Last year, the MSU managed to get close to 670 students to fill up Burridge Gym for its annual general assembly. But at Tuesday evening’s assembly, attendance peaked at 60, and fewer than 30 students participated in voting.
Because this year’s quorum of 629 students was not reached, votes were not binding on the MSU. The SRA, though, will consider the motions discussed. The results of the votes will be available to the SRA but its members have no obligation to base their decision on the voting results.
The only motion on the agenda at the start of the meeting was brought by Fossil Free McMaster. Led by Hamilton resident Elysia Petrone, the group wanted the University to evaluate how its endowment funds are being invested.
Upset by the low attendance, Eric Gillis, an incoming Social Sciences SRA representative, put forth a motion for the MSU to create a new position assigned to promoting the general assembly.
“There are 28 people here and half of them are in the SRA,” said Gilis.
Gillis later added that he didn’t expect the motion to pass. “It’s just to make a point and generate discussion,” he said.
Students who spoke up didn’t agree with the idea to create a new position to promote the assembly. Some proposed that the duty be given to the MSU’s social media coordinator. Others asked questions about the MSU’s communication department at large.
“I’ve heard a lot of student feedback … that a lot of the time students don’t find out about things like a chat with the President until the very last minute,” said Kara McGowen of the Inter-Residence Council. “I think that might be more something to consider than creating a specific position for this two-hour event.”
Current MSU President Siobhan Stewart also weighed in on the discussion.
“Is March just a bad time to have the General Assembly?” she asked.
At the end of the meeting, Gillis’s motion failed with none in favour, 21 opposed, and five abstentions.
The lone agenda item for business contained a motion for the MSU to lobby McMaster’s President and Board of Trustees to “immediately cease any new investments in fossil fuel companies” or in assets that have holdings in such companies.
The motion also proposed that the MSU investigate its own financial practices and divest accordingly.
While some SRA members expressed their enthusiasm for the cause, some were doubtful about whether or not the campaign had garnered enough student input.
Petrone said that, so far, 500 students have signed a petition passed around during her class visits. She said the group is awaiting a reply to their letter from either the McMaster president Patrick Deane or someone else in the administration.
After some discussion, the motion was passed with 14 in favour, 7 opposed, and 7 abstentions.
Only about 0.13 per cent of full-time undergraduates showed up to vote at the general assembly, whereas quorum requires attendance of at least 3 per cent. Before last year, quorum had not been reached since 1995.