Letter to the Editor: Student Association proud of transparency

To the Editor:
I am quite disappointed in the tone of Mr. MacKinnon’s editorialized article, “Is Your SA keeping Secrets?”, and the total lack of fact-based information. The reporter contacted my office about two weeks ago, and asked what the salaries of the elected executives will be. I openly gave him an answer based on the salaries that were set for this year. I am surprised to see the article that was subsequently published.
I’d like to start off by pointing out that our team has implemented some of the most transparent mechanisms in SA history. We are the first team to publish monthly reports outlining our progress on SA initiatives and activities. We also recently approved “policy governance” – which outlines strong governing processes and monitoring to ensure the utmost level of transparency. We are one of only three student unions in the province to have these policies. I have also attached my latest President’s Report. I would encourage you to publish these documents for all to read.
A few facts:
1. The SA has always been open with its meeting minutes. They have always been available online or upon request in our office. Our new website only launched about a week before this article was published, and is currently being tweaked. So to suggest that our team is hiding information is erroneous. We are proud of the SA’s new website, which will bring our level of transparency to a whole new level. On that note, would The Chronicle consider upgrading its website to allow for students to openly comment and critique articles, like other mainstream newspapers do?
2. To suggest that the salaries of our student executives are excessive is also an unfair statement. In fact, our executives receive amongst the lowest pay in comparison to other university student unions in the province of Ontario. Some student unions even pay for their executive’s residence or housing fees. Furthermore, our student leaders take a full-year off from their studies to do these jobs, and make only slightly more than minimum wage if you do the math based on a 40-hour workweek. Why is there no comparison to other student union wages? Why is there no mention of the fact that some student union executives make almost 50% more than ours do? Do the DC students, referred by the reporter, who allegedly make less than our executives, work full-time?
3. In terms of next year’s wages, there are no secrets — they simply have yet to be set by the Board. I explained this clearly to the reporter. To report that “[the SA] is accountable to themselves” is insulting. Although we are open about our executive salaries, we cannot legally disclose the salaries of our permanent full-time staff. Does Durham College publicly disclose the salaries and benefits of its faculty and
staff who make below $100k?
4. Out of any ancillary fee, the SA is the only fee that even provides open breakdowns and issues audited statements. If this is The Chronicle’s new direction, it would be great to see The Chronicle do an article asking for breakdowns on The RIOT radio, CRWC, Varsity, U-Pass, and mobile/laptop ancillary fees as well. Why doesn’t the article note the SA is the only fee that publishes its annual audited financial statements?
We are proud of the level of transparency we provide on our fee, which is amongst the lowest SA fees in the province. Technically, only the Board of Directors needs to approve audited statements per the Corporations Act, but we continue to present them at our Annual General Meetings (AGM). Also, this past year marked the first year the SA Board of Directors set the operating budget, as opposed to the executive, to maximize transparency and input from students. In addition, we continue to issue reports outlining the SA’s progress. That being said, I would hope that The Chronicle re-assess the types of articles it publishes and would encourage a fact-based approach.
Anthony Boland, Your SA President