On February 5, the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) attempted to hold a General Assembly (GA). Given that only seven constituents were present, the GA was not held, as SUS requires a minimum of 100 students present for a meeting to be considered a GA, and the meeting became a consultative forum instead.
One student in the Faculty of Science, Asa Kohn, alleges that the executives did not properly advertise the event to the student body beforehand. The GA was mentioned in a Facebook statement on January 16 regarding Law 21, a controversial provincial law which prohibits public employees from wearing religious symbols and disproportionately impacts marginalized religious groups such as Muslim, Jewish, and Sikh people. However, the location was not included in the Facebook post. The GA was then announced at the General Council (GC) meeting on January 22 at 7 p.m. This gave students less than 24 hours to submit motions, as the deadline was 11:59 p.m. on January 22.
The council had previously published the GA event to Facebook on Monday, January 20, leaving two days for students to collect the requisite 100 signatures for a motion to be submitted to the GC. Per minutes from the GC on January 22, when Kohn objected to this lack of adequate notice during the meeting, SUS VP Finance told him that the council assumed two days was sufficient time to collect signatures, as most science classes have over 100 people.
During the February 5 consultative forum, Kohn continued to express frustration with the council’s lack of communication. Council members cited difficulties in booking a room large enough for a general assembly, as well as mistakes made by the VP Communications (who was not present at the meeting) as reasons for their communicative shortcomings. When Kohn pressed them to hold another GA so students could have a chance to participate in student governance, council members maintained that there would be no interest among the student body for such an event, referencing last year’s similarly low turnout. However, Kohn claims that he spoke with many students who “felt strongly about Bill 21” while collecting signatures to organize a GA, and says he does not believe all science students are uninterested in student governance.
However, the council’s reluctance to hold a GA may not be wholly due to concerns about apathy among the student body, as the SUS executives state. During the January 7 Executive Meeting, the council discussed the possibility of hosting a GA in order to organize a strike against Law 21.
According to the meeting minutes from January 7, SUS executives were concerned that this strike, which would involve blocking access to classrooms, would be a “very direct” approach to expressing opposition to Law 21. Furthermore, a number of executives seemed to believe that science students would not be impacted by the bill, asking what “the real reason [they] would be going on strike” was and stating that, “as a group, we do not [seem to be] in support of the soft picket.”
In addition to Kohn’s concerns about the council’s lack of effort in informing the student body of the GA, Kohn has previously expressed worry over undemocratic procedures within SUS. From December 3, 2019, until January 22, 2020, SUS had no president, so attempts made by the Faculty of Education to contact the SUS council regarding actions against Law 21 failed, according to the January 7 meeting minutes.
SUS has an unfortunate history of violating their constitution; after the resignation of SSMU representative Moses Milchberg, the organization failed to hold a by-election to fill his role in accordance with their constitution. This incident, combined with their failure to post GC meeting minutes online within three days of their meetings, has led Kohn to speculate that SUS is undemocratic. However, the organization has not faced any consequences due to their unconstitutional actions, and insisted to Kohn at both the February 5 and January 22 meetings that they were acting in accordance with their bylaws regarding the organizing of a GA.