The other day several of Ryerson SA committee members met to discuss and de-brief our involvement in, and our feelings about, committee work this past year. The discussion was facilitated by Sarah Kloke who asked questions like:

  • How do you feel about committee work?
  • What is the value for you personally?
  • How did/does involvement in committees add value to your work experience?
  • How did/does it detract from your work experience?
  • How would you re-imagine committee work in RSA?
  • What’s missing?

It led to a really good, honest discussion and the beginnings of some very promising ideas. But…there were folks missing, and voices not heard. So, here’s your chance to contribute to that discussion. Personally, I think committee work is critical and this is why. Consider these two conflicting truths: a) on the one hand, we want very much to create a “seamless experience” for students by being attentive to their whole lives, and; b) on the other hand, we (by necessity) create an organizational structure that expresses the opposite idea by departmentalizing our supports for them. I think the best device we have for reconciling these opposing truths is through meaningful collaboration between departments. And this (can) happen in committees.

Agree? Disagree?

Ok. Finally, consider also the following committee principles, written two years ago, that I hoped would animate, or ground the committee work in some deeper ideas. Are they still true? (Were they ever true?). Do they need revising? Is there something missing? Can we get at these things through committee work?

Ryerson Student Affairs Committee Principles

Principle 1: The RSA committee structure should be a mechanism for generating real work that emerges from the bottom up. Recognizing that, in addition to the regular day-to-day work that is distributed and assigned within our divisions, there is also the work that cuts across our divisions, work that integrates and involves collaboration. This can be deeply impactful and meaningful work but is often lost to a lack of clarity, steering, direction. Committee work can more adequately fulfill this function.

Principle 2: The RSA committee structure should advance the objective of integration between the various RSA departments, the pillars. With this in mind, we should envision a committee structure that is, at its highest level, a structure that pulls together, unites, integrates the work of RSA rather than isolating work within specific departments.

Principle 3:  Baked into the RSA committees should be an infrastructure for learning, leadership and professional development. We will take seriously the idea that effective participation in committee work is a skill to be developed and it is incumbent upon us all to nurture this skill in RSA staff.

Principle 4:  We believe deeply in the idea that leadership and influence in the workplace does not have to be moored to position or authority. Good ideas emerge everywhere in the workplace and committee work can and should be a place where ALL RSA staff can exert influence and leadership beyond their specific workplace domain.

Principle 5: Effective committees are characterized by clear mandates, effective leadership, open channels of communication, and engaged member participation. We want to have good mechanisms for ensuring these elements exist in our committee structures.


~John H