Feds’ AGM attracts noticeably low turnout despite polarizing issues on the agenda

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Although student turnout was visibly lower than the most recent GM in March and last year’s AGM, debate among students lasted for about two and half hours on three motions, two of them contentious in nature. Before the AGM, WPIRG handed out flyers that read, “we won’t rent Schembri.” Students took a large group photo in solidarity with students affected by the recent developments at Columbia One.


<strong>Re-opening board meetings (motion fails: 26 votes against to 25 votes in favour)</strong>


Despite heated debate online, and scrutiny surrounding Feds&rsquo; board decision to re-close board of directors&rsquo; meetings earlier in the year, the vote at AGM to re-open meetings ultimately failed.


The ideas of accountability and transparency drove the debate around the motion to reopen the board of directors&rsquo; meetings.


UW student Andrew Reeves initially presented the motion to the board but was unable to attend the meeting due to a midterm.


Third-year music student Thomas Little who attended in Reeves&rsquo; place reiterated his sentiments, &ldquo;Like Andrew said, it&rsquo;s sad this motion even had to be brought up.


&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t seem to mesh with the transparency platform,&rdquo; he added; referencing the platform the exec ran on.


Multiple students argued that it not only hurt Feds&rsquo; transparency, but degrades the organization&rsquo;s accountability.


Councillor Carly McCready, who argued against re-opening the meetings, raised the point that students barely attend open council meetings. She questioned the notion that students will actually attend and become more involved if the board of directors&rsquo; meetings were to be re-opened.


Brad Kelley, a partner at Global Governance Advisors, spoke against the motion and expressed &ldquo;shock&rdquo; at the fact students are raising this issue when they &ldquo;don&rsquo;t hold their council accountable,&rdquo; referring to the lack of student attendance and engagement at monthly council meetings.


In response, Dave Beverly Foster, a 4A environment and resource studies student, spoke in favour of the motion.


&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not sure the way we increase student turnout is by limiting their opportunities to participate and get involved.&rdquo;


Chris Lolas, chair of the board, then read a statement the board drafted the night prior to the AGM expressing their neutral stance on re-opening board meetings.


Part of the statement stated: &ldquo;Among numerous recommendations was one to return to closed board meetings because the committee felt, over the previous year, that the presence of a gallery created a disorderly atmosphere during the meeting.&rdquo;


Ben Balfour, Feds&rsquo; VPOF, agreed and spoke against the motion to reopen board meetings, saying that when millions of dollars run through a body like board, it&rsquo;s important that members of board are able to speak freely and ask the &ldquo;stupid questions,&rdquo; before they make decisions on financial business matters.


A high number of Feds&rsquo; staff was in attendance during the vote on this motion. Low student turnout at the AGM may have affected the result, however, Feds president Danielle Burt said students had their chance.


&ldquo;If students wanted [board] to be open, the vote was there,&rdquo; Burt said.


<strong>SLC Vendors Alley (motion passes: 36 votes in favour, 18 votes against)</strong>


Shiffa Abbas, 4A honours biology, said the SLC should be &ldquo;a friendly, safe student space,&rdquo; when introducing her motion to ban all financial services and companies in SLC&rsquo;s Vendors Alley at the AGM.


Abbas also argued it is Feds&rsquo; responsibility to provide students education on financial literacy.


Hannah Enns, a 3A peace and conflict student, spoke in support of the motion, saying the SLC should be dedicated to student life, not &ldquo;a bankers&rsquo; paradise.&rdquo;


&ldquo;Having credit card companies is another way of not letting us have ownership of our own building [SLC],&rdquo; Enns said.


Students who spoke against the motion said SLC should keep diversity that gives students choice, and avoids the emergence of monopolies.


Balfour wanted students to keep in mind that $120,000 in revenue is generated from SLC marketplace, 12 per cent coming from financial companies.


The discussion briefly touched upon how this motion would affect CIBC, as a tenant of the SLC, where they have the right to market and advertise their services.


President Burt reminded attendees that this motion would only affect BMO and the $15,000 in revenue Feds receives from the bank as a result of being able to advertise their services in Vendors&rsquo; Alley.


After an amendment was rejected to change the motion to say that credit card companies should not be allowed in the SLC more than student clubs, students voted in favour of the motion.


<strong>SLC accessibility (motion passes with amendment)</strong>


This motion proposed that Feds work with the UW administration to improve or &ldquo;upgrade&rdquo; the SLC entrance facing the parking lot outside of PAC to &ldquo;one that is accessible and automatic by August 2015,&rdquo; and passed with an amendment attached.


The debate surrounded the issue of the timeline of the audit. Balfour said, &ldquo;I would not feel comfortable saying I could get it done in that timeframe.&rdquo;


He added that it would not be fair to impose a project of this scale on the next VPOF.


As a result, an amendment was proposed and passed stating that there should be a progress report ready for April 1.


A second amendment was then proposed asking that the progress report incorporate a completion date for the audit. This proposed amendment failed, partly based on Balfour expressing that he would not feel comfortable imposing this type of timeline and project onto the next VPOF.


One of the main arguments brought out by opponents of this motion is that Feds would be financially on the hook for costs of the audit.


Members of the exec and Lolas, chair of the board, assured students Feds would not be on the hook, unless the project is considered a capital investment.


Maintenance or infrastructure improvement projects fall under the university&rsquo;s responsibility.


<strong>Points of Interest</strong><br />
<br />
Feds&rsquo; net worth increased by $1 million, but Feds lost $60,000 in the past year


Revenues increased to $2.5 million