Western Student Association (WSA) introduced Project Ex to address internal organization issues at their monthly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 10.
The organization has suffered from a “toxic” organization culture for years, resulting in high numbers of resignations and turnovers. The virtual shift brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic further escalated these issues.
A tension-filled election process centered around these internal conflicts in 2021 spurred action by President Alexis Morris and Vice President Eric Effinger.
“From the beginning, Eric and I have desired to make WSA a more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable entity, and have long recognized that this aspiration will never be obtained without significant changes and hundreds of hours of time,” Morris said.
Inspired by the centennial celebration, Morris set out to define the “seed” which would grow WSA over the next 100 years.
Reflecting on her first year in the organization and her tenure as VP for the University Pride committee during the previous administration, Morris recognized generational issues within the organization.
Thus, the Executive team has chosen to devote their time in office to remedying the environment and function of WSA, starting with the introduction of Project Ex.
“Ultimately, Project Ex is intended to help in the retention of our talent and also better promote the resources and opportunities that WSA provides,” Morris said.
She continued: “With a student-centric governing structure and process that doesn’t impede but rather invites, the students of WMU will be better off.”
The project will focus on four main objectives: finances, governing processes, culture and operations and outreach.
“The finances focus, for instance, looks to completely overhaul the existing allocations process and make it more user-friendly and straightforward,” Morris said. “VP Naren Mageswaran and Vice Chair Cheng Kidd Sun have done a phenomenal job laying the foundation for some of these changes, but Project Ex focuses on building and executing these changes with the students who are directly impacted by them.”
Each objective aims to improve function in a similar way.
The governing processes objective seeks to produce maximum productivity of governing documents and organizational structure. The culture and operations objective will eradicate toxicity and define purpose and involvement in the organization. The outreach objective pushes for student engagement and support.
These focused objectives prioritize the utility of WSA to the needs of students.
“If WSA is a tool, it is my personal philosophy that all students should feel comfortable wielding and utilizing it,” Morris said.
She continued: “We have at least a dozen underutilized resources, from the Free Legal Aid Clinic to the Campus Improvement Fund, and this is why Project Ex is so imperative to me.”
Additionally, structure will be reimagined putting the Senate, House of Representatives and Judicial Council at the heart of the organization through the introduction of four new ad-hoc committees. These larger committees will house pre-existing sub-committees and will focus on the four objectives of the project.
“To overcome the ‘legal’ difficulties of rewording the Constitution and Bylaws to allow these Project Ex committees to exist in place of the others, we decided to have the existing committees ‘feed into’ the bigger, more collaborative committees,” Morris said.
The formation of fewer, larger committees is an attempt to unify goals and quicken efforts.
“As the chambers only meet together once per month, relying on the smaller committees to do work in the interim, such as at House and Senate meetings, is how the model of this project will succeed and be more productive,” Morris said.
Next steps of the year-long initiative will specifically identify issues within the organization and generate solutions.
“During independent Senate and House meetings, legislators will be able to work within their smaller committees that feed into Project Ex committees and produce ideas, legislation, and suggestions for fixing and addressing some of WSA’s biggest problems,” Morris said.
Individual committees will come together to meet in the four Project Ex committees once a month Dec. through Jan. during joint sessions for the Senate and House of Representatives.
Morris voiced the determination of WSA members committed to rectifying the organization.
“We can either keep complaining about how WSA functions, or we can actively choose to change it,” Morris said. “I’ve personally chosen the latter, as has everyone on board with the initiative.”