By the time the secret vote was cast, executive members of the students’ union had lost their fervour, succumbing to the reality that their legacy proposal would not pass.
Council meetings in the weeks before the Dec. 5 vote were fraught with heated debates, frustrated gestures, and a procedure that led to the resignation of social science senator Hillary Thomson.
“I don’t think that there is ever a time to treat people the way people were treated in that room,” Thomson said.
The executive restructure proposed by MASU’s executive would introduce changes in an attempt to streamline the union’s management. The proposal would have cut the number of vice-presidents from six to four, dissolving the positions of external affairs, communications, and finance and operations. It would have introduced the position of vice-resident executive to oversee policy creation, among other responsibilities. The president and vice-president, executive would run on a slate. As well, the Shinerama chair and entertainment director positions would be combined.
Executive members said that while the meetings were heated, they were not disrespectful.
“I think that there were a lot of people who were fighting for what they believed in, and as a result, things were tense,” MASU president Melissa O’Rourke said. “Do I believe the meetings were hostile? No. I believe they were passionate.”
These proposals were challenged by council members looking to run for the threatened positions.
“It’s an awkward governance situation that every students’ association deals with, and I think that the restructure illuminated it,” said Ryan Harley, MASU’s vice-president of academic affairs.
While council directed some of its criticism to the document itself, much of its reticence came from the process behind the restructure. Students and council members questioned the extent of consultation behind the proposal.
While some councillors were surprised by the proposal in November, the executive had formed the proposal after researching other Maritime students’ union structures during the summer.
“This notion that six people sat down and came up with a new structure is a complete fallacy, and it’s [frustrating] this got so lost in translation,” Harley said.
Harley said that students’ focus should not be on the proposed executive restructure, but about the need for a change. Executive members said that because the current structure is organized by theme, it fails to capitalize on the skills, abilities, and talents of its members.
“The way the executive is structured right now is completely, in my mind, archaic to what our organization is actually in the business of doing,” Harley said.
O’Rourke campaigned on the promise of an executive restructure. She and other executive members said the failure was a disappointment.
Next year’s executive will try to pass a similar document in the fall. Harley, who will serve as vice-president of communications next year, said that his goal is to increase transparency in the exec’s operations in the hope of creating trust with constituents and council members.
“Despite how the restructure was perceived, Melissa has been a very, very transparent President,” Harley wrote in an email. “For the first time, the President set public goals for the organization, Council contributed to and approved those goals, and proposing a new staff structure was one of them.”
South side councillor Liam St. Louis said that the consultation process will be similar, but more visible.
“I think what we are going to see is a much bigger and much more visible consultation campaign, and in the end we’ll probably have a document that looks exactly the same as the current one does,” St. Louis said.