New position sparks tension at CSU council meeting

A controversial job posting for a communications co-ordinator by the Concordia Student Union created a divide on council last Wednesday during the first regular meeting of 2013.

The position advertised on the CSU’s website states that for $14.75 an hour this part-time employee with be “responsible for the public relations aspect of the CSU,” as well as for promoting awareness of the CSU’s various events, elections, campaigns and meetings. The position is aimed at spreading the word to the student body about what the CSU is spending its fee-levy generated funding on. It also aims to improve social media visibility through upkeep of the council’s Facebook, blog and more.

The communications co-ordinator would also operate under the direction of VP student life Alexis Suzuki and provide periodic reports as part of their duties.

The position has not been met with universal acclaim from council with some executives lauding it as a much-needed improvement while others deriding it as an attempt to shirk their elected duties. A fierce debate took place over the merits of the job before ending in a failed motion to close the job posting altogether.

The debate came down to a disagreement over the intentions and the outcome of hiring a communications co-ordinator. Critics like councillor Chad Walcott said that the work being described in the job posting was part of the executives’ duties as elected officials and that hiring a new person to take on those duties would be giving away responsibilities that the executive had not attempted to do in the first place.

Those defending the posting, including CSU President Schubert Laforest, claimed that the position exists in almost every group and corporation of similar size and smaller to the CSU. It was argued that having an additional person to add to the promotion already being done might help fix the lack of promotion that has left attendance at events and student awareness low all year.

Speaking to The Concordian, Walcott said that he felt that the executive was hiring someone for a job that they had not yet tried to do.

“I just don’t feel as though the executive has made enough of an effort to promote their events and initiatives themselves,” he said. “I think it would be more justifiable to hire an extra person to do promotions if they had demonstrated that they had tried promoting their events themselves and were overwhelmed as a result.”

Walcott added that the position of a campaigns co-ordinator was already responsible for promoting events, something which he claims was utilized to great effect for the promotion of last year’s events.

Laforest, whose arguments in defense of the posting helped bring the matter to a close at council, believes the job was about improving the efficiency of the CSU when it comes to communicating with students.

“I don’t believe we should content ourselves with doing enough and saying that’s good,” said Laforest. “I think that there needs to be someone who is looking at this from a more pragmatic standpoint and not just limiting communications to the circles of the executives and the council, someone who is finding other ways of reaching out to students who may not be connected to student life.”

Laforest also said that the decision to create the job came after reviewing models from other universities, where they found almost every group like the CSU had an individual solely responsible for communications.

Melissa Kate Wheeler, the councillor who added the item to the agenda in order to voice concerns over the wording of the job posting, told The Concordian that she could see both sides of the debate.

Wheeler said she believes that while the CSU currently does not have an employee whose specific responsibilities are communications, she thinks that the executive haven’t curated enough events or initiatives to “warrant the creation” of the position.

“I think I would prefer to see things being done by a part-time employee at the CSU office than tell the executive they can’t create this job and then have them continue to not do the job,” Wheeler said. “To me the most important thing is that the job gets done.”


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