Home News ASFA votes to draft restructured bylaws

ASFA votes to draft restructured bylaws

by Laura Marchand February 2, 2016

Executive says she “doesn’t know what ASFA stands for” anymore

After months of scandals ranging from sexual assault to misuse of funds, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) has decided to ask its lawyers to propose new bylaws for a new organization.

The motion was raised by President Jenna Cocullo, and passed with 10 votes for, three votes against, and five abstentions. ASFA’s lawyers will now draft two proposals for new bylaws, designed to shift ASFA into a funding and supportive body for Member Associations (MAs).

The report justified the restructuring by citing a revolving door of resigning executives, misuse of ASFA funds for personal gain, and events running thousands of dollars over budget. The ASFA launch week this academic year reportedly cost over $80,000 to serve only 3.2 per cent of ASFA’s constituency.

Under the new proposed ASFA, the executive would consist of solely three executives: an internal coordinator, who would assist MAs administratively and offer policy review; a financial coordinator, tasked with maintaining financial order and surveying budgets for all MAs; and an advocacy coordinator, who would deal with all matters pertaining to student advocacy, such as undermining rape culture on campus. ASFA would also act as an MA to students enrolled at Concordia who do not have their own student association.

In the proposal, ASFA wrote that they “feel that this new executive structure will satisfy the MAs who are calling for MA autonomy,” and that “it will be much easier to maintain a functional organization if we rely on three executives rather than a full executive … who have been prone to resigning.”

Tensions rose during the meeting, with the representative for Concordia’s Undergraduate Psychology Association (CUPA) immediately moving to postpone the motion indefinitely, effectively defeating the proposal. Elizabeth Duong, the councillor of CUPA, claimed that the proposal should have gone through policy committee and that the budget had not earmarked money for the proposed referendum in the budget.

“A similar restructure motion was sent to council at the September meeting, and that was sent to policy [committee] and that was never really looked into at all,” said Duong. She continued to say that “one person was overriding the power of two committees, and two mandates of council.”

Cocullo responded, saying that since it was a proposal and not a bylaw change, the motion did not have to go through committee, which she alleges would have been a timely process.

“We thought this would be better to bring to all of council to vote on, instead of going through weeks and weeks of a policy committee and then nothing happening for ASFA,” added Cocullo.

“Something has to change within ASFA,” said the representative for First Peoples Studies Member Association (FPSTMA), Stephen Karchut. “ASFA is a toxic environment, you read it in the news, you feel it in the room—it’s very political when it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be this strung out. It doesn’t have to be this hard to make changes at a student body level.”

“I think the fact that we have a ‘postpone indefinitely’ before we even have a discussion is the very reason we need to restructure ASFA,” said Katie Nelson, representing the Students of Philosophy Association (SoPhiA). “We’re not even looking at [the proposals] yet … we should not be going back to committee to be lost in bureaucratic mess.” Nelson also alluded to SoPhiA leaving ASFA if nothing changed, saying that if no bylaws were passed, her association would have to discuss their future with the organization.

Jason Poirier Lavoie, the president of the Political Science Student Association (PSSA), echoed the sentiment, calling committees “the place policy proposals go to die.”

After the motion to postpone indefinitely was defeated, the debate on the motion itself continued with Cocullo calling the current state of the organization “shitty ASFA” and Karchut claiming that ASFA needs to “cut some of this bullshit red tape.”

Independent councillor Etienne de Blois claimed that what ASFA needed was not a change of structure, but a change of culture. “It’s true that ASFA has had an oppressive and sexist culture,” de Blois said. “We don’t need to basically throw ASFA’s structure completely under the bus to change it.”

Poirier Lavoie asked those opposed to the motion to ask themselves where their motivations lay. “When you see such a systemic problem over such a long period and say ‘No, that’s alright, we don’t need to change the rules, everything’s fine’—you have to ask yourself: why are you saying that?” asked Poirier Lavoie. “Why are you motivating to keep a status quo the way it is? I would like to see that logic.”

VP for external affairs and sustainability, Lana Galbraith, refuted the idea that their lawyers would not understand ASFA enough to draft bylaws. “You said that the lawyers would not know what ASFA stands for,” said Galbraith. “But I don’t know what ASFA stands for, and I’m an executive.”

After over an hour of debate, the motion was called to a vote by the representative for Urban Planning, and was passed with 10 out of 18 votes going in favour.

When the proposed restructuring bylaws are complete, MAs will hold General Assemblies to confer with students before returning to council to vote. If that vote passes, the proposed restructuring will be presented to the student public in the form of a referendum.

The council also voted on a second motion, regarding new banking rules for MAs. The motion proposed that “in the event that an MA executive use the bank account to make personal purchases that are not relevant to their association, the ASFA executive will hold that executive financially accountable.”

Recently, ASFA passed a motion granting MAs the use of debit cards, as opposed to turning in receipts after the expense. The motion was proposed in order to address concerns of misuse and was passed.

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