It has recently come to my attention that there is no hierarchy within the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) executive. The president has no sort of substantial authority over the vice-presidents.
This is alarming, as the title of “president” comes with many important responsibilities in other organizations and even other student groups. One of, if not the most important, responsibility is leadership when it comes to any presidency.
In any democratic group, leadership is very important and an invaluable skill to possess in university, not to mention its value in the workplace.
I have spoken to several people, including current president Jason Syvixay, who confirmed that the UWSA executive has no hierarchy. Instead, UWSA executives such as the vice-president of student services and the president are equals.
The executive answers to the board of directors, such as the arts director. The directors answer to the requests and demands of the students within the capacity of their position.
The president is not so much an actual presidential leader as a spokesperson for U of W students. The spokesperson aspect definitely comes with the territory of any presidency, but it should not be the main feature. The lack of leadership inherent in the president’s position completely changes the electoral voting thought process.
Had I known that the president does not lead his VPs, it would have completely altered my past voting choices. I would have voted for the smoothest talker, not the best leader.
A smooth talker would be the better choice, solely because the position does not require the responsibility of leadership. A smooth talker would be able to make U of W students and the university itself look amazing in public because of their ability to communicate.
Perhaps the most problematic thing about the lack of hierarchy within the executive is that it is misrepresented to students. It’s not fair to students who are paying into something we are not clear on. Furthermore, it means that many students vote in UWSA elections under false information. It’s not fair to the elected president either, because that person is not receiving the complete experience of being a leader for a large organization.
I wouldn’t be so shocked about this lack of hierarchy if it was explicitly made clear to students, but it’s not. The truth is tucked away in the bylaws which, although any student can access them, very few actually read. They shouldn’t have to read them in order to understand the realities of who and to what capacity they are electing individuals.
Anyone who has read a single bylaw for any organization knows that they are not simple sentences that can be read on a bus on the way to school.
To understand bylaws, the entire document needs to be read slowly and carefully, always making references to earlier bylaws in order to connect all the rules.
When you vote, understand the hierarchy: Students at the top, then the board of directors, and then the equally powerful UWSA executives.
Matty Rygiel will be voting differently at this year’s UWSA elections.
Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)