Commentary  Help us reform your GA

An open letter from the SSMU

In response to the editorial entitled “More than just going through the motions” (Page 19, October 3), we share the Daily’s concerns about the GA’s continuing struggles with low turnout and interest in considering major GA reforms. However, we would like to clarify a few items addressed in last week’s editorial.

First, the decision to host the GA early in the semester was made precisely with poor turnout in mind – historically, SSMU has been criticized for hosting the GA deep into midterm season. Timing the GA for the end of the first month of school was not without precedent, but, indeed, it was held earlier than in the last couple of years.

Second, GA publicity is always criticized. While we agree that SSMU could always do more publicity, we undertook substantial efforts to improve publicity efforts since last year, including more informative posters, social media presence, classroom announcements by executives to at least 4,000 students, chalkboard announcements, and requesting the help of Councillors, Senators, and Faculty Associations. GA motion deadlines were advertised via the SSMU listserv, website, and social media sites. It is also important to clarify that, just because a motion is signed by SSMU Councillors, does not mean it was written by them, but, rather, that they have leant it their support. If we could do it again, we would start publicity earlier, but, unfortunately, due to the MUNACA strike and other pressing matters, we found ourselves having an even busier September than expected.

Third, regarding a lack of promised reforms, don’t worry – we’re working on it! Given the concern last year over insufficient involvement of students in the GA reform process, we didn’t think it would be appropriate to enact sweeping reforms over the summer, and SSMU’s legislative process would have been hard pressed to approve major changes in time for this fall’s GA, even if it had been scheduled for the end of October. Initial work reviewing the GA was completed during the summer and reported on by the President and VP External to SSMU Council; SSMU’s bylaw review committee is now working on the issue. A document outlining the reform process – as well as other resources regarding GA reform –is available on the SSMU website’s GA page. We will soon be adding a survey to garner student feedback on different ways to reshape the GA. We do think, however, that the Speakers of Council did an excellent job of both making students feel welcome and of explaining the rules of debate, which was a request for reform voiced last year.

We hope the student body and campus media will actively participate in the continuing discussions around the General Assembly: it’s your democratic forum and it deserves to be shaped by you.

Signed by Maggie Knight, Emily Yee Clare, Joël Pedneault, Todd Plummer, Carol Fraser, & Shyam Patel: 2011-2012 SSMU Executive.