Another General Assembly has come and gone, with one of the lowest attendances in recent years. Only 16 voters were registered, meaning only 0.00065 per cent of the McMaster Students Union attended the event.
The annual General Assembly is meant to be a place where students who are not directly involved with student governance may have their voice heard. If the General Assembly hits quorum, which is three per cent of the MSU membership, all votes will be binding on the Student Representative Assembly, making it the highest form of governance in the student union. In the last 22 years, the General Assembly has only hit quorum three times.
This year marked a notable dip in attendance, with last year’s attendance hitting 50 at its peak, which remains a paltry number considering last year’s quorum was 660 MSU members.
Kathleen Quinn, incumbent SRA (Social Sciences) representative, cited lack of knowledge and interest in the union as the main reasons to why students were not coming out the General Assembly.
“I feel like we need to be doing a better job, we need to be getting in people’s faces and their classes and talking to them about why it’s important to be involved with their union, otherwise, this union will continue to be insignificant on this campus,” said Quinn.
Of the three motions put forward, two discussed changing the format of the General Assembly in hopes of engaging more students.
Quinn put forward a motion to introduce a general meeting in first semester in hopes of increasing interest in student governance earlier on. Quinn’s motion passed.
Maxwell Lightstone, an incumbent SRA (Engineering) representative echoed similar sentiments but proposed lowering quorum so motions passed by the General Assembly with an attendance lower than three per cent be binding, as well as holding a General Assembly every term and investigating the measures needed to allow motions passed at General Assembly with one percent be binding on the MSU as long as the SRA has ratified it. Lightstone’s tri-fold motion failed.
Quinn also put forward a motion asking the MSU to recognize education as a right and advocate for universal access. This motion passed.
The General Assembly continues to be an anomaly for the MSU with respect to student engagement, given that the MSU has some of the highest voter turnouts in elections and referenda. This past year’s presidential election saw a 44 per cent voter turnout and the Athletics and Recreation/Pulse expansion referendum saw a 30 per cent voter turnout.
In the past few years, the General Assembly has seen quorum a few times. In 2015, the General Assembly hit quorum due to the highly contentious motions, namely the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions campaign which called for the divestment from any corporations that profits from the occupation of Palestinian territory.
The General Assembly also hit quorum in 2012, but much of this is accredited not to the motions discussed but rather the extensive campaigning done by that year’s board of directors, which included its own webpage, well-designed posters and a popular Facebook page.
While the General Assembly remains the highest form of governance within the student union, it continues to lack any tangible results unless there is a controversial agenda or extensive marketing. Until at least one of those conditions are met, the General Assembly will continue to disappoint.