AGMs: We can fix this shit

Editorials Opinions
Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor
Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor

The UVSS’s Semi-Annual General Meeting (SAGM) failed to make quorum on Feb. 4, but maybe you already knew that. We’re not sure how, because nobody was there to find out. Could student apathy be to blame? That’s not entirely fair, and some of you said as much when we published an op-ed arguing part of the reason the UVic Pride referendum failed was because students have a chronic case of Not Giving A Shit. And fair point. Many of us do care… but the fact remains not enough of us showed up for one of the more public venues where we actually have a say in how we’re governed.

Maybe the continued lack of engagement speaks to a larger issue, one that falls to the UVSS to deal with. It should be a wake-up call that says free pizza and door prizes aren’t enough (especially when the pizza isn’t even that good). What’s needed is a concentrated effort to step up engagement, one that goes beyond a Facebook page and standing outside with a sign the day of.

Well, we have some ideas — take ‘em or leave ‘em. First, work on getting the word out to the entire membership. Students criticized the board of directors for attaching a note about the SAGM as a post-script to a larger email promoting the Education is a Right rally; but UVic only allows the UVSS one email per semester to the entire membership, and while the society has its own listserv with about 4 000 or so students, that’s not enough. Why not collaborate with the university so that there can be a greater frequency of bulletins sent to the entire student body?

Or how about some real incentives; at the very least student government should get as much consideration from the university as athletic involvement. Give students academic credit for participation in student government, or a legitimate excuse from classes to attend. Pressure UVic to make a basic Canadian politics class mandatory, like the English requirements we already have, with student politics included as a get-out-of-group-projects incentive. Who wouldn’t take that option?

Part of the problem could be that meetings are so infrequent (twice a year, usually), so there’s no momentum that can be carried through. Why not organize monthly town halls that all students can attend? They don’t have to include motions — just have the board sit for half an hour and take some questions. Students usually have things to say when they show up, so why not provide more avenues for them to do so? Have a dedicated social media representative who could field tweeted, texted, or mailed questions while live-updating the event, so students could be present online as well as in-person. Better yet, create an online log-in livestream with a vote capacity, whose log-ins could then be counted as quorate.

Of course, students are welcome to attend the bi-weekly board meetings (on Mondays at 6 p.m.), or the numerous open committees where students do and should have some input. But when board meetings run overlong with bureaucratic missteps and procedural rubber-stamping, it’s easy to see why students don’t show up. (That, and nobody wants to stay late on a Monday. C’mon.)

Sure, all these options would require a little effort on the part of the board, but as much as some like to think government does nothing, we hear it actually does. So why not give these options a whirl, and clean up our own yard before marching down to Christie’s? The student government is meant to be representational; the least the board could do is help its constituents show up.