In my time at Mount Allison I have been very involved with the students’ union in a variety of roles, including committee work, a position as off-campus councillor and, most recently, as Shinerama Chair. When I heard about the proposed executive restructure and the potential changes to the Shinerama campaign, I was concerned. We have one of the best campaigns in all of Canada and the continued success of Shinerama is very important to me and to many other students. The fact that these concerns were originally overlooked and the executive restructure was proposed without any sort of formal consultation was frightening.
I attended the Nov. 4 council meeting and was very direct and clear about my concerns. Many councillors echoed these concerns, which put my mind at ease, knowing that others saw how the restructure would negatively impact Shinerama. During the meeting, it was proposed and supported that select staff, whose positions would be impacted by this restructure, would be consulted. This is where the real problem begins—these important discussions should be an ongoing part of the restructure process, not just an afterthought.
After council mandated this consultation, I was ‘consulted’ in an unstructured thirteen-minute phone conversation where no specific questions were asked. This consultation was not thorough and it did not make me feel heard or valued.
I eventually received the revised edition of the restructure along with the rest of council on the morning of Nov. 18, less than twelve hours before the expected vote on the plan at the council meeting. Although I am now quite confident that Shinerama is safe with the structure currently in place, I am worried about the future success of the MASU. The position that now covers Shinerama, the Associate Director of Programming, is also expected to complete duties during the school year. After the amount of work that I put in during the summer months and beginning of September, I have apprehension toward expecting someone to be successful in the role during the school year, after a summer of such pressure. However, what concerns me is beside the point—what is troubling is that my unique experience is not being utilized to inform this document.
I waited for my turn to speak, letting other unrelated discussions continue. Eventually, the question was called and voting on the report’s approval was forced, before I had the chance to say anything. There I was, ready to give constructive feedback, silenced for the sake of timeliness. It was mentioned by the executive committee on multiple occasions that time was of the essence and that the document needed to be passed as soon as possible in order to be in place before the January executive elections. Quite honestly, this reasoning upset me. In a restructure that is going to completely change the governance of a student-funded organization, shouldn’t every apprehension be listened to and investigated? I know that I have not been properly involved in this process and would feel that it is safe to say many others were forgotten as well. If the restructure is meant to fix a broken system, doesn’t it make sense to focus on working out the kinks rather than rushing the process along?
I went into the council meeting on Nov. 18 with concerns as a staff member and left with concerns as a member of the MASU. I was not welcome to criticize the process and many councillors were also effectively bullied into silence. I watched a conversation take place that was not receptive of any critique or tough questions. An entire restructure presented for the second time remained unedited and passed approval by council (opponents, never fear, the bylaws have yet to change and will not change without two-thirds ‘yes’ votes from council). But the problem does not lie solely in the restructure itself. Instead, how the plan was passed is what worries me. The idea that council had to mandate consultation, consultation that should have occurred months ago, is scary. The individuals responsible for creating this report are not experienced enough to completely restructure an organization on their own, something that should not be taken lightly.
For now, I urge the students to demand transparency. If you have questions about the restructure, ask them and expect specific answers (please though, don’t hold your breath waiting). A document of such importance should have a concrete execution plan in place and there is not much evidence to suggest that this has occurred. The document that was passed in council should have been the beginning of the conversation, not the end. If you have any problems whatsoever with anything that you have observed or read, I highly encourage you to join me and attend the next council meeting—which will be held in Avard Dixon Room 111 on Dec. 2.