UMSU council chooses to leave VPSS position vacant

Citing the large cost of an election, council votes unanimously to split work between executives, hire staffer

Photo by Chantal Zdan.

The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) council voted unanimously to leave the vice-president student services (VPSS) position vacant for the remainder of the year at its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 27.

Former VPSS Jessica Smith abruptly resigned from her position at the UMSU council meeting on Sept. 29.

Following Smith’s resignation, UMSU council was presented with two recommendations from the UMSU governance committee on Oct. 13 on strategies of replacing her.

Cole Kubay, chair of the committee, gave council two options: hold a full election to select a new VPSS – a process that would take five weeks including nominations, campaigning, and voting – or leave the position vacant and divide Smith’s remaining responsibilities amongst the four remaining executives and a new union staffer.

At the Oct. 13 meeting, Kubay also informed council that holding an election could cost the union up to $25,000.

“The governing documents do not mandate that we have to have an election if [an] executive resigns,” said Kubay. “So the position could technically be left vacant until the UMSU general election.”

After a lengthy debate on the issue, council decided to push the decision on whether or not UMSU should hold an election to its Oct. 27 meeting.

Read More: UMSU VP students services resigns

On Thursday, Council unanimously voted in favour of a motion to leave the position vacant. The same motion will also empower the winning VPSS candidate following UMSU’s general election in March to take the position prior to May 1, 2017, much like Smith did following former-VPSS Jessica Morrison’s early and abrupt resignation last March.

UMSU president Tanjit Nagra voted in favour of the motion, telling the Manitoban after the meeting about her decision.

“When discussions first started, I was very torn as to what we should do moving forward,” she said. “However, after having discussions with my council, I felt as though I was comfortable voting in favour of the motion, which was to keep the position vacant.”

Nagra pointed to her concern that holding a full five-week election would not be financially accountable for the union as the main reason for her support of the motion.

“Given that UMSU has run deficits in previous years, I think we need to stay financially accountable and the best financial move was to keep the position vacant,” she said.

Nagra also said that moving forward, she and the union’s general manager, Thomas Blumer, would create a new staff role that will be advertised, as per UMSU’s hiring protocols.

When asked why Smith resigned, Nagra declined to comment for a second time. In September, the Manitoban reported that leaked emails between Smith and her fellow executives indicated a sour working relationship between her and other UMSU staff.

UMSU councillors did confirm, however, that at the same meeting Smith resigned, a confidential motion on the meeting agenda – to be tabled in a closed session – was related to taking disciplinary actions against Smith.

Smith refused to comment on the motion or the reasons for her resignation.