Democracy found alive in Feds meeting

by uwchevron

Author: Thomas Little

For those of you who did not go to the Feds meeting, or were not there for the full length, here’s a recap of the events that happened as faithfully recorded by Chevron writers present at the meeting. Any corrections
or disputes should be sent to our editorial email.

The meeting was chaired by David Collins (Federation of Students, President), with Sean Hunt (Senator-at-Large) advising. The agenda was: approval of the agenda, approval of the minutes from previous meetings, elections to the Feds Board of Directors, approval of the auditors’ report, review of Feds’ financial statement, a motion to modify the voting system used in Feds elections, a motion to reduce the Feds fee, and a motion to initiate a referendum to defund the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG).

Item #1 (Agenda): Filzah Nasir (2B Environmental Engineering; Engineers Without Borders, President) proposed an amendment to the agenda to move the WPIRG motion forward in the agenda from item #8 to #4. The amendment passed and the agenda was approved by the membership.

Item #2 (Minutes): The minutes were approved unanimously.

Item #3 (Board elections): Eleven candidates ran for the Feds Board of Directors. The winners of the election were Danielle Burt (3B Mathematics and Business), Lisa Belbeck (Nanotechnology Engineering), and Maaz Yasin (Economics and Finance). Danielle Burt has previously been on the Feds Orientation Committee (FOC), Lisa Belbeck is current president of the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students (CFES), and Maaz Yasin is the former Feds Academic Affairs Commissioner and current administrative coordinator of the Campus Response Team (CRT). All eleven candidates announced their support for WPIRG.

Item #4 (Referendum on WPIRG): The initiator of the motion, Sacha Forstner (Mathematics undergraduate senator), opened with an apology to WPIRG and its supporters. The meeting was paused for a 25-minute recess to allow for Muslim prayer. After the recess, an amendment to the motion was proposed by Filzah Nasir to create a committee of student members of WPIRG (any full-time student who has not obtained a refund from
WPIRG for the term) to determine the wording of the WPIRG funding referendum. There was much confusion surrounding this amendment and order in the meeting broke down for about ten minutes. The amendment was defended on the grounds that the Feds Student Council should not have the exclusive right to determine the wording of a referendum since WPIRG is a separate legal entity from Feds.

Elana Hashman (Computer Science; Computer Science Club, President) argued that the amendment created legal issues, an argument supported by Feds Student Council. This was not discussed in detail and David Birnbaum (Engineering Society, President) argued that, since the main motion was likely to be voted down, the discussion around the amendment was a waste of time. After some additional confusion, the motion was voted down entirely.

Item #5 (Audit): A significant number of people left the meeting and a motion was made to adjourn, but was dismissed by the chair. The audit was approved.

Item #6 (Voting proposal): Brought forward by Elizabeth McFaul (Federation of Students, Math student councillor), this was a motion to change voting procedures in Feds elections from a first-past-the-post system in which voters select a single candidate for each position, to a ranked voting system (similar to the one used for the Board of Directors election during the meeting) where candidates are ranking according to preference by each voter. The motion passed.

Item #7 (Feds fee decrease): A motion to decrease the Feds fee by 10%. This motion was also proposed by Sacha Forstner, who argued that Feds was subject to spending inefficiencies and that the motion would create an incentive for Feds to more responsibly manage its budget, pointing out that Feds had no indicated budget priorities.

The motion was criticized by Luke McIntosh (Federation of Students, Arts councillor) and Adam Garcia (Federation of Students, VP Education). Garcia argued that, since Forstner sits on the Feds budget committee, it was his own responsibility to create budget priorities for Feds. Forstner defended himself by arguing that the five-person budget committee could not be relied upon to set Feds’ priorities. Forstner declined to state any particular areas of Feds which would be suitable for budget cuts. After this, a motion was made to adjourn the meeting, which passed 89 votes for and 74 votes against.

This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 3 of The Chevron on 5 November 2013.