SSMU councillors voted overwhelmingly against adopting as policy for the remainder of the academic year the six General Assembly (GA) motions that failed to reach quorum at the event and in the subsequent online ratification.
SSMU President Kay Turner argued in Thursday’s meeting that Council could justifiably adopt the policies on its own initiative, based on what she said was high participation in the online ratification.
“It’s rare for us to get that number, and it would be a huge waste to throw it away,” Turner said.
By-laws adopted last fall require GA motions passed with fewer than two per cent of SSMU members in attendance – 397 students – be submitted for ratification online over the following two days. Only 250 showed up to the GA, with no more than 110 present at any one time.
But the online vote also failed to reach its quorum – set at 15 per cent of SSMU membership – with only 1,669 students – 8.4 per cent – voting online.
Club rep Cameron McKeich supported Turner’s motion and was satisfied with the GA turnout. He said voters were part of a core group of interested students that SSMU would have trouble expanding.
“The constitution is a malleable document. There’s no point in defending a process that’s clearly broken,” said McKeich. “To ignore that input because of a technicality would take away the integrity of the GA.”
Many councillors objected to bending SSMU constitutional by-laws. Engineering representative Manosij Majumdar was worried the motion would set a dangerous precedent for rejecting quorum.
“That would be like winning a video game by reprogramming it,” he said.
Turner maintained the motion respected SSMU’s constitution, claiming that SSMU Council is a separate body allowed to set policies.
Turner argued that the bylaws were nonsensical, and suggested amending them to avoid future grey areas in quorum debates. She stressed the GA motions would be voted on again at the Winter GA regardless of Council’s decision.
Alexandre Shee, the Law Student Association’s VP External, wondered what number of votes Council considered sufficient for creating SSMU policy if quorum is to be ignored.
“Should we listen to the silent majority or the vocal minority? Maybe some students read the motions and decided they weren’t interested,” he said.
Devin Alfaro, SSMU VP External, thought the eight per cent of students who voted online was a substantial number compared to the 29.8 to 35.8 per cent voter turnout in the last four SSMU elections, given that GA by-laws prohibit campaigning and restrict the voting period to 48 hours following the GA. He added that there are typically about 100 people actively campaigning to encourage voter turnout over the six-day election periods.
Engineering representative Courtney Lessard objected to the motion based on the contention over certain GA question and the razor-thin margin with which those questions passed at the event.
Alfaro hoped the motion would help SSMU improve on the criticism it most often meets – that it doesn’t prioritize student consultation, as was the case last spring, when SSMU informed The Tribune they would force the newspaper into independence only two days before the motion went to council.
“The [GA] system is broken, and this is an interim, band-aid solution.”
While Council debated, VP Finance & Operations Tobias Silverstein giggled and whispered with Tribune editors in the gallery. He returned to his seat at the table when it came time to vote.