Another failed general assembly highlights Graduate Student Association disconnect
The Graduate Student Association’s (GSA) latest general assembly last week failed for the third consecutive time to meet quorum, despite having enough bodies for two hours, during which agenda bickering and debate over anti-austerity led to little concord.
Thursday’s event was supposed to pick up on the points left untouched after the last general assembly back in October, which likewise ended half-way through, after most of the room left. Since then, two general assemblies held on both campuses yielded failed attempts to meet quorum.
Even the introductory packet meant to prepare members has been unchanged since October despite new development across all fronts.
The main question—that of anti-austerity and whether the GSA should join other organizations in mandating strikes—was the main reason for the turnout, but despite the apparent solidarity little was accomplished. An attempt to amend the motion with a follow-up assembly, should a strike happen, began a long chain of counter-amendments and questions over what could and could not be done under the current bylaws.
Frustrated or worn out, the members of the room began leaving at a steady trickle during the latter half of the proceedings, until the meeting was adjourned for insufficient quorum.
“If not for Arts and Science students present to vote in favour of the anti-austerity strike motion, then quorum would have not been met and the list of GA [general assembly] attendees would have been limited to only a small group mainly composed of election candidates. Who is the GSA?” asked student governor Firas Al Hammoud, who added that the standard practice of calling swift follow-up meetings to deal with unfinished agendas has not been followed this year. Instead, months have passed between ineffective general assemblies, effectively paralyzing a group that represents over 6,000 graduate students.
Thursday’s proceedings go to the heart of the GSA’s trouble in taking action by asking two things: for whom is the agenda, and for whom is quorum?
“There are two groups of people here: candidates running for election and people against austerity. Once this motion would have passed, most of the people here would have left,” said Ribal Abi Raad, currently running for the position of president. “This happened in [October] when the only people attending the GA were attending because of the [last] elections. People come here with only one objective in mind and then they try to get it up there so they can be the first to leave.”
His frustration over the evolved tactic of of ramming one’s motions to the very top of the agenda, and then departing, was matched by his belief that the new faces present have been given a bitter taste of GSA politics, making them unlikely to return.
“I had to get several of my friends to come to the last GA, and afterwards they said to me ‘you just wasted two hours of my time. I’m not doing that again,’” said Raab, who was attending in part to bring attention to the budget and the need for greater financial transparency and accountability.
Clutching his papers as the room dwindled to a handful of people, Raad would have to wait a few more months to be given the chance to be heard again.