OMG UPDATE: Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get updates on updates!

Updated on Sunday, June 29

#19368

OMG: Okay, WTF, Feds?!

Sure, I get that you're a corporation and all, but you're also a student union responsible for serving and representing all undergrad students on campus.

By closing your Board meetings to the public (but apparently still publishing minutes later), who are you serving, other than yourselves? What do students gain from a student union that is more opaque, a student union where members have no way to directly verify that the governance of their chief voice on campus is conducted in an above-board and legitimate fashion?

Someone needs to give these clowns a good kick.

http://www.uwimprint.ca/article/4355-feds-board-of-directors-closes-meetings

22 comments

  1. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. All FEDS and the people who run it are interested in doing is padding their own resumes without having to do any real work. Serving students, being open with students, getting students involved... they aren't actually interested in making any of the REAL changes that would make that happen.

    They closed off these meetings so that we wouldn't be able to see how much of a joke the BoD is. I'll bet minutes will take a year or so to actually get posted, too. Because heaven forbid there be any transparency in our student union.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The minutes are already up :http://www.feds.ca/about/board-of-directors/

      Delete
    2. 1b, as if that matters. It's not like the minutes actually reflect what happens during those meetings.

      Now students have no access to the highest governing body in their student union, and have to resort to a general meeting for everything. All Feds has done is make itself less transparent - again. It's not like they were even a little transparent before this.

      Delete
  2. The people who voted for Burt sure do have egg on their face now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 2, this was a decision made by the old exec. Though Burt was on the committee that made the decision...

      Still, this is mostly the work of Vice President Garcia (he's quoted in the article). As far as I can tell, he saw/sees students as the primary obstacle to Feds getting things done... not a good attitude to have if you want to run an effective student government.

      Delete
    2. Garcia is actually one of the slimiest people I've ever had the misfortune to meet.

      Delete
    3. Jesse would never have done this. He was completely against closing the board.

      Delete
  3. Wait - so they won't open their meetings to the public, but they'll still publish the minutes? So they still want to be transparent... just not right away.

    Fuck this. Fuck FedS.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hopefully someone fixes this at the next Feds AGM.

    Because of the changes they made at the last AGM, the Board can't keep items off the agenda anymore (but you can't change the agenda at the meeting), so if someone submitted a motion to fix this, the Board would have to let it go through for debate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Board also could just reverse the decision.

      Delete
  5. You people need to have some faith in our system. Go live somewhere else OR get involved and change things. Stop your nonsense comments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 5, wanting transparency ≠ not having faith in the system.

      I don't think the feds directors are going to do anything illegal, that doesn't mean they get to make decisions involving $2.5 million in student funds free from scrutiny.

      Delete
  6. I totally admit that I'm a little scared to be posting here, being one of those "clowns" that "needs a good kick", as OP says (Amy Zhou, at-large BOD member, RPW/Econ ARBUS '17, etc.), but I just wanted to throw in my two cents.

    "What do students hope to gain from a student union that is more opaque?"

    This was alluded to in the Imprint article (by Danielle) but what we're really trying to do is make a more conducive environment for effective, objective decision making for the benefit of the entire corporation. Board's mandate is to "discuss and guide the financial and contractual affairs of the corporation", in short, to financially and contractually enable it to best fulfill FedS' mandate (which is to serve, empower and represent students).
    As mentioned in the May 2014 minutes, we did talk about the gallery, and it was mentioned that most of gallery would be stakeholders for a specific cause. Having these stakeholders in the gallery can really change the atmosphere, in both a positive and negative way-- good because this "shift" in the atmosphere typically becomes presure, but bad because this pressure can negatively affect decision-making that is supposed to be for the benefit of the *entire* corporation rather than for, say, pockets of students or an especially vocal minority.

    I've had my toes in the FedS pond for a while but I wasn't totally immersed until I was elected to Board last AGM. All this is to say that I didn't know any Board policies or procedures before I became a member, but after having had a few meetings, I completely understand the root of the motion, and I mostly subscribe to it (though the loss of transparency is something I do think about) for the advantage of making these decisions. I'll be honest and say that I've never attended an open Board meeting, but from Doug's testimonies of previous meetings and from my own personal experience from other student groups and in my own life, I think that this way works best-- that's my opinion. In ECON 101, I learned about opportunity costs and trade-offs with Carvalho (<3) and there is definitely a cost of transparency from greater objectivity in making decisions (and in better decision-making in general).

