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RE: The Voice Editorial, September 24th.
As President of AUSU Council, I’d like to comment on the Voice editorial of September 24th, regarding AUSU Council’s process to add new council members. First I’d like to say that I greatly respect the opinion of the Voice editor, even if we do not always agree. I appreciate T. Ross Low’s comments about this particular meeting, and I think she has brought up some issues worthy of consideration. I’d like to add some information to clarify what occurred.
The whole process of adding new council members to fill the three empty spots was one that was actively debated amongst council. Not everyone was in agreement, but regardless of personal opinions, the majority prevailed and a consensus was reached. Some felt that, given the short time between now and the 2004 election, it was not necessary to add new members. It was argued that this could be counter-productive given that there is a steep learning curve involved, and that the group of six council members had developed a strong and productive working relationship that new members might inadvertently disrupt. Others argued that we should be functioning as a complete group of nine no matter how close the election is. It was finally agreed that new members should be added, in accordance with policy, but that it would be preferable that any new council member elected should have already demonstrated an interest and willingness to be involved. There was also extensive discussion on just how the selection process should occur, and although there was disagreement here as well, a consensus was reached based on the majority opinion.
We had five excellent candidates come forward for the three empty spots. Some councillors felt strongly that only one or two spots at the most should be filled, others wanted all three. A yes/no voting process was decided upon, with the decision that a successful candidate would have to receive at least three “yes” votes (based on six people voting). I asked Council to consider a number of factors in choosing how to vote. These included location (keeping in mind the goal of having greater cross-Canada representation), and relevant experience. However, the choice of what criteria to use was left up to each individual, since given the difference of opinions that had been expressed, I did not want to influence anyone’s decision in any way. For some on council, location was the primary consideration. Others felt location did not matter, and they chose different criteria when voting. The results of the vote reflected the diverse opinions of council members.
With regards to the issue of holding the vote at the beginning of the meeting and allowing these new council members to subsequently vote – I’ve always scheduled council meetings to ensure that the majority of council can attend and I try to keep things as flexible as possible to accommodate everyone. This meeting was no different. One councillor had a family event that took precedence, and although he initially advised me that he would join the meeting later, he arranged his affairs to come in at the start instead. So with the agreement of Council we adjusted the agenda to allow all six council members to vote on the addition of new councillors at the start of the meeting. Once these new council members had been appointed as active members there is really no provision in our policies to prevent them from voting for the rest of the meeting. As editor T. Ross Low has pointed out, there were no really “important” issues up for vote, so I saw no problem with allowing this. All five potential council members had already made themselves familiar with council activities, and I’m sure that the three newest council members would not have voted for an issue had they felt they lacked sufficient background or information.
Regardless of any perceived flaws in the process, I’m confident that the three new council members will be a positive contribution to Council and I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Ryan, Teresa and Stacey. I’d also like to say a sincere thank you to Huma and Shannon for putting their names forward. Your willingness to expend yourselves to improve the student experience for others is greatly appreciated!
Debbie Jabbour, President