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SAITSA governance procedures streamlined thanks to bylaw rewrites

SAITSA kicked off school year with a special meeting of it’s membership at the Odyssey Coffeehouse. 

As the fall term starts at SAIT, a new set of bylaws now regulate the SAIT Students Association. 

A special meeting of SAITSA members was held on Aug. 21, during which revised bylaws were passed for the campus organization. 

Revisions to the bylaws include a reduction of the size of the SAITSA Board of Directors from 15 down to 12 members, setting forth a requirement for an annual general meeting, and establishing voting rights for SAITSA members during all meetings of members, among other changes. 

While the impacts of these changes may not be immediately obvious to SAIT students, they will help improve the effectiveness of the organization, according to SAITSA President Alysson Torres-Gillett. 

“Students might not notice these changes during their daily lives at SAIT, but they will help us make sure we are operating at the highest possible level,” said Torres-Gillet. 

The bylaws were amended in accordance with recommendations from the SAITSA Governance Committee, who meet to improve the openness, transparency, and functionality of student governance at SAIT. 

In February, 2017, the committee hired a governance consultant to review all of SAITSA’s practices and governance, according to Rachel Paris, SAITSA Manager of Governance and Advocacy. 

The consultant provided recommendations that included a roadmap of what SAITSA needed to accomplish to improve the governance of our association, said Paris. 

One of the major stops on the roadmap was a bylaw rewrite. 

A primary goal of the rewrite was to simplify and streamline SAITSA governance procedures, as the structure of the previous bylaws were inefficient, according to Paris. 

“Our bylaws were too procedural, which bogged things down, and prevented necessary things from happening,” said Paris. 

The new bylaws also establish a requirement for an annual general meeting (AGM) of SAITSA members, during which attending members and the Board of Directors may vote on proposed changes to SAITSA governance. 

Such votes shall only be held during the AGM, unless a situation arises which necessitates an immediate change to the organization. In such a scenario, the board may call a special meeting of members, if they are presented with a petition signed by at least 10 per cent of SAITSA members. 

These changes to the SAITSA meeting procedures were made to regulate changes to student governance at SAIT. Under past bylaws, the board could make changes up to two to three times per year, which can limit efficiency and decrease accountability. 

“Constantly changing bylaws isn’t good governance,” stated Paris. 

The size of the board of directors was reduced to increase the efficiency of meetings, and because there were unfilled positions in past elections. 

“We started having elections for all 15 board members simultaneously two years ago, and in both of those years we were unable to fill the board,” explained Torres-Gillett. 

Reducing the size of the board shouldn’t diminish the diversity of its members, according to SAITSA Neutral Facilitator Joy Bowen-Eyre. 

“More students on the board doesn’t necessarily mean more diversity,” said Bowen-Eyre. 

“When the election takes place, it’s up to the voting members to bring the voices of the students to the table.” 

Rather than limiting the number of viewpoints of the board, the change actually increases its efficiency and effectiveness, explained Bowen-Eyre. 

“It should actually make for better conversation.” 

“What sometimes happens is that everyone speaks, but not everyone is adding new things to the conversation,” said Bowen-Eyre. 

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