    It's true that it makes us "less transparent" in a sense, but many "real life" cases (like with diplomacy and government negotiations, especially those relating to contracts and agreements), 100% transparency can be a little impossible and often unreasonable-- and a large section of Board's mandate deals with contractual affairs.

    That doesn't mean that we're foregoing transparency and accountability altogether-- this comes in a variety of ways, and one of the things I really think that FedS needs to improve on is *actually* engaging with students. I've been a huge huge huge hugehugheuhguheuguegu advocate for communications and not just more tweets saying stuff like "@feds: wow we r so great", but addressing concerns and questions you might have on traditional and "non-traditional" (and I've been on OMGUW long enough to know that this is def not traditional) fora and just *talking* to people, giving you agency to keep us accountable. I've lurked here since I was a first year with my unblemished, virgin eyes, and I've always tried to answer any concerns I've had other OMGUW posts (someone actually thought I was admin when I posted that super long petitions and grievances response a few months ago.........), Facebook, friends, etc. but there's always room for improvement. That's something I'm personally taking on my own shoulders to do, in addition to pushing other FedS members to do the same. 5 says that "people need to have some faith in our system", but that absolutely works both ways: we, as elected representatives and Board members, need to show you why you should have faith in us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 2. I actually talked to Chris (our chair) after seeing this post (especially 3's comment) because, while we have a procedure to release minutes after each meeting and the agenda ahead of time, the timeline for releasing the agenda is super vague, and I totally admit that that practice hasn't happened every single time. We'll be putting in a motion for the next meeting to release the agenda a week ahead of time so everyone will be able to see what will be discussing, and to talk about it with any other Board members if they so wish.

      I don't know what to say about any of the comments about Danielle, Adam or Jesse.....

      But to 1: I think it's a little unfair to assume that "all...the people who run it are interested in is padding their own resumes". We all come from pretty diverse backgrounds and opinions but I honestly believe that each one of us wanted to do something meaningful for the university and its students and in a way that we think is effective. Anyone who knows me personally (or follows me on twitter for that matter) knows that I'm a huge, disgusting sap: I've really come to care for this school and the people in it, and with my skills and the ways in which I'm wired, I totally believe that this (being active in student organization) is the most effective way for me to be doing something positive for the community and the people around me--I have utter faith that Paula, Matt, Qusai, Doug, Maaz, Danielle, Ben, Chris, Stephane, and Rebecca care too (see there's the sappy part coming out).



      Anyways, feel free to get in touch with me at my UW email (aczhou) or my twitter handle (@amyczhou).

      TL;DR: IMO having closed BOD meetings help us make better objective decisions but there is still the issue of less transparency & accountability, which we'll try to improve over the coming school year (putting the agenda out ahead of time and engaging with students).

      Delete
    2. Amy, I see where you're coming from, but it doesn't change the fact that Feds (in practical terms) is more like a government than a corporation. You don't have a voluntary membership (students don't get to choose whether or not they pay the Feds fee), and the corporation you have control over is run using students' money. This gives you a special obligation, not just to the corporation of Feds, but to the students who make it up.

      Don't underestimate the power of observation in the process of transparency. It's important that the Board be seen to meet - not just that you make the minutes available after the fact. Feds is already grappling with a major transparency issue - and closing off the Board makes it feel like even more of a 'private clique.' Continuing down this path will only lead to increased student apathy, and a further descent into irrelevance for Feds.

      If meeting in front of an audience makes it harder for the board to make good decisions, then I can't help but question your general ability to meet your fiduciary obligations in general.

      What I'd recommend is that you change the structure of your meetings:

      -Open Session: Start of meetings, minutes published, anyone can attend.
      -Confidential Session: after open session, minutes published only to Board members (but available to members via members' requisitions), only Board members/those invited by the Board can attend.
      -In Camera Session: 10 minutes at the end of every meeting. No minutes (i.e. less formal), completely confidential, only Board members can attend.

