Special student centres, CFS funds, and cyber attacks, oh my!
A slow start to the 2023 University of Regina Students’ Union’s (URSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) left many students frustrated, accomplishing only three of 24 Special Business items on the agenda. A Special General Meeting will be scheduled for the remaining 21 motions.
At 5:31 p.m., March 2, 31 minutes after the scheduled 5 p.m. starting time of the meeting, the 2023 URSU AGM began. A series of technical difficulties headed the meeting with a cyber attack invading the Zoom call. In a matter of minutes, the participant count plummeted from 600 to 200 while URSU staff worked to kick bots out of the chat. Some students on the Zoom call were mistakenly kicked off, but were encouraged to rejoin.
Minutes into the beginning of the meeting, Zoom comments were disabled due to inappropriate and racist remarks made in the chat. Members of the meeting requested that Sami Pritchard (the intended AGM chairperson) re-enable the chat function to allow students to participate in the meeting. The request was approved. At 5:47 p.m., Sami Pritchard was approved to chair the meeting.
The Approval of Minutes for the October 28, 2021 Annual General Meeting was then approved. There was no URSU AGM in 2022, meaning there were no minutes from 2022 to approve.
Beginning in Special Business, Tayef Ahmed, an RPIRG representative, made the move to strike motions 10.1.5. – Ski and Snowboard Club Levy, 10.1.6 – Articles of Incorporation, 10.1.20. Student & Pregnant Parents Coalition Policy, 10.1.21. – Immunocompromised Women, Trans, and Gender Nonconforming People’s Working group policy, and 10.1.24. – Radio Station and Incubator Services. Ahmed cited reasons for amending the agenda for reasons of time, and noted that many motion requests requested student levies or money, which needs to be approved by a referendum.
Many of these motions were requesting more money of students without students’ consent. Article IX, Motion 12.1. of the URSU Constitution states “Existing levies may be adjusted by no more than 20 per cent through a motion at an Annual General Meeting. Structural changes (e.g.: modifying a levy from opt-in to opt-out or vice versa), or changes of greater than 20 per cent must be performed through a referendum.” Without approval through a referendum, even if passed, some motions would be seen as invalid because they exceeded the 20 per cent margin. The amendment to the agenda was struck down 45 per cent opposed, 42 per cent in favour, and 13 per cent abstained.
The Special Business motions began with Motion 10.1.1. – Resolution to Amend Article XIII of the Constitution: Service Centres arguing to change the language in the URSU Constitution to accurately describe independent services who operate in correlation with URSU. The motion argues the changes to this would create different avenues for creating more student spaces and centres.
The Carillon, UR Pride, and University of Regina Engineers without Boarders are all examples of service centres that exist on campus, but questions of what qualifies as a service centre were raised by much of the membership. An amendment to hold a Special General Meeting in October better describing service centres was passed with 77 per cent in favour. The amended first motion went to vote needing two thirds of votes in favour to pass. It was voted down with 55 per cent in favour, 37 per cent opposed, and 8 per cent abstained.
Motion 10.1.2. – Condemnation of Hate Speech, moved by Siddhi Shah, was passed with little discussion, but with an emphasis on a zero-tolerance attitude and repercussions for those who participate in hate speech on campus. The second motion passed with 82 per cent in favour, 9 per cent against, and 9 per cent abstained.
A motion to recess was made and then struck down after 10.1.2. was approved at approximately 8:15 p.m.. The motion was moved by Tayef Ahmed when many participants were exiting the meeting, as it had surpassed the three-hour scheduled time. Some participants explained they were feeling exhausted after the late start to the meeting, and noted they wanted more students to be involved in the vote for the following motions on the agenda. Others argued motions were under time constraints and they needed to come to a decision before the meeting recessed. The proposed recess was voted down, and the meeting continued.
Motion 10.1.3. – Resolution on withheld dues of the Canadian Federation of Students was the final motion to be pushed through for the evening. In 2015, URSU withheld dues owed to the CFS amounting to approximately $1 million. In 2020, students made a clear decision to leave the CFS, passing a referendum through the 2020 URSU AGM. URSU has previously explained on their website that this referendum was illegitimate and put URSU in legal jeopardy.
In August 2022, URSU paid $500,000 to the CFS in withheld dues. URSU was advised they would need to pay withheld CFS fees to be able to exit their agreement. Arguments were made questioning the motion’s resolution that stated “BE IT RESOLVED THAT all fees withheld by the University of Regina Students’ Union be returned to the Provincial component of the Canadian Federation of Students.”
Concerns are that the creation of a CFS office would “trap” students to CFS within the province. However, the motion passed with 72 per cent of students in favour, 28 per cent against, and 2 per cent abstaining. From the time Motion 10.1.3. was argued to the time it was voted on, the AGM entered its fourth hour. 25 participants left the call during this time.
A motion to recess was moved by Justin Passmore immediately after the vote on 10.1.3. and was passed 78 per cent in favour, 21 per cent opposed, and 1 per cent abstained. The date for the Special General Meeting will be decided at an URSU board meeting on Tuesday, March 7 – after this article is submitted to publish. Talha Akbar, the general manager of URSU, said the board would consider hosting a hybrid version of the SGM including online and in-person options to better ensure student accessibility.