Back in March, I was elected on a platform that was far from short on lofty goals.
We're almost nearing the end of the first half of what will be, after three years, my final term as an SRA member, and I wanted to give updates on where my platform goals are so far.
I've copied verbatim my platform points from my election page here so that I may address them one-by-one.
Enforcing mandated office hours and class talks. Presently, SRA Members are expected to hold office hours and perform class talks so that their constituents can come and ask them any questions they may have. These are largely not being utilized and results in an SRA that is not as accessible to students as it could be.
Thanks largely to the efforts of Miranda Clayton, the MSU Operations Commissioner, and Guiliana Guarna, VP Administration, the SRA now has effective mandated office hours. I am proud to have supported the passing of this operating policy.
At-large Vice-Presidential Elections. Currently students have no direct say in who their VPs-- people they are bankrolling-- are. Instead, the SRA-- a small body of about 30 students, decides who they will be.
I took a bit of a blunt approach to bringing attention to this issue. And I got a lot of flak for it. Even so, I don't regret it.
As a result of the outroar from the motion at General Assembly, a Committee was formed to look at the issue. I participated as a sitting member on this committee. Ultimately their primary proposal was to keep the status quo with some minor revisions to the way the elections were organized.
However, announced today-- MSU Members are now going to have their chance to decide on whether or not they would like to elect their MSU Members at-large in a referendum thanks to a successful grassroots petition effort by students I am proud to have helped support.
Standing by the Women Gender Equity Network. As a pilot service that has been years in the making, I believe this SRA must do all that it can to ensure that this service becomes a permanent, successful centre that is accessible to all.
WGEN now has an office space of their own, and is now a permament service. This is because of the tireless work of their volunteers, staff and the MSU community. I am proud to have stood by supporting this service when it was first proposed as a pilot, and to have supported it becoming a full-time one as well. They are an asset to the student community.
Establishing an Emergency Student Fund.
Thanks largely to the efforts of Anser Abbas and Daniel D'Angela, this is now available to all students. I am proud to have voted in favour of this, and to have successfully argued for a higher funding allocation than was originally planned for. I am currently serving on the committee responsible for reviewing the applications submitted to this fund to further support its success.
The re-establishment of an SRA House Leader. In the past this position existed but was removed. I would like to see it brought back. Presently, the duties that SRA members are expected to fulfil are put off-- because they have nobody holding them to account but themselves. This system doesn't work-- and our constituents deserve better. Bringing back the House Leader, tasked with holding the SRA accountable for fulfilling their duties would help to ensure we have an SRA that serves their constituents properly.
This is now in the hands of the current Bylaws & Procedures Commissioner, Carter McInnis who has made it a priority of his to address. I will vigorously defend the merits of this position when the Bylaws Committee makes their proposal to the SRA on this position, as I believe, still, it is a position the SRA needs.
Advocating for the Experiential Education office to focus on providing paid work experience opportunities. Unpaid internships is an issue that impacts Social Sciences students a lot in particular-- and I know first-hand how it can be unfair to expect a student to work for free when they need gainful employment to put themselves through school. These opportunities should be accessible to all Social Sciences students.
I have unfortunately made no progress on this issue to date. I hope to focus on it in the last half of my term as an SRA Member.
Paying our employees a Living Wage. This Student Union-- a registered non-profit organization, has a huge surplus. Considering that we're paying our Presidents and Vice Presidents salaries of over $40,000 including other amenities such as their cell phone bills, and in the case of the President their living arrangements-- I see no reason why we should be paying our employees wages that are below the poverty line. By paying our student employees more we can help provide students with access to opportunities for employment that will actually help them pay for textbooks and tuition costs
I have been advocating for better labour standards within the MSU for some time now. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening anytime soon, but I intend of trying to bring a thoughtful policy proposal on the issue in the coming months.
Transparency Bylaw: I believe that students deserve to be made actively aware of how their elected officials are being remunerated. I also believe that they deserve to know when, where and why their elected officials are being presented with gifts from outside interests.
Unfortunately, I have made very little progress on this issue to date as well. It may be something that I am unable to realistically address before my time as a representative is finished. I'm hoping that this isn't a case, but it is not something that will be easily addressed.