Memorial University of Newfoundland Students' Union
|Institution||Memorial University of Newfoundland|
|Location||St. John's, NF|
Memorial University of Newfoundland Students' Union, (popularly known as "MUNSU") is an undergraduate student union located in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It is the official student government representing the students of Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's Campus. Membership in the union is automatic and totals around 14,000 undergraduate students.
Board of directors
The Students' Union Board of Directors is composed of forty elected representatives including five Executive members, and faculty and constituency representatives. Elections for these positions are held annually in March. A by-election to fill vacant positions is normally held in the fall semester.
- Director of External Affairs
- Director of Student Life
- Director of Finance
- Director of Campaigns
- Director of Advocacy
The board is broken down bi-weekly into several different working committees, chaired by at least one executive director. Committee's include:
- Research and Communications--- chaired by MUNSU ED of External Affairs Communications and Services
- Finance Committee--- chaired by MUNSU ED of Finance and Services
- Student Activities and Organizations--- chaired by MUNSU ED of Student Life
- Campaigns (aka Student Rights and Action) Committee---- chaired by MUNSU ED of Campaigns
Funding Committee---- chaired by MUNSU ED of Student Life Advocacy Committee----- Chaired by MUNSU ED of Advocacy
MUNSU Elections Committee--- Chaired by CRO (Chief Returning Officer) and DRO (Deputy Returning Officer) of MUNSU, who is hired by an independent officer to the board. This is the only MUNSU Committee NOT chaired by a MUNSU executive member
The MUN Students' Union operates a number of services to meet the needs of members and to offer alternatives to university provided options at affordable cost to students. Some services include:
- The Breezeway - Student Bar
- CHMR-FM 93.5 - Student radio station
- Copy Centre
- Health & dental insurance
- Studentsaver - Student discount program
- Travelcuts - Student travel bureau
- Walksafe - Free and safe escorts around campus
- SafeDrive - Safe escort service for those travelling off-campus
The Students' Union currently sponsors seven resource centers:
- Aboriginal Resource Center
- Disability Information and Support Center
- International Student Center
- Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay & Transgender Persons at MUN
- Students Older Than Average
- Student Parents at MUN
- Women's Resource Center
these 7 resource centres are also an "operation" of MUNSU, and the 6 MUNSU Constituency Reps, also sit on the MUNSU Resource Centre Board of Directors, which has one representative from each of the 7 MUNSU Resource Centres plus the 6 MUNSU Constituency Reps (MUNSU Aboriginal Rep, Students with Disabilities Rep, International Student Rep, LGBTQ* Rep, Student Parents Rep and Women's Rep).
The SOTA Resource Centre lacks a Corresponding Mature and Independent Students Rep, but such a proposal was considered in November of 2013.
Also, any group wishing to start a new MUNSU Resource Centre must get the Appropriate majority, as outlined in the January 1st of 2014 edition of the MUNSU Bylaws, as voted on in November of 2013.
The union plans several activities for students during the school year, as well as assisting coordinate several community events. These include but are not limited to:
- Fall orientation Concert
- Winter Carnival
- St. John's Pride Parade
- MUN Pride on Campus (in partnership with LGBT MUN, GSU MUN and CFS-NL, and other organizations)
MUNSU is engaged in several campaigns for change at both the student level and national level.
- Reduce tuition fees
- Grants not loans
- Be book smart
- Work is work campaign
MUNSU under its new bylaws passed in November of 2013, which took effect January 1st of 2014, is also required to "promote all CFS and CFS-NL related campaign".
See the CFS and CFS-NL websites for details
Munsu has been successful in winning and maintaining a tuition freeze at the university, giving memorial the lowest tuition fees of any Canadian university. The freeze will be up for renegotiation in 2011.
In 2009 MUNSU won a campaign to have the interest on Newfoundland and Labrador provincial student loans eliminated.
in Budget 2014 (March/April of 2014), the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced an end to the provincial student loan program, to be replaced with non-repayable up-front needs-based grants.
Controversy & Criticism
Fall Orientation Concert 2009
In the fall of 2009 MUNSU lost over $100,000 on their annual fall orientation concert. The union brought rapper Snoop Dogg to St. John's Mile One Stadium on September 12, 2009 at a cost of $300,000 but only sold 2500 out of a possible 6200 seats. Critics claim that the union conducted no market research or survey of the student population to see if the rap act would appeal to them. Several MUNSU directors and members of the student activities committee also came forward saying that the decision was made without their approval or notification.
