You like to move it, move it (updated)

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Yesterday, we posted that URSU's annual general meeting is Feb. 10, and that the deadline for submitting motions is this Friday, Jan. 21, at midnight. We also posted a quick guide to writing up motions in Robert's Rules format, for people who maybe aren't as familiar with how to do so. (If you haven't read that: Robert's Rules are the rules that dictate how meetings like these are run. Go brush up and come back real quick.) But knowing how to make a motion is only one part of getting involved with this; the second, and more important, part is actually drafting motions. It would be weird for The Carillon to put any motions together, since we're the campus newspaper, but that doesn't mean our staff doesn't have some thoughts on motions that could be put together. So below you can see some ideas for motions drawn up by our staff – policy changes we'd like to see, and the reasons that we'd like to see them. (Or, maybe, reasons these proposals would be bad – each author is going to sign off on the bit they write, and this is basically a long bloggy opinion piece, so we aren't necessarily all going to be on the same page in terms of these motions.) If one of them sounds like a good idea to you, well, why not draft up a motion? Feb. 10 is only going to be as exciting as you make it. Get your motions in by clicking on the image above; it opens up a new email message directed to the URSU AGM account. We look forward to seeing what you all propose.


BIRT slates are banned from elections This is just a personal thing, for me. I'm not a huge fan of party politics to begin with because more often than not it seems people are voting as much for the brand as they are for the policies. Slates are basically junior versions of party politics on campus. They can pool resources more effectively and run on what's basically a name-recognition campaign. And what can possibly get lost in that are the issues that matter to students, or the ability to recognize whether or not someone actually has the skills to do the job. I'm not arguing that people who run slates necessarily lack those skills, mind you; I'm arguing that slates make it harder for us to judge those things. We need to be able to judge those things because the people we elect to the executive positions in our unions are just that – union executives. As much as they need organizational skills the likes of which you might find in the organization of a slate, they also need excellent diplomatic skills to deal with government and university administration, they need clear and sound policy ideas for students, and they need to be able to think on their feet as individuals if they're going to at all stand up for us to figures in power. You'll notice that none of those things are about name recognition – they're all about strength of platform. With slates out of the picture, we'll be forced to focus more on whether or not candidates have those skills. We'll also be building necessary checks and balances into the everyday workings of student government by effectively requiring discourse and compromise among members of the executive. Because they're package deals, slates risk operating like political parties once they're in government as well as when they're running; that is, there's a risk that the students' union will run as a monolithic ideological entity. And that's not good for students, because it can let other politics get in the way of our needs. What if, for example, a Saskatchewan Party slate ran and governed the students' union? Could we trust something like that to fight to keep tuition down, or to work against the corporatization of our university, or to work ensure that programs are in place to assist graduates in paying down student loans, when those things are basically the yin to the Sask Party's yang? Same question applies to our more conservative readers, but sub in the New Democrats and whatever liberal post-secondary education policies you don't like. Our students' union needs to operate in a way that makes the most sense for students, and that means no control by slates. -John Cameron, editor-in-chief


BIRT the URSU board film its meetings URSU are really dedicated to transparency; the current slate ran last year's election on a platform promising that the website would open up the workings of student politics to the average undergrad, making URSU's governance so transparent and accessible that even an English major could come to care about it. That hasn't really happened this year, unfortunately. The Twitter account has happily seen an uptick in usage, and has been used to promote Cougar sports as part of URSU's initiative to try and work more with on-campus extracurricular groups. And the Facebook page has seen status updates once in a while that are relevant enough to justify checking it on the regular.

But, social media aside, their web presence is kind of questionable – and, as such, so is their record on transparency. It took months for URSU to post most of their minutes from this fall online, and the minutes are about as scanty as you could expect: lists of motions, followed by whether or not they were passed. As a result, we know exactly as much about the board's decision to take a stance on the CFS referendum as we do about their decision to purchase a truck for the Owl to haul recycling and liquor. If URSU really wants to prove how transparent they are – especially in a year where they've made some decisions that have stirred up a lot of activism on campus, some of it directed specifically against them – there's no better way to do this than to allow their meetings to be recorded by someone other than the chair and a student journalist with a notepad. It would also, ideally, let us see the results of their meetings without having to wait two weeks for the minutes to be approved. And it would keep our board of directors accountable: if they were making a vote that would antagonize their constituents the way the CFS decision wound up doing, they'd have to think hard enough to make sure that they were doing the right thing putting that vote forward. -JC


