UMSU reforms move forward

Second phase of governance and operational restructuring proposals received by council

Photo by Megan Colwell

The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) is moving into the second phase of reforming its governing documents and overall structure.

At its general council meeting March 24, the union’s policy and bylaws committee presented a second set of proposals for a restructuring project that began in the 2014-15 academic year.

The first round of retooling introduced a new set of governing documents and brought forward a number of changes to update and clarify union operations and procedures.

Recommendations presented for the second phase – which are still open to amendment prior to being voted on at the April 28 council meeting – aim to further reduce redundancies, structural errors, and inconsistencies and implement a first set of substantive changes to the governing documents.

The second stage of the overhaul aims to “address some of the more pressing concerns regarding UMSU’s governance and operations” but the proposals are “far from exhaustive,” according to the report presented to council.

“There are holes in the governing documents of UMSU that must be addressed, plain and simple,” Ian Thomson, chair of the policy and bylaw committee, told the Manitoban.

“I would be very concerned for the state of the union if these amendments were not passed,” he said.

Thomson acknowledged a need for continued, critical examination and restructuring of UMSU’s functional mechanisms in the future.

“The content changes now are part of a second phase,” he said, “but I can truthfully say that there are many more policy changes that need to be addressed for the union to act in its most efficient manner.”

The committee identified 11 areas for change, including amendments to elections and referenda, human resources management and organizational structure, and finances, which includes a recommendation to tighten the protocols surrounding discretionary spending and restrict credit card use to union staff.

The financial reforms were being discussed by the bylaw committee long before UMSU president Jeremiah Kopp was accused of misuse of an executive credit card at a union council meeting March 10, Thomson said.

Thomson, who is also chair of the Manitoban Newspaper Publications Corporation, said none of the proposals were developed in response to concerns raised from the early March meeting and were first presented to the committee in February.

Outgoing UMSU vice-president internal Zachary LeClerc raised union organizational issues during his 2016 run for president as an independent candidate and told the Manitoban that the union is fundamentally flawed in its structure.

“The future of UMSU? I don’t know. It’s in disarray, it’s scary,” he said.

However, he praised the recommendations brought forward by the committee as necessary steps forward. LeClerc said he sees great potential in the union but what is lacking is student engagement through meaningful consultations.

Other areas identified by the committee for reform include policies surrounding position statements, rules of order, funding recipient groups, governing documents, legal matters, contractual matters, business management, and indemnification procedures.

The proposed changes will be voted on during the current UMSU executive’s final council meeting April 28. Should the motion pass, the reforms to UMSU’s governing documents will be codified for May 1.