The Student Union’s budgeted amount for the training of their Executives and other Board of Directors is $23,000. To put this into perspective, it is a third of the budgeted amount for Frosh ($66,450), an event hosted for the entire student population with multiple artists performing. In 2021, the budgeted training amount was $10,000. What do these sessions involve, and why has the budgeted amount doubled in the past two years?

The first training session after the Executives’ election is an organized retreat in Penticton. The Directors learn about the SUO’s vision and values, communications, board functions, and Robert’s Rules of Order — the procedure for conducting meetings. Additionally, they conduct team-building activities and learn about the British Columbia Federation of Students. Now, if someone were to ask for my personal opinion, I’d say that a trip to Penticton for this sounds rather unnecessary. As someone who has been a part of several on-campus clubs that organize events (in unpaid positions) — one of these clubs is even building a house from scratch — I can confidently say that a retreat is not needed to build friendly relations. Usually, a pizza party once a term suffices. However, Cade Desjarlais, the current President of the SUO, justifies the trip by saying,

“Penticton was selected for our Board Retreat and Training to work on developing relationships within the Board that would not be accomplished over a few short days on campus. The overnight stay really helps develop some cohesion and friendships vitally important to the running of SUO operations. We also get preferred rates with the hotel as we are a student organization. The Penticton orientation is a great tradition that we plan to continue!”

The second training session conducted this year was at the Okanagan Golf Course. The topics covered at the session include effective board meetings, developing decision-making skills, sessions on emotional intelligence, working collaboratively, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. Cade says,

“At the Golf Course, we were training there merely for the purposes of training…no golfing was involved! The Okanagan Golf Club has meeting spaces available and a catering team. When the Board, Staff, and external partners join the training, space is also a concern. The rented spaces provide all the technology and space needs required for our growing team at a location a quick 5 minutes from campus. Additionally, the Okanagan Golf Club is the home course for our UBCO Heat Men’s and Women’s teams so they are always looking for opportunities to support students. When the training involves 8-hour days sitting down, it’s important we do so in an engaging space.”

This is an interesting justification. As a Phoenix writer, I had to attend a four-hour training covering workflow, communications, writing style guide, ethics, diversity, biases, and team building. The only technology one needed was a projector and a laptop with PowerPoint. Additionally, all Residence Advisors are trained on similar themes over a period of two weeks from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and since they host all these sessions in lecture halls and residences, it seems like they are quite successful in finding engaging spaces on-campus for their 8-hour sessions.

Finally, when asked about the increase in budget from previous years, Cade explains,

“Regarding the budgeted amount, it is allocated based on expenditures under that category in the previous years. While the budgeted amounts used to be lower in previous years, the actual amounts spent were over the budgeted amount. Most of these expenses go into paying wages of external presenters who conduct these trainings, costs of food and accommodation, booking of spaces, etc. Another important piece to recognize is that these years prior were during the COVID-19 pandemic when all training was online. The cost of training has increased with the return to in-person activities, like most things, and we found that the online training, while more cost-effective, did not foster adequate skills-learning and relationship-building for our Directors.”

To conclude, the SUO spends a significant amount of money to train its Board of Directors. Considering that this comes from money paid by students, some might say that trips to Penticton and Golf Courses seem a bit excessive. Unfortunately, the SUO has no plans to discontinue its lavish traditions.