AMS launches management structure review following managing director departure

The AMS has launched an internal review of its management structure following the departure of the society’s managing director.

In November, Managing Director Keith Hester suddenly left the AMS after 11 years with the student society. Now, the AMS is reviewing the role of the Managing Director and the current reporting structure of the society to the position. AMS Council approved the terms of reference and appointments at its November meeting.

The subcommittee, according to its terms of reference, is tasked to lead a review of the management structure of the society, create recommendations for management structure changes, create a new job description for the managing director and advise the Executive Committee and Interim Managing Director Celia Chung in making any changes to the management structure.

The committee will report to the Ad-Hoc Governance Review Committee — which is already making broad recommendations for Council and executive changes within the AMS — and the Executive Committee.

The managing director role was created in 2016 after a broad external governance review. The review suggested that the society’s business and student sides were too disconnected and that the structure should change. The society then changed the general manager role to the managing director role and laid off several key employees within the organization.

Chair of the subcommittee and AMS President Eshana Bhangu did not reply to multiple requests for comment for this story. However, vice-chair Max Holmes and committee member Cole Evans described this subcommittee review as a check in on the state of the management structure of the AMS and the implementation of the 2016 governance review.

Management structure will be a large focus of the subcommittee. The 2016 governance review recommended a structure in which the managing director would have two direct reports — a Senior Business Manager and a Senior Services Manager. As of a fall 2022 organizational chart sent to The Ubyssey by the AMS, the managing director currently has 11 direct reports.

Holmes said that, in general, having a limited number of direct reports to the managing director “is probably a good thing,” but emphasized the AMS’s nonprofit status.

“We don't want to risk creating too many levels of management within the organization because that costs money,” Holmes said. “But of course, that's up for that subcommittee to make the recommendations at the end of the day, and to bring that forward.”

Former AMS President Cole Evans, who served in the role from May 2020 to May 2022 sits on the subcommittee as a “voice from the past.”

Evans said in his experience as president, the AMS has “gotten a little bit away from what was identified as a good structure” in the 2016 governance review.

“With any governance review, it’s best practice to do a check in every so often just to make sure you’re sticking to what the organization paid a lot of money to find out,” Evans said. “It’s time to check back in and decide what the vision is moving forward.”

As for what Evans wants to see with this review, he said “good organizational structure is key to good organizational performance.”

“The better structured an organization is, the better services and support the AMS will be able to deliver for students,” he said. “This review might not impact how students interact with the AMS but it does impact how the AMS serves them … and how they can work in a way that is utilizing student money effectively.”

The terms of reference of the subcommittee marks all meetings as being in-camera — meaning no public notes will be available to anyone outside of those present in the meetings.

Holmes, the chair of the Ad-Hoc Governance Review Committee that approved the terms of reference, said he’ll “endeavor to make sure” that updates from the subcommittee to the governance review committee are done in open session as much as they can be. Bhangu did not respond to requests for comment on the topic.

Holmes said the conversations being in camera is important to ensure employees are able to give feedback on their experiences within the organization.

“We do have an obligation to make sure that our employees feel comfortable in the setting that they're engaging in, that they can give feedback without being worried about the feedback that they give,” he said.

“There will be that opportunity for debate, feedback, and so forth in open session,” he said, once the changes are brought forward.