Board Shorts: May 15, 2020

The Board has reinstated recording how directors vote in board meeting minutes

Image: Irene Lo

Written by: Zach Siddiqui, Humour Editor

Disputes over new role of Legal Liaison Officer 

Mohamed was appointed as Legal Liaison Officer (LLO), a newly created role designed to work with the executive council to process and approve SFSS staff requests to seek legal advice. Staff members’ legal advice would, as per the motion,  “be sought through the Legal Liaison Officer with the approval of the Executive Committee, prior to a lawyer being contacted.” 

During discussion of the motion, staff present raised concerns about the motion’s practicality and intent. Aside from concerns about the timeliness of approving requests, Edmunds and SFSS Executive Director Sylvia Ceacero questioned whether the motion was in line with the union collective agreement; included in staff job descriptions is the authority to seek legal advice autonomously in the course of SFSS work. 

Board members stressed that the motion was about keeping the Board informed, not about any distrust of staff. 

“This is more a matter of, as our responsibility as a board of a student union, we need to make sure that we’re intertwined with the decisions being made,” says Balqees Jama, At-Large Representative. 

Board reinstates vote tracking for board resolutions

Effective immediately, the Board resolved to once again list in their meeting minutes how specific members voted on each issue: for, against, or abstention. According to the motion, this move is rooted in the Board’s desire for transparency and accountability as per the SFSS’s guiding principles, allowing “the membership to better hold Board members to account for their individual and collective decisions.”

Vote tracking at the SFSS has had a somewhat tumultuous history. In February 2019, the 2018–19 Board of Directors voted to begin listing individual directors’ votes, only to reverse the decision in April of that year — a move then-incoming president Giovanni HoSang called a “slap in the face.” A motion to restore vote-tracking was lodged in May 2019, only to be referred to the governance committee, who discussed the issue in meetings through July and August 2019. In February 2020, the Board moved to list numerical ratios of how the Board votes on motions, without disclosing specifically which directors voted for what. 

Board departs from Carver model, looks into more hands-on governance model for directors

The Board resolved to work on transitioning the society away from their current policy governance model, based on the Carver model: a governance system that works by delegating all day-to-day operations to staff while having boards focus purely on governance and management. “This model resulted in a continued decline in useful knowledge and skill sets of Board members,” reads the motion.

The motion that was carried mandates the governance and executive committees to look into a new administrative model, with their findings to be presented to the Board within 30 days.

The SFSS originally committed to following the Carver model in 2015, a move which Corbett Gildersleve, currently the Vice-President Finance and previously the Applied Sciences Representative of the 2015–16 Board, now believes to have been a mistake. 

“Under policy governance, the divide is too stark,” says Gildersleve. “In the resulting years, Board members know very little about their own organization, how it works, and what problems it’s having.” He further elaborated that this effect cascaded through successive years, as directors would have progressively less information to pass on to their successors.

Board appoints new directors to committees and liaison, chair, officer positions 

Of the 19 motions on the agenda, nine involved appointing the new 2020–21 Board members to serve on various pre-existing committees. Under current SFSS policy, directors are each required to serve on at least two committees while in office. 

The Board also appointed Osob Mohamed, SFSS President, and Shubhangi Jain, SFSS administrative services manager, to be the two new Staff Liaison Officers (SLOs). 

Several new roles were created. Gabe Liosis, Vice-President University Relations, was appointed as Vice-Chair of the Board, authorizing him to convene and chair Board meetings in the absence of Mohamed, the main chair. Jennifer Chou, Vice-President Student Life, was appointed as the official Board Liaison to the Council. (While serving in a liaison role between Board and Council was already included in the Vice-President Student Life’s duties, it was not previously treated as a distinct position.)