Katie headshot – Maailah Blackwood

Every year, when the Western community elects their next USC president and vice-president, there are roughly four months between when they're elected to the role and when they sign their contract.

However, even though they are expected to act in their role as executives, they aren't actually able to be disciplined until their contract officially begins.

When councillors expressed interest in beginning a discipline process during the in-camera portion of March's council meeting, they were informed that the executive cannot be held accountable under the policy before their contract begins, and cannot be retroactively disciplined for actions they took before the start of their contract.

How the does that makes sense to anyone?

According to bylaw #1, the executives' terms run from June 1 until May 31. But the executives prepare for their term between the election and their start date: they hire two of their fellow executive members, select their associates, coordinators and other staffers, and most bafflingly, they hold voting seats on council by virtue of their position, effective before their terms officially begin.

The issue here is that their contract hasn't started yet. They shouldn't be able to act with the autonomy of executives before they officially become executives, and they shouldn't receive the benefits that come with the role until they're officially in that capacity. Especially when they are unable to be held accountable for their actions during this time. What's more is that they aren't able to be held accountable for actions they took before they were executives at any point, even when they are in office.

The executive officer accountability and discipline policy doesn't come into effect until the executives sign their contract. So why are they able to act with the authority of executives without being held responsible as executives?

The policy acknowledges that the executives have a large role to play in the operation of the organization and states that, "Discipline is not intended to be punitive in nature, but rather is intended to correct and improve performance."

So why do the executives get four months where they can't learn from their mistakes in a meaningful way? Yes, I understand the argument that they're new to their roles and therefore more likely to make mistakes, but that should be reflected when the executives are being held accountable, not bar them from being held accountable at all.

Not allowing them to be held accountable at all does two things: it keeps the executive from learning opportunities when they need them the most, and more troublingly, allows the executive to operate without any accountability during the four months before they sign their contract.

This 'best of both worlds' middle ground the four 'transition' months fall into needs to pick a side. Either the discipline policy needs to apply to the executives as soon as they act as executives, or they should not be able to act in their role until they officially sign their contract. 

The four months the executive can act outside of the policy is a troubling move that keeps the executives tasked with representing the student body from being accountable and transparent and reflects poorly on the organization as a whole. 

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Katie is the Print Managing Editor for volume 110 of The Gazette. Previously, she was a news editor for volumes 109 and 108 of The Gazette and a staff writer for volume 107.

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