SGPS to forgo signing of non-academic misconduct agency agreement

According to society VP, records of past cases were “patchwork job, poorly taken or didn’t exist”

Journal file photo

After pushing off signing an agency agreement — which would allow the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) to execute their jurisdiction over non-academic misconduct cases — in favour of an internal review, the society has decided to forgo signing for the foreseeable future.

Vice President (Finance and Services) Stuart Clark was responsible for conducting the review, for which a report has yet to be publicly released. On Thursday, Clark spoke with The Journal to discuss his findings about the society in its finance, staffing and decision making. 

In terms of non-academic misconduct, he began by requesting information. 

“We asked our staff to go back and pull records for the number of cases or the number of incidents,” Clark said. “A lot of the records were either a patchwork job, badly taken, or didn’t exist.” 

The SGPS had been slated to sign the agreement at the start of this academic year, but elected to conduct their review first, as the society had only handled an estimated five cases in 10 years.  

When making the final decision, Clark said “we needed a firm answer of what this burden would look like on an SGPS system.” With no ability to determine a clear answer, the SGPS decided to forgo signing their agency agreement for the remainder of the year, with no clear intention to sign in the future.   

The agency agreement would have allowed the SGPS to implement and execute their jurisdiction over non-academic misconduct cases involving SGPS members. 

Non-academic misconduct aside, the goal of the review as a whole was to investigate the different wings of the SGPS from its permanent staff, to commissioners, to financial decision making. 

“My role has really been to see, how does the SGPS come to make certain decisions when it’s spending an amount of money or [hiring] certain people? And see if we can tighten up, improve, and write down a lot of these processes,” Clark said. 

Clark emphasised that the SGPS doesn’t have the same level of institutional memory as the AMS, meaning any decision involves much more research. One of the most important issues that needed to be addressed was to understand how money was being spent within the SGPS. 

“The great thing we were able to do with this is actually create an executive proposal document, which is kind of like a spreadsheet almost where you fill out the different components of who’s asking for money and the item,” Clark said. 

Clark explained that this will help individuals to justify their spending and for their successors to be able to look back at past financial reports.  To find the answers to some of his questions, the Executive had to sit down together and discuss what the SGPS does well and what they do poorly.  

“One of the most important things we can do as student government officials is to critically evaluate how we come to decisions and also have an honest eye for what the organization needs to improve at,” he said. 

Many of the Executive, he added, have no prior experience with student government. Many felt they didn’t have the opportunity to learn coming into their position. 

“We came from a huge and diverse set of backgrounds and experience levels when it came to managing student government,” Clark said. The project was given to him  to build “knowledge spaces” that allow the Executive to make better decisions in the future.

“I looked into decisions, made it more accountable, and forced people to write stuff down,” he said in summary. 

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