Everything You Need To Know About Monday’s AGM

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Yesterday afternoon, SCAN Editor Ruth Walbank sat down with Vice President Union Development Hannah Prydderch to ask her questions students had submitted about how the AGM will work on Monday, and why certain decisions have been taken in the build-up. She gave several comprehensive answers to the questions we posed. Key points from Hannah’s interview have been summarised below for the convenience of our readers.

Key points

  • The proxy voting form can be filled out online. If you would like to vote on paper, see Hannah Prydderch at her desk. The deadline for voting is 2pm on Monday 28th October
  • The chair will be Grizedale JCR President Callum Webb
  • Professional security will be on the door
  • Quoracy figures are 473 students for a motion that amends the Articles of Association, and 315 for a policy motion
  • Trustees have been invited and only one formal apology has been received so far
  • If you haven’t got a ticket, you can enter, but those with website tickets have priority
  • There will not be an overflow venue
  • Last entry at 6.20 pm, doors are open from 6 pm. Due to end by 9 pm but can be extended to 9.30 pm if students are still debating
  • Motion proposers and opposition have 2 minutes to speak each, then the proposer will summarise for 1 minute
  • The chair will seek opposition to motions from the floor
  • Following the proposer’s summation, it will go to the floor for general discussion and questions before the vote
  • Voting will happen with voter cards that students can raise during the meeting. If there is no clear majority these cards will be individually counted
  • Students will need to also bring a photo ID, this can be either a library card, drivers license or passport. Entry will be refused otherwise.

1) Who will be chairing the AGM?

The Deputy Chair of the Executive Committee. This means it is either the Grizedale JCR President or the PG Board Chair. We will have a confirmed chair on Friday morning.

2) Will the chair be able to adequately respond if a member proposes a point of order or a procedural motion during the meeting?

Yes. The chair will be supported by the SU’s head of governance and democracy, and so he can advise the chair on how to respond. If students have a procedural concern during the meeting, I am more than happy to answer them too.

3) Why was the ticketing system only put online on Wednesday and not when notice of the AGM was given two weeks ago?

It was an issue of venues. I initially wanted the Great Hall but we could only get it with an exam set-up. We settled for George Fox Lecture Theatre 1 until the demand started massively increasing, I ended up making a call to get a team in and get the Great Hall no matter what. There has not been a quorate AGM in at least the past five years, and there is no venue on campus to fit the number of students that signed the Save The Sugarhouse petition.

4) Is it true that the Students’ Union has contracted professional security for the event?

Yes. We know this is a contentious issue for students. The reason is because there is no alcohol intoxication allowed, and in case we have a non-student who comes in, or someone gets violent towards another student, we can make sure they can be removed. It’s just what we have to do from a risk assessment point of view.

5) If students don’t have a ticket from the SU website, will they be turned away even if they’re valid members?

Our doors open at 6pm. Anyone with a ticket needs to be there by 6.20pm. We’ll still let in anyone in a queue. Any students without tickets, we’ll check their IDs, check they’re students, and they’ll be able to go in. However, if tickets sell out, all the people who’ve bought tickets will get priority and we’ll fill up the remaining seats with students without. If we max out capacity, we’ll sadly have to turn away non-ticket holders as we can’t fit more than the allocated number of seats in the venue.

6) If they are turned away, can they still vote by proxy or does that have to be done prior?

That has to be done prior. We have made sure the meeting will reach quorum for any kind of motion, any proxy votes are on top of that. I would advise students not to buy a ticket and do the proxy voting form instead, as we don’t want any students to feel like they can’t get their voices heard. If you fill out the form, you can submit questions on it and questions to the live stream as well.

7) Is there going to be an overflow venue as well as the Great Hall?

The issue here is the university’s technology. We can live stream into another venue, but we can’t live stream from the second venue back into the main one, so there’s no line of communication. We can’t assess what’s going on in that second venue, whether the right procedures are being followed. We are looking into livestreaming it somewhere on campus for people to view.

8) On the day, how will voting work during the meeting? Will it be show of hands or a secret ballot?

I’ve had advice, and the bye laws don’t specifically say how meetings are run, so we’re going on NUS protocols. When students come in, they will be given a voter card, and they will raise the card if they are in favour of a motion, against a motion, or abstain. The chair will judge whether it’s a clear majority or not, if it is, we don’t count the numbers. If it’s not, the officers will count basically every student, and the proxy vote numbers will be added on top.

