Fall reading break, clubs library debated at Feds’ March general meeting


A fall reading break, a clubs library, and a bylaw amendment were the controversial issues at Feds’ March general meeting. About 200 students gathered at noon March 24 for the five-hour meeting.

Fall reading week motion passes with amendments

The first issue to be debated was a private member’s submission to call for the implementation of a fall reading break.

The motion stated that mental health, stress, and student workload are “lowering the quality of life and academics at the University of Waterloo,” and therefore asked that students call for the implementation of a fall reading break and task the executive of Feds to work with the university on implementation.

AHS student Gabriela Ghanem spoke in favour of the motion.

“We are one of the only campuses in southern Ontario that doesn’t have such a break,” Ghanem said. “Why would we not support such an issue?”

All those who spoke against the motion credited their lack of support to the motion’s vague wording. 

“This motion states the Federation unanimously supports a fall reading break,” said software engineering student Joshua Kalpin. “You have to understand there are consequences to every decision and they’re not being stated in this motion.”

Kalpin said some of these consequences to students could include a shortened orientation week, less time between the end of classes and the beginning of exams, and having exams on Sundays.

David Birnbaum cited a survey of engineering students that said 66 per cent were in favour of a fall reading break, but when brought to the dean of engineering, Birnbaum said he was told that the information was “not helpful to the dean of engineering because she doesn’t know what students are willing to give up for those two days.

“To support this motion outright would be foolhardy,” Birnbaum said. 

After a number of motions to defer and table the discussion on fall reading week failed, arts student Rebeccah Redden motioned to add an amendment to say that the implementation of the fall reading break would be under the parameters of what students want. Kalpin added that this should be determined by referendum.

The motion to call for a fall reading break passed with these amendments.

General meeting agendas now set in stone

A motion to change the way Feds general meetings are run sparked another heated debate at the general meeting.

Previously, new business could be brought up at general meetings without being on the agenda. The motion, which was already passed by the board of directors before the meeting and just needed approval of the membership, would change this procedure so that “all business to be transacted must be included in the notice of the meeting.”

Chair of the Feds Board of Directors Luke McIntosh said the amendment would allow for transparency by “making sure that things have to go on the agenda beforehand so everyone is aware of what’s happening at the general meetings.”

Arts student Hannah Enns said she was against the amendment because the only way to add items to the agenda is through the board of directors, which is limiting to students.

Tessa Alexanian, a systems design student, agreed with Enns saying that there had been two motions brought forward to the board that were turned down for the agenda of the March general meeting.

Math student Elizabeth McFaul addressed this concern by noting that although the new bylaw would curtail new business in meetings, it would also limit the board’s ability to decide what goes on the agenda.

A motion was made to pass the bylaw with the provision that it wouldn’t take effect during the March general meeting by arts student Simon Thibodeau. This motion ultimately passed, leading to the members of the assembly bringing forward new business.

Board of directors at-large seats filled

Matt McLean, Rebecca Little, Amy Zhou, Paula Colaso, and Qusai Al-Nazer were all elected to board of directors at-large positions. A total of 80 votes were required for candidates to be elected, with all the newly elected members receiving 84 votes or higher. 

Clubs library coming soon

The appointment of a clubs library became a point of contention during the AGM when Cat Mercer, president of the Waterloo Science Fiction and Fantasy Club (WatSFiC), made the motion to amend the agenda to include a motion to have the library re-established.

The motion specified that SLC 2139 or a room of a comparable size should be converted into a clubs library for all registered clubs on campus to use as a storage place for their books. The Waterloo Public Interest and Research Group (WPIRG) volunteered in conjunction with this motion to supply the library with a desk as well as act as librarians at no cost to students.

WPIRG also owns 2,000 books which they intend to store in the library with other large student groups including the Muslim Students Association.

“Students are transitory,” said Simon Thibodeau, student and member of WatSFiC. He added that without a place to store their collection of 10,000 books, all books had been dispersed among different club members’ homes making them inaccessible to many members. Most of these students are also subletting making it difficult to keep the books over time. 

According to Mercer, representatives of WatSFiC have been pushing for this library over the last two years by filling out the space survey, attending focus groups, and backing certain Feds candidates who offered to support their cause. The matter has not been taken to Students’ Council to date. 

Natasha Pozega, VP operations and finance, revealed some preliminary statistics from the Feds Student Space Survey, the results of which have not been formally released. Out of 4,038 responses about what students wanted to add to the SLC 20.7 per cent of students voted for more study spaces compared to 1.6 per cent which mentioned a library — including 14 votes for a place to return UW library books. 

“If you’re using a general meeting to push this through when there are 836 students who want more study space, isn’t that a little bit selfish?” Pozega said.

SLC 2139 is currently being used as a silent study space, in which students are present nearly 24/7 according to Scott Pearson, manager of the SLC.

The motion passed with a vote of 87 to 22.