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CSA Board Gives Exec a Raise

Monday, February 5, 2007

Written by Gonzalo Moreno

In what was perhaps the most controversial decision of Wednesday’s five-hour meeting, the CSA Board of Directors voted to give the CSA commissioners a yearly $1158 pay hike. The raise was proposed by the CSA Finance Committee, chaired by Finance and Human Resources Commissioner Chris Killer, and strongly defended in the meeting itself by Lee Anne Clarke, the CSA’s Business Manager.

Clarke argued that the hourly rate for the CSA Executive is currently lower than that of the contracted staff that they supervise (including Thecannon.ca staff), and the hike would just bring the Exec’s hourly pay level with the paid staff’s. Clarke added that, because commissioners are forbidden from taking full-time course loads for the duration of their contracts (as per CSA policy), their commitment to the position forces them to have to start paying OSAP loans back during their tenure as commissioners. As a result, Clarke said, “those execs that have OSAP loans are in terrible shape.”

Clarke argued that this hike had been impossible in the past because the Bullring had been a huge financial drain on the CSA’s resources for a number of years. But in the meeting, Clarke declared her confidence that the student union’s financial shape is good enough to be able to afford some extra expenses. The debate did become somewhat controversial. On one side, Student Senate Caucus representative Romesh Hettiarachchi argued that if the CSA is to “attract decent leaders,” it needs to offer salaries that are at least somewhat competitive. This was countered by Troy Frost, a CME representative who, despite planning to run for an Executive position in the upcoming CSA elections, felt that this raise was unnecessary at this time.

The raise was finally approved by a very clear majority, with all the current exec and prospective candidates abstaining from voting. The Board also approved the other recommendations from the Finance Committee, which included injecting $1500 in the winter grants for the funding of student activities and setting aside an additional $3000 to purchase equipment. "I think the raise is great," Killer told Thecannon.ca after the meeting. "It helps bring equality to the CSA, it's something that we've been trying to do for years."

Another big issue discussed in the meeting was the retrofit campaign that the University wants to undergo, which may lead to a referendum question on the matter in the CSA elections in March. The University wants to raise student fees by $15 to be able to undergo a 30-year retrofitting campaign that would make campus more energy efficient, therefore reducing its environmental footprint and slashing energy costs. The CSA Board members that were most familiar with the project assured the Board that the $15 increase would be put in a separate budget line destined exclusively to the retrofit and untouchable by other budgeting priorities.

It was also brought to the attention of the Board that CSA By-laws and Policies forbid groups to ask for additional funding for events if funds are already formally earmarked for such groups in the CSA’s annual budget. The Board has been operating against this principle for a number of years, and voted to continue to do so until the policy in question can be amended.

On other matters, Communications Commissioner Jonathan Odumeru informed the Board that the University Administration had assured him that any student participating in the protest against tuition rates on the Student Day of Action on February 7th (which is expected to feature a massive walkout from classes) would receive academic amnesty. This means that those students who have to turn in assignments or are scheduled to write midterms at the time of the protest will be able to reschedule those commitments if they choose to participate in the walkout instead.

The lighter moment of the night came in one of the petitions for funding. Fourth-year Political Science student Rebekah Roycroft requested additional funding to help a dozen UoG students participate in a Model NATO Conference in Ottawa, under the supervision of Political Science Professor Fred Eidlin. The conference would include a full weekend in which the students would be part of a national delegation of their choice in a “dummy” NATO conference with various crisis scenarios and conflict-resolution drills. Besides being a likely candidate for the Nerdiest Funding Request of the Year Award, some aspects of the request baffled the Board, such as why representing Estonia was twice as expensive as representing Russia. For those interested, there are still a few open spots in the Guelph delegation.

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