The UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) Board of Directors is proposing bylaw changes that, if approved, will allow non-students to remain board members. In addition, they are suggesting an increase in pay for the executive directors from 35 hours’ worth of pay per week to 40 hours. These changes were brought forward at the Sept. 23 UVSS Board of Directors meeting, and students will have opportunity to vote on them at the Oct. 17 UVSS Annual General Meeting (AGM).
At the moment, UVSS bylaw 5.2 states that “Directors-at-Large and Constituency Organization Representatives must be members of the Students’ Society during their term of office.” At Camosun College, there is a six-month grace period. The proposed changes would make it so that UVSS executive directors would have to be students during the election process, but not during their actual term of service. Furthermore, they would need to be a student during the second election process if they wished to serve a second term.
“They must be taking courses during the Spring term before they are in the executive position,” said UVSS Chairperson Kelsey Mech. “They could technically remain a student throughout the summer months without taking courses. If an exec chose to stop taking courses under the proposed new policy, they would only not technically be an undergraduate student for the last eight months of their term.”
Mech said the board believes these changes are needed to mitigate the current situation in which executives generally take only one course during their term as board members, which means that they are required to start paying back any student loans that they may have.
“It is often quite a financial burden for execs with student loans to have to pay all the costs of living, begin paying back student loans and pay to take a course they may or may not need on top of that,” said Mech. “It’s definitely been a struggle for executive directors in the past, and I’m sure this will be an issue again in the future.”
Mech added that executives tend to work more than full-time hours, usually at the expense of their GPA. She feels executives should not be forced to take classes that they may not require, simply so they can keep their positions on the Board of Directors.
Not everyone agrees with Mech’s assessment of the situation. UVic student and former board member David Foster argued at the Sept. 23 meeting that these proposed changes are not needed and that it is, in fact, irresponsible for the board to suggest them.
“[It’s] basically a power grab in favour of executives,” said Foster. “Personally, I don’t see any reason why anyone should support this.”
Foster said that indeed executives don’t tend to do well in their classes, and sometimes even fail them, which can result in a director being asked to withdraw from the university. In these cases, it’s Foster’s opinion that anyone who is asked to leave the university should not be allowed to continue receiving salaries from student fees. Even if an executive director were to graduate and wish to continue their term on the UVSS Board of Directors, Foster still argues that they should not be allowed to do so.
“I think, once people are graduated, they should leave. If you have enough credits to get your degree, you shouldn’t hang around and keep trying to get into elected positions and get a job that way. You should move on with your life,” he said.
While Mech said that the pay executives receive at the moment is below the cost of living in Victoria, Foster said that an increase in that pay is unnecessary. He did agree that a number of things executives do are beyond the 35-hour requirement of their jobs, but added that most of these things are personal projects, not requirements.
“I don’t think that students should be paying for people to do those things because they may be projects, usually political projects, which people on the board care about but which the general student population doesn’t necessarily care about,” said Foster. “[They’re] only going to be elected by about maybe 2 000 out of 17 000 people. Slightly over 10 per cent of the student population potentially behind [them], and I don’t think that the salary that [they’re] going to draw that comes from all student fees should go towards [them] doing projects that the majority of students may not support.”
All students are welcome to attend the UVSS general meeting and vote on the proposed changes to the bylaws. The current bylaws and policies of the UVSS can be viewed at uvss.ca.