seal and sangren

Snow begins to collect in front of the WMU seal.

Western Student Association (WSA) implemented Project Ex in November to revamp the organization from the inside out. The project created four ad-hoc committees to target specific improvements: finances, governing processes, organizational culture and operations and outreach. 

WSA President Alexis Morris detailed the layout and plan for the project in an interview with Western Herald. 

Morris explained that rather than a written restructuring of the organization, Project Ex is a conceptual, intentional collaboration of existing committees through the creation of the ad-hoc super-committees meant for this year alone.

Each pre-existing WSA committee is grouped under a Project Ex super-committee, however, members are free to choose the topic they are most passionate about. All pre-existing committees will continue to operate as usual with the addition of super-committee discussion time during joint sessions with the Senate and the House of Representatives. 

“The really cool thing about this project is it's spearheaded at the executive level, but the objectives aren't really defined at the executive level; they’re defined at the committee level,” Morris said.

Each committee is tasked with the creation of objectives and tangible solutions.

Finances

The Project Ex Finance Committee is composed of the existing committees for Allocations and Sustainability. 

This aspect of the project will focus on the internal WSA budget and the Allocations budget, used to support other Registered Student Organizations (RSOs). The sustainable and effective use of funds is of importance to the committee's goals. 

“With the finance bucket we are looking at the allocations changes as well as our own budget changes,” Morris said. “We’re really trying to see if our budgets make the most sense.”

The first change to come from this committee was an updated bylaw document for the WSA Allocations Commission (WSAAC). The new bylaws re-evaluate which RSOs can request funding and how much they can receive. The changes were approved at the December joint session.

Internal budget adjustments are next on the list for the committee to maximize utility.

“Each of our cabinet members gets a stipend each year they are able to use for programing, policy promotion, events,” Morris said. “The Allocations Commission itself gets money they are able to use to promote the allocations process.”

A secondary concern for the committee will evaluate storage needs tied to financial adjustments and sustainability investments.

Morris explained that spending changes will likely result in more need for storage. She pointed out the new Sustainability Exemption Policy in the updated WSAAC bylaws which incentivises RSOs for sustainable purchases, items that can be reused and will likely need to be stored. 

The committee has not yet determined a solution to increase storage space.

Governing Processes

The Project Ex Governing Processes Committee will include the existing committees of Political Affairs and Academic Affairs. 

This committee will re-evaluate WSA bylaws and the constitution, addressing concerns of productivity and effectiveness. 

“Right now it takes upwards of three weeks to pass a bill through the legislature,” Morris said. 

This delay is thought to be a result of the legislative branch’s structure, which currently includes the Senate and the House of Representatives. The chambers are required to meet and vote separately, but come together during joint sessions once each month. 

“At one point in WSA’s history we used to be just the Senate, now we are a House and a Senate,” Morris said. “Unfortunately due to timing with the pandemic changes and the lack of involvement across campus this isn’t sustainable for our organization anymore so we want it to come back together.”

The Governing Processes Committee is looking to unite the legislative branch in the Senate, eliminating the House of Representatives.

Additional changes from the committee look to add positions within the organization, primarily a Chief-of-Staff. The new position will act as an outward face of WSA in addition to the President and Vice President to distribute appearance responsibilities.

The committee will rewrite existing documents in the overhaul.

“We are changing our governing documents to reflect the WSA we are already operating in, or would ideally like to be operating in,” Morris said. 

Currently, the committee is organizing an internal survey to assess general attitude toward prospective adjustments.

Organizational Culture and Operations

The Project Ex Organizational Culture and Operations Committee will house the existing committees of Student Affairs, Community Involvement and Diversity Guidance. 

The committee is tasked with the eradication of toxicity within the organization, something that has plagued WSA for generations, according to numerous WSA members including Morris herself. 

“This is the biggest committee and it is the hardest to define because how do you measure how people like each other?” Morris said. 

Unlike the other committees in Project Ex, this group’s work is starting in the abstract through conversation. Members are considering their ‘why’ for WSA and how that leads to relationships and professional development. 

Morris explained that WSA members participate for a variety of reasons, some to secure funding for their RSO and others to voice passion for their academic college. She noted that differing motivations spur misunderstandings and disagreement among members.

The Organizational Culture and Operations Committee is leading conversation to encourage and support different perspectives within WSA and facilitate understanding in the group.

Outreach

The Project Ex Outreach Committee will be composed of the existing committees of University Pride and Public Relations.

This committee will focus on community relations as well as resource promotion and brand identity.

“The objectives for this one are mostly to see how we collaborate with other RSOs,” Morris said. “Not just through our collaboration fund, not just through our sponsorship fund but how we actually just show up for them, not in a rigid or scheduled way.”

Morris emphasizes the goal of a shifted mindset in which relationships with other campus groups are built intentionally and genuinely.

“WSA is really great at asking people to show up for us but we don't necessarily show up for other people,” Morris said.

A solution in the works will create an organization-wide calendar any representative can add to. The committee aims to encourage WSA members to connect with those groups WSA serves. 

Additionally, the committee is creating a marketing strategy to streamline advertising efforts for WSA resources and events. 

“The vice presidents, if they’re going to host some kind of event or some kind of programming, like the free legal aid clinic, it’s going to be on the chief justice to fill out a marketing plan each semester,” Morris said.

The marketing plans will detail promotion, budget and turnout of events in order to track and improve efforts long term.

Another task of the Outreach Committee will reevaluate the WSA logo. The current blue and white logo turned 30 this year. The committee will consider an updated logo and color scheme to align the WSA image with WMU and current goals of the organization.

Progress and Next Steps 

The ad-hoc Project Ex committees have met twice so far in November and December. 

While some committees jumped right to action, others are searching for direction in conversation among members, Morris noted.

“Essentially it was really just getting to know each other, getting to know the common vision that they share or what they personally feel as a connection to the committee,” Morris said.

Secondary meetings led to more solidified ideas.

“Some are at the point where they are ready to, as a group, come up with a tangibility,” Morris said.

The committees are planned to continue meetings through Spring semester.

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