Students’ Union executive structure gets reworked
In order to better operationalize changes made during the 2011-2012 academic year to move toward a multi-campus governance structure, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union announced a restructuring plan for the student executive last week.
Changes will be made over a two-year period and have been incorporated into the strategic plan until a period of review in 2017.
The changes will see a number of positions added to the student executive at both campuses.
Instead of having one VP: programming and services located on the Waterloo campus, there will be one representative for the position on each campus. An assistant vice president (AVP): clubs and associations will also be created at both the Brantford and Waterloo campuses. AVPs for finance and administration, as well as university affairs, will also be introduced over the two-year period at each campus.
“We’re moving towards a system that is functionally-driven, rather than geographically-driven,” said Seth Warren, WLUSU VP: finance and administration.
Adding new positions to both campuses, Warren explained, will help create a unified voice for the campuses, as well as to differentiate between internally-focused or “student-facing” positions that need more autonomy, and portfolios that require more integration, such as finance or hiring.
He also noted that dividing up responsibilities under university affairs will allow representatives to take up greater advocacy roles on behalf of students.
Warren was involved in the three-month process to develop the restructuring plan and will continue to be involved in hiring for new positions this year.
The changes over this year and the next are meant to enact the multi-governance structure established under former president Nick Gibson. During that year, an executive VP role—a position which operated much like a president on the Brantford campus—was eliminated to create consistency across the campus, according to WLUSU president and CEO Annie Constantinescu.
She says that the upcoming changes will be consistent with the multi-governance structure established two years ago—something that was moved away from last year.
“There wasn’t necessarily much guidance from Nick Gibson’s year to really ensure how that structure would succeed, so they kind of diverted to what they knew, which was kind of Brantford did their own thing, Waterloo did their own thing,” Constantinescu said.
She added, “We’ve set it up so that it’s very clear why we made the decision and making sure next year’s team will be prepared to understand why and hopefully not backtrack on it.”
New positions are being added in the context of a difficult financial time for WLUSU. Emphasis has been placed on cost-cutting and finding efficiencies to service a large debt sum owed to the university.
“Finance is one of the things we were very critical of, because this is not a year where we can go and invest in things such as a couple thousand dollars for a position,” said Constantinescu.
The funding for the new positions, she says, will come from savings already found within WLUSU that can be reinvested into the organization.
She continued, “They’ve been eliminating VP positions, AVPs last year … We’ve been doing those to reflect cost-cutting measures, but it’s at a point where we’ve kind of squeezed ourselves a little bit too thin, so it’s time for us to invest back into actual capital of people. And that’s what we’ve all deemed as being a priority.”
“A lot of thought was put into it to make sure it wasn’t going too quickly,” added Warren, noting that spreading the changes over a couple years helps to manage the additional costs.
The process to determine the new structure of the student executive and the creation of new positions were intended to reflect cross-campus cooperation.
“I know what I wanted in this whole process was to give Brantford kind of a fair chance across the board and that’s where I think this structure came in,” said Bre Carnes, VP: Brantford Operations.
“It was a really long process and it was because we worked together to ensure that for both campuses and the whole student body that it came together as one to be kind of together, to get the best and the full Brantford voice included from myself and the AVPs on the Brantford campus,” she continued.