Anas Cheema, UVSS Director of Finance and Operations, resigned from his position via email as of 4 p.m. on Nov. 24. An emergency board meeting will be held on Nov. 26 in order to give the directors-at-large an opportunity to move for an interim position.
“I wasn’t totally shocked, but I still wish this wasn’t the path he had to go down. I thought we could still try working things out,” UVSS Chairperson Kayleigh Erickson said, shortly after his resignation.
Cheema has been facing criticism from other UVSS directors for his perceived lack of dedication to the position. Most recently, his position was being called into question during a Nov. 17 board meeting when the other board members unanimously defeated Cheema’s motion to extend his holiday in order to attend a wedding. The motion failed in light of a missing action plan to make up lost hours.
The board’s refusal to grant Cheema’s request came after a censure vote on Oct. 20 for his failure to submit six board reports, and submitting another one late. At the time, Cheema stressed his reports were not submitted due to personal and mental health issues, saying he felt singled out during board meetings. The Martlet has reached out for a statement, but Cheema has not yet responded.
According to Erickson, the frustrations began when the Board took office on May 1. Cheema was not present that first month. “He didn’t get to learn as much as we did in terms of training, and we went through the codes for everything, the simple things you really need to do your job,” she said.
Later on, the Board expected Cheema to have a budget prepared for the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The budget informs the Board of their targets, financial status, and forecasted cuts. The finance department general manager was forced to compile the budget instead of Cheema.
“Coming into this role, there wasn’t really that level of commitment. He was passionate about some things, like representing international students – which is something really wonderful to do, but wasn’t necessarily focusing on his portfolio,” Erickson said, the week prior to his resignation.
“There was a lot of frustration there in terms of, there’s someone elected to do this position, and it’s not fair that it’s now falling on other people,” Erickson said.
On Aug. 14-17, Cheema attended the Student Union Development Summit (SUDS) conference under instruction to return with information that could be used in future campaigns and projects for the Board. The event conflicted with the UVSS’s 50th anniversary event, and Cheema volunteered to attend the conference instead.
“When he came back and didn’t have much to report, a few of us were like, ‘the reason we sent you is to help us in our jobs,’” she said.
As president of the International Students Association, Cheema has been able to flourish with the students involved, Erickson said. “He is a very, very passionate person. When he becomes motivated about something, he gets it done.” She believes he could excel in his position, but the struggle has been getting him up to speed.
When Cheema first brought up the motion to extend his holiday in order to attend his brother’s wedding, it was tabled to the next meeting. He came to Erickson asking for an email vote in order to book his flights, which did not pass. He then motioned a second time to leave on an adjusted schedule, and the motion failed unanimously at the Nov. 17 meeting. Cheema left the meeting stating he would take the leave regardless.
“I don’t want to stop anyone from going home for any reason for their Christmas holidays, especially when there’s a wedding involved,” Director of Events Ian Kopp said. “My sentiment is that if there was a plan in place to make up the hours somehow in January, I would be happy to [grant him the leave].”
Kopp admits there is stress and time involved in dealing with these workplace issues, but that his work has not been interrupted to the level of other members on the Board. Erickson said she was able to pull back from the situation to avoid being interrupted in her work, but has found it “really draining.”
“There’s a lot of other stuff going on that needs my attention,” said Erickson, who referred to the case of Robin Novlesky, a student who failed courses after being denied re-entry to his exam room following a washroom break
“Making someone come to work is something that’s important to me, but if it’s going to hinder me from being able to represent students like Robin, then I have to change focus here.”
The Board was hoping to host a mediation session before the holidays, but Cheema had been difficult to reach following the last Board meeting. “It’s unfortunate,” she said.