Change coming to SAITSA council lineup
This spring, SAIT students may see greater changes than just new members in the Students’ Association governing bodies.
The current SAITSA council is discussing modifications to its election model. A new spring voting process and council setup for the Student Legislative Council (SLC) has been discussed as well as a replacement of the Student Executive Council (SEC) vice-president finance position with a vice-president external.
The executive council is currently comprised of the student president and three vice-presidents who serve throughout the year in elected, paid positions to oversee student affairs.
The legislative council members are students in un-paid elected council positions who represent the voices of the students in each of SAIT’s eight school departments. Each department has between one and three seats on the council.
Neither of the proposed plans are official. They require a vote on bylaw changes made by the SLC, which will take at least two more council meetings to carry out.
“The general feeling is quite positive so I don’t foresee any major issues going forward,” said SAITSA president Steven Hildebrand. “Personally, I’m 90 per cent positive that it will go through, but you never know.”
Currently, any student can run and vote for executive positions, but legislative student representatives can only run for their department of study and voters can only vote within their departments. This has become a problem in the past.
“It’s a shame when you have three people running for one seat for one school and then three open seats for another school,” said Hildebrand. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
The proposed changes for the legislative council would transform it into a general council which would represent SAIT as a whole and no longer individual school department.
If all goes according to plan, five general seats will be opened for voting this spring, which would coincide with the executive election and allow a partial legislative council to operate throughout the summer alongside the executives.
In the following semester, a second nomination period and election will be held and the 10–13 remaining legislative seats will be filled.
By sticking with a fall election process, the positions are still open for first-year students to run.
The student council hopes the proposed changes will increase participation in election voting. Last year only 4.48 per cent of eligible SAIT student turned out to vote in the SLC election.
Even though this number is low, it is consistent with student council elections throughout Canada.
“We are about average when it comes to post-secondaries for the most part, especially two-year colleges,” said Hildebrand.
However, improving voter turnout is not the main objective for these changes.
“We’re not changing it to get better turnout, that’s not the objective here. The objective is for the legislative council to become more passionate, and effective and accomplished,” said the SLC’s Board of Governors representative, Colin Gutor.
“The current structure in my opinion is very poor because you only get a few good months out of an SLC member. What can you accomplish in that amount of time? Really not a lot,” said Gutor.
Within the current legislative election model, 15 new members are elected for October. They are generally all brand new, according to Gutor.
“We’re all moving up together, which is nice, but where are all the leaders?” said Gutor, who has been a part of the SLC for the past two years.
Because of the limited time frame, the legislative council’s goals become smaller, lesser goals, in order to actually accomplish them, said Gutor.
“So it’s this constant turnover of nothing,” said Gutor.
“If you have a running loop, you will have constant leadership and fantastic leadership transfer,” which in turn will help drive greater expectations and higher goals, said Gutor.
In changing the style of the election, five individuals will come into the legislative council at their weak point in March and by the time October comes around, and they are joined by the rest of the council, they will be much stronger, according to Gutor.
“They should be leaders by then,” said Gutor. “They should be able to carry the new SLC members into the next year.”
If the bylaw changes go through, a new executive VP external position will also be open for nominations for the 2012-2013 election in March.
The new position will eliminate the VP finance position and make minor changes to the portfolios of the three remaining executive positions.
“What we were trying to do it keep the president at home a little more and more focused on the Students’ Association itself,” said Hildebrand.
The SEC wanted to take away some of the involvement in SAITSA’s external organizations from all positions and instead have a designated person who is able to commit more energy to them. These external organizations include a seat on the board of the provincial lobby group, the Alberta Students’ Executive Council (ASEC).
“Basically we want someone who has the time to do the things in the external organizations that we wish we had the time to do right now,” said Hildebrand.
The SEC looked very closely at the VP finance portfolio and the VP student life portfolio when considering this change. Hildebrand said he was pleasantly surprised that both the current VP finance and VP student life were able to stay positive during the discussions concerning the restructuring process.
“We’re basically tearing what they do to shreds and rebuilding it,” said Hildebrand. “They were able to not get emotionally attached to the positions that they have been in all year, which I thought was amazing and I’m so proud of them for doing that.”