‘A good first step’: SU shakes up exec board with new restructuring plan

Curran Neenan | News Editor

Student Union passed a constitutional amendment that will convert the positions of VP of Administration and VP of Public Relations into Executive Vice President and VP of Engagement in a joint legislative session Oct. 22.

If the amendment passes with the student body’s vote, the changes would go into practice with the next SU executive board.

The Executive Vice President (EVP) will be in charge of administrative work, while the VP of Engagement will focus on advocating for the interests of the student body. The EVP’s duties will include coordinating recruitment and retention for SU, advising class councils and coordinating SU orientation. The VP of Engagement will serve as Senate Parliamentarian, chair the student advocacy board and serve as the contact point for student issues and news, among other duties.

The conversion, which is part of a larger restructuring of SU, passed 11-5 in the Senate and 10-2 in Treasury. Those who voted against the plan cited worries over the time commitment of SU executives, which they say the plan failed to address, and pushed for the appointment of directors to serve under each executive to break up their workload.

SU has yet to allow for executives to appoint directors or chiefs of staff due to a lack of unanimity on determining what falls under an appointed position and remains open to adding such positions at a later date.

The restructuring bears the fruit of one of president junior Tyrin Truong’s campaign promises to go through SU “from the ground up” in search of inefficiency and potential improvement. The proposal will now be voted on by the student body as part of the fall SU elections.

The proposal was ironed out over several biweekly meetings of the Restructuring Task Force (RTF), which is composed of the SU executive council, constituents, legislators and some entity leaders. Entity leaders are the heads of the executive entities, e.g. Social Programming Board or the Student Environmental Council.

The RTF took their initial proposals to a joint legislative session Oct. 1, where legislative representatives gave feedback. A major concern was the time commitment that accompanies an executive position. Truong said executives spend 35 to 40 hours a week on their duties.

According to VP of Finance junior Ariel Ashie, who had to scale back her hours as a student tutor to keep up with the demands of the job, the socioeconomic concern is centered on the ability of a student to hold executive office and work a paying job as well.

“We don’t want barriers to this job,” Ashie said. “We want this job to be equitable; equity is something we all ran on.”

Activities Committee Chair junior Alexa Jochims voted against the proposal partially over its failure to address the time commitment of executive positions, particularly the VP of Finance. Joachims was in favor of creating director positions to serve under the executive board and take on some of their responsibilities.

“I was a bit apprehensive of saying yes just because…we hadn’t figured out any of the potential holes,” Jochims said. “There’s a net benefit of waiting and I think saying yes very quickly runs the risk of running into issues later.”

Truong said a goal of the task force was to finish the plan in time for the fall elections to induce greater turnout for the referendum.

The restructuring proposal axes Engage 360, an entity of SU dedicated to forging partnerships between students and the surrounding community. According to Truong, the organization “suffered a lot over the past few years with recruitment and retention,” and its mission will now fall under the umbrella of class councils.

The proposal codifies the duty of the SU President to be in communication with the University administrators, a move which Truong said is just a formalization since he’s already the point person for most conversations with University administration.

As a result of the restructuring, a newly mandated, five-member Election Commission was appointed to serve under the Election Commissioner.

The new language mandates that the Constitutional Council allow anyone involved in a case under review from the Council to address themselves before the court, a change which Chief Justice junior Eric Cai believes is a good idea.

The proposal also calls for the council to issue “advisory opinions,” or rulings over the constitutionality of hypothetical actions, whenever possible. In the past, the council usually only ruled on cases after they happen, which Truong was frustrated with. Cai sympathized, but said that ruling on open-ended questions without enough constraints can sometimes stray from judicial review into policy making.

“It is not like we are making a huge shift in terms of how we approach things; this is definitely a shift in mentality,” Cai said. “The intent behind that clause was to allow us to issue advisory opinions whenever we thought it was possible to.”

Treasury Rep junior Zachary Sorensen voted for the proposal.

“[I am] confident in the decisions of the taskforce. I don’t think that we’re done restructuring, but I think it’s a good first step,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen did not support the appeals to appoint directors under the executive board, wanting to avoid the devolution of powers from the elected executive board to appointed positions.

“I wouldn’t be comfortable, as a student group, going to somebody whom I didn’t vote for and trying to get them to do something that I need them to do,” Sorensen said. “And there’s not a clear mechanism to hold them accountable.”

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