Photo by Martin Weaver
Students’ union annual general meeting generates little student interest
The countdown to the University of Regina Students’ Union annual general meeting [AGM] is on and, surprisingly, most of the student body are either unaware of it or just don’t care.
URSU’s annual general meeting, to be held on Feb. 10, allows anyone who pays URSU fees to vote on important motions that could potentially affect the whole campus.
In past years there have been problems meeting the quorum of 150 students, meaning motions couldn’t pass. Kristy Fyfe, who has put forward a motion asking for transparency about spending during last fall’s Canadian Federation of Students membership referendum, said that meeting quorum could once again be an issue.
“It’s definitely a worry for me – and other people that have put forward motions – because if we don’t have quorum then we can’t pass these decisions, and it’s really important to get through some of these motions.”
Fyfe thinks that AGMs are important so that students can voice their concerns and vote for motions that they feel could improve on-campus experiences.
Kyle Addison, URSU president, said students need to participate in AGMs to help URSU better govern. (Listen to Martin Weaver's interview with Kyle Addison on the In Brief podcast, here.)
“It’s important for students to come out and have their voice be heard and have them take part and engage themselves into the decision-making process.”
Although students need to be aware of the AGM, there hadn’t been much done the week before the motions were voted on to ensure students were well informed. Fyfe feels that students aren’t aware because students are misinformed about the motions.
“I think that there are ways to engage students. Particularly, just spreading the word about what the motions are … it’s improved over the last couple of years but we still have a little way to go.”
Rebecca Scalan, a second-year science major, was one of those students unaware of the AGM.
“I didn’t know about [the] AGM, probably because I’m too busy with school and stuff. It’s pretty important to know what’s happening around the university.”
Clinton Grudecki, a first-year police studies student added, “This is the first I’ve heard of this. There is probably a little bit more that should be done.”
Alexis Schaffer, a third-year German major, has seen the URSU posters around campus. Instead of providing answers, Schaffer said the posters just left her with questions.
“There’s posters everywhere, it’s hard to miss them, but it doesn’t tell you a damn thing about what it is. I saw one and read it all the way through and nowhere did it tell me what an AGM was or what it was about.”
She did admit that she would have found the posters useful if she was already aware of the motions.
“If you already know what it is, sure, it provides some useful information. But, if you don’t, then it’s kind of useless.”
Addison said that they are working hard to promote this event.
“We’re actually in the process of using social media, our website – basically we’re utilizing all of our avenues that we utilize for any promotional events.”
He was confident quorum will not be an issue this year.
“It’s always a concern to make quorum, it depends on the availability of the students … but we are doing many recruitment methods to ensure we make quorum, and I’m fairly confident that we are going to have quorum.”
URSU is also providing an extra incentive for students to encourage them to vote.
“When you come in, you’ll walk up to the room and you’ll sign in. You will be greeted with fellow students along with complimentary pizza and drinks.”
Addison said that URSU will be pushing to get buzz on campus in the days before the AGM.
“We will have table space up next week advertising the fact that there will be an annual general meeting. The table space will be held in the Riddell and we’re going to be asking some of our volunteers from our URSU V-team to be manning that table.”
He commented that students may even be aware of the banners on campus TV screens that have been running.
Although Fyfe feels that more could have been done, she stressed that URSU faces challenges in organizing events like these and others should assume responsibility to inform campus.
“The people bringing forward motions have the responsibility to engage the membership for the people that it affects and to bring them out to pass these motions.”
Christina Vickaryous, a second-year nursing student, agreed it’s not solely URSU’s responsibility to ensure quorum is met.
“They have to advertise it and, once it has been advertised, if we don’t go from there, then it’s our own fault.” She said she is hoping, come Feb. 10, “students are well informed and show up to vote.”
At last year’s AGM, quorum was initially met. However, people headed out soon after the voting began. Consequently, the meeting’s chair ruled that, according to Robert’s Rules of Order, the meeting was unable to maintain quorum and thus had to adjourn.
Though URSU’s constitution overrides Robert’s Rules, Addison is still hoping students won’t take that as an invitation to leave once their motion has passed.
“It would be nice if everybody can stick around and take part in the decision-making process that matters to all students.” He added, “Getting quorum is the trickiest thing to grasp.”
There are several motions being presented: from membership into URSU for nursing students and English as a second language students, increased funding for the Carillon, and fixed election dates and fixed terms for URSU executives. Addison hopes that this year’s AGM ends in better terms than last year and students will be able to benefit from showing up.
“I think it’s going to be a great event. I think it’s going to be an event that will pull in a lot of students and educate them on what exactly the University of Regina Students’ Union is all about.”