Use the latest GA as a chance to strike down apathy on campus
Another semester, another failed General Assembly (GA).
For those who missed the memo, there was a GA held on campus last Saturday, Nov. 14. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students were given time to question their student government, and debate motions presented by other student groups.
That was the dream, but this time the GA not only didn’t meet its quorum, but there also weren’t any motions presented, since none had collected the required 100 signatures ahead of the GA.
The biggest reason that GAs are held in the first place is, to provide a platform for student requests to be heard by our student government. And, yet again, it was unable to happen. With this latest failure, it might be time to acknowledge that the current GA system is failing—and that serious re-design is needed.
If the goal is to get students to vote for a motion, then why not open up an online community where students can find these motions and get involved? There are a multitude of ways to do it, some of them are as simple as Facebook posts, or an updated page on their website detailing the motions.
Voting shouldn’t be open indefinitely but it could be open for a week to provide people with plenty of opportunities to vote. Combine all of those opportunities with the ease that comes from being able to get involved virtually. While moving onto a more digital platform is not a guarantee that engagement will increase, at this point things can’t really get any worse.
As disheartening as it is that no student measures were put forward and that this GA was another failure, we shouldn’t give up on the idea of direct democratic participation on campus.
Creating a system that creates results that students will actually use won’t be easy, but effective communication is important. A good sign is that the current Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) executives listened to students and made the GA on campus, and during a time that wouldn’t conflict with class, in an attempt to give more students the chance to attend.
Unfortunately, there is much less that the SFUO can do to solve the problem of no motions being submitted, since it is up to those who bring up the motion to find their 100 names. The fact that no motions were brought forward speaks to a deeper vein of political apathy that isn’t going to be solved by a quick fix, like making things digital.
The problem of political apathy isn’t helped by the fact that the SFUO didn’t release any social media posts letting students know the GA was taking place, though they did send out mass e-mails. Students can’t be expected to get involved if they don’t know what’s happening and the SFUO has to adopt a more aggressive promotion campaign if they’re planning on sticking with the GA model.
After a General Assembly which didn’t even have motions submitted for debate, let alone meet quorum, it’s time to rethink what direct participation in student government looks like on the University of Ottawa campus.