*March 2, 2017 Note - During the CJSR presidential debate, there were numerous reference to an already existing advocacy office. Let me be clear, we do not have a department in the Students' Union called an 'Advocacy Office.' Rather, this comes a previously existing office that was later renamed the Department of Research and Political Affairs in 2009. The role of this office is to follow the direction of the executive. It is not to support Students' Council, the body which sets advocacy goals, or student's in general. The current misinformation comes from an outdated Students' Union twitter handle.
The Students’ Union is a 10 million dollar organization with over 200 employees. However, we do not have a single employee dedicated to organizing and sustaining advocacy operations. As a result, all advocacy work falls upon already overworked executives.
There are a number of consequences to this. First, this means that we are limited in the types of advocacy we can do. As it stands now, the primarily way we do advocacy is by having meetings with stakeholders. While important, this form of closed door advocacy does not illustrate or engage with the 30,000 undergraduate students we represent.
Second, we are unable to advocate on multiple issues at once. This is primarily due to the limited time allocated for such meetings. In addition, it is difficult for an executive member to actively and strongly work on more than a few issues at a time.
Third, it means attention is diverted from these issues when an urgent problem comes up. This can be seen in the past year when attention was diverted from the international student tuition increase to focus on a sudden and unexpected proposed meal plan increase. Thereby, it is extremely important to build capacity so that our executives can be supported so that they can sustain their advocacy and policy efforts, and so that we can respond to issues that may come up suddenly.
More importantly though, this new form of advocacy will need to rely on the 30,000 undergraduate students in order to maintain legitimacy. This can be done by ensuring that the average student can be involved in our advocacy efforts through supporting the executives and planning initiatives. In addition, we need to move beyond email communication by doing class talks throughout the year so students know what we are up to as an union.
Use Students’ Union funds in order to establish an Advocacy Office. The primary objective of the office will be to work towards advocacy objectives through: organization, volunteer recruitment, and doing workshops on advocacy strategies for student groups. In addition, they will be able to respond to pressing policy issues that come up during the year.
Bring the motion to Council within the first 60 days in order to get their consent and to work out the logistics of space and staff members. This is not a new strategy. Last academic year, the SU hired numerous Lister Student Representatives.