An open letter to the UVSS Board of Directors

Letters Opinions

Dear Board of Directors,

On Aug. 24, I attended what was presumed to be a regularly scheduled board meeting, which are held, according to the UVSS website, “twice a month on Mondays at 6:00 pm in the SUB Upper Lounge.” The Martlet attends these meetings as a way to keep students — your membership — informed of the board’s actions. If students can’t attend, it’s our job to attend for them and keep them up-to-date.

Rather than the regularly scheduled meeting being called to order to 6 p.m. on the 24th, attendees were informed that the board would instead be conducting an anti-oppression training workshop. The Martlet, which consists of current members of the UVSS, was not informed prior to this meeting that the workshop was going to be taking place, and has not been able to uncover any other communication to UVSS members outlining the change in the scheduled board meeting format.

Board meetings are a regular fixture of proper UVSS governance, and are a necessary  resource for any member that wants to be informed on how decisions affecting them are made. Members should be able to attend a meeting at the regularly scheduled time — as they are entitled to do as members — with the understanding that business concerning them and their needs as students is addressed and taken care of. Board meetings are not a time for the board to schedule a workshop for their own benefit and professional development, particularly without prior and sufficient notification being sent out to members.

There needs to be respect on the part of the board for member’s time, and this meeting displayed anything but. While member attendance may be low — the summer will do that — the board still has an obligation to those members to make meeting times consistent, attendable, and accessible. What if it was during the fall? Would the board schedule a workshop during meeting times then? What would happen if twenty non-voting members attended the meeting at 6, only to find that they had to sit and wait for the board to finish up a workshop before the meeting was called to order?

According to Chairperson Brontё Renwick-Shields, the workshop took place from 6 until 9:30 p.m., at which point the meeting finally began. The meeting then proceeded until 11 p.m. This is intolerable. Again, if a student member decided to attend this meeting with the understanding that it would start when the UVSS has previously scheduled it to, what were they to do? Particularly if they had pressing personal matters to attend to following the board meeting, or perhaps had to access transit as a means of getting home.

Indeed, this very disregard for member’s presence and time occurred while a member seated next to me was in attendance, and this member chose not to stay until the board meeting began due to the extended time that the workshop was going to take. That means she was not present when the board addressed its ONECard contract (which is proposed to cost her and other members upwards of $10,000), or amendments to policy dictating how the new executive director will operate with advocacy groups in the SUB. Instead, she got to watch the board go through a self-identification exercise that, as far as I’m aware, she was excluded from.

When it comes down to it, in whose interests does the board have an obligation to operate? If the board does not pay respect to the time and investment of its members whom they are employed to serve, then the meetings become nothing more than a club gathering and an exercise in self-servitude.

The Board of Directors can do better. The question is: will it?