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RPIRG retains funding at URSU AGM

They have a library you can check out. In fact, I need to return some books./ Michael Chmielewski
They have a library you can check out. In fact, I need to return some books./ Michael Chmielewski

Meeting loses quorum, ends early; our summary

Authors: Alec Salloum and John Kapp – News Editor and Staff Writer

The University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on April 15, 2015. Motions ranging from an attempt to effectively defund the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) to creating an entirely new system of voting were proposed, though ultimately only one motion would be voted on.

After the initial votes to begin the meeting Amanda Smytaniuk, URSU’s general manager, gave a presentation discussing URSU’s financial situation. At last year’s AGM Smytaniuk described how she discussed that, “the finical viability of URSU was on the line.” This year URSU is in a much better position, she said.

Though estimates are early and not yet verified Smytaniuk stated that URSU would run a surplus this year.  Smytaniuk estimated that “around $100,000” would be seen in surplus. This comes after URSU raised its student fees at last year’s AGM. This is a substantial development seeing as it was originally thought “it would take up to five years to repair the deficit,” said Smytaniuk.

Following the financial update it was resolved that MNP, an accounting company, be re-appointed the auditor for the 2014-2015 year. MNP suggested 20 areas for URSU to improve as part of its going concern issued to the union. As of the AGM 17 of the 20 areas of improvement had been ameliorated.  The motion passed.

Up next was the approval of the changes made to URSU’s elections referendum bylaw. Previously, the document was an unwieldy 10,000 words of inconsistent language, names and nomenclature. For example, as URSU President Devon Peters described 3,000 words were dedicated to proper ballot box procedure, while not specifying online conduct of perspective candidates. This passed after a few questions and clarifications.

Motion 8.1, the one aiming to destroy RPIRG by beheading its funding model, began with a student putting forward a motion to limit debate time to 30 minutes with two minutes per speaker. First to speak to the motion was RPIRGs executive director Anna Dipple who pointed out that there are simply no other funding avenues available for many of the student group serviced by RPIRG. Most of those who spoke against the motion were quick to establish that the work performed by RPIRG is political, but it is not partisan – the main charge of the motion.

Matt Jacobs of the Social Work Students’ Association spoke against the motion, stating that the actions of his group were also decidedly political and further broke down the difference between partisanship and political activity.

A student speaker who did not state their name suggested eliminating RPIRG’s role in distributing funds, centralizing all student group funding in URSU. In response to this suggestion, the director of the History Students’ Association spoke. She stated that the HSA was unable to get funding from URSU in two of the past three years – raising the question of just how likely it was that the funding regime would remain similar to its current state. Minsoo Cho, outgoing VP of student affairs stated that URSU funding may be contingent on the mood of the current board of directors, RPIRGs funding is much more consistently applied.

Following the defeat of motion 8.1, outgoing VPs Daniella Zemlak and Luanne Drake moved to re-count attendance; which found that quorum was no longer in place. This resulted in the revelation that quorum had been lost and further motions would be postponed until a special general meeting could be called in the fall or later. “It was extremely disappointed that they blocked the democratic process of students voting in an AGM in their own personal interest,” said Dipple. Following that she isn’t sure “what that interest is, but [was] extremely disappointed that they decided to do that. It’s terrible.”

When the next meeting will be held to vote on these issues remains uncertain. Peters was unable to give an exact date immediately following the surprise re-count but said, “broadly speaking it’d be nice to have one in the fall but I’m not going to commit to that until I’ve had time to look at it with my staff.”

Motion 8.2 would prevent the adjustment or abolition of a student centre’s funding levy without a referendum on the subject. This was prevented from coming to a vote by the above quorum count, triggering an outpouring of rage from the remaining assembled students who feared that motions similar to 8.1 could continue without constitutional protection.

As Dipple stated, “the risk of 8.2 not passing is that every single centre, including the Carillon, could lose their funding any given year in a motion like this that changes the opt-out structure. All of the current student centres – the URPride Centre, the Womens’ Centre, the Carillon, EWB, WUSC – all of them face losing their funding year after year. So it’s extremely important that 8.2 passes in the near future.”

This delay will also postpone the would-be fruits of motion 8.4, which would entail a constitutional review intending to make the constitution itself more readable and easier for students to understand. Motion 8.3 would fulfill a similar role, making the correction of grammatical issues the work of the board of directors. These motions will all have to wait until next fall at the earliest, when the new executive may call a special general meeting. If this does not occur, motions 8.2-8.5 will remain null until another AGM is scheduled for the winter semester.

Despite the majority of the proposed motions being tabled until later Jeeshan Ahmed, an engineering student graduating this semester, was pleased with the event. “It was great to see so many students turn up. It’s been a fantastic election, so many people, so many students have gotten involved, it’s something I’ve never seen before and I hope this continues for future years – that students get more politically active,” said Ahmed

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2 comments

  1. I would actually say that maintaining quorum is actually the only way to ensure the democratic process is maintained. It isn’t particularly right to have only a small handfull of students vote on motions that effect the entire student body. It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t maintain quorum at the AGM, but that’s how it works with any other board.

  2. Couldn’t agree more Maddy. I dont believe the URSU executive had an special agenda for the recount other than following due process.
    Also while I was completely against the motion to cut rpirgs funding I was shocked to see how badly the suporters of the motion were heckled.