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Winter 2020 General Meeting Highlights
On Tuesday, March 24, 2020 WUSA’s Annual General Meeting met under unusual circumstances. With the increased health and safety measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the suspension of all on-campus activity, WUSA had a tough decision to make on how to move ahead with the planned General Meeting. In an email sent out by President Michael Beauchemin, he explained that by law WUSA must hold their General Meeting, however, due to the Government of Ontario declaring a state of emergency and prohibiting public gatherings of more than 50 people, an alternate presentation format was required. You can read the full memo on our Council mailing list [external link].
To minimize risk, the General Meeting was thus held in teleconference with only members of the Student Council either physically present in the Student Life Centre or on the call, while the meeting was live streamed for all students to view. The councillors attended to represent the interests and actions of their constituents in debates and voting.
Getting the formalities out of the way
The General Meeting was officially called to order by Michael at 4:44 p.m., who briefly explained the new set-up and ensured the councillors were able to connect via teleconference. Michael started things off with an update on what the Executives have achieved in their portfolios in the last year, a general review of their time in office, and some major projects begun and completed. You can expect to see a detailed post with this update to be published in April. They then approved both the agenda of the Winter 2020 AGM and minutes from the March 21, 2019 General Meeting before beginning on individual items.
On the legal or constitutional side, three amendments were recommended for adoption with all carrying unanimously. The first, Elimination of Fall General Meetings was in regards to reducing the required number of general meetings for WUSA each year, to one. In the past, Fall General Meetings have seen lower attendance and WUSA felt it was not economically or logistically feasible to continue running two seperate General Meetings. Instead, student engagement could be supplemented with events such as townhalls to more directly engage across campus, as well as keep it within Student Council’s powers to call another meeting if deemed necessary.
The second amendment, Membership Changes to the Board of Directors, redefined the Board of Directors consisting of the President, the Vice President of Operations & Finance, Two members elected as Councillors of Students' Council, and four other full members of the corporation. This change was made to limit overlap in executive portfolios. Included was also a motion for the Student Council to decide on whether directors could receive remuneration in the form of a monetary honoraria to support lower-income students and individuals who gave up other income opportunities to work for WUSA.
Finally, the third amendment, Staggered Board Elections, was passed in an effort to establish two at-large director elections per year split into two year terms so that experience and training would be better spread throughout the board.
Board of Directors Election
The Winter 2020 GM also brought the exciting election process for the Board of Directors as the present council members took the time to cast their votes in three elections: 2 Year At-Large Directors, 1 Year At-Large Directors, and Councillor Directors. After those present had the opportunity to lock in their choices, decline the ballot or abstain, the following are the election results:
2 Year At-Large Directors: Edward Yang and Benjamin Easton
1 Year At-Large Directors: Madison Ng and Alexander Eyre
Councillor Directors: John Hunte and Kanan Sharma
These individuals will go on to serve on WUSA's highest decision-making body and are looking forward to representing your interests and having students' voices be heard. You can learn more about the Board of Directors on our website.
Back to some administrative matters, there were a variety of fee decisions. Once again all fees recommended for adoption were passed. Below is a quick overview of the new changes:
Government Relations: Increase to the Federation of Students Fee of $0.01 (compulsory) and $0.03 (optional) per assessment to increase the amount of travel for government relations. This is intended to expand the budget of the Vice President of Education to travel to Ottawa and Toronto for student advocacy.
Co-operative Research Students: Increase to the Federation of Students Fee of $0.47 (compulsory) and $0.36 (optional) per assessment to increase work-placement support for organizational research. The aim of the increase is to allow more research opportunities for WUSA to make informed decisions and identify values about adding co-op roles.
Full-time Research and Stakeholder Relations: Increase to the Federation of Students Fee of $1.11 (compulsory) and $0.85 (optional) in Fall 2020, and an increase of $2.10 (optional) in Fall of 2021 to fund full-time staff efforts to improve research and stakeholder relations. This change would increase staffing to reduce the gap in current operations regarding stakeholder relations and advocacy functions, which could greatly help outreach, satellite campus engagement, and town halls.
Stakeholder Relations Supplies: Increase to the Federation of Students Fee of $0.10 (optional) per assessment to fund supplies for the Stakeholder Relations Officer. This would support office budget, travel support for government advocacy, and funding for policy journals relevant to the role in higher education.
Pay for Service Coordinators: Increase to the Federation of Students Fee of up to $4.07 (compulsory) and up to $1.10 (optional) per assessment to establish a wage model for Service Coordinators in the VP Student Life portfolio, contingent on Council’s approval of an implementation plan for the proposed changes, and provided a base pay of $16.00 per hour. The aim of this compensation is to establish a more rigorous framework for accountability and performance against the Student Council’s established objectives for each service. There was some debate about this issue and ultimately the motion was passed with a few further amendments which is reflected above.
Finally, the meeting got to my favorite part: the suggestions submitted by you guys! And you guys had some interesting ones this time around. Ideas brought forward by students here are largely in order to receive feedback and further discuss potentially moving forward with such plans. To begin, Sabrina Khandakar requested to discuss Feedback for the Presidential Nominating Committee, however, the President requested the item be referred to the next Council meeting, which the assembly agreed to. The next item, put forward by Ryan Dullaert regarding the Addition of a Spring Term Reading Week was likewise postponed to the next Council meeting. Ryan Dullaert also brought about another issue regarding encouraging professors to upload more lecture content for student access which resulted in general discussion where the councillors noted that while much of the content has now been moved online because of COVID-19, many instructors do not take this seriously for online classes or for in-person classes regularly. The next item from students was a proposition from Caroline Dack to make menstrual products free or more accessible on campus, however, due to time constraints and limited attendance, this item was also referred to the next Council meeting. The final item came from Naman Kathuria who wanted to discuss the opportunity of bringing Campus Pizza onto campus. Our VP Operations & Finance Seneca Velling spoke on this matter, addressing that UW Food Services has broad veto powers over many operations on campus, which can be problematic when bringing on services to campus that would otherwise increase competition and decrease prices for students. Given concerns around health and quality for some students, the item was not advanced to Council.
With all business items on the agenda exhausted, the general meeting was finally adjourned at 10:14 PM.
For more details and specifics of the general meeting you can view the video playback [not sure what the link for this will be] or read the minutes when they are published in April.
We hope that everyone is staying healthy and safe in these difficult times. If you are looking to stay up to date with how the Coronavirus is impacting the University of Waterloo you can check out their information page [external link].