WLUSU avoids a conflict of interest

Last Friday, the Wilfrid Laurier Students’ Union (WLUSU) board of directors passed a motion to hire an assistant chief returning officer (CRO) in order to resolve a conflict of interest during the union’s presidential elections.

The problem began in September 2010 when Chris Hyde was hired as policy researcher and advocacy coordinator at WLUSU, while also expected to fill the duties of a CRO.

“I’d be wearing two hats,” Hyde explained.“One being the director of research and advocacy, who works closely with the president and all of WLUSU and secondly I’d be the CRO so I’d be charged with maintaining a fair election.”

Because Hyde at the time was still new to the university, the board decided then it would be best to hire Natalie Snell as the CRO for that election year. The idea was that Hyde would resume his duties as CRO, while at the same time working as a director – no longer coordinator – of policy research and advocacy for WLUSU.

The approved recommendation, one of three presented, detailed the hiring process and responsibilities of the assistant CRO as pertaining upholding election protocols. The position, according to WLUSU president and CEO Nick Gibson, will be filled by an undergraduate or graduate student and will be taking over Hyde’s CRO responsibilities during the WLUSU election campaign.

Hyde explained how the board’s choice was best for students. “That would, we really found, demonstrate value for students since we’re not spending any money to hire a full-time staff member. We’re looking to hire a [undergrad or graduate]student. It will remove the conflict of interest.”

The solutions discussed included an option to hire out a full-time CRO and chief governance officer or to let Hyde remain CRO up until the campaign period at which point he would step down and the incoming assistant CRO would step in and handle discipline elements such as handing out demerits.

The assistant chief returning officer would then be responsible for all the CRO’s duties during the course of the campaign and the election. The person in this new position would report to the chief governance officer and WLUSU chairman of the board Chris Walker.

“If I’m supposed to be impartial and non-partisan, of the group of people that are the candidates, one of them is going to be my boss next year,” Hyde concluded. “We want to make sure that at all times there is no impropriety surrounding the election. I wanted to make sure that the election was preserved.”