Online AGMs allow for students to be more engaged with their governance

Student power is magnified by the accessibility of Zoom

PHOTO: John Schnobrich / Unsplash

by Madeleine Chan, Opinions Editor

To be honest, I had never attended one of the SFSS’ Annual General Meetings (AGM). Not for lack of care, but because the in-person format never really jived with me. This year’s AGM, however, was the first that I’ve actually wanted to be at. The online format was something that the 600+ students who attended could agree is a large improvement from in-person meetings: its accessibility and ability to engage a large number of students would give incentive for me to attend the next one, if it’s online.

One of the main benefits of the online format, other than reaching students during a pandemic, is that it allows people who would not be able to come to campus to be present. This includes students with accessibility concerns, a course conflict, or even someone who doesn’t want to make the trek up to the mountain that day. Students who wouldn’t want to commit to sitting in a room for multiple hours can simply get a preview, a small dip in the world of student politics at their leisure.

Zoom’s technical difficulties are inevitable, but the minor glitches are nothing compared to the sheer amount of participation. Student attendance at this first online meeting, at one point, was 612 attendees. This was way over the required minimum of 250 to pass votes, and a number which bodes well for the future of student participation. The last AGM in recent years that met quorum was the one in 2018, and that’s only because everyone wanted to impeach the SFSS president. Everyone even left after the vote was cast. 

Granted, I think that most people who attended this meeting just wanted to win a prize. There shouldn’t have to be a bribe of electronics for students to care about decisions that impact their future, but it is an effective way to get them to come. In addition, the money saved from not having the meeting in-person allowed the SFSS to purchase those prizes to give back to students, a plus for student’s pandemic struggles. 

With online AGMs, you won’t get the rousing euphoria of everyone extending their hands to impeach a SFSS president, but also no one can smoke bomb the auditorium and delay