Initial draft of services review complete

Document clarifies function of various entities

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The first draft of the formal review for the University Students’ Council’s services has been released.

A formal review of the USC’s services " including PrideWestern, EnviroWestern, Ally Western and the Women’s Issues Network " began in the fall.

The services under review fall under the portfolio of the USC VP-campus issues. They function specifically as a resource for student needs and to promote education, awareness, support and involvement.

Difficulties experienced by PrideWestern last year " which led to half its executives quitting and the organization going over budget " prompted the need for establishing a formal review process to build continuity between the services.

“My role is to oversee the activities the services do and guide them in direction and policies,” current VP-campus issues Cara Eng said, adding the service process " from governance to budget " is often sporadic from year to year.

“Often they’re not receiving appropriate funds ... budgets can go up and down. It’s a really inappropriate process now,” she said.

“Our history dates back to 1979, but in the records we cannot find a mandate,” Ashley Bushfield, WIN co-ordinator, said.

“There’s been a need for a long time to formalize the services ... these recommendations [Eng] is making are a wonderful way to move our services forward.”

Bushfield praised Eng for being transparent and thorough with the review process.

“This will prevent the constant rise and fall effect that has plagued the success of our services over the years’ past,” Chelsea Cameron, PrideWestern co-ordinator, said.

“We wanted the services to work by themselves, [but] in the past we’ve seen VPs not know what to do. This document will help in transition of understanding,” she added.

An important recommendation introduced in the draft is for the budget of each service to rollover into the following year. More communication between individual service co-ordinators and the VP-campus issues is advised, as well as engagement with the affiliate colleges and creation of broader and more inclusive events.

One problem has been misunderstandings within some clubs about what services do and why they are allocated a larger budget.

“Clubs have a lot more freedom [but] services are expected to provide things,” Eng said.

If a service does not fulfil its expectations, the USC will re-evaluate its role.

“Hopefully this document will make it clear to the students and the USC what the services are and their function. For the next VPs, it’s important for them to take this review as a serious recommendation,” Eng said.

Eng said she hopes her successor would take on the short-term goals and begin evaluating the long-term goals of the review.

“My only concern about the review is the considerable workload it will place on the services over the next year,” Will Bortolin, EnviroWestern co-ordinator, said.

“Instead of focusing on serving students, [the USC will] have to spend a lot of time focusing on defining how we serve students. It is essential work, which benefits our accountability, transparency and long term focus, but we will need to be careful how we balance our focus on policy with our focus on action,” he added.

However, all co-ordinators expressed the important impact the review will have towards future enhancement of USC services.

Those interested in creating a new service must have a specific mandate and goals as well as submit a formal proposal and budget to the USC Board of Directors.

An important consideration for approval is for a service to encompass support for a diverse student body or address social issues. Further, it cannot overlap with existing USC or Western services or clubs.

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