BIRT the URSU disclose all financial costs incurred during the CFS referendum

Though the official amount that both CFS and URSU could use during the referendum was $3000 for campaign materials, there were numerous instances where it seemed as though either organization could have been stepping outside of those bounds. How much were URSU paying, say, for the services of Jeph Maystruck, their campaign organization? Or for legal fees? Or for fat suits? There were too many hidden costs that students didn't get to see during the campaigning period, and this information would go a long way towards proving the accountability of the organization. Of course, we'd like to see this information from CFS as well, but this is the URSU AGM after all. – Matthew Blackwell, Technical Coordinator


Fixed election dates all the way across the sky

Currently, the Chief Returning Officer has the power to make any day in March the voting day for URSU elections.  The board can veto the CRO decision, if they want the date changed.  The Board, by the by, also appoints the Chief Returning Officer.  Flags should already be going up for the reason that the opportunity for political interference and opportunism is very real.

Case in point: not so long ago elections were held in the very first week of March, which pushed the timeframe for nominations into late February.  This was an anomaly given that some students were used to elections being held in mid or late March.  As a result, all the executive positions were acclaimed (one was later re-opened for nominations).

To put an end to politically-motivated election dates, I would like to see a motion calling for fixed election dates.  As an example, maybe such a motion would decree that elections must take place on the third Wednesday and Thursday of March, with advanced voting taking place on the third Monday.  Also, the board should be stripped of its power to alter election dates– Kent E. Peterson, Business Manager


Term Limits!  Get your term limits here!  Only two per customer!

Hanging by one’s fingernails onto power forever is not ideal.  It is detrimental to any organization to have the same people year after year after year, especially consecutively.  If you disagree, then perhaps you should write a letter to THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CONGRESS, CONSTITUTION DEPARTMENT.  If two-term limits are good enough for the president of the most powerful nation on earth, than they are good enough for URSU.

I would like to see a motion limiting a person’s tenure on executive to two consecutive terms.  This way, if they are interested in serving students after two terms on executive, they can!  All they have to do is sit one term out, then get back in the game.

Such a policy would be good for documentation of institutional memory, and for organizational renewal. – Kent E. Peterson, Business Manager


Possible compromise on slates?  Just going to throw this out there.

Similar to an earlier post, I too have concerns about slates.  However, given that democracies all around the globe are based on party systems – even major Canadian cities have municipal political parties – I am not so sure it is such an inherently bad system.

On many levels, university students’ union slates make sense.  First of all, it allows people with similar views to come together and offer a clear vision to the electorate.  When I elect a student government, it is always a concern that some, or all, of the executive will have a different vision, and deadlock will ensue.  Instead of compromise developing, a standstill occurs.  Also, given that a students’ union’s traditional mandate is to lobby the provincial government, a divided executive would be disastrous – and not to mention embarrassing – for the student body.

Given the general apathy amongst university campuses, especially the U of R, I am not convinced that large ideological debates are a detriment.  It would do students good, I think, to discuss the very mandate of our union and what we should be fighting for.

Obviously there are many valid concerns with slates.  For example, are issues glossed over in favour of a brand?  Will students blindly vote for a slate as a substitute for actually delving into the issues, competencies, and platforms of individuals?  These are all fair questions, but I’m not sure they are the fault of slates.

Take the second question, that is, the chance that students vote blindly for a slate without considering other important aspects of a candidate.  This seems to me more the fault of the voter, not the slate.  If a voter was too lazy to look at a platform, or consider the qualifications of people running, than they would probably be that way whether there was a slate or not.  If a person’s criteria for vote-getting was a yellow shirt, per se, then it would probably be blond hair if there was no slate.  

This entry has gone on long enough.  Many questions are unanswered for both the pros and cons of slates.  Therefore, I would like to see a motion that sets up a committee or some other body to study this issue.  Drastically altering how students can run in elections is not something should be done on a whim.  Let a committee study the issue for a year, see what other universities do, poll students, and then submit recommendations to the next URSU AGM. – Kent E. Peterson, Business Manager

2 comments

  1. Bart 19 January, 2011 at 17:45

    Slates–I stand by that discussion, and compromise, are integral to proper democratic … basically, if you can't compromise, you're doing politics wrong.  But a four person executive slate can give a direction to the Board of Directors (I've never seen a slate for them, but I could be wrong) that it may not otherwise have.  I suppose it's just hoping that students don't lose their ability to judge members of the team–and hopefully the team realizes that having a weak member can cost them the election.
     
    Filming Meetings: I can get behind that, but the only problem is running into audio quality issues, and possibly "who said what" on the film.  It's a rectangular table, so a lot of people are always going to be away from the mike.

     

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