SSMU has decided to reschedule the winter 2013 General Assembly (GA) to February 27, due to a lack of student-submitted motions.
With only two motions submitted, SSMU President Josh Redel expressed his concern regarding the efficiency of the GA. “A lot of logistics [go] into a GA,” Redel told The Daily. “From the student perspective, would it be fair to ask students…to come in and sit for just two motions?”
SSMU Equity Commissioners Justin Koh and Shaina Agbayani submitted one of the two motions, addressing the importance of the community’s support for the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office. “We decided to draft the motion in support for SEDE because we wanted SSMU to officially recognize the importance of the work that SEDE does in social justice, diversity and equity issues on campus,” Koh told The Daily by email.
Despite McGill’s previously released documents on the Principal’s Taskforce on Diversity, Excellence and Community Engagement, SEDE still requires a permanent funding structure and support from the university community, Koh said.
When asked about the effect of the GA’s scheduling delay on his motion, Koh said, “We don’t think the delay will have a big impact on the motion, this support needs to be affirmed for SEDE regardless, we might change some of the wording for the motion depending on the situation.”
The other motion submitted to the GA, which called for support of the Idle No More movement, had previously been submitted at SSMU Legislative Council. It was committed to the GA to be put to vote by the larger student body, as it was deemed to be an external issue.
This year’s GAs have experienced difficulties in generating student attendance: the fall semester’s GA briefly met its quorum of 100 students – with a maximum of half from any faculty or school – before transitioning into a consultative forum as people left. In the case of a consultative forum, motions are sent to a Legislative Council meeting, where councillors take into account the votes of the students.
When asked if students were losing interest in the GA format, Redel was unsure, but agreed that more discussion needed to be held on the actual content of a GA rather than simply the logistics.
Last semester, SSMU offered motion writing workshops in the weeks leading up to the GA. They also offered two workshops specific to the fall GA on the day of the assembly.
Redel said the turnout last semester was “okay,” with about thirty people in attendance at the workshops on the day of the GA. He said that SSMU hoped to continue offering these workshops once a week before the upcoming winter GA.
In the past, Redel said, students have submitted half of the motions, while councillors have submitted the other half. “I think there’s a lot of mystery around the GA because people think it has to be political,” Redel said. “I think that we want to better inform students not just about coming to the GA…[but also] helping them figure out how to make different kinds of motions so that we have a good balance of internal and external.”