By Amanda Weber and Felicia Smolen
Assistant News Editor and Griffin Reporter
Recently, the student Senate within the Undergraduate Student Association came to a decision to shift the responsibility of the Council of Representatives from Senate to Student Life. Originally, the CoR acted as representation for club leaders within student government, as well as a buffer between these leaders and the Senate. In essence, CoR was introduced in order to make communication between clubs, Senate and Student Life much easier. In previous years, the Senate and Student Life did not necessarily have the best communication with each other. Clubs and club leaders would approach Senate for answers about certain issues, and Senate did not necessarily have the best answers.
The position of Vice President of Student Organizations, or VPSO, was created in order to lead the CoR and was responsible for bridging the gap in communication. CoR was intended to be something that met once a month in order to get everybody on the same page, however it became evident that having these meetings oftentimes became redundant due to a lack of new information. As a result, the meetings were scheduled “as needed.” However, in recent years, Senate and Student Life have managed to bridge their communication gap and as a result, Senate feels that Student Life will be a better fit for CoR. Student Life is more useful to clubs for questions.
In an interview with USA President Elias Ayoub, The Griffin gained some insight and clarification on some of the misconceptions that may exist about what is actually happening with this shift in responsibility.
“First and foremost, the CoR is not being dissolved… CoR is still existent. What is happening with CoR is that Student Life is going to run it next year,” Ayoub said.
According to Ayoub, a majority of the confusion that individuals have stems from the thought that CoR is being dissolved completely. He is quick to clarify that this is simply not the case. Although CoR is being removed from Senate’s Constitution, due to the fact that it is in its by-laws, the power is being transferred from Senate to Student Life. While clubs will still be able to have their voices heard, meetings will be based on need or request of the club. Ayoub also noted that despite this transfer of power, Senate will still be involved at CoR meetings.
“Our Executive Vice President will be there next year,” said Ayoub, “so USA is still integrally involved with CoR.”
Another common misconception was that there was an injustice committed in the process of shifting the responsibility for CoR. Nick Foraker expressed his concern by addressing an amendment in the Constitution that said, “Article Seven of the Constitution states that, ‘Any council created by the Senate may be dissolved via a majority vote by both the respective council and the Senate.’” However, Ayoub clarified that while the amendment may have existed in previous versions of the Senate’s constitution, it does not exist in the most recent copies.
Despite a negative reaction from some students and club leaders, CoR Advisor and Graduate Assistant in Student Life Neil Savoy expressed his excitement and positive reactions to the transfer of power from Senate to Student Life. Although he understands the concerns of club leaders who thought CoR meetings were helpful and necessary for receiving the proper information, Savoy assures Canisius club leaders and members that their voices will not be silenced due to this change in leadership.
“We are always invested in making sure that the student voice is being heard from a club perspective,” said Savoy. “What CoR was doing at the time was meant to organize those voices in a substantial way.”
The original purpose of CoR was to have a representative from every club on campus and to inform them on policy, budgeting issues, and any information that would affect student organizations as a whole. For example, Student Life introduced a new budget policy for student organizations this year. In situations like this, Student Life is more than willing to discuss these policy changes and any other concerns with club leaders. However, although the original plan for CoR was to meet on a month-to-month basis, Savoy and Student Life noticed limited involvement at these meetings and did not feel it was necessary to have a mandatory meeting for all student-ran clubs every month.
“There is no sense in meeting every single month if there is nothing new to discuss,” said Savoy.
President Ayoub also addressed the fact that students have busy schedules and he acknowledges how tedious the meetings would get if they were to continue every month.
“We didn’t really want to take away from people’s busy schedules. We just wanted to provide the outlet if we needed to get information out, we could,” he said.
Savoy and Ayoub both discussed the dissolution of the VPSO position. Savoy felt that the VPSO position took on duties that Student Life was meant to perform in the first place. He explained that having an undergraduate student discussing the policies of Student Life does not make sense, especially when the student does not work in the Student Life department at Canisius. The VPSO position is currently held by Jerry Daigler and will be dissolved at the end of the Spring 2017 semester.
“It became a game of pointing in the right direction, which we are the right direction to begin with,” said Savoy. “It’s no offense to Jerry or previous members of this position, but they’re not directly involved in the policy of this office.”
Daigler himself agrees with the transition of power from Senate to Student Life. Despite the dissolution of the position he currently holds, he understands why the decision was made and believes that CoR will be more effective under the leadership of Student Life. Ultimately, he agrees with Ayoub and Savoy and feels that the VPSO position is no longer necessary due to this change.
“The mission for VPSO was to be a liaison between clubs, USA, and Student Life,” said Daigler. “However, it quickly became apparent that it’s more effective for organizations to go to Student Life directly, rather than a student in USA.”
Savoy does understand the anxiety and apprehension that some club leaders may feel about this transition of power, due to the fact that CoR will no longer be run by a fellow student organization. One of these club leaders that is unhappy with this transition is Ryvel Tetteh, ‘17. He is the President of the Mixed Martial Arts club at Canisius. He does not feel that it is right that Student Life will be able to decide when meetings should take place, as opposed to having a set schedule of monthly meetings. Although he agrees that the information presented is often redundant, he feels that it is better to have these monthly meetings than having a limited number of them in the future.
“Honestly, I prefer the CoR meetings,” said Tetteh. “It feels like I would have a say in any of the discussions they have and I can just stand up and say my grievance.”
Despite Tetteh’s concern, Savoy assures all club leaders, even smaller clubs like MMA club, that Student Life will work hard to ensure that their voices are heard and understood.
“Any student organization leader can be contacting us at any point, any day of the week, to let us know if something’s not working or if it needs to be addressed,” said Savoy. “We are more than happy to work with them on that.”
In addition to this, it was clarified that meetings will still be able to take place as necessary, so students may rest assured that they will still be in the loop of information when they feel they need to be.