Several proposed changes to the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union bylaws are currently up in the air as the meeting, which cost the union around $2,100, ended only a few seconds after its start.
The Special General Meeting on Feb. 6 was adjourned immediately after it was called to order, since the USSU chairperson counted the attendants at 6 p.m. and determined a lack of quorum.
The chair’s actions were met with general discontent from the students present, some of which even attempted to challenge the chair’s decision.
The students’ complaint was that the chair did not wait to reach the quorum before starting the meeting. In the past, Annual General Meetings and SGMs have started late, reportedly while the USSU actively gathered more students.
USSU President Regan Ratt-Misponas says that despite this precedent, the union respects the chair’s decision.
“As years go by, there is a new chairperson that is selected and our chairperson made the call to start at 6 p.m.,” Ratt-Misponas said. “It’s unfortunate that those amendments weren’t able to be decided on. However, we do have to respect the call that was made by the chair.”
One of the main reasons behind the SGM, the first to be called by the union in almost a decade, was to follow up on a group of international students’ request for a change in the bylaws. The amendments would have allowed international students, and other groups with similar course-credit restrictions, to run for executive positions in the students’ union.
This SGM was required to make the amendments in time for the USSU elections in March.
Akingbehin Akinwande, the International Students’ Association president, is part of the group that has been asking for this change since September 2019. The group has expressed discontent with the way their petition has been handled, and Akinwande says that the SGM was another letdown for them.
“To get this amendment, even to this stage, was so much struggle,” Akinwande said. “I was ready to make a compromise. Although the USSU didn’t really include us in this process, at least this is a step in achieving something. But then they shut it down again.”
Akinwande was among the students who spoke up after the SGM was adjourned, in an impromptu “town hall” with the USSU where students voiced a wide range of concerns and suggestions.
Ratt-Misponas says that a main takeaway from the town hall was that students felt frustrated with the procedure and protocol of meetings.
“All those ideas, all those suggestions, all that frustration that was sensed in the room, we got to hear firsthand. And so that is something that our executive team is listening to,” Ratt-Misponas said.
“[We had] the opportunity to discuss with students some of the concerns that they had, but also some of the ideas that they had for how to improve our services and the student experience overall. So I don’t think that was a waste.”
Given the USSU bylaws regarding general meetings, it will not be possible to call another SGM before the students’ union elections; international students will remain ineligible for executive positions. Ratt-Misponas says the possibility of another SGM is now up to the University Students’ Council members.
Akinwande is content that students at the SGM seemed engaged and ready to voice their concerns to the USSU, but he is keeping his plans private for the time being.
“I don’t think I will tell my plans because I just don’t trust the USSU anymore. We tried to work with them on just an amendment and they obviously shut it down,” Akinwande said.
“Students are seeing what’s going on and I could feel the dissent; I could feel the frustration in the voices of some of those students and that’s something [we can use] … to make a statement that strikes a chord in the USSU, and perhaps forces them to make the change that is necessary for students.”
Ana Cristina Camacho/ News Editor
Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editorinternational students student politics student voice USask USSU