By: Takhliq Amir
The first 2017-2018 meeting of the Student Representative Assembly, the governing body of the McMaster Students Union, was held on Sept. 10. Limited information was available to those not able to attend, however, because the usual method of online live streaming was unavailable.
“The live stream was not available this past Sept. 10 meeting due to a logistical error…. Members will sometimes live tweet the meeting if no stream is available, but meetings are long and can be exhausting,” said Helen Zeng, the MSU Speaker.
As elected faculty representatives of their student bodies, members of the SRA meet biweekly to discuss issues concerning undergraduates. Meetings are open to all, and the agenda and supporting materials are made available on the MSU website on the Wednesday preceding the meeting.
To ensure that their constituents can hold members accountable, the SRA has an operating policy titled “Communication & Outreach” that aims to outline the members’ responsibilities in making information available to students in a timely manner.
One of the goals of the operating policy is disseminate information to students in a timely manner. Communication materials are required to be completed within 24 hours of a meeting, and once approved by the Speaker, each caucus is responsible for disseminating the material on their social media accounts within 24 hours of receiving it.
“The operating policy does its job at keeping the assembly accountable to a standard level, but any other initiatives are up to assembly members to take on…. The SRA will do their very best to engage the student population, but engagement is never an easy task,” Zeng said.
“Moreover, there are extra steps that the SRA takes in order to be accessible. We made a presence at Horizons Successfest to promote meeting and committees to first year students, we had material at Clubsfest to promote the assembly, there is a window banner in MUSC that shows all the meeting dates, and SRA members will make numerous outreach and engagement efforts on their respective social media accounts,” she added.
“It’s difficult to live tweet a meeting and pay attention at the same time. Additionally, there are issues with the live-stream itself.”
Meeting minutes, however, are often published two weeks after each meeting, and are inaccessible until then. There is still much that can be done to improve the accessibility of the SRA, a sentiment shared by Uwais Patel, SRA Social Science.
“The current structure of the SRA’s accessibility, in my opinion, is pretty minimal,” said Patel.
“The advantage that I see is that an effort is at least being made. Meetings are live-streamed, discussions are recorded, and everything is posted on the MSU Website with the hopes of the organization keeping itself transparent and accountable to the public.”
Patel also noted the challenges that come with communicating with one’s constituents.
“It’s difficult to live tweet a meeting and pay attention at the same time. Additionally, there are issues with the live-stream itself. For one, only one mic is available (placed in the middle of the room) to pick up all words said by assembly members. Constituents in the past have complained about not being able to hear.”
The SRA has acknowledged the issue and has voiced its commitment to improving the accessibility of its meetings in the future.
“Meetings will be live streamed from now on and we are working with the MSU Communications Officer to create more streamlined media to promote agendas before meeting. As well, following the meetings,” said Zeng.
“[Meeting minutes] can take a while, [so] we have the Operating Policy that allows SRA members to summarize meetings as they see fit (videos, media, class talks etc.) and promote this to the general MSU membership.”