Students’ Union Board Under Review
Campus News Editor Shelby Blackley, Senior News Editor Marissa Evans and Editor-in-Chief Kate Turner compiled reviews of all directors, the chair and president through observations from board meetings and interviews.
This year’s board came in very inexperienced, with only two returning directors. Under the leadership of Students’ Union chair and chief governing officer Matt McLean, the board as a whole so far has been quick and efficient when in meetings and have stayed on track with the respective agenda.
However sometimes the discussion can be lackluster with no substantial conversation for more important issues. Most discussion also stems from a handful of directors each meeting. This could be because of the lack of experience on the part of the directors, but the board as a whole would benefit from more critical discussion of what is presented.
The board has also not dealt with any extreme crises or challenges this term to test the directors. It has yet to be seen whether or not they can handle more controversial or difficult topics.
There are times where the members need to be reminded of proper board decorum during meetings. In the winter term, the board could benefit from encouraging professional behaviour and practicing overall better attendance for the majority of the directors, as only five of 14 directors have been to all meetings.
As Waterloo directors are provided with transportation to Brantford meetings, it is disappointing that many have missed one or both of the two meetings held there thus far. Moving forward in the year, directors should utilize this opportunity and ensure they are physically present at Brantford meetings.
The board has been keeping the ends of the organization in mind, engaging in discussions when necessary. While the board overall has had a good first term, it could benefit from more critical discussion in the winter term.
President and CEO of the Students’ Union
Coming into the position with minimal Students’ Union experience besides being an Icebreaker, Lambert transitioned into the role with the help of former president and CEO Annie Constantinescu rather seamlessly during the summer months.
He has fulfilled his duties in terms of mandates and policies, with only one policy not in compliance, which hasn’t been for many years. This is something Lambert can work towards bringing into compliance next term.
Lambert has relied heavily on the strength of his vice-presidents, who have helped implement portions of his platform such as the new volunteer hiring practices and police checks for volunteers, and are currently looking into new ideas for more study space. They have also implemented a more transparent budget in order to make it more readable and reflect student services. The VPs have been a strong presence in his term so far, helping Lambert move toward the tangible goals he set in his platform.
Lambert has missed three Students’ Union board meetings so far this year, having VP Samantha Deeming sit in his place. Lambert needs to demonstrate a stronger commitment to students through his presence at meetings. Lambert would benefit from proper decorum at meetings and should refrain from unnecessary behaviour.
He also mentioned in his platform that he wanted to continue the strong social media presence Constantinescu created. However Lambert took a hiatus from social media in the summer that lasted over four months. He is also not as visible on campus to students and could benefit from more outreach, while also taking Brantford into consideration more consistently.
Overall, Lambert has met the minimum standards in his first term as president. He has improved the relationship between Brantford and Waterloo campuses, making weekly visits to see Brantford VPs and students and has moved toward the points he made in his platform. However he still has steps to take if he wants his term to be remembered as one that brought the Union forward and positively made a positive impact on students.
Chair of the Board and Chief Governance Officer
McLean’s experience has been crucial this year, with 12 of the 14 directors lacking previous experience. He has done a good job of taking on this leadership role and has displayed a commitment to ensuring all directors were properly trained and transitioned smoothly into their positions.
McLean’s predecessor Jordan Epstein set the bar high last year in terms of director attendance at meetings. McLean should continue to encourage his directors to have exemplary commitment as their attendance to meetings this year has been more sporadic.
Epstein also made strides in improving transparency at board meetings. McLean has so far successfully carried this forward, but should ensure this perpetuates.
In his leadership role, McLean needs to continue to encourage directors to be engaged and critical of the items on the board agenda and actions of the president. Considering they have little previous knowledge of how meetings ran in the past, they should also be made aware of expectations for board decorum.
So far, McLean has had a successful term. Meetings have been well-organized and have been run efficiently. He has also made himself approachable to directors and students, in part due to his ability to communicate frequently and effectively. Overall, he is professional and fulfills his duties as chair and CGO.
Vice-Chair of the Board
As one of only two returning directors, Aitchison has been a strong member of the board and a mentor for many directors. His platform focused on using his experience at the board table which has certainly come to fruition this year as he is one of the more vocal directors at meetings.
Aitchison seems to have the strongest grasp of the responsibilities of the board, knowing the difference between operations and governance — the latter being the board’s biggest duty. As vice-chair, he has worked smoothly and productively with McLean and has worked closely with other directors to ensure they also know their responsibilities.
Considering Aitchison is only in his third year, he has maintained a professional decorum in meetings and has provided meaningful contributions to discussions. He is also one of only five directors to never miss a meeting this year. Going into the next term, he should continue to utilize his leadership role to encourage more discussion and better attendance with this young board.
While Adamiak has displayed her commitment to being a director through her good attendance record, her inexperience has been visible in her lack of participation in discussions at the board table. Moving into the winter term, she should speak up more at meetings and be more critical of items on the agenda. Additionally, Adamiak physically attended one of the two board meetings in Brantford and should ensure she is more of a presence on the Brantford campus.
She is very involved on campus but she should make sure this doesn’t have a negative impact on her role and duties as a director. Instead, Adamiak should be sure to use her wide extra-curricular involvement to her advantage as a director by using this experience to continue to represent the student body.
Overall, Adamiak needs to display more resolve for making improvements next term.
