Joey Coleman: USSU Law Councillor Resigns

USSU Law Councillor Resigns

January 17, 2007
Mr. Matt Leisle
Chair, University Students’ Council, USSU
Rm. 65, Place Riel
1 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
S7N 5A3

Dear Mr. Leisle, Councilors, USSU Executive

I am writing the members of the University Students Council of the University of Saskatchewan ’s Student Union in order to resign from my position as the representative from Law. While I take great pride in the role which I have played in this year’s council and the work that this body has accomplished together, recent events have caused me to lose faith in the motivation and intent of this year’s Executive to such an extent that I can no longer find it appropriate to continue in my role.

On January 2, 2007, the entire USSU Executive signed a formal letter of complaint directed to the Code of Ethics Disciplinary Committee. In this complaint, signed by all five members of the Executive, I was accused of failing to maintain the integrity, confidence and dignity of the office which I fill. The conduct in question surrounded a series of comments where I strongly criticized the Executive for failing to sufficiently research and provide information for council in order to ensure the occurrence of fair, responsible, and accountable decision making. This complaint, while now dismissed by the CEDC, has raised serious concerns in the accountability and transparency of the USSU’s current Executive.

I believe by acting unanimously, the Executive has severely undermined the democratic nature of the USSU. The USSU is a union based on student representation and involvement. It relies on mandatory student fees from a population which is heavily burdened with debt and who is often relatively unaware of where and how their money is being spent. Debate, critique, and cooperation between councillors and the Executive is vital in ensuring the Union is managed in a manner which is best for students. By reacting as they have to critical review, the Executive has severely risked the trust that students put into the USSU institution. I believe that this complaint is an effort to quell student criticism without addressing the core concerns which are raised. This type of response is extremely detrimental to the USSU’s transparency and belittles the duty which this union owes its students.

This reaction is only one more outward example of the serious state of disrepair the USSU currently is in. Throughout this entire year, I believe that the Executive has mismanaged its affairs, has attempted to overpower the USC, and has managed the control of information in order to ensure their decisions will be supported. The entire Blackberry incident, while minute in a budgetary sense, epitomizes the current Executive’s decision making process. Decision’s are made and bought into prior to being presented at the USC table and the Executive will seemingly do anything to garner the support needed to move ahead, no matter the legitimacy of the concerns raised by Councillors.

While this year’s Executive has taken advantage of the lack of institutional memory or guidance to the fullest extent, the problems within the USSU run much deeper. Seemingly, scandal is an annual event for this institution, and much to the surprise of U of S students, this is not the status quo for university unions and councils across the country. While USSU scandal may seem inconsequential to the general student population, these student executives are spending student money, are representing students to both the university administration and provincial and federal politicians, and are controlling much of the student support services available on campus. Across Canada , student unions are working towards lowering student fees, focusing their services, and developing strong corporate governance systems in order to better serve and represent their students. Alternately, this year’s Executive has yet again been forced to spend a large amount of time reacting to scandal, be it a presidential resignation, a lawsuit paid for on the backs of students, or a miscommunicated hardware upgrade. The outcome will be the conclusion of yet another year of student politics without any institutional growth. U of S students need to recognize how unhealthy the union to which they are forced to financially support is and must start actively encouraging the development of mechanisms to ensure change.

I do not believe that removing one of the many voices on the USC which held the Executive up to a professional standard is an appropriate first step. My resignation may seem counter-intuitive as this letter will hopefully act as a call to action, but I do believe my voice was no longer resonating with the Executive. Students are currently risking a potential fee increase of more that $150 next year depending on the outcome of further council discussions. I feel like it is important to ask whether it is appropriate to continue to support the mandate of an Executive on whom student concerns seem to fall on deaf ears. U of S students must take an active role in guiding their students’ union; critical and cooperative involvement is the only effective mechanism to ensure that its actions reflect current student need.

I appreciate the opportunity to voice my concerns and would also like to thank all the councillors for their dedication to the students which they represent.

Alison Forbes