Student Government Accountability

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

Student groups are everywhere and require an executive type body to run them.  Typically, the executives are elected by  general members  of the body in the hope that their leadership will provide the best usage of group resources. In larger groups with greater quantities of funding, the executives have much more responsibility, meaning that accountability plays a larger roll.  Once an executive team is elected, they are often in office for at least a year and are expected to maintain appropriate accountability for the entire duration of the elected term.

Maintaining accountability for long periods of time can be an issue for many people. I find that accountability is one of the most difficult issues to discuss in a student run organization, whether the executive members are volunteers or paid positions.  I find that students often hate conflict and tend to complain about problems without doing anything about it.  In my wide range of experiences with student run organizations, I have observed the problem with not doing anything about issues that arise with the executives.  Most of the time when an executive member of an organization stops putting the appropriate amount of effort into their position, the common response is to complain about it to everyone but that person and wait until their term is finished.  Most of the time, the weaker executive member in question does not realize their faults and  those complaining do not know someone else could do a better job.  There are a few things every student run organization should have: a venue for honest feedback of on executive performance.

It can be easy to complain about something but this sort of behavior rarely yields results.  The key to expressing an opinion regarding a certain situation is to do so in a way that is effective and efficient.  It is understandable that many people are uncomfortable in confronting problems, so there should exist a method in which elected executives can receive honest, constructive feedback regarding their current positions. Students need to be confident that their feedback will be heard and acted on.  The biggest issue with this complaint cycle is that no consequence system exists to hold executive members accountable for their actions. Although impeachment is a harsh consequence, sometimes it is the best option.

The number one thing that needs to happen in student run organizations is a feedback system for executives with some guarantee that improvements will be made.  Executives should receive positive feedback when necessary; however,  if they are not doing sufficient work, they will have to option to step down. Should things continue as they were, impeachment should be the alternative.  Ultimately, student group executive doing poorly should know about it, strive to fix it or be self aware and step down from the position.  This is the premise of a motion I put forth at the last EngSoc meeting.  For more information, see the EngSoc Meeting Minutes.

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