Copyright © 2020 Federation of Students, University of Waterloo operating as Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association
The Breakdown: What is a General Meeting?
With the Canadian federal election fast approaching, you’ve likely been reminded or encouraged to exercise your right to vote. Whether you plan on voting or not, the fact remains that the franchise (a fancy word for voting) is the best way for your voice to be heard and to actively shape the society you’re part of.
You’ve probably also heard us mention how all undergraduate students are members of WUSA, but did you know that comes with certain perks (besides, free food)? As a member of WUSA, you have the right to attend, participate, and vote in our General Meetings! This means you get to put forward the changes you want to see on campus and vote on suggested changes from others.
Tell me more, tell me more...
A General Meeting is an official WUSA town hall, which takes place twice a year, open to all undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo - that’s over 30,000 people! Students, like you and me, have the opportunity to submit proposals, suggest points of discussion, and ultimately decide how to shape the campus life for undergraduate students. Sure, there are many administrative formalities, such as approving minutes and appointing auditors, but the bottom line is that this is your chance to clarify points with our executives and student councillors, and provide valuable feedback on your experience at Waterloo. For example, the next time someone suddenly requests a fee increase, you can be there to ask why and how it's going to affect students.
"General meetings are a great way to hold WUSA accountable and to be heard on this campus.”
The thing is though, General Meetings need a quorum of 200. In non-legal speech that basically means that there is a minimum number of students required for the meeting to conduct its business. The tricky part is that a quorum “check” can be called at any time. Unfortunately, in the past this has been used as a tool to stall progress and sweep student motions or bylaw changes under the rug.
That’s why we need your help! We would love to see more of you at our General Meetings. While we have a huge student population, only a small fraction actually attend meetings and vote on the resolutions that affect everyone.
"General Meetings are a great way to hold WUSA accountable and to be heard on this campus,” said WUSA President Michael Beauchemin. “The financial status is laid bare for members to see in the auditor’s report and you get a chance to ask questions and hold your execs and councillors directly accountable. There’s also the opportunity to make sure good things keep happening: one General Meeting I attended approved a fee increase that ultimately went to a newly created service, RAISE, and the crowd went wild. It was seen as a big win for racialized student advocates."
So, if you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes for us or want to take the reins on shaping your student experience, then our General Meetings have you covered.
Blast from our past successes
Not convinced? Let’s take a quick look back at some of the exciting changes from our past General Meetings:
We ratified a referendum for our Student Legal Protection Program, which was proposed by the Students’ Council and came into effect this fall, bringing legal advice and representation to our students; especially important with the recent housing controversies.
We ratified a WUSA fee increase that ended up supporting the implementation of a racialized student-run service - Racial Advocacy for Inclusion, Solidarity and Equity (RAISE) - which is working towards addressing racism and xenophobia on campus.
We approved an investigation into Co-operative Education and Career Action [external link] following an increase in co-op fees, which developed the co-op fee deep dive project. You can learn more about the project on the Co-operative Education website [external link].
Looking to the future
If we’ve got you hook, line and sinker (have we mentioned there’s free food?), then make sure you don’t miss our next General Meeting on October 22, 2019 at 4:30 p.m. in the SLC Great Hall.
And lucky for you the agenda is yet to be announced, which means we are still accepting agenda items! If you have an issue you want addressed by our executives, you can submit your items to firstname.lastname@example.org until September 30 at 11:59 PM.
Why is it so important to submit your own ideas? Well, in the past your suggestions have been able to effect some exciting changes. Like in October 2018. A group of students requested that commercial operations budgets be made available to students (in accordance with confidentiality and privacy laws) and in March 2017, the request for a deep dive into CECA’s co-op fee came from one of you!
But what if I can’t make it?
We get it. You might be slammed with your class schedule and still have to study for that test next week. Or maybe you’re away on a co-op term. No sweat! You can still participate, either by tuning into our live stream or voting by proxy and allowing that trusted friend (who is going) to vote on your behalf. The deadline to have your proxy submitted is 4:30 p.m. on October 21. If you missed it entirely, but would like an overview of the discussions and decisions, you can read the meeting minutes and agenda on our website.