The wheels of democracy didn’t stop turning but certainly slowed down a bit on Thursday, Feb. 4, as the UVSS’s Semi-Annual General Meeting failed to meet quorum — a problem that has plagued the society for years.
The call to proceed with the meeting was made at 3:35 p.m., 35 minutes after the scheduled start time and 12 people short of the required 107 — 0.6 per cent of the society’s membership. Without quorum, the meeting proceeded with a limited agenda comprised solely of executive director reports and a Q&A.
Motions up for consideration included: an amendment to Bylaw 17.2 (“Names of Constituency Organizations”) ratifying UVSS Pride (as it is named in the bylaws) as UVic Pride; amendments to Issues Policy Part B (“Homophobia & Transphobia,” which would themselves be amended to read “Homoantagonism & Transantagonism”) to include more precise language pertaining to gender identities, romantic and sexual orientations, and their support within the society; and a special resolution introduced via student petition amending UVSS electoral policy.
That petition was signed by 204 registered undergraduate members and was brought forward by Kevin Tupper, a third-year Economics student. It read:
“Any change or amendment to the current Electoral Policy must be voted for by a two-thirds [⅔] majority vote of those voting in a quorate general meeting prior to it coming into effect.”
But, none of these were discussed, and will all remain things that could’ve been — unless the incoming board decides to take them up, that is.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Director reports painted a sunny picture for UVSS campaign and outreach efforts, with Chairperson Brontë Renwick-Shields speaking on behalf of both her and Director of External Relations Kenya Rogers to acknowledge the efforts of the Let’s Get Consensual campaign, last fall’s Activist Assembly, and campaigns to boost youth voter turnout for the federal election, to name a few.
The board was also clearly pleased with the previous day’s Education is a Right rally, which reportedly saw 400 students hit the steps of the Legislature to protest rising tuition costs and advocate for eliminating student debt.
The Q&A yielded some pointed questions for the executives, with Tupper asking if the board didn’t actually want the SAGM to make quorum. Tupper cited the event’s Facebook page’s paltry 173 student invitations on the Sunday prior to the assembly and apparently weak advertising efforts on the part of the UVSS as reasons for the low turnout, and wondered why more wasn’t done.
Renwick-Shields dismissed the idea that the board didn’t want to meet quorum. Addressing the Facebook event, she said that executives couldn’t be the only ones responsible for inviting people. She also said the UVSS tabled outside the SUB the day of, and campaigned on social media in the weeks leading up to the SAGM. “It’s been hard to get quorum in years previously, especially last year.”
“We all deserve to have a voice here,” Renwick-Shields said, “and that’s why we’re having a question period with you folks.”
Director of Student Affairs Kaylee Szakacs also pointed out that the UVSS has board meetings every other week, and numerous committees open to all members, so there are plenty of other ways for students to have a voice aside from the SAGM.
Another student asked about the looming deficit for UVSS Food Services, a question which was raised at the last AGM (and was even investigated by the Martlet in December). Renwick-Shields and Director of Finance & Operations Kylie Pettifer both explained that they were considering different options to increase business, but stressed that the UVSS is a non-profit enterprise, so the goal isn’t for the food establishments to make a profit.
Other students asked about clubs, profit potential for UVSS events, and the procedures for scheduling SAGMs. But with the primary goal of general assemblies being to amend policy, it was frustrating that quorum could not be met, with Renwick-Shields acknowledging and sharing students’ grievances. It remains to be seen what implications the lack of turnout will have on the upcoming student elections, and whether the newly formed Woke UVic and Encompass UVic slates will offer any solutions to the problem.
For a full summary of live-tweets from the SAGM, check out our Storify.
Correction: The print version of this story did not include Kevin Tupper’s year and program of study. He is a third-year Economics student; we have edited this article to reflect that.
Also, the Facebook event was reported to have 173 invites at the time of the meeting. In fact, it had 173 invites on the Sunday prior to the meeting, and a higher number at time of the meeting.