Vice-presidents on the University Students’ Council do not actually have to be students — and until a few weeks ago, they did not even know it.
In Tom Stevenson’s presidential platform last year, he promised to take a course during his term since his VPs were required to do so. Unbeknownst to the future USC president, last year’s council removed the stipulation that VPs had to take at least one half-course during their term.
“The current board didn’t know this [until recently] when I brought it to their attention,” Board of Governors member Matthew Reid said. “And currently they have the choice if they want to be a student or not.”
According to Reid, former VP-student events Chris Crighton brought forward a motion in 2005 to eliminate the half-course requirement from the VP’s terms of reference.
“Huge opposition sprung up from this motion and Crighton withdrew it and the issue was put to rest,” Reid said. Some councillors argued it was important student leadership be visible in the student community taking courses and writing exams like the students they represent.
Last year, cosmetic changes were made to Bylaw 1 when the USC passed its long-term plan, Built to Lead.
Reid said council wasn’t shown the changes on a screen, and both Reid and senator Zach Armstrong felt council did not have the necessary information to make a decision.
Regardless, the changes passed.
“It turns out in an oversight, the requirement of being a student was removed,” Reid said.
Stevenson said councillors were actually given all changes in a document during a major overhaul of USC bylaws. Somehow, the removal of the half-credit course stipulation went unnoticed.
But this is not neccessarily a bad thing, according to the USC.
While Stevenson feels the premise of requiring VPs to continue being students is inherently good, he admitted the responsibility of even one class is a huge time constraint.
“It’s a really hard balance,” he said.
Reid agreed and noted VPs will have to either sacrifice their grades or their job.
While he would not have changed the experience, Stevenson feels there are better ways for the board to keep in touch with students — initiatives the USC is already developing as part of its New USC directive.
From classroom visits to working shifts in University Community Centre stores, Stevenson said the USC has plenty of ideas for remaining visible to the Western population.
The President is even considering being door staff for a Rick McGhie night at the Wave.
VP-campus issues, James Arthurs, also uses different avenues such as going to student events or speaking at training sessions.
Currently enrolled in a course to finish his degree, Arthurs agreed that, while he is enjoying the experience, sitting in a class is not the be-all and end-all for connecting with students.
But some Western students feel VPs should be required to take a course.
“It’s easier for them to relate to students,” fourth-year sociology major Soha Khalaf said.
First-year arts student Kaleigh Rogers agreed: “How can they know student needs if they aren’t students themselves?”