9) How long will motion proposers and opposers be allowed to speak?

They will have two minutes each. The opposition will be open to the floor but depending on the motion students might not want to raise anything, so we have made preparations in that case. The proposer will be invited back up for a one-minute summation, and then it goes to the floor for questions and general discussion. The full detailed timeline will go out Friday with the proxy voting form. The AGM should finish at 9pm, but if students vote to, they can extend the guillotine till 9.30pm.

10) Have the external trustees and student trustees been invited to attend and are they likely to?

Yes, they have all been invited. I sent a formal invite to them by email, they’ve been updated on the details and informed of the motions to be discussed. I have received formal apologies from one member of the Trustee Board who had a prior commitment, they are a new member who only took post in September. I’m still waiting for confirmation or apologies from the others, and I will chase that up.

11) Is the proxy vote system just an online system?          

It will be an online and paper-based system. We will do print outs of the proxy voting form, and when they are submitted, I will manually enter them into the system.

12) Students have understood quoracy figures to be 450 (3% of members) for a motion that changes the Articles of Association, and 300 (2% of members) for a policy motion. However, these are based on estimates of the number of Union members. What are the precise numbers?

The President and I contacted the university for student numbers, as most of us know it’s in the rough ballpark of 15,000 normally. For 2% of members, it’s 315 students, and for 3% it’s 473 students. It’s significantly up because of a higher intake of postgraduate students.

13) The motion deadline was on Monday, but they weren’t published online until Wednesday evening, only allowing 12 hours for people to write amendments. Is there a reason?

I’ll take personal responsibility for that one. I had the motions booklet and I was compiling them together into one pdf document when I crashed my laptop. It was all my responsibility and I apologise for them not coming out sooner. I couldn’t find any way to solve it and I managed to get tech support to do it.

14) At the meeting in September, the Executive Committee voted for a general meeting, but not an Annual General Meeting. Why did this meeting become an AGM considering the last AGM was just a few months ago?

The reason’s more operational than political. It was because it is the first AGM likely to reach quorum in a long time and aspects like the annual accounts need to be approved. I would have preferred if this was just a general meeting, but it was an operational decision, which is why I have allowed extensions in the guillotine and extended the run time. If it had just been a general meeting, we could have had more motions. I’ve also tried to condense all the compulsory AGM aspects like affiliations, the officer reports, the Union accounts, and the Trustee Board report to take as little time as possible.

15) Some are concerned that it does not appear to have been advertised besides on Facebook. Do you have any response to those concerns?

We find that social media is the major audience. We can’t advertise on Student Portal because it’s deemed a political matter. We haven’t been postering as we’re trying to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. I’ve also been encouraging officers to go out and talk to students. It is not ideal, but it because we have had such a tight schedule for this AGM. If I could go back, I would put more information out to students, but because of the time-frame and schedule this was not possible.

16) Is there anything else you want to say about the AGM?

I really hope as many students sign up to go as possible. I’m really excited for the good mix of motion topics which show students are looking at the wider picture of things. I know there’s been big discussions about officer accountability over the past few weeks, and they will have open questions and have to do reports, which you can view even if you are proxy voting. I am hoping to push for more officer accountability at the next few Executive Committee meetings. I also want to make sure the motions are taken into account and followed, and that people feel comfortable to submit motions in the first place.

Interview ends.

In the context of the criticism that has been put to the SU about their organising of the AGM so far, we spoke to Cllr Jack O’Dwyer-Henry, who is involved in the Save Our Sugarhouse campaign.

“I am disappointed that the AGM process thus far has been so chaotic. I fear that some of the steps taken recently, such as introducing an unnecessary ticketing system, and delays with the proxy vote system, will have the effect of reducing turnout. I want to thank Hannah for all her hard work and for keeping me updated throughout the AGM preparations. Unfortunately, however, as with the Sugarhouse decision, I believe we are seeing the will of elected officers being frustrated by LUSU management.”

Councillor Jack O’Dwyer-Henry

It is the hope of SCAN that this interview has revealed to students how the AGM will work and why certain decisions have been taken to this point. If students have further concerns about how the AGM is being conducted, they are encouraged to contact Hannah Prydderch on her email at su.vp.uniondevelopment@lancaster.ac.uk. They can also get in touch with SCAN’s News Section at scan.news@lancastersu.co.uk

Andrew Williams

News Editor 19/20.

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