In subtext 176, we reported on the Students’ Union’s Annual General Meeting, which was held at the end of Lent term and aborted due to inquoracy. Keen to be of assistance, we pointed out that, as per their bye-law, LUSU was required to hold another AGM within a week.
They’re a few weeks late, but LUSU have finally got round to holding another AGM. But with a twist…
… This year’s ‘Annual General Meeting’ is being held online as we write. Students are to click on a link, which as far as we know was not emailed to them (and isn’t visible on LUSU’s Facebook or website, um…), taking them to a video of the LUSU Full Time Officers talking about what they’ve done, and why students should vote to approve their affiliations for that year.
We know this because one of subtext’s student pals sent us the link. When we clicked on it, we got an error message, and a ‘try again’ button. We clicked the button, and got a new message, this time ‘thanking’ us for ‘voting’. Our pal was aghast – through some technical error, subtext had cost them their ability to vote!
Thankfully, by entering the link into an incognito window on Google Chrome, they were able to vote again…
… And again. And again. And again.
Yes, anybody wishing to vote on the affiliations of a multi-million pound organisation can, apparently, do so as many times as they please. A creative masterstroke to boost voter turnout figures? Probably not.
WE THE PEOPLE
It should go without saying that an online survey that can be voted on an infinite number of times is not a ‘meeting.’ But, this is where we are, so: an online survey that can be voted on an infinite number of times is not a ‘meeting.’
We touched on this in subtext 146, when the Students’ Union tried to say that proxy votes would count towards an AGM’s quoracy. We envisaged scenes of a chairperson, sat alone with a minute taker, emptying a basket of ‘proxy votes’ onto a table and declaring the meeting ‘quorate.’ The issue with proxy votes is that voters do not get to listen to debates from the floor and possibly have their minds changed, nor can they propose or vote on amendments that come from the floor. But at least it was only absentees casting ill-informed votes – with this new online AGM, EVERY vote cast is going to be ignorant, there is no opportunity for LUSU members to hear debates, no means of proposing and voting on amendments to motions, and no means of a flowing dialogue with union officers. Still, it does solve LUSU’s issues with inquoracy – all they need is for one person to vote 150 times on their online form. That’s if it were a legitimate meeting.
LUSU’s claim that proxy votes counted towards quoracy was abandoned shortly after we pointed out that this was unconstitutional, although a rule change approved in early 2018 means that it now is in fact constitutional. Fantastic. Will they abandon this ‘online AGM’, which is currently being used as the legal means by which they are seeking to approve their affiliations, when we point out that an ‘online AGM’ is totally unconstitutional, has zero precedence, and is not in any way accounted for or permitted by LUSU’s bye-laws?
IT’S NOT HARD
Why is LUSU finding it so difficult to get their general meetings quorate? We know exactly the given reason why – they are ‘outmoded’ (a word that is not, despite its usage, interchangeable with ‘old’). But Students’ Union General Meetings being inquorate are not new things, and the ‘students just don’t want to show up’ is an age old excuse for lazy promotion and lack of drive. There have been many bustling and quorate AGMs in between the failures. There was the one in 2012 opposing the centralisation / redundancies of admin staff, the one in 2013 opposing the closure of the music degree, and the one in 2015 opposing cuts to fees and rents. What they all had in common was an impassioned union officer team which ran effective campaigns that educated and galvanised students to attend, and an exciting headline act that made students feel like their voices were necessary to affect change.
Putting drab discussions about space, constitutions, and affiliations at the top of the bill ain’t gonna pull the punters, and that is why no-one cares. It really is that simple.
subtext welcomes letters from readers with their own memories of quorate union general meetings, few and far between though they may be.