The Vice-President Finance and Operations (VPFO) is a very important and sensitive position in any school’s student union. They are responsible for handling the large amounts of money allocated to the student union every year.
VPFOs in Canadian universities are either hired or elected into the position, with the hired VPFOs being employed by the elected Student Union executives, and the elected VPFOs voted in along with the executives. However, there is controversy over whether or not it is right to elect somebody, usually with little or no previous experience, into such an important position.
“Absolutely not… I believe that the elected officials should have the ability to hire a VPFO that has experience and will be a good fit to their executive team,” said Ryan Magee, an accounting major and hired VPFO at Cape Breton University Student Union.
Magee believes that, with election, many great VPFOs would not have been given a chance because they did not have name recognition.
Yousef Alabed, who holds an elected post similar to a VPFO at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, disagrees.
“This [getting elected as a VPFO] gives them a lot of expertise before finishing their degrees and going into the real world. Elections also remove any conflict of interest since the elected executives or vice presidents are the top managers, it somewhat doesn’t make a lot of sense for employees to hire managers,” Alabed said.
Magee had no previous work experience before getting hired, but had three years in the BBA program and two years actively participating in financial markets. He thinks that this experience made some of the responsibilities in his position easier.
“I can better inform our council of our financial position with my knowledge of financial statements, I can understand our auditor’s recommendations to improve our financial control systems, and I can be more involved in investment committees through my understanding of financial markets,” Magee explained. “I can’t see someone not having at the very least a business background filling this role effectively.”
Jamie Bell, elected VPFO at the University of Saskatchewan Student Union, believes that a background in finance is not required, and that specific technical skills can be taught.
“While being a business student with an accounting background makes it easier to fully understand parts of my job, it is far from, and should not be, a requirement,” said Bell, stating that diversity should also be considered. “The SU also benefits from having an executive from diverse academic backgrounds, both within one year and one office from year to year.”
Adriana LeFort, VPFO at UNB, did not respond for comment.