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March General Meeting Highlights
Passions ran high during the Feds General Meeting on March 21, wherein the highlight of the day was a rousing discussion surrounding a proposed new, student-run service.
Undergraduate students packed into the SLC Great Hall for a busy agenda of electing students for the Board of Directors, ratifying the 2018-2019 Feds Executive team, and discussing increases to the Feds fee and first-year Orientation fee.
The meeting was chaired by Feds President Antonio Brieva.
We are recapping the meeting’s key highlights for your convenience, so keep reading and follow along using the meeting agenda!
New elected officials
Part of the March General Meeting every year is electing two students’ council members and five at-large members for the Board of Directors. This year, these students were elected by acclamation as candidates took the stage and shared their qualifications and passion for the role.
A ballot vote also took place to elect students for open positions on the Budget Committee within Feds, including two directors’ seats, one at-large member, and one students’ council member.
Changing of the guard
In May, Feds will have an all-new slate of Executives. The team consisting of President Richard Wu, VP Education Matthew Gerrits, VP Student Life Savannah Richardson, and VP Operations and Finance Kurt-James MacMillan was ratified at the March General Meeting for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Some debate surrounded the motion concerning how all four incoming Executives were elected in January by acclamation. Some students expressed a desire to delay ratification and arrange for the undergraduate student body to vote in the four candidates, if only as a formality.
While the assembled students ultimately voted to ratify the team, a related agenda item would resolve similar concerns in the future: students ratified a bylaw amendment that would enact a formal yes or no vote concerning any candidates running uncontested in future elections.
Fee increases, with (and without) debate
Increases of $0.98 and $1.82 to the Feds fee and first-year Orientation fee respectively were proposed to account for inflation as calculated by the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) of Canada. These increases were both approved without debate.
Other proposed fee increases inspired more discussion.
Currently, a portion of the first-year Orientation budget is subsidized by funds from the Feds fee paid by all undergraduates. A motion proposing an increase to the first-year Orientation fee in order to transfer Orientation expenses solely to the first-year students participating in Orientation was met with debate. Students ultimately moved to amend the motion so that the Feds fee will be decreased for all undergrads, to reflect an amount equivalent to the funds previously needed to subsidize Orientation.
The amended motion to increase the Orientation fee by $1.71 and decrease the Feds fee by an amount to be calculated was then overwhelmingly passed.
A motion to increase the Feds fee to account for Ontario’s minimum wage hike also sparked debate. Some students raised concerns about the number of fee increases being introduced and whether the minimum wage hike was already reflected in the CPI increase. The movers of the motion and other passionate voices argued that the steepness of the minimum wage increase – which raised Ontario’s minimum wage to $14 in January – and the timing and nature of CPI calculations meant that the increase was not reflected by CPI. Clarification was added to explain that the minimum wage hike has a direct impact through the large number of students employed in various part-time roles throughout Feds’ services and departments.
The motion to increase the Feds fee by $0.90 was passed. A future increase of up to a maximum of $0.39, contingent upon the Provincial government further raising the minimum wage in 2019, was also included within this motion.
A new, student-run service
A motion proposing a Feds fee increase of $0.20 to subsidize a new, student-run service was met with immediate applause. The proposed service, following the tradition of Feds’ other equity-seeking services including The Women’s Centre, The Glow Centre, and the Feds Student Food Bank, will address and support unmet needs of racialized students on campus.
This was the most highly anticipated agenda item of the afternoon, as students queued to seek clarification, voice their support and need for the proposed service, and share personal anecdotes evidencing how Waterloo is not and has never been immune to racism and xenophobia. Passionate voices included Elisa Umuhoza and Victoria Rodney, executive members of UWBASE, the club responsible for spearheading the project.
“Today marks a really important opportunity for us to use the power we wield as students to make the University of Waterloo better,” said Rodney.
Introducing the motion, President Brieva delivered a brief presentation which detailed the mission of the proposed service and the data reflecting the need for such a service. VP Internal Jill Knight also took the stage to explain the proposed $1 fee increase required to expand operational capacity and add a new staff member to manage all student-run services. The funds will not only facilitate the creation of the new, proposed service, but will be vital in supporting all of the student-run services currently operating under Feds.
The motion for the fee increase was passed with overwhelming support, the gathered students demonstrating their enthusiasm with cheers and uproarious applause. Now that the General Meeting has approved the allocation of funds to support the proposed service, it is up to the Students’ Council to authorize its creation during their meeting on Sunday, March 25.
Follow-ups and free food!
The final agenda items of the afternoon involved updates on issues discussed in the General Meeting last October. Incoming VP Education Matthew Gerrits delivered a report from the task force formed in October’s meeting to deal with concerns surrounding student engagement at General Meetings. Recommendations from the report include replacing the Annual General Meetings with a meeting of elected council delegates, and implementing town halls allowing students to engage delegates in Q&A’s and discussions. The task force’s full report will be made available online.
Alexander Wray, the Chair of the Board of Directors also revealed that the Board is conducting an executive salary review following concerns discussed in October about Feds executive compensation. They are awaiting engagement with the University’s Human Resources department, but the Board has already completed an initial activity-based analysis.
“From what we returned from those numbers using StatsCan methodologies, there’s nothing surprising about it,” said Wray. “Our salaries seem to be in line with what they currently are but we’ll await further professional analysis. So please stay tuned over the coming year!”
The meeting was then adjourned at 2:25 p.m. as attendees gathered to enjoy a free breakfast.
For those who didn’t attend, you can catch up on the lively debate by watching the livestream video. We’ll see you in fall for the next General Meeting!