For the fifth year in a row, the DSU was unable to meet quorum, the minimum number of people required to pass new business, at its Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was held virtually through Microsoft Teams on Oct. 1.
The quorum requirement is one per cent of the student population, which according to Dalhousie University’s 2019 enrolment statistics is about 205 students. Twelve people were present at the 2020 AGM, including a member of the Dalhousie Gazette who was live-tweeting the event.
The quorum requirement was increased from 75 students to one per cent of the student population in 2016. That was the last meeting to hit quorum and also when bylaws were voted into effect, meaning the DSU is still operating on the 2016 bylaws.
DSU President Maddie Stinson would like to see the bylaws updated this year. She knew the DSU might face issues reaching quorum during the AGM, so bylaw amendments were never on the agenda for the Oct. 1 meeting. Instead, the DSU will be hosting a spring AGM, and they’ll spend the year working to increase student turnout after low numbers the first time around.
“We’re hoping to roll it into some kind of an event or contest, something that will encourage students to come out, but is still also neutral. Of course, we want students to come for the right reasons and in an unbiased manner,” Stinson said in an interview with the Gazette.
Prior to the 2016 quorum requirement change, DSU AGMs met quorum relatively consistently. When asked if she has considered reducing the quorum requirement, Stinson said significant student representation is important for voting on DSU business. In an attempt to make it easier for students to be involved in the voting, the DSU is planning to adopt voting by proxy, something used by other student unions, according to Stinson.
“[A student] could vote on behalf of all of these students as one person, which makes it easier for quorum to be matched, because not that many physical bodies have to be in the space or logged on,” she said.
Contention at AGM
Due to the inability to cast motions or votes, the 2020 AGM became more of an information session and updated DSU members on the activities of the executive. The meeting ended with a question and answer period.
During this period Mitchell Archibald, a Dal graduate student who will be running for board of governor’s representative on DSU council in the upcoming byelection, brought up an issue that plagued the term of the 2018-2019 DSU executive: the union’s relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
Mitchell asked a variety of questions, one of which was this: Of the current DSU senior staff, council and executive, how many hold or have held formal positions with CFS at the provincial or national level?
“It was a test,” Archibald said in an interview with the Gazette. “I wanted to give them the opportunity to be forthright, which they weren’t.”
In response to Mitchell’s question, Stinson said, “None of our current senior staff, executive, or council, to the best of my knowledge; and I can say this for certain with our staff and executives, that there are no currently held positions with the CFS and there are no affiliations that would constitute as a conflict of interest between CFS, our executive, and our staff.”
While no DSU senior staffers, councillors or executive members are currently holding positions at the CFS, many have in the past.
The CFS national executive report, released in November 2019, lists DSU Vice-President (Finance and Operations) Isa Wright as the national women’s representative. Trina James, DSU director of research and outreach, is also listed as national treasurer.
In an email to the Gazette, Stinson said she chose to answer the question selectively because she “assumed it was common knowledge that some of our exec and staff have past working relationships with CFS. Since CFS became a conversation on our campus, these affiliations have been widely discussed.” Stinson continued to say that she did not want to bring up specific professional experiences of members of the DSU team and seemingly target those experiences.