The vast majority of students pay their mandatory student fees to the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union begrudgingly, without ever knowing exactly where that money goes or how it is being used.
However, in paying a fee to WLUSU, every student at Laurier becomes a stakeholder in the organization. And while those in positions of power within the Students’ Union like to say that every student is very much a part of the union, it appears the vast majority of the organization’s stakeholders are being left in the dark.
One look at WLUSU’s auditor’s report for the 2011-12 year, released following the annual general meeting — which occurs in the shadow of the elections for the organization’s president and board of directors — reveals that the organization has run up considerable debt. Currently WLUSU owes the university over $4 million and other institutions over $2 million.
However, this is something WLUSU appears to be doing their best to keep from the average student – or, stakeholder. Financial statements for 2011-12 are posted quietly amid the chaos of the election, any financial information from years prior is unavailable on the Students’ Union website and the organization’s board of directors rarely discusses any financial matters publicly. While the board did briefly discuss the audit report at the Jan. 25 meeting, only two directors voiced concerns about the draft version of the statement before the board went on to another matter.
The sheer amount of time the 2012-13 board of directors has spent in camera — a portion of a board meeting not open to the public — is troubling. In camera sessions have become a regular, if not frequent part of WLUSU board meetings, often times occupying the bulk of the meeting.
If it is these worrisome financial matters they are discussing, how is it fair to leave the many students that pay into the organization out of the conversation?
While it is understandable that WLUSU may be trying to avoid worrying their stakeholders as well as to a degree saving face, matters of this magnitude should be open to all students. WLUSU needs to be accountable to students. Discreetly posting complicated financial statements online and burying critical information in exhaustive agenda packages and minutes is not transparency.
It’s time students were given the chance to understand where their money is going.