SUO’s New Beginning: External Governance Review Begins
October 5th, 2017
The review of the Okanagan Student Union has begun the 6-phase process of examination
Over the summer, the UBC Okanagan Students’ Union discussed hiring a third party to review their finances, and the effectivity of their governance systems. They decided to proceed with an External Governance Review with the accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny (MNP). While the review will be completed in February 2018, any changes stemming from the review will not go into effect until November of the same year, at the Annual General Meeting. The review will consist of three pillars, focusing on the financial policies, the organization of the student union, and student engagement and services that are provided by the SUO.
The SUO was issued a document from MNP on August 30, describing the review process in great detail. MNP is the company that will be performing the review on the UBCSUO. This is the same company that facilitated the External Governance Review for UBC Vancouver’s student union (AMS) in 2016. Amal Alhuwayshil, VP External of the Student Union, and new to her position this year, negotiated the cost of this review, saving the student union $20,000. She supports this review as she describes it as a “future investment [for the SUO].”
Regarding the three pillars, Alhuwayshil states that she “thinks that [the student union is] doing really well at membership engagement and services;” however, she admits that they lack student involvement due to “previous histories [in the SUO].” Therefore, the review will focus on student perspectives on the SUO in addition to finances and organizational structure and roles. The External Governance Review has already begun, and Alhuwayshil has stated that she has “already started on the list of people [MNP] should be talking to.”
The timeline is laid out as taking place from September of 2017 to February of 2018. Currently, the review is in Phase 0; there will be a total of six phases, ranging from 0-5. Phase 0 consists of collecting data, performing a preliminary review of key personnel within the UBCSUO and relevant stakeholders. According to Alhuwayshil, the stakeholders are UBCO students, alumni, and staff members. She has sent MNP data on “the bylaws, the regulations, the constitution, the staff and their roles, the businesses that SUO runs, [and] the services that we provide to the students.” Phase 0 will also decide on an interview schedule for staff and students in the SUO. This phase also includes setting out project milestones and a description of the final recommendations and action items from the project. MNP will also need to get the project plan signed-off by the UBCSUO signing authorities (the SUO Executives).
Phase 1 will begin after this is completed. According to Alhuwayshil, this stage consists of “a follow up and results from what has been collected [and] identified.” Alhuwayshil confirmed that MNP will begin the interviewing process on October 23, which means MNP will be on campus for a full week to interview the UBCO team, staff and students. Phase 1 will also examine whether or not the SUO’s current policies and bylaws support the governance objectives coming from this review. While the review started later than originally planned, Alhuwayshil maintains that “we [will] have the recommendation delivered come February.”
Phase 2 will be the optional component of the review. It potentially consists of a survey that Alhuwayshil describes as “more focused on listening to the students, how they view and engage with the SUO, and what their expectations are from their student union” between the SUO and the students. The implementation of this survey is dependent on the results of phase 1.
Phase 3 is based on the findings and works of the previous phases, and will be the formulation of the main questions that will be up for consultation with main UBCSUO stakeholders.
Phase 4 involves a critical examination of the summary of bylaws and information collected from the previous phases; an implementation plan will be developed to address the most pressing matters in order to improve the governance of the SUO.
Phase 5 issues a preliminary report of the review that consists of the findings from the previous phases, and will be up for revision, based on the discretion of the SUO. After this, the draft will be presented to main UBCSUO stakeholders, with the support of MNP. Phase 5 will conclude with a final report.
The Phoenix will report in more detail on each phase as they occur.
On the publication of the outcomes of the review, Alhuwayshil stated that yes, these will be made public (with the written consent of MNP) “because [the objectives] need to be approved by the students to be implemented.”
There are two committees planned for this review. One will be spearheading the project, and the other will be implementing the final suggestions following MNP’s final report.
Alhuwayshil admits that the current SUO has “inherited so many issues…and we are hoping the recommendations from the review will outline the solution and infrastructure to the UBCSUO; preventing the reoccurrence of such issues and challenges, as have happened in the past.”
When it comes to recognizing the issues within the SUO, Alhuwayshil is committed to transparency. “We’re fixing previous issues. This is something that would look at the past, and assess the present, creating a better future for our vision of the student union.” She sees the implementation of this review as “a new beginning to a new student advocacy [in the] student union.”