Opinion: The SRC is MIA

The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) is a group of our elected peers tasked with the job of acting in the interests of all students. This year, the council has decided to hold bi-weekly meetings as opposed to weekly ones. In the past, the SRC met each week to discuss current campus events and issues that arise in regard to the overall success of the student body. ASU President, George Philp, stated that this switch to meeting every second week is due to a lack of issues that require the attention of the council.

So, what does this mean for the students they are representing? In my opinion, the conversion to bi-weekly meetings will result is a waste of student fees, issues going unnoticed, and a lack of transparency on behalf of Council.

It’s no secret that the jobs of Council members are difficult ones. Members of the SRC are paid a salary for the academic year, which is outlined in the ASU’s constitution’s By-Law 5. However, their pay is independent of the number of hours put in, which means that by limiting the number of meetings held, they will not be losing money, but we are. The ASU is funded through student fees that are entirely separate from the many that we pay to Acadia University.

The Council is responsible for using these fees for running the Student Union building, paying its members, and funding student activities, among other things. However, by claiming that there aren’t enough things to bring forward in meetings for them to be held weekly, it shows that they are not committed enough to providing new projects to create a healthy school atmosphere. If the council feels so strongly that they are lacking in initiatives, they should be speaking with students, finding out what they want, and then finding ways to improve our campus.

Acadia is by no means a utopian institution, and there are major things that Council could spend this extra time addressing. For instance, students and faculty with physical limitations have an extremely difficult time accessing all the things our campus has to offer. Push buttons on doors don’t always work, elevators (in the buildings that actually have them) are old and small, and pavement is uneven. These are just a few of the many things that need hinder some students from getting around easily.

During the fall by-election debate, Equity Officer candidate Ruvimbo Chipazi explained that some groups of students felt that campus events are not tailored to include everyone. Council could be spending this time finding ways to make events more inclusive to all students. There’s gender inequality on display in the Athletic Complex. Despite the fact that many female athletes hit the ice, the hockey arena is filled solely with pictures of male athletes. These are just a few of the many issues that I feel Council should have considered before switching to holding only two meetings a month.

One of the major benefits of weekly SRC meetings is the opportunity for students to stay up to date with what’s going on around school, due to the fact that they are open to the public, and reported on by The Athenaeum. Whether many students take advantage of this or not, the option should still be there. By converting to bi-weekly meetings, it means that students must wait longer for information, especially those who rely on the posting of the minutes as a primary method. It may also result in some issues what would have originally been presented to Council being discussed in private meetings, meaning that it will not be open to the public.  My primary concern with the bi-weekly meetings is that they create less opportunity for students to be involved and informed, and more opportunity for Council, whether or not they choose to take it, to keep information undisclosed.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Council is taking advantage of their seat or doing anything that is technically wrong. What I am suggesting is that Council members aren’t using their positions to the full potential. They’re creating the opportunity for less transparency between Council and students. They’ve been entrusted by their peers to do everything in their power to make a campus that is as safe and enjoyable as possible. One would hope that they would uphold this sense of trust and become more open to the issues going on around them.

Ailish Bergin is a second-year Politics student and a Columnist for The Athenaeum

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A few things that should be taken into account when reading this article…

First and foremost, the vast majority of Students’ Union councils/boards across the country meet every second week. This is considered to be a good practice by most, as it cuts down on wasted time and bickering.

I take issue with quite a few things in this article. If you’re interested, these are my concerns..

The author states that SRC members are paid by salary, and that meeting less often will result in student fees not getting the same mileage. While some members are paid on salary, others are compensated by honoraria. Regardless of the payment style, students can rest assured that they are getting plenty of bang for their buck. The salary structure that compensates executive members does not even begin to cover actual hours worked, and regardless of SRC meeting biweekly, most members of council are working for far less than minimum wage, and will continue to do so.

Secondly, the “lack of issues”. Although my opinion is purely anecdotal, I do have experience here (I was a member of the Executive Board last year). In my eyes, many hours were wasted simply breaking down the content of the agenda package which is available to all members of The Union, as well as all SRC members. If people take the time to read the agenda and its contents fully, I believe meetings would take half as long. Alternatively meetings can be held every two weeks which last about as long as they always have.

Thirdly, the author specifically cites physical accessibility as a pressing issue on campus that is not being dealt with. This tells me they did not do their homework, as accessibility is one of the places the ASU has invested significant time and money over the past few years. One needs only to attend an SRC meeting to see the ramp which makes meetings accessible to students who might need it. On top of that, many, many hours were spent in meetings with students and administration discussing accessibility and forwarding those agendas. The reality of the accessibility issue is that the cost of fully revamping campus would be enormous. It is, without question, an important issue, but the University simply does not have the money to do it all at once. They struggle to maintain infrastructure and the grounds as is. Although the ASU can advocate to have these issues remedied, the rest of campus is not, and cannot be the ASU’s financial responsibility.

Major decisions requiring a vote from council still require a vote from council. A student who wishes to sit in on those votes is still welcome to do so. If something happens so suddenly and requires such decisive action that it cannot wait another week, it was likely dealt with on an executive board level, as it always has been. If not, the option to call an emergency meeting of council still exists.

Of course, if the reader still takes offence to this decision by council, they are more than welcome to run in this year’s general election.

Can I get paid for this? Is The Ath hiring?