Friday, April 6, 2007


So Council has approved the creation of an oversight committee and stacked it with code fiends. Fun fun. While it's not necessarily a bad thing, I don't think it's the best model. Why?

  1. No oversight of Council. We're all about exec transparency, but Council is just as important in the operations of the AMS as is the executive. There are no real bodies that engage in Council oversight.
  2. Committee composition. As pointed out in an earlier post, these committees tend to attract the same types of people who are rules junkies. Which isn't necessarily bad, but I don't see how it can be good.
  3. No way to ensure "mature, constructive" criticism. This committee only functions if the oversight is mature and constructive. Again, there is nothing to guard that.
  4. Conflicting interests. By limiting the pool to elected officials, there are two possible grounds of conflict. The first is personal relationships; the existence of pre-existing relationships necessarily causes problems for oversight. For instance, Lougheed listed Naylor a member of his "campaign team." There's clearly a pre-existing relationship. Second, it is open to a member of the committee to use it as a springboard to take down an exec member to further their own ends. There's nothing in the code to address these issues.
It follows that my ideal oversight is mature and constructive, free of conflicting interests, comes from a varied perspective, and oversees Council as well as the executive.

To that end, I propose a model similar to that used by ESPN. Yes, I'm using them for corporate best practices. But here's the thing - their model is really good. And I can't find another one anywhere that comes anywhere close to approximating its awesomeness. (By way of background, click here to see the archives and to get a sense of what the ESPN Ombudsperson does.)

What could a re-vamped AMS Ombuds office do? They could fulfill the same function as the existing committee, except in a far more non-political manner. They could identify what the AMS (both Council and the exec) are doing to fulfill the student mission, and assess compliance (or lack thereof) with the stragetic plan. Most importantly, the role of the Ombuds could be to identify both the good things that have been done, as well as the areas for improvement. A nice, fair, balanced report (like the ESPN ones) to Council once a month? I'd like to see that.

Seriously, take a look at the ESPN ones. Can you really, honestly imagine an oversight committee coming up with something that useful and productive? The reason you can't is because the oversight is being done by student politicians, for whom "mature" and "constructive" behavior are not exactly priorities. They also have conflicting interests (see the most recent article for a good discussion of conflicting versus vested interests), and because they'll only be exacerbating the Council-Exec tension.

A position modeled on the ESPN one would be easy to fill. And pay big dividends.