Tensions are running high between the executive team and council
Merely three months after electing a full executive team, four executives of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations are on their way out. Vice presidents of communications and promotions, academic and Loyola, internal affairs and finance have all handed in their resignations.
ASFA executives and councillors alike say tensions between the two groups have created a very difficult and unproductive working environment.
“ASFA is a stressful place to be, both as a councillor being criticized by the executive team and as an executive criticized by council,” said outgoing VP internal Mariah Gillis. “I don’t have the time or mental energy for it anymore.”
Gillis, who will remain on the executive team until the end of the month, said she has to take a fifth class this semester due to a miscalculation of her academic credits. As other executives began to announce their resignations, the search for replacements added to her already long list of responsibilities.
Gillis ran with the Support Change slate during the ASFA byelections in October, confessing that she expected ASFA “to be a disaster.” Despite the slate’s attempt to bring a new face and culture to ASFA, she said council is still feeling the consequences of the Mei Ling scandal.
“A lot of people have experience with the previous executive [team],” said Gillis. “[Closely watching the executives] is a good thing—it’s council’s job, we need them to do that—but it doesn’t give us a chance to be different.”
“I understand why people don’t want to engage with ASFA,” she added, “but it has been frustrating to come in with that burden and try to wade through all of that.”
ASFA president Jenna Cocullo said other executives also felt “quite discouraged” with the dynamic between council and executives.
Gillis said these tensions have caused a sort of apathy amongst councillors.
“I think because there’s this resentment towards ASFA, [councillors] only show up because they have to,” she said. When they do, she said “they don’t read anything in the consent agenda and get mad when they find out about rules they passed.”
Councillors like Concordia Undergraduate Psychology Association (CUPA) councillor Elizabeth Duong also feel that tensions are high.
“It feels like a ‘councillors versus executive’ environment,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be like that.”
Duong introduced a motion at the regular council meeting in January last week calling on the executive team to “present financial income statements summarizing ASFA’s expenditures and revenues to ASFA council on a monthly basis,” despite the fact ASFA bylaws already require budget information to be available and disseminated to council.
Duong, who sits on ASFA’s communications committee and social committee, said even executives weren’t aware of their current budgets during meetings.
“It’s not supposed to be like that,” she said, adding that she was surprised a slate which included financial transparency on its platform was not sharing financial documents adequately.
ASFA also lost their office manager this year, which Cocullo said is causing “difficulty” in keeping it running.
“It may not be as accessible to students as before,” said Cocullo. “We’ve hired an interim office manager, but once things settle down we’ll be doing a callout.”
However, it’s still not clear when things will settle down at ASFA. Cocullo said the sudden departure of four executives highlights institutional problems the organization has been having. Echoing sentiments from her election platform, Cocullo said she hopes to change the structure of the executive team “to better serve member associations and students in a way that’s efficient and sustainable.”
VP communications and promotions Cleo Fonseca graduated, but has agreed to volunteer with the organization until a replacement has been found. VP finance Zac Garoufalis has agreed to stick around until he can train a replacement. Ian Campbell, VP academic and Loyola, has already left.
However, with no immediate replacements in sight, it can be difficult to see how the changes ASFA needs will come about.
“Policy change is the only thing that can change ASFA properly,” said Gillis. “But, with this cycle of distrust, it’s a catch-22.”
Duong agreed, saying the structure of the executive body needs reevaluation.
“ASFA’s mandates [for executives] are too vague and too big for one person to do on their own,” she said, adding that executives need to receive more training before beginning their roles.
And, of course, the tensions need to be resolved. “We have to work dynamically,” said Duong. “As a team.”