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ASFA needs to “start from the roots”

by Gregory Todaro September 1, 2015
ASFA needs to “start from the roots”

A conversation with the co-chair of ASFA’s Strategic Planning Committee

As ASFA struggles with a high turnover rate, a widely-covered human rights complaint and a student body avoiding their ballot boxes, the group’s Strategic Planning Committee—which was created for former ASFA members to provide a long-term vision to the organization—is trying to get ASFA .

Co-Chair of the committee is Janice La Giorgia, a recent Concordia graduate who revived the Concordia Undergraduate Psychology Association. She’s been a member of the committee since its creation last year and is working with other alumni and former ASFA executives to help the organization find stability.

The Concordian sat down with La Giorgia to talk about the committee’s work—including the recent proposal to give ASFA executive board training similar to the type given to board of directors of many companies—and their hopes for ASFA’s future.

 

C:  What were some of the main initiatives the committee has been laying the groundwork for?

LG: We wanted to bring more tech into ASFA. So for example, right now we’re operating on 1980s technology. There are cheque requisition forms on paper. Why can’t you automate that? … We also thought about more academic, more mentoring opportunities … We’ve been thinking a lot about partnerships, that’s definitely something that comes up, working with other partners and universities … And going back to technology, ASFA’s website … things are not there, it’s not accessible. Same for bylaws. You can’t find anything on the website and that’s a problem.

C: Just this week, the Strategic Planning Committee gave a presentation to council advocating for board training for executives. However, council decided to shoot down the proposal with a promise to revisit it in September. Is this a big setback for this project?

LG: We feel like we’re in limbo. I think that’s the key word. If it were up to us, we would have this vision meeting in four weeks as we had intended to, but now it seems that given the unpredictability of the events happening at ASFA—four executives are resigning, such as the President and VP Finance, which is huge, so with that it’s really not the best time. And also, if there’s byelections, then exams come in, and people won’t come to the visioning meetings (where students discuss their vision for ASFA) so at this point…we know it’s going to have to be pushed back to January.

C: Is it frustrating to have this initiative blocked by council?

LG: One of the factors is that we haven’t been stalled until now … Despite whatever happened, Paul [Jerajian] was on to something with the [strategic] plan. But since he stepped down people have been more doubtful of ASFA and as a result, more doubtful of the committee … I personally think that everyone has an idea of where they want ASFA to go but no one is talking about it and no one is brainstorming together and that’s what we want to bring about. But if council members don’t agree to that—and we’re facilitating that—then what’s the point?

C: In regards to the Mei-Ling scandal and how that’s affected ASFA, that must be something the committee has talked about a lot. How have you been trying to get past this?

LG: We’ve discussed it, but we’ve been proactive, we haven’t been reactive. What’s been going on with ASFA, in my opinion, is that the vast majority of ASFA is quite reactive and opinionated without consulting everyone … We jumped right into getting a sensitivity coordinator because, while we’re wasting time delving into this, there have been countless Mei-Lings over the past years. So we just keep talking about this one case, we’re really not going anywhere, so we went right into it and got that going.

C: ASFA still hasn’t put forward consent workshops. Is that something the Strategic Planning Committee is considering? Or will that be left up to council?

LG: We have not gone there yet. We’ve thought about it, we’ve considered it, but it’s definitely not something we’ve had the time to explore. We normally would’ve, but priorities shifted…[we decided] we need to start from the roots because ASFA is really fucked up.

C: What do you mean “start from the roots”?

LG: The vision. It’s like anything: you have all these little drops accumulating and then all of the sudden there’s that last drop that makes it overflow. With what happened with Mei-Ling and the scandal, everything overflowed and at that point it just became so essential to redefine ASFA because it wasn’t redefined before and it lost its raison d’être, its mission. Every year it was like, ‘OK, ASFA, what is it? It’s a place to make sure that your [member association] has money to have parties and orientation and eventually have some academic events but it really wasn’t anything else. Let me ask you a question: What is ASFA? … [Answering this question] takes up a lot of work … we want people to see the value in that, but it’s very difficult, especially when we’re going through some sort of mini paradigm shift, so people are thinking differently about ASFA. There’s also a bit of tension and apathy and it’s normal, it’s a shift in thinking. It’ll probably take another year or so, and it’s definitely frustrating, and now I speak on my behalf, but let’s be proactive about it.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed for flow and length.

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