Structural changes in place for GSA

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

After various surveys and discussions at the board table, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Graduate Students’ Association is implementing a series of changes to help make their organization more efficient.

As part of these changes, the president position will now be part-time, requiring 25 hours a week instead of 35.

“As members of the GSA, we’re all full-time students and academics are very important to graduate students, obviously, and they’re going to conferences and writing papers and some are doing their PhDs, others are looking at doing their PhDs,” said Patrick Schertzer, chief returning officer at the GSA. “So the academics are really important and to try and combine that with a full-time position over that interim is difficult.”

Modifications have also been made to their governance structure. There will now be two assistant vice-presidents for the Waterloo campus, one AVP for Kitchener and one for Brantford. Schertzer explained this will help “decentralize and make it more accessible.”

“The other good thing we’ve done is we have a whole assistant vice-president for communications too now, so all the communications will go through that person,” he said.

“Which makes it very easy to have feedback from the students … they have an easy way to access us and they know what the GSA is about.”

Schertzer said graduate students have responded positively to the increase in transparency the GSA has been pushing for this year, with initiatives like Transparent Thursday posts on Facebook.

This new position will aid in continuing that.

The GSA has also changed the terms of their board of directors, allowing directors the option to do one or two-year terms.

Five positions will be held for two years and four positions will be held for one year.

“We won’t ever have, moving forward, a time when the board starts and everybody is new.”

As graduate programs vary in their length, this will also allow students more flexibility in committing to the organization.

“It is very hard when you’re trying to generate these structural changes. Nothing happens in a year, a year isn’t long enough,” Schertzer said.

Changes are also on the horizon for the GSA’s budget.

Discussions around the budget started after students voiced concern over a Transparent Thursday post that disclosed that 69 per cent of the budget goes toward staffing costs.

“We’ve looked into that and we’ve made changes to bring it down closer to around [51] per cent,” said Schertzer. “And that’s done through the president’s part-time role, so that brings back some funds.”

They have also begun reserving phone privileges for the president and communications roles.

The preliminary budget will be voted on in the board meeting on Jan. 28.

With these changes in place, the GSA sent out their call for nominations for the positions of president and directors of the board.

The elected individuals will be the first set of students to experience these organizational changes.

“We have to work a lot harder with 1,500 members to fill a full board, president’s role and a whole slate of VPs just like they do for WLUSU,” Schertzer said. “And we have a great team now, everyone is active and engaged — every position is full and we want that to continue.”

Nominations close at 3:00 p.m. on Jan. 28. If enough applications are submitted to warrant an election, the campaign period will run for two weeks with elections taking place on Feb. 11.

“We’ve had interest from several people and we have a bunch of nomination packages out and we’ve had several come in so far so we’re hoping again for a good turnout for that to bring into the next year,” Schertzer said.

“That combined with the governance structure could help our stability over the long term.”

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