 

“Could an alumni from 2013 show up on a first come first serve basis and take advantage of the refund?” said O’Watch. “The referendum has not been held as we are not in good standing with CFS. We still collect the fees for CFS, they just have not been submitted.” 

Wysman approached the microphone and added that as URSU is not in good standing with CFS, URSU cannot call for a referendum. Wysman added an amendment to the motion that would require URSU to pay all outstanding CFS fees within 30 days in order for a referendum to be held. 

The motion was carried after receiving student comments. 

The next motion looked to provide a report that would be generated monthly and would detail when URSU executives failed to meet their hour obligations. The report would also be available online for easy viewing. 

The Chair made a point of information that these kinds of reports already exist, but are not published. 

A student asked why these reports are not made available currently. O’Watch clarified that you can hear of these reports from meetings that are held every two weeks. O’Watch further argued that it could be a violation of labour standards or human rights. 

“If a student doesn’t make that hour amount weekly, it leads other students to gossip and attack executives with rumour maliciously. To me, it makes me very uncomfortable,” said O’Watch. 

The motion was eventually carried with 25 yeas and 17 nays. 

A later motion looked to extend the U-Pass program into the Spring/Summer semester as well. A friendly amendment was looking to have the wording of the referendum put to members before voting takes place. With little argumentation into the role of the motion, it was carried. 

The next motion looked to change the cost of the part-time intramural fee. The fee would be raised from $1.25 to $2.50 to be further in line with the cost that full time students pay for intramurals as all students have equal access to intramurals regardless of credit hours. 

McKenzie proposed an amendment that students enrolled in full-time online classes should be exempt from the fee. 

The motion was carried. 

Brasseur moved to increase the levy for the UR Pride Centre as it has not increased in five years. UR Pride is also looking to increase their “wellness fund, emergency bursary, and student project funding pots.” 

The motion was carried without much argument. 

A motion was proposed, reflecting a lot of current political arguments, that the URSU elections move away from the First Past the Post system of voting and move to a Ranked Ballot system, which is more similar to leadership elections rather than federal elections. The motion was carried. 

A new motion looked to promote voter turnout by hiring a short-term contract election officer. The motion was carried. 

O’Watch put forward a motion that would create an “equity executive” position that would be in charge of taking care of the interests of marginalized students on campus and organizing campaigns to promote equity. 

There was some discussion as to whether this would be a hired position or an elected executive position but no amendments were officially put forward to change the motion from an elected executive to a hired position. 

The motion was carried. 

This is only a summarization of the motions and their official language so it is our recommendation that you also read the agenda to look into the specifics of what motions were approved and what they exactly entail. 

The Carillon was also able to talk to Victor Oriola, a third-year Psychology student and URSU member about how they feel this year’s AGM progressed. 

“I have a distinct interest in the health of our student union and the AGM is where policies are brought to the table and constitutional amendments are made. I feel it is my civic duty to be present,” said Oriola. 

When asked about how this year’s AGM went, Oriola was generally pleased with the AGM. 

“In terms of motions passed, it was very productive. We got through all of the tabled motions and a few more. There are fundamental changes to our executives, to a referendum on our relationship with CFS. It was very significant. Significant changes were proposed and significant changes were argued. It created an opportunity for dialogue,” said Oriola. 

In regard to the CFS motions, Oriola was a little mixed about URSU’s relationship with CFS. 

“I have had the opportunity to talk with many people who see the CFS as an organization that is benevolent and is working in the best interest of students as well as people who feel the CFS is a waste of resources and our focus is better spent elsewhere,” said Oriola. 

“My issue with CFS is that not many people are aware of what exactly CFS does for students. If you claim to be representing the best interest of students, and many of the students do not know what the CFS even does, I feel that it is a failing of the representative.” 

“When Mr. Wiskar proposed his motion to provide a refund of CFS fees to students, someone asked for an itemized list of what services CFS provides and no one was able to come up with what exactly CFS provides for students, which is highly problematic,” Oriola continued. “When you go to a restaurant and you are going to pay for your meal, you usually like to know what exactly it is that you are paying for.” 

The Carillon will continue to provide updates into the motions passed at the AGM and how they play out in the future.

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