UVSS AGM exceeds quorum, hits cap of Zoom call at 300

Campus News

While all motions and budget passed, the Zoom cap prevented interested students from joining

uvss agm chalkboard
Photo by Kate Korte.

For the second straight year, the UVSS maintained quorum — the number of students needed to pass main motions and the annual budget — for the entirety of their annual general meeting (AGM). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s meeting took place on Zoom instead of the SUB’s Vertigo room. 

In 2019, the board sustained quorum for the whole AGM for the first time in five years.  The Board has recently resorted to expensive door prizes. This year, prizes up for grabs included an IPad 7, three $100 Indigo gift cards, airpods, and $525 towards a new bike. 

This year, the UVSS exceeded quorum so much that some students were prohibited from entering the Zoom call. The meeting’s Zoom cap was 300. According to Division 3 of Section 7 of the BC Societies Act, unless a member is in bad standing with the society, they must be able to exercise their right to vote “without restriction”. While the Act says a society’s bylaws may allow mail-in or email voting, students were not given this opportunity at the AGM.

In an emailed statement to the Martlet, UVSS Director of Outreach and University Relations Sarina de Havelyn said the board did not anticipate reaching the zoom cap. The statement also noted that while they received several messages and emails from students regarding the zoom cap, the majority of these were to do with being entered for prizes and none were to do with voting on motions. 

“No one indicated they were unable to speak to motions, and the meeting was accessible with adequate capacity while official business was being conducted and votes taken,” de Havelyn said.

Similar to the past few years, many students seemed to take part for the prizes on offer rather than concern over the motions. Once the last prize had been given out, the attendance dropped substantially. 

Prior to calling the meeting to order, Director of Student Affairs Dalal Tubeishat allowed some clubs, course unions, and advocacy groups to promote themselves.Usually, Clubs and Course Unions days would be held in early September to showcase various university clubs, but this year it was cancelled due to COVID-19. 

Motions got rid of Robert’s Rules, passed new UVSS values

The first motion was put forward by Director at Large (DAL) Isaiah Adachi and sought to remove UVSS bylaw 1.10, which defines ordinary resolutions. Adachi called the bylaw a “redundancy” as the definition is already laid out in the BC Societies Act. The second motion was also passed and brought UVSS voting procedures on special resolutions in line with the Societies Act.

Following a “coffee break,” De Havelyn presented the third motion on replacing the standard Robert’s Rules of Order — the procedural rules the UVSS follows during meetings — with the simpler Democratic Rules of Order. De Havelyn says that Robert’s Rules has proven “difficult and problematic” for board members and that changing the rules of order would “increase accessibility for future boards.” 

She also brought up accessibility as a key campaign promise for several board members.

Several board members spoke up in favour of the motion and spoke to why they feel Robert’s Rules is inaccessible.

“For anyone from outside Canada…it is very difficult to understand and follow Robert’s Rules, literally hundreds and hundreds of pages of rules packed into one very dense section,” Director of International Student Relations Dipayan Nag told the audience.

The fourth motion addressed UVSS values by adding environmental sustainability and decolonization to the societies list of values.

Prior to the AGM, the UVSS Board of Directors had a long and contentious debate over what values should be up for addition, which carried over to the AGM. Director at Large Abdul Abuelazm stated that the values were already in UVSS policy and that this meant the motion was “redundant,” “performative,” and “a waste of paper.” 

An audience member also asked whether students could still be a part of the UVSS if they didn’t agree with the societies’ values.

Budget matters and audience questions cap off AGM

The next portion of the meeting concerned the budget and featured a presentation by Director of Finance and Operations Caleb Burd. The budget details how UVSS fees are spent — full-time students pay $76.85 per semester while part-time students pay $38.39.

Due to COVID-19, the UVSS is projecting a $180 466 operating deficit and a $61 641 accumulative operating surplus. This year’s board inherited a significant $242 108 surplus, largely because continuing studies students began paying UVSS fees. 

Burd discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UVSS finances. Nearly every SUB business will run a deficit this year. The decision to open the businesses was calculated, Burd said, to minimize their losses. SUB businesses have also reduced their hours. The federal government’s Canada Wage Subsidy has also helped in paying 75 per cent of labour costs since March. 

In terms of the board of directors budgets, Burd notes that there was an approximately $100 000 decrease in terms of the budgeted net deficit. In an interview with the Martlet, Burd said he has encouraged the board to find “strategic and creative ways” to cut their expenses.

While the UVSS may be able to run a surplus this year, Burd said that future boards will have a difficult time avoiding a deficit. The current operating deficit could also be reduced if the PIRG referendum passes. This referendum hopes to transfer half of the money collected for the PIRG fee into the UVSS general operating fund. 

The budget passed and the AGM moved into reports by lead directors. Question period followed the reports. 

An audience member asked whether the UVSS was involved in university discussions around proctoring software. He voiced concerns around privacy concens and discrimination against Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC).

De Havelyn said that if any professor is using proctoring software during tests or exams, to contact the UVSS and university administration because they are breaking university rules.

Lastly, a question was posed by the Martlet.

With that, the 2020 UVSS AGM came to an end with the passing of a motion to adjourn.