New low for General Assembly attendance
Photos C/O Ryan Tse
Attendance at the annual McMaster Students Union General Assembly hit a new low this year, with a total of eight members showing up.
Eight students represent 0.0293 per cent of the MSU’s student membership. The number of students needed to reach quorum this year was 724.
We're here at the annual MSU General Assembly! The assembly officially started at 4pm, but there are <10 attendees (including the full MSU board of directors) pic.twitter.com/Kf9YvrJQLL
— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) March 20, 2019
MSU president Ikram Farah delivered an address at the start of the assembly, speaking about the recent Ontario government cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and new Student Choice Initiative guidelines.
Following Farah’s remarks, a motion to adjourn the meeting passed unanimously.
The assembly lasted a little longer than five minutes.
Still, this year marked a sharp decline in attendance.
Moreover, unlike in previous years, no GA motions were submitted to the MSU by the March 13 deadline.
The low turnout raises questions as to whether the MSU sufficiently advertised GA, which is the main constitutionally-mandated meeting for students to pass motions affecting the entire student body.
MSU speaker Elizabeth Wong said that many channels were used to promote GA, including social media pushes, text messages and posters and banners in public spaces.
However, Student Representative Assembly social science caucus leader Fawziyah Ali said that promotion this year was less effective than in previous years.
“In terms of Facebook promotion, poster promotion, I don’t think it was as advertised as it could be, so people didn’t know that it was happening,” Ali said. “There should have been better promotion, because MSU GA is an important event, especially to bridge that gap between the MSU and students.”
Student engagement with the MSU, particularly regarding elections, has been relatively positive this year, with a record number of students running in the SRA general elections and increased candidate turnout for first-year council elections.
These increases in MSU engagement have been largely attributed to improved promotion efforts from the MSU.
This year, the GA event page on Facebook page was created only one night before the event, and a total of 164 students were invited.
For comparison, last year’s event page included 212 invitations and was created more than a week in advance.
GA has hit quorum before, most recently in 2015 and 2012. While this was largely due to the boycott, divestments and sanctions motion in 2015, the high attendance in 2012 is considered to have been the result of an extensive promotion campaign run by the board of directors.
“It’s not like you want contentious issues to happen so people come out. That’s not at all what it is. You hope that there are no contentious issues, but there is always something to talk about,” Ali said.
Vania Pagniello, an incoming SRA representative, noted there may still be a significant gap when it comes to educating students about how GA works and why it is important.
“I think the average student doesn’t even know what a motion is,” Pagniello said.
Ali speculates that students may also be looking to non-MSU networks, such as the Hamilton Student Mobilization Network, to raise awareness of social issues.
“I think there’s some disenchantment in terms of students and their relationship to the MSU,” said Ali.
Until more is done, it seems that GA will continue to be an under-utilized tool for effecting change on campus.