News | AUS executives reflect on high turnover

Five executive resignations mostly due to “bad luck,” president says

Updated March 30 with comments from Leila Alfaro.

Five Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) executives resigned during the 2014-15 academic year, with three citing personal issues, and two citing the working environment at AUS, as reasons for their resignation.

The first resignation came from former VP Finance Kateryn Kim in late August, and was due to personal reasons; the second resignation was submitted by former VP Internal Leila Alfaro at the end of September because she was going on exchange for Winter 2015; the third was former VP Social Kyle Rouhani in November, as a result of duress experienced in the role.

The fourth AUS executive to resign was former VP Internal Roma Nadeem, Alfaro’s replacement, who left at the beginning of the semester due to health problems, and passed away on March 9. The last to leave was former VP Finance Li Xue, who joined to replace Kim, and resigned at the end of February citing the work dynamic within the AUS.

“The work dynamic that I experienced within the AUS and the decreasing meaningfulness of the work I found myself having to do was very alienating,” stated Xue in her resignation statement to AUS.

“In the end, I could no longer justify such a large time and energy commitment to something that made me unhappy.”

“In the end, I could no longer justify such a large time and energy commitment to something that made me unhappy.”

Alfaro noted that, while she had indeed left her job due to “external circumstances,” there were problems she saw in the work dynamic during her time at AUS. “I felt great relief to be freed from the pressure of being part of the AUS executive, as I had to deal with some unpleasant situations throughout my term,” Alfaro told The Daily in an email.

She continued, “[F]rom my own experience, I can say that there was a lack of cohesiveness within the team, priorities in terms of operations were not always necessarily shared, and there lacked efforts for open-mindedness and understanding of others’ perspectives and realities – and it was very hard for me, personally, to have a sense of belonging.”

In the email to The Daily, the current VP Academic Erin Sobat mentioned that the unusual number of resignations this year, while rare, was likely exacerbated by external factors.

“I think that it is unfair to phrase the events of this year in the context of a poor working environment at the AUS,” wrote Sobat. He added, “we have had an incredibly difficult year, largely due to circumstances outside of our control, and have done our best to deal with the results of this.”

President Ava Liu concurred, stating that three of the resignations this year were purely bad luck.

“Last year we got two [resignations]. It depends on every year. Three of them are just bad luck and last year we had two,” Liu told The Daily.

When asked to comment on Rouhani and Xue, who did not leave for personal reasons, Liu remarked that Xue resigned because of team dynamics and Rouhani due to his inability to perform the work.

“First, [Rouhani] resigned because of the lack of ability to perform on the job – that was what happened due to personal incapability, and not due to [the] dynamic at AUS,” Liu explained. “[In the case of Xue], it was because of personal dynamics, I’ll give it that.”

“I think that first of all, the year ends at the end of April. Term ends at the end of April and not at the beginning of March. So it’s not really acceptable to resign real close to the end of the year [when] there’s not really anything left to do,” she added.

According to Grant Whithan, the executive assistant at AUS, in contrast to Xue’s claim, he found the AUS work environment to be very friendly. “I totally agree with the sense that I don’t know where this hostility […] is coming from, because I found the environment at AUS to be very supportive.”

Because no one ran for the VP Finance position for next year, the AUS Legislative Council has been empowered to fill the position by appointment.

“The nature of the job is very hard; but the environment, the people and dynamic is not the problem,” Liu noted. “Everyone is very supportive. But because of the job, everyone [works] at their own pace.”

Alfaro noted that while she was thankful for the support she received in certain instances from her fellow executives, there are still many ways that the work environment of AUS could be improved, including more attention to self care.

“It is imperative for future executive teams to keep in mind the wellbeing of the individuals executives in order to foster a welcoming and inclusive work environment, which would in turn facilitate operations and efficiency rather than perpetuate shallow and often useless debate,” she wrote.

As of press time, Rouhani has yet to respond to requests for comment.