A controversial, unexpected motion proposing the election of Vice Presidents by the student body passed at this year’s general assembly. Though the majority of students in attendance voted yes, the motion is non-binding as quorum had been lost when the vote took place. The final vote count was 500 in favour, 14 opposed, and 83 abstaining.
This means the SRA will have further discussion on whether the MSU Constitution should be amended so that all students vote for vice-presidents. Currently, each of the three VPs (Education, Finance, and Administration) earn their positions through a vote in April by the newly elected SRA.
The motion was put forward by Eric Gillis, SRA Social Science, was for the MSU Vice-Presidents to be elected by the general student body.
“Currently students have no direct say,” Gillis told the assembly. “Instead, the SRA, a small body of about 30 students, decides who they will be. That needs to change.”
A friendly amendment was then added for the motion to instead call for a referendum on whether Vice-Presidents should be elected by the SRA or by students at large.
It was clear that the motion was controversial with many SRA members and MSU members who were not present at the meeting, many of whom expressed their dismay on Twitter.
— Mike Gill (@MiikeGill) March 23, 2015
— Matt Clarke (@mattmclarke) March 23, 2015
Jacob Brodka, current Vice-President Administration, was one of few people in the room who voted against the motion. “I voted against it because I didn’t think it was appropriate to first, introduce a surprise motion like this that has a fairly big impact on the organization without any prior information and have no discussion,” He was particularly concerned the vote was called to question before any discussion happened. Other members of the Board of Directors expressed similar sentiments.
Not allowing students to discuss an important topic such as VP elections is not democratic at all. Silencing students =/= integrity
— Rodrigo Narro Perez (@RodrigoNarro) March 23, 2015
Incoming MSU President Ehima Osazuwa, set to start his term on May 1, disagreed.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in the SRA discussing whether we should send the procedure of how VP’s are elected to a referendum. #McSU
— Ehima Osazuwa (@Ehimaa) March 23, 2015
“I just think there’s an appropriate avenue for thoughtful discussion for things like that, the basis of democracy is educating the membership and allowing them to make an informed vote,” said Brodka. Miranda Clayton, 2015-2016 SRA Science, seconded the motion. “When I was an MSU member, as an MSU I had no say in who my VPs were. If you look at this way, there’s one president and three VPs, and together the three VPs probably make more important decisions than the President does but I have no say in who those people are,” said Clayton.
Criticize away, trying to get students a say in deciding whether or not they should elect VPs is not something I will be ashamed of. #McSU
— Eric Gillis (@ericgillis) March 23, 2015
“I remember watching the livestream as an MSU member and just feeling angry, because there’s people talking but there’s no alley for me to put in my comments and actually have a say, it made me feel very powerless as an MSU member,” said Clayton.
She said that people are very misinformed, which is why we need to have a referendum to engage everyone in the conversation.
“It should be put out to the MSU body at large,” said Clayton.
Brodka anticipates a productive discussion at SRA.
“So this will go to the SRA and hopefully there will be more thoughtful discussion happening there,” he said.
When asked whether the diversity of the BoD in terms of gender and race would increase with reform, Gillis said “I sure hope so.”
Although many in attendance were impressed with the improvements from last year’s General Assembly, the fact that there was no discussion on this issue led some to question whether General Assembly itself needs to be changed to be more conducive to constructive discussion.
“I think we need more time to discuss things like this at General Assembly” said Osazuwa.