      Adding the in camera session allows a period of less-formal 'venting' about major issues (the drawback is that formal decisions can't be made because you aren't taking minutes), and should help keep the Board functioning as a unit - even in open session.

      Delete
    3. Transparency is always a matter of give-and-take.

      But in all honesty... you had that give-and-take, and it was working.

      You gave us transparency by letting us observe the Board in action (which is especially important since COUNCIL - not Board - makes the Feds policies that you have to adhere to, and the public deserves to SEE you adhering to them in your meetings), and in exchange you got to take some away by having confidential sessions where sensitive material was discussed without observation.

      Now you've taken away transparency by telling us to 'take your word for it' with the meeting minutes, but you haven't given us any in return. Feds takes another giant step backwards from the students, and everyone (except maybe the directors and exec) loses.

      Your job as directors is to serve the best interests of Feds. Feds' job is to serve as a voice for all students. Ipso facto, what is in our best interests is in Feds' best interests too. Closing off your meetings to an audience... doesn't serve students.

      Delete
    4. Amy, maybe I'd give credit to your "having an audience can be intimidating" argument, if you didn't have collective power over MORE THAN 2 MILLION DOLLARS of OUR money. Money that we didn't get to choose to give you in the first place, and we can't get refunded. It's basically like taxes - the only way for us to not pay them is to leave.

      Sorry... when you get that kind of power, you either accept that you have an obligation to be open to scrutiny, or you let someone else take the reins.

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    7. Sorry, the formatting was bothering me too much.

      6b, thanks for responding-- you've given me a ton of food for thought. (Sorry for my own late reply-- I've had a busy weekend).

      I do agree with much of what you've said, but I still believe many of the same opinions that I mentioned above.

      Between us, there's a definite difference in opinion in what works best to serve students but you've really made me think.

      My observations above were based on my own experiences in the first few Board meetings I've had this year, and are completely of my *own* BOD expeience. I'll be honest and admit that I did not attend an open BOD meeting last year, so I can't say anything to their effectiveness. You say that closing our meetings off to students doesn't serve students; our mandate is indeed to serve in the best interest of FedS, as you say, and we are elected to meet "on behalf of the corporation's shareholders... to discuss and guide the financial and contractual affairs of the corporation..." (taken from the FedS site). From my perspective, I still do feel that closing Board meetings does serve students as it
      helps students like myself "discuss and guide" these
      activities, and ask the (sometimes stupid) questions required for
      more information on these financial and contractual affairs. But perhaps it is a personal flaw, like you so question; in this case, this is very much *my* personal opinion that I hold for myself (but I think it's entirely possible that it's a very human quality and future board members may have similar concerns).

      On the other hand, you have given me a ton of food for thought, and I do agree with your points to an extent. I think your recommendation for the structure of our meetings is definitely very interesting (I've looked around and Brock seems to follow a similar structure) and maybe something to seriously consider. It is pretty worrying that, as you say, the public is not able to directly see us adhering to policies. Other schools (like Western) do have open meetings with their boards (though I'm not entirely sure they all similar mandates), and maybe Board members should just get over "discomfort" to make sure they're held to account. Student apathy (something I think a lot about) is definitely a multi-faceted issue that I think takes a lot more than opening meetings-- it comes in being proactive with student interaction and going to students instead of waiting for students to come to us. Regardless, you've definitely given me a lot to think about, and I'll be doing some research and a lot of discussing over the next year.

      Overall, I'm on the fence about the entire thing. Also, I'd love to get in touch with people who you think should "take the reins", as you say-- I think they'd have some very valuable opinions, like yourself.

      Hope you had a great weekend! It was absolutely lovely where I was (Ottawa).

      Delete
  7. I realize that now that everyone sees you are real people the criticism will die down but I still want to say that FEDS has a huge image problem. Hardly anyone thinks you are working for the students and this does not help one bit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I 100% agree with you on the image problem (though not necessarily with the criticism, haha). I think that actually *engaging* with and talking to students, and just doing an overall better job of communicating what we do would improve many things, one of which would be our image.

      Delete