The University Students’ Council has voted to remove the student-at-large from the vice-president communications and vice-president student support and programming hiring panels to bring back a board of directors member as replacement.
The council cited having a student-at-large on a VP hiring panel “presents a number of risks including engagement, confidentiality and understanding of the organization.”
USC president Zamir Fakirani defended the decision, pointing to HR concerns that the student-at-large has been on the hiring panel for the past two years. Fakirani stated members of council and board members on the hiring panel hold offices at the USC and are subject to HR rules in ways that a student-at-large isn’t.
“Specifically the biggest issue we were finding was confidentiality not being respected, creating rumours and in turn making candidates feel uncomfortable getting involved and applying,” Fakirani said. “There were certain HR best practices that need to be abided by that weren’t [followed] by the student-at-large and it was actually doing the countereffect of what we wanted.”
The hiring panels for VP communications and VP programming will be made up of six members. The outgoing president, the outgoing VP and the senior manager of People and Development are non-voting members who provide insight to the three voting members, the incoming president, a board member and elected USC councillor who make the final decision.
Last year, the hiring panel for vice-president finance removed the student-at-large position and brought back the board of directors member after one year. All three VP hiring panels will not have a student-at-large with this change.
Former USC president Bardia Jalayer and his team suggested replacing the board member from the two VP hiring panels with a student-at-large two years ago to increase broader student engagement in the USC.
But Fakirani acknowledged this was the second year of trying the program and the team has “found there are more meaningful ways of addressing a lack of representation in the USC.”
“We need to be addressing the root causes of an inaccessible USC … that perpetuate a USC echo chamber,” rather than sticking to a “band aid solution,” said Fakirani.
He said it’s important to note the three VPs are hired because there are core competencies required in these roles that elections can’t identify and recruit for. Fakirani emphasized the importance of understanding the responsibilities of the specific portfolio as well as in the context of a not-for-profit, a student association and the USC.
The USC’s VP programming is responsible for organizing student events like OWeek and runs the USC’s core support services like Food Support Services and Peer Support Centre. The USC’s VP communications advertises USC services and initiatives, runs the council’s social media pages and is the organization’s media contact.
According to Fakirani, student voices will still be reflected through the council representative and incoming president, both of which are elected by the student body.
“I think it’s going to strengthen the hiring panels because it’s going to make sure that we have a balance of the student voice as well as a degree of realism about what works in the context of the USC,” said Fakirani.
“Oftentimes, our students at large are very passionate but don’t necessarily understand the bureaucracy of the USC and how the USC works. The advice they offered, although helpful and meaningful, didn’t always reflect the realities of the USC.”
Two USC councillors, Ethan Chen and Adam Miller, opposed the motion to remove the student-at-large position, which was voted on in the seventh meeting of Council on Feb. 2.
“I think the executive have valid HR concerns but I think that students should be more involved in the USC … students at large are outside the USC bubble and you’re probably not going to get the same diversity of opinion when there is a board member,” said Chen.
When Chen posed a question to the executive about the motion in council, he was concerned about the vague response he received. He suggested the USC could have provided more training or changes to the HR procedure rather than “boot the student-at-large” from the VP hiring panels. Chen hopes the executive has an open discussion with councillors in the future.
The USC has seen many changes in their hiring and election process in recent years. Former USC president Matt Reesor stated he had no intention of changing the executive structure last year and Fakirani echoed that decision this year.
“Our group chat is called the Dream Team. They set us up for success in a way that I am so appreciative for … The structure is working, what we’re doing now is continuing to water that tree,” said Fakirani.
The VP communications, VP programming and VP finance positions were open to applications until March 16 and hiring interviews are underway.