Copygate/Better Side Notebook Scandal
In Fall of 2009 staff of the MUNSU Copy Centre, in their attempts for environmental sustainability and reducing paper use, reused student loan application forms and other government documents that people had faxed, instead of shredding them. The campaign was meant to only reuse paper that did not contain sensitive information, but no procedure was developed. The Government of NL and MUN Chief Information Office Opened an investigation in Fall of 2009 into the Better Side Notebook Scandal, referred to as “Copygate”, which led to MUNSU discontinuing the Better Side Notebooks. No effort was ever made to find a way to reuse paper and the idea died instead.
Credit Card Scandal and Monetary Scandals
In the 2009-2010 academic year several executive members of the union were accused in an anonymous letter of abusing their union credit cards for personal expenses. A committee was formed to investigate both the source of the letter, its validity, and the executive credit card records. The executive director of student life with the Union resigned in the heat of the controversy.
Prolonged Strike of City Transit
In the Fall semester of 2010 Metrobus, the city transit on which the vast majority of commuting students rely, ceased service due to a strike. MUNSU, working closely with related unions became internally aware of the intended strike in advance and made no move to aid students, whose lives, studies, and careers would be affected by this. Rather, members of MUNSU acting without quorum announced that the union supported the striking bus drivers, picketing alongside and giving the impression that their major service consumers supported them--in effect, prolonging the strike for the remainder of the semester.
Claiming Car Payments as Executive Expenses
In Winter of 2010, it was revealed that MUNSU executive pre 2010 had claimed car repair payments and the like as executive expenses hidden within their budgets. This was able to occur because MUNSU’s budget simply lists the total aggregate amount spent on each service (Breezeway, Copy Centre) and Misc items, but there is no line item list of all expenses made publicly available unless you request to see it in the MUNSU office."
In 2010 the university closed the largest student parking area for development into a new lot for the Health Sciences Centre. Students were allowed to use a temporary lot on the construction site of a new residence yet to be built, however due to the commencement of construction as of the 23rd of July that lot is also closed. This leaves the entire university student body with less than 250 parking places. Critics are bashing both the University and the student union for failing to plan and make arrangements for student parking since the developments were announced several years in advance. When questioned about the issue both the university and the union have stated that parking is not in their list of priorities as it does not meet their environmental policy. Before the closure of the student parking lot in early 2010 the university sustainability office sent out a survey asking students leading questions, making them chose between their interests in the environment and their desire for adequate parking. The survey stated the results would be published on the sustainability website however as of August 2010 the results are still unpublished. Pressure is still being applied on the union by several groups of students to do something on the issue.
Attempted Closure of the Disability Information and Support Centre
In the Winter of 2012 the Disability Information and Support Centre, an autonomous organization predating MUNSU underwent organizational restructuring. This process was initiated by a vote of non-confidence against the then president of the organization. By constitutional process, a by-election was to be called to fill the vacancy and move forward from the turbulence. However, MUNSU representatives attempted to claim ownership of the centre by manually changing the door handle to a new key. In the following 8 month legal battle during which several MPs and MHAs involved themselves to aid the centre MUNSU began compiling a list of members of the centre, effectively creating a census of the minority. Refusing to submit to external control from MUNSU the organization internally orchestrated a new election and found a new president whose first act was to document the actions taken against the centre, the relationship between the two organizations, and form a legal snapshot to be sent to local Members of Parliament. Immediately following this the Students Union ceased their antagonism of the centre and their Director of Operations took a year-long sabbatical before resigning.
Centres' Board of Directors Reformation
The Centres' Board of Directors is mandated by MUNSU's 2007 Bylaws to meet twice per semester and charged with maintaining the safe operation of the centres. It was designed as a way to bridge the many separate organizations, by giving each two seats on the board. In total the seven centres and MUNSU occupied 16 seats. However, MUNSU left the board unattended. The centres internally appointed their members as procedure dictated and continued to work towards their objectives. In the Fall of 2013 MUNSU became aware that the Board was continuing to operate without them and began immediately editing their bylaws to consolidate authority. Their edits reduced the seats per centre from two seats to one, while increasing MUNSU seats from two to ten. MUNSU edits to their bylaws also posits the MUNSU Resource Coordinator as the Chairperson of the Board, contrary to how the board normally operated.
MUNSU, only registered part way as a not-for-profit had, from 1999 until late 2013 been getting the best both worlds. While effectively a for-profit business they attempted to make their on-campus bar a success while refusing to pay property taxes. In a case of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador it was MUNSU's position that the Breezeway was an educational facility that should be exempt from paying property taxes along with other already exempt services such as the Attic, a convenience store with fax-room capabilities on campus. MUNSU's original lease agreement with the university cost only $1. The court ruled that while MUN is an educational institution, MUNSU is not and as such MUNSU has been fined $360,000.