At the Oct. 24 Annual General Meeting (AGM), the UVSS board brought forward a motion to amend bylaw 4.8, which codifies notice requirements for general meetings and referenda. The motion passed, eliminating the requirement for the UVSS to take out print ads in the Martlet and post notices on notice boards notifying students of upcoming AGMs and Semi-Annual General Meetings (SAGM).
Ostensibly, this was an attempt to update the UVSS bylaws to “reflect modern engagement methods,” and was branded as a sustainable and fiscally responsible move. This wasn’t a new motion by any means — it was on the agenda at the 2019 SAGM, the 2018 AGM, and the 2018 SAGM, but never passed. When this motion was first proposed at the 2018 SAGM, the meeting actually lost quorum during the lengthy debate over this motion, so a final decision was not reached.
Jonathan Granirer, Director of Outreach and University Relations, cited the $400 spent this year advertising the AGM in the Martlet, and claimed that this money would be better spent on more effective and environmentally sustainable advertising on Instagram and Facebook. Given that the Martlet’s mandate is to inform the student body, our online advertising options would also fulfill these priorities.
Regardless, this isn’t about money — it’s about avenues for student engagement and holding student societies accountable.
Of course, writing as the Martlet, we are biased in this matter. We obviously believe that we’re pretty important. The UVSS should also see us as important — that is, if they want students to hear them.
The unfortunate reality is that the UVSS constantly tries to get students to care about them, but many don’t. Voter turnout for the last UVSS election was only 15.55 per cent — and that was up from the previous election when only 11.8 per cent of eligible students bothered to vote. If a student, for instance, was wondering how the board was following through on their election promises, they could look to our coverage.
This AGM was the first general meeting since 2015 that met and maintained quorum through all the motions on the agenda, and the attempt was only barely successful. Only a few minutes before this motion was brought forward, the meeting chair implored the audience to remain in the room, as they were one walkout away from losing quorum. Had the three Martlet staff covering the event left the room, the policy would not have passed and we wouldn’t be writing about it.
Because we are committed journalists, we stayed. This is the role of a journalist, to report on governance and policies even when we don’t necessarily agree with them. We have a mandate to the student body — to inform, as objectively and thoroughly as possible.
At almost every UVSS meeting, the Martlet writers live-tweeting the proceedings are the only audience members. We are the only ones publicizing clear, factual information about the UVSS on a regular basis. If students want to truly learn about the good, the bad, and ugly of the UVSS, the best way to do that is through our coverage.
A central problem with this amendment, environmentally sustainable as it may be, is that it opens the potential for future UVSS boards to not advertise their general meetings and referenda in the Martlet. Technically, the board could merely meet the needs of the B.C. Societies’ Act by sending a mass-email to all students, posting the AGM event information somewhere on their (far from accessible) website, and nothing more.
The UVSS board members are student politicians, and politicians rarely get along with the journalists who report on their actions. But it is the responsibility of politicians, even student ones, to not undermine the value factual media provides in our increasingly divisive world. It sends a harmful message to students — that supporting factual media is irrelevant, if politicians can just use social media to reach voters.
Ultimately, this isn’t about money. Without their $400, we’ll be fine. But the current board ran on a mandate that claimed they would listen to students’ concerns — or hear them. However, for that to take place, students need to feel like they are part of a two-way conversation.
Whether or not the UVSS advertises in the Martlet, our paper hold a crucial position on campus by providing an avenue for students to learn about the UVSS. We’ve been a resource for students since decades before the UVSS was even founded. Regardless of any decisions by this (or any future) UVSS Board, we’ll still be here providing fair, accurate, and in-depth coverage whether they like it or not.