Starting with the annual general meeting this October, all future Feds general meetings will require a quorum attendance of 200 members, significantly higher than the 50-member quorum required at past general meetings. The change was made by the Feds board of directors and will need to be ratified at the next general meeting.
In the past, general meetings have suffered low turnout rates, delaying the start of meetings or leading to meetings having to be ended before all decisions are made. At the October 2014 general meeting, quorum was too low to reach decisions on matters such as the long-range plan. At the most recent general meeting this past March, quorum was lost before a vote could be taken to ratify the opening of board of directors meetings to all students. This lead to board meetings once again being closed to students.
To deal with the challenges of increasing quorum, Feds intends to market their meetings and further emphasize communication with students, said Chris Lolas, Feds president.
“I’ve recently been looking at other student association’s bylaws as part of our elections procedures review,” said Lolas. “With the general meeting approaching in October, I thought this was a good time to make the change.”
Lolas also noted that students have been asking for significant increases in quorum since his term started.
Earlier this year, David Birnbaum, an engineering student, created the online campaign #TakeFedsBack in which he cites multiple shortcomings while also rallying students for a referendum which would overhaul the current Feds system. On the campaign’s Facebook page, Birnbaum wrote, “It is unfortunate that the only way for real students to have a say in their student union is to try to call for a referendum. But if that is what it has come to, that is what we as students need to do.”
When asked, Lolas doesn’t specifically say whether the petition influenced the board’s decision, but he does emphasize the need for student involvement.
With the previous required quorum so low, a large number of voting members were not necessarily students, said Birnbaum.
“I’ve been at quite a few of the general meetings and you can see the [Feds] staff, they do a very good job of not sitting together but you can see them circling around and they all vote and they all vote the same way. There’s quite consistently a Feds-staff voting block, and they’re not even students.”
With a higher quorum, staff voting would become more diluted.
“Fundamentally, the staff that work for a student union shouldn’t have voting rights the same as students,” said Birnbaum.
As Birnbaum moves forward with his petition and with the next general meeting approaching, Birnbaum hopes to have the student body decide on whether or not to allow staff voting.