UVSS AGM fails to make quorum

The University of Victoria Students’ Society’s (UVSS) Annual General Meeting (AGM) was unable to address its hot topic issues on Oct. 17. The issues were an increase of Executive Directors’ hours of payment, an amendment that would allow board executives to not be students for their first term as directors, and the Catholic Students’ Association’s (CSA) censorship. Not enough students showed up on Oct. 17 and, as a result, the democratic requirement of the UVSS was not met, so no changes could be made.

Hype had been building around the UVSS‘s AGM for a number of weeks. The UVSS published three weeks’ worth of ads mentioning when and where it would be taking place, in accordance with the 14-day requirement stated in the UVSS bylaws. The Martlet newspaper received and published opinions on the topics being addressed, and featured a cover story on the AGM’s agenda in its Oct. 3 issue. The society also used its social media to try and reach members about the event. All this and more was done to inform the students of UVic that student bylaws could possibly change. Unfortunately, enough people did not show up and the votes could not take place.

For bylaws to be changed, there needs to be what’s known as quorum. Quorum means the minimum number of members of a society or assembly that must be present at a meeting in order to make the proceedings of that assembly valid. In other words, without more people than just the board, the UVSS can’t make major decisions that could affect its membership (the student body). The AGM on Oct. 17 did not have quorum; however, it was close.

To have quorum at a general meeting the UVSS needs a mere six tenths (0.6) of one per cent of the membership present. That’s currently 105 students, so if about 30 more eligible undergrads had shown up, the full agenda could’ve been addressed. Kelsey Mech, chairperson for the UVSS, said afterwards that they usually offer incentives such as pizza or a chance to win an IPad. “We thought the CSA would’ve drawn a larger crowd . . . Next time we will re-incentivize,” she said.

Without quorum, the UVSS constitution states that the meeting “shall be limited to the following items of business: report of the activities of the Board of Directors, members’ questions on the activities of the Board of Directors, adoption of the budget and the approval of the audited statements, and the adoption of the previous general meeting’s minutes.”

So the meeting pressed on. The budget, a double-sided print spreadsheet, was given to everyone in attendance.  Matt Hammer, director of Finance and Operations, commented on most of the items listed, and in areas where there was a significant change he usually gave an explanation. Most large changes were found in labour cost columns, which Hammer attributed to a pay raise for unionized employees.

Ever since the 2010-11 fiscal year, the UVSS has had a row in the budget dedicated to “Society Legal Defense.” It has climbed from $86 203 in 2010-11 to a drafted amount of $120 000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year. There are also lines left blank under the Board Operation’s legal budget. While 2010-11 claimed $29 896 spent on legal, 2012-13 claimed zero, and both 2011-12, and 2013-14 were left completely blank. Hammer did not comment on the absent numbers, but did inform those attending that Vertigo renovations have been delayed until July 2014.

The board then moved the meeting on to a financial statement from Grant and Thornton accounting firm. In the statement, under the section of contingencies, there was mention of a $104 520 liability relating to the student fees that would’ve been disbursed to Access UVic Association of Disabled Students for the 2010-11 school year. These funds could be ruled outstanding should Access Association of Disabled Students be reinstated as a constituency organization or otherwise win a court battle with the UVSS that has been ongoing in recent years. The contingencies section also mentioned that the UVSS is named as a defendant in three additional suits, and that “as of year end the society has not recorded an amount for these suits . . .”

The AGM concluded with executive directors giving reports on how they’ve been spending their time. No directors-at-large gave reports. As part of her board of directors report, Mech said she has been “doing legal.” She continued, “Unfortunately, I can’t talk about that in detail here, but it does take up a lot of my hours.”

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