Jon Pryce, the chair and chief governance officer for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union board, has a message for his directors: attend the board meetings.
This year, the WLUSU board of directors has a total of about 63 regrets as opposed to roughly 37 last year. A regret is essentially an absence with enough notice from the director under the discretion of the chair.
“Obviously, I’m concerned. We have to make sure we are present at board meetings and representing the students’ needs. However, conflicts do come up,” Pryce explained.
Last Friday, Pryce had to cancel a scheduled board meeting because there weren’t enough directors to reach quorum, which the minimum amount of directors required to make decisions – ten of the 15 elected directors in the WLUSU board’s case. Only nine said they could have attended. A make-up meeting was held on Tuesday night.
“I’m disappointed but everyone has their reason for not being able to make it to a meeting. I’ve made it very clear to which ones were considered regrets and which ones were considered absents,” he added.
Of the regrets, midterms, exams, work, volunteering and co-op have all been used as reasons to miss a meeting. There have been 18 WLUSU board meetings so far this year, and only one saw all 15 directors present.
“The work you do outside of the board meetings is great, I appreciate it, it’s good to talk to these directors and go to these ownership linkage committee events and all that type of stuff,” explained Pryce. “However, when push comes to shove, being at the board meeting is imperative.”
While the directors do know of the dates of each ahead of time, Pryce said that there were instances when different priorities might arise.
The board also had some special board meetings, which made scheduling a bit more difficult.
Jazz Clement, a second-year student at Laurier and a director, said she missed meetings because of opportunities she couldn’t miss, such as conferences and personal matters.
“I just had a lot of personal issues going on, especially with school. I’m pretty sure everyone can relate to that,” she explained, adding that she meets with the other directors and students outside of the boardroom and that the board as a whole has been effective.
“There are some people who don’t always go to meetings because they don’t want to. There are some people like myself who do want to be at meetings, but unfortunately other things have happened,” she added.
Despite there being over 60 absences from directors this year, Pryce affirmed that the board has been able to accomplish everything that they had to do. Most of the time the board work will be postponed, such as the last cancelled meeting on Friday.
“Candidates running should have to make sure and make it clear that ‘this is my priority, I’m treating this like a job,’” explained Jordan Epstein, the vice-chair for this year’s board and the chair-elect for the 2013-14 WLUSU board of directors.
Both Pryce and Epstein noted that they would like to encourage anyone who is running to be a director to evaluate their time commitments and to communicate to candidates what the role entails. Epstein said that he has done more training for the board-elect than years previous.
“A lot of it does come into the need for better training,” added Epstein.
Another issue with directors missing meetings is the potential for more diverse discussion on certain topics.
“It would almost be a shame if certain people didn’t come because you would really want to hear what they say for a certain issue,” added Pryce. “Because without good attendance, it takes away from conversations.”
Epstein gave the example of director Sebastian Dudek who still communicated with board without being there. Dudek, who has missed eight meetings so far this year because of co-op, still sent in his comments and thoughts on certain issues.
“Even though you can’t make it, showing that you’re still interacting with the board, still making sure that your voice is getting out there,” said Epstein.
Each director is elected the year before they join the board, so there’s no formal disciplinary action for missed meetings unless if comes from the WLUSU membership. Epstein said that the board is in the midst of working up a new policy that will clarify what can be determined as a “regret.”
“To make sure that when people are giving a regret, it’s for a valid reason, it’s not it’s because it’s their birthday or things like that,” he said.