For the student who attended last week’s General Assembly, it will not come as a surprise that many of Congress’ newest policy ideas were passed, and that Activity Period proved to be quite eventful. After a few hiccups with releasing the changes to the public, and a late announcement of the General Assembly, the turnout was fair and ample enough to reach quorum.
Most of the changes proposed by student government were easily passed, and quickly voted on by the students present. However, a number of occurrences and proposals resulted in debate, questions and an administration guest. As a matter of fact, Adam Reider, a student life animator at the College was present to discuss his view of the proposal to remove the vote of the administrative representative on the Congress board. Ingrained in his arguments were the notions that student life animators are hired to represent and speak on the behalf of students, and that a growing distance between administrative members and students may result in a severe change in atmosphere at the College. These argument, as expected, caused increasing nervousness among Congress members, especially with the student union moving forth with the accreditation vote coming up in just a short few weeks.
Overall, the members of Congress present to answer the questions of the student body offered some contradicting arguments, namely the general inclusion of administrative member Trudy St. Croix, student life animator, in Congress discussions, as well as the importance of her opinion on the board. Many of the members described the potential change as a symbolic gesture to put the power solely in the hands of members of the student union.
The crowd quickly joined in on the discussion with a series of thought-provoking questions, namely the difference between removing a veto power and removing a vote. As argued by a few students in the audience, Trudy’s vote cannot rule over any Congress decision, whether the government body is unanimous or not.
After an increasing number of concerns and questions, and stressed Congress members, the student body voted firmly against this proposed amendment, enabling the administrative member on Congress, Trudy St. Croix, the right to vote for at least the following year.
The next resolution having enticed debate related to the Honorary Congress member position being revamped into a first year member at large position. A student mentions the importance of having Congress experience in the room, and that in the rare event where elected members would all be student with no experience, an honorary member would be important. However, despite these concerns the vote put this change into motion, and the amendment was passed.
In important news regarding communications with Congress, and strongly affecting our news outlet, the student body passed an amendment requiring all running candidates in any MSU elections to agree to publish their ranking following the voting procedure. This was not allowed last year, despite many inquiries, and is now a requirement for all candidates that is included in the electoral rules issued out by Congress.
In more controversial news, an amendment was passed regarding document request from Congress, and more specifically regarding the vote necessary to stagnate or pass these types of communications. The student government has proven to take part in transparency initiatives at the College, namely with the upcoming publication of club budgets, financial reports and much more on a website the student body has yet to see. Overall, the amendment has simply changed the way Congress is allowed to refuse to divulge information in the sense that it makes it harder for the body to come to a negative consensus.
Lastly, it is important to note that a few inquiries regarding Congress members’ right to vote during the General Assembly took place. While this procedure may allow disapproval of Congress members for their resolutions to be voiced and may be a normal function of any resolution-making body, the overall structure and size of the GA could make it irrelevant. As Congress passes its proposed resolutions within the body first, it is to be assumed that a strong majority of its members agree with presented amendments at the GA. It also has to be pointed out that General Assemblies at the College usually only contain around 60 to 70 students, including Congress members. Considering this unbalanced proportion of student vs Congress members, students must decide for themselves if this makes the votes unfair, and consequently proposed amendments easier to pass.
Written by MWR Executive, Véronique Leblanc