Following this spring’s election, council will consist of six executive members, six senators, one board of regents’ representative, one first-year representative and five councillors at large. Currently, council boasts six executive members, six senators, six on-campus (three north, three south), one board of regents representative and six off-campus councillors.
This motion is the latest in a series of structural changes implemented by council. In 2013, council went from having a councillor in each residence to the current model of three north side and three south side councillors. It also cut three off-campus councillor positions, going from nine to the current six councillors.
The motion passed during Feb. 9’s council meeting with little opposition. Councillors had already voiced their opinions in a previous meeting, held on Jan. 26, where vice-president finance and operations Josh Outerbridge presented the initial motion. Council approved the motion, thus giving Outerbridge a mandate to draft bylaw amendments. Off-campus councillor Alex Economou was the only councillor to vote against both motions.
“I was given a mandate to do a general review of the MASU: how we work, what we do well, what don’t we do so well,” said Outerbridge. The process, according to president Heather Webster, began in January 2013. Consultation sessions with students were held and a review committee was struck to examine the situation. The committee, chaired by Michael Watkins, consisted of Pat Joyce, Pat Losier, and Andrew Johnston, who at the time was the MASU’s chairperson. Murphy and Lebreton did not sit on council. The consultations held at the time saw low attendance.
The committee recommended downsizing council, removing on- and off-campus councillors, and replacing the twelve positions with six councillors at-large.
“By shrinking council, it’s not necessarily getting rid of the workforce, it’s mostly just funneling down the resources we have to committees, which is really what does the work,” said Lebreton.
After the changes, councillors will still have to sit on at least two committees.
“If [students] really wanted to be involved with the MASU, they’ll then sit on those committees not as councillors, but as students-at-large.”
Outerbridge presented the bylaw amendments at Feb. 9’s meeting.
“The optimal-decision making group is between six and twelve people,” said Outerbridge. “There is such a thing as too many voices in the room.”
“When there’s a big issue that year, [the distinction between on and off-campus councillors] doesn’t tie people down,” said Outerbridge.
“In doing this, we are going to have a more autonomous council from the university, because in the current structure, it assumes that half of our members live on-campus and half live off-campus. It also assumes that the university will never shut down south side [residences], but next year, they could come and shut down south side,” said Webster.
“We work to try and be an autonomous organization from the university and I think it’s ridiculous that our board structure is completely dependent on the university’s decisions.”
Economou was one of the few councillors to vote against the initial motion, passed on Jan. 26.
“I don’t see how reducing the size of council will make it more productive. I just look at it as a loss of human resources,” said Economou. “If there are any misgivings it would be the apathy towards council, and I think that’s a much bigger issue than efficiency. I just don’t see that as a problem.”
Other U4 schools, the alliance of primarily undergraduate universities comprised of Mt. A, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier and Bishop’s, have much smaller councils, said newly elected vice-president academic affairs Mary Emma MacNeil.
“Currently, we have one of the highest ratios of councillors to students.”
“With less people, each person’s voice and the voice that they represent will be heard more often and it will taken more into consideration,” said MacNeil.
“Now that we have a smaller group of people, they are going to be more committed and they’re going to be forced to do their jobs, because otherwise, the [MASU] will fall apart,” said Webster.
Edit: the members on the summer accountability committee have been updated.