Bretz has demonstrated his dedication to his role as director through his good attendance, however he is often quiet at the board table. He lacks organizational knowledge of the Union and past boards, so in order to improve he needs to become more familiar with student governance and the board’s role in the Union.
His enthusiasm for both the role and helping students is clear, however tangible steps must be taken if he wants to have a successful term as director.
He should work towards making meaningful contributions to discussion and develop a better understanding of governance so he can accurately represent students as he wishes to do.
DeSumma is one of the most vocal members of the board, which demonstrates his dedication to his role and his desire to represent the Brantford campus. He has yet to miss a meeting and attended each one in Waterloo over the summer.
Though he is inexperienced and only in his second year, he has shown tremendous potential through his participation in five committees this year, sitting as chair on the finance committee.
DeSumma is showing commendable leadership qualities and should continue this into the next term to encourage other directors to follow his strong performance.
Though Gibara lacks organizational knowledge of the Union, he has a firm grasp of what the role of a director is. His main platform point was to ensure financial accountability of the organization, which he has been working towards as a member of the Student Life Levy committee. He was not elected to the finance committee, however his desire to be a part of it shows his commitment to his platform.
Gibara has missed three meetings so far and Skyped in to the two Brantford meetings. In order to improve next semester he should increase his attendance and make the effort to be physically present in Brantford. He should also work towards being more engaged in discussion and make more meaningful contributions.
So far Gibara has done an acceptable job but must go above the minimum requirements of a director if he wants to make his term memorable and effective.
*Disclaimer: Spencer Gibara is an Opinion Columnist for The Cord.
Goodman has been one of the stronger directors on the board this year. Despite this being his first year, his experience honed from his involvement in other facets of the organization is evident. He brings this knowledge and representation of students to the table while also displaying a critical approach to discussion topics.
Goodman is also consistently vocal during meetings. He has also demonstrated potential for leadership in chairing the ownership linkage committee. Improvements could be made in terms of his engagement with Brantford.
His performance so far this year has set the bar for other directors to follow suit.
Jagannathan has been one of the stronger directors on the board so far.
Despite being an inexperienced member, he has engaged in critical discussion and brought forward new opinions for the board to consider. He has played an integral part in the board vision committee, which was struck by him and Warren Trottier.
Jagannathan’s attendance has been exemplary this year, not missing any meetings and only Skyping in to the two in Brantford. He therefore would benefit from the extra effort to travel to Brantford to be physically present in the winter term.
So far, Jagannathan has been a model director and should continue to encourage other directors to follow suit.
It is difficult to evaluate Marshall’s contribution to the board so far as he has participated infrequently in meetings. Moving into the next term, he needs to be more vocal and present at meetings and engaged in discussion.
In addition, Marshall has been absent from two board meetings and late to a number of meetings due to his part-time job. While this is a legitimate reason, he should make a greater effort to schedule his time efficiently to be a diligent member of the board.
After not submitting a platform in time for the election in February, Marshall needs to be more dedicated to representing students and steering the direction of the Students’ Union.
*Disclaimer: After multiple requests, Christopher Marshall did not come in for an interview with The Cord.
It has been difficult to gauge how critical Okum has been of agenda items and discussion topics at the board table due to his lack of participation in discussion. Moving into the winter term, he needs to be more vocal at meetings.
In addition, his attendance has not been exemplary and he should therefore make an effort to display a greater commitment to attending meetings. His presence on the Brantford campus has also been lacking and this should be improved in the upcoming term.
It should be noted, however, that Okum has been part of the finance committee and is taking steps to execute the part of his platform that said he would be ensuring Union money was being used effectively.
One of Parton’s platform points was to give a voice to students, however she does not contribute to board discussion. She makes an effort to engage with students outside of board meetings, but does not demonstrate knowledge of governance and thus the role of a director.
However she has demonstrated her dedication to the role through her attendance, having never missed a meeting. Despite Brantford directors not being provided with transportation, she has made the effort and has been to multiple meetings in Waterloo.
In order for Parton to fulfill her duty as a director she must gain more knowledge of what her responsibilities are and become more vocal at board meetings.
Rana’s contribution to the board this year is hard to evaluate as he has only been to four out of 10 meetings. At the meetings he has attended, his contributions to discussions are infrequent and are often unsubstantial. Moving into the winter term, Rana would benefit from better attendance and more critical discussion.
Rana mentioned in his platform he wanted to improve the cohesiveness of the multi-campus university, however has not made strides to achieve this. In the winter term, Rana should work toward the points he mentioned in his platform while being a more involved member of the board.
*Disclaimer: After multiple requests, Salman Rana did not come in for an interview with The Cord.
Ricci was chair of the board vision committee, demonstrating potential for greater leadership as a director. He has also been very active on social media, therefore demonstrating a desire and commitment to being closely engaged with the study body.
However, Ricci needs to continue to make improvements to his attendance record after missing a meeting in the summer and being late to two. His presence in Brantford should be noted however, and should continue next term.
Overall, Ricci has displayed enthusiasm for the position but needs to execute more concrete actions as a director.
Trottier has improved considerably since the beginning of his term as a director. He has become more engaged in discussions and has brought forward new ideas for the board to consider. He has been part of three different committees, one of which he was integral in striking. Though he was not elected to a fourth committee which he sought after, his desire to take part in it displays his enthusiasm for being involved as a director.
For further improvement however Trottier could benefit from being more direct and concise with his critical discussions in meetings.
It is obvious Trottier has a strong passion for the position and is fully committed, taking the position very seriously. This should continue into the winter term.