Volunteers frustrated with new WLUSU hiring process
As the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union prepares for its spring hiring of coordinators, volunteers and executives, new changes to the hiring process have caused some anxiety amongst those who work closest with general volunteers.
According to WLUSU, the aim of the changes is to promote accessibility and efficiencies within the hiring process, by only having an online application instead of interviews and introducing a lottery system for competitive positions that have multiple applicants such as icebreakers.
The process, however, still uses the Situation Task Action Result Relate (STARR) method.
“We aren’t getting that kind of information during an interview of whether they’re trainable and whether they have these skills, we’re looking for people that we can work with and we see that enthusiasm coming through on the online application,” said Caitlin Thiverge, vice president of administration at WLUSU.
Thiverge explained the new process is meant to create more opportunities for those who are not already involved within the organization, while eliminating any inefficiency in the hiring process.
“It came to my attention that it was an imperfect process. People were asking questions like ‘Why isn’t my past experience being accounted for, I volunteered for three years, then I don’t do well on STARR’,” she said.
Nick Gibson, WLUSU president and CEO, hopes that the new system will promote volunteerism by making the process more accessible for the student. “I think one of things that is positive about this new system is that it is a systematic way of really breaking down the so-called WLUSU clique.”
Gibson insisted that the existing three-part hiring system, under which he was hired as a former icebreaker, was not providing enough information that would benefit the applicant. After consulting an external human resources firm as well as using information from a recent review of the organization, the decision was made to eliminate the interview aspect.
Just two years ago, Foot Patrol got rid of the interview portion of the hiring process, but it was reinstated last year. Charles Stover, a fifth-year member of the service, remembers there being some serious problems. “We ended up having a lot of people complete their training and then drop off the face of the earth,” he said.
Stover disagreed with the new lottery process, as not only would it favour those with experience with STARR, but it would favour those who were reapplying for the same position. “It’s not hard to pass STARR,” he said.
Several coordinators currently working within WLUSU also disagreed with the operational decision, which has not received much support from within the organization.
Their dissent instead prompted an internal e-mail, asking all volunteer coordinators to refrain from communicating with the media and with other students, claiming that silence would be ‘in the interest of the organization’.
Coordinators, student volunteers who work in an intense capacity with general volunteers, were also not consulted or notified of these changes to the hiring system. Instead they discovered the news on the WLUSU website and on social media, at the same time as the rest of the Laurier student population.
Gibson claimed it was not a matter of being secretive.
“That’s great that they’re engaged with that sort of thing, but the one part is that we are in roles for a reason, we have to be able to make those calls,” he said.
“The hiring process is not something we’re looking to systematically make it worse, we don’t have malicious intent for those sorts of things,” he added. “I think our process and our means is to find a process that is the most accessible as possible.”
Thiverge insisted that the lottery per cent cutoff could be set depending on the calibre of the applicants. It currently sits at a score of 60 per cent.
For example, if there are a lot of applicants receiving over 75 per cent on the STARR application, then the lottery would begin after 75 per cent.
“We want to provide valuable opportunities for students to help fill their resumes and their extracurricular experience at Laurier. We felt this was the best way of reaching out to people,” she added.