STUSU President John Hoben proposed a restructuring plan that would drastically change the makeup and organization of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union on Thursday. The meeting ran for two and a half hours due to extensive debate.
As presented, the plan would change the corporate structure of the union from a council to a board. It would reduce the number of voting positions to 11 from the current 17. According to Hoben the president would be elected on a more clearly defined platform and hire the vice-presidents with the approval of the board. The board would be composed of 10 members at large from the student body. The plan would also create a second first-year liaison specifically for off-campus students.
Hoben said changes are necessary in order to prevent a repeat of last year. The council was divided over whether to leave one national student organization for another.
“Last year was probably the worst of a lot of years of infighting and really strong political divisions within the STUSU. That caused a lot of problems, like we spent four years on CASA and that’s too long to have a discussion like that,” said Hoben.
Alex Driscoll, vice president education, called the plan biased, rhetorical and un-researched.
“I’m looking at terms: weaker executive, stronger council. Buzzwords, doomed to fail and, for me, what I find to be a complete list of cons against the program,” Driscoll said.
Hoben believes the plan will result in less infighting and more potential for new initiatives to be successful. In the plan presented to council, he states it “ensures the VP is competent, not just popular” and cites the degree of financial literacy needed for the position of vice-president administration as an example of a position where hiring would be more beneficial than an election.
The cons presented with the plan include the decrease in both number of votes and number of elected positions at the table, the loss of a guaranteed vote to each residence, no students under the age of 19 on council, and “in the situation where a bad president is elected, it is more likely that the entire executive would need to be impeached.”
Several representatives raised concerns about the exclusion of first-year students from the proposed structure. In New Brunswick, a person must be at least 19 years old to sit on a board.
Henri Thibeau said “the majority of the first year population are not 19 years of age and I believe that they have a right to represent their fellow peers on this council.”
Sam Titus echoed this sentiment, pointing out his election this fall as an off-campus representative.
Hoben said this exclusion is addressed by the creation of a second first-year liaison.
Justin Creamer held the position last year and is the current chief returning officer for the union. He pointed out to council that in the current system the first year liaison does not vote.
Luke Robertson supported Hoben’s plans.
“The president’s power is no more than the rest of council, and each director of the board is still just as accountable to the student body and has every right to take in their opinions and should take in their opinions when they make decisions,” Robertson said.
Titus repeated his earlier point about the importance of being able to vote, drawing cheers of “hear hear” from other council members.
“I think that having a first-year student, having representation from the 19 and under who make up a quarter of the people roughly, is really important. Because I would not come to a meeting just to talk and not have my vote. Voting matters and this completely eliminates the ability for massive amounts of representation,” Titus said.
Council unanimously voted to continue the discussion. A town hall with the student body will happen in January.
Hoben’s proposal will undergo revisions in the coming weeks and be voted on at the Jan. 24 meeting in accordance with the constitution.