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Issue of the Day: Executive Portfolio Reform

Posted By Brendon Goodmurphy On January 14, 2008 @ 12:19 am In Features | Comments Disabled

This is the first of a series of daily articles that will highlight “UBC issues.” The Issue of the Day provides an in-depth analysis of a certain topic that may require more background information to understand, or more analysis of the pros and cons and factors to consider. We will try to focus on key issues that come out of the debates and this year’s election, but there are some tried and tested issues too that can’t be ignored.

[1]This year’s Exec team. Should their portfolios be shuffled?

For our first Issue of the Day, we are focusing on portfolio reform. We think that it might be a good topic to start with because it gets people thinking about the basic political divisions of the organization – the way in which we divide the Executive portfolios actually says a lot about the priorities of the Society.

The debate last year:

The issue came up in last year’s elections, specifically regarding the VP Finance and the VP Administration. At that time, it was suggested that these two portfolios could be merged into a VP Operations (or VP Internal) in order to introduce a new Executive portfolio, such as a VP Student Life, that could address different issues, such as social life, events, and possibly even lobbying the University around student life issues (sorry, I’m a lobbyist at heart…). I wanted to link to an article from last year’s election, but after 40 minutes of searching for it, am giving up. Please try to find it though if you want to read more about that debate.

Why does it matter?

I personally took quite a liking to the idea of a VP Student Life, but I think it doesn’t illustrate the importance of Executive portfolio reform very well. At U of T and York for example, there is a VP Equity. Imagine dedicating one fifth of the AMS’ highest level of elected representatives solely to the issue of equity and diversity! It would tell a very different story about the priorities of the AMS.

Of course, addressing issues of equity and diversity better (or any others, like student life for that matter), could be done without Executive portfolio reform. But, it wouldn’t have the same effect on lobbying priorities, who gets attracted to the positions (or other aspects of the AMS for that matter), and the type of political work that the portfolios do. Currently the Safety Coordinator works on issues around equity, diversity and social justice, but because the place in the organization that the position fits, its difficult for the position to do effective lobbying. It’s up to the VP Academic, who the Safety Coordinator reports to, to lobby on these issues and bring the work of the Safety Coordinator into the strategic directions of Council and the Executive better.

Creative options…behind the jump. Other options:

You could conceive of a lot of options, besides a VP Operations/VP Student Life reform. I’ve always been a fan of either Tim or Spencer’s idea (sorry, I forget who initially proposed it), to take the VP Academic and VP External portfolios and create a VP Education (fed/prov lobbying and all academic issues) and VP University Affairs (campus development, governance, translink, sustainability, etc). Part of the reasoning behind this option is that the VP External portfolio is often criticized for not having as much work as the other portfolios, particularly if there isn’t an election in a given year. Also, the current division doesn’t always make sense – for example, as VP Academic, I became well-versed in UBC academic issues, but had little to do with bringing that conversation to provincial/federal representatives. Also, I did a lot of work on student housing this year, and brought that issue to the GVRD and municipal representatives, normally reserved for the VP External. Lastly, the VP Academic works on a lot of issues around transit as it relates to internal UBC development, but the VP External works with lobbying translink. These are just examples, keep in mind. But, on the other hand, there are many benefits between intersecting responsibilities between portfolios.

Also, as I’m sure most readers can tell, I’m quite privy to a VP Equity & Diversity (or any other name), as it would do a lot to make the AMS more effective in addressing social justice issues. You could conceive of a VP Sustainability (like at Concordia’s student union), a VP Social Issues or a VP Student Issues. The possibilities are endless. What really matters is that we can be creative about the way the AMS works, and not get stuck in the status quo for no other reason than it’s easy. The AMS Should be thinking forward, always thinking of better ways to structure itself and represent what matters to students.

What other ways do you think the Executive portfolios could be organized? Share your thoughts.

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