This Monday, March 23, the McMaster Students Union will hold its annual General Assembly from 4 to 6 p.m. in Burridge Gym.
The General Assembly is a chance for the organization to provide an annual update to its membership and the only venue for undergraduates to submit motions. If quorum (3 percent of MSU membership) is met, the vote is binding on the organization.
This year, quorum is 632 students. Burridge Gym can accommodate at least 700 students, according to MSU Speaker, Mike Cheung.
This year, two motions were put forward:
- a motion submitted by Sean Haber for Bridges Café to obtain Halal, Kosher, and other certifications for major dietary restrictions based on religion,
- a motion submitted by Yara Shoufani for the MSU to join the international BDS movement. The latter would require divestment from any companies that profit from the occupation of Palestinian people.
Promoting the GA
Despite the significance of the General Assembly, promotion efforts have been criticized publicly.
Eric Gillis, SRA Social Sciences, thinks that promotion has been inadequate. Gillis created a Facebook event for the GA himself to spread the word.
“There has been next-to-none effort on social media channels, very few posters, and a tersely written letter from the President that makes it seem as if we’re trying to purposefully discourage a successful General Assembly—which is not our job. It’s our duty as an organization to ensure the success of our highest governing body,” he told The Silhouette.
Cheung says that the MSU has promoted the GA using the same promotional strategy they use for other campaigns.
“We have a large format poster, Sil ads, MUSC Banner, regular posters, Facebook and MSU website banners and articles, social media campaign, promo cards at some of our businesses and services,” says Cheung.
It is clear that most of the attention the General Assembly has received in the last two years has been due to the controversial BDS motion, not the promotional strategies of the MSU.
A year later
Given the resubmission of the BDS motion, attendees can expect that the conversation at the GA will be passionate and loud. Campaigning for both sides of the BDS debate has been even more controversial this year. In a video released on Friday, March 20, the anti-BDS initiative “Say Yes to Peace” called the BDS campaign “hateful.” The pro-BDS campaign created a Facebook page that played on the wording of the “Yes to Peace” initiative, using the phrase to convey their own message of “Yes to Peace, Yes to BDS.”
At last year’s GA, quorum was met for the majority of the meeting. More than two hours were spent debating the order of the agenda items. A motion that would inhibit the MSU from taking stances on “international crises” was placed before the BDS motion. This was the cause of great debate and controversy. Pro-BDS supporters argued that the motions should be placed chronologically. Anti-BDS supporters argued that other motions, like the one concerning accessibility, should be voted on first as they are issues are actually affect students.
With only two motions, this might not be an issue in the upcoming meeting. The order of the motions is determined according to the Roberts Rules of Order, the set of rules the MSU and its governing bodies use to maintain order and efficiency.
“Agenda items [are] placed in the order that which they were received unless a more logical order (for example, when the decision to pass one motion might allow for a subsequent motion to be out of order) is available,” Cheung explained.
Gearing up for Monday
The MSU departments involved with the execution of the GA have their work cut out for them on Monday, in the midst of an already tense campus atmosphere surrounding the motion.
Last year, the SRA ratified Bylaw 14, which mandates the creation of a new General Assembly Planning Committee. The committee has been meeting with Cheung to create a detailed plan for registration and communication for the event.
However, he thinks that some of the problems associated with last year’s GA meeting are subjective.
“The tone and atmosphere of the room can come off as chaotic with over 500 passionate members urging to speak. We are, however, working to ensure that we set the tone right from the beginning,” said Cheung.
As for claims of feeling uncomfortable, he says he understands that the GA is a stressful time for everyone.
“We have lots of volunteers that will be present to attend to any student that may feel uncomfortable for any reason, on the spot, one on one,” he added.
Ultimately, Cheung hopes the GA will be a good experience for students who attend.
“My hope for GA is that we will have a properly constituted meeting conducted in a fair and orderly fashion. That the meeting will allow for effective and honest debate, allowing any and all members to attain their fundamental right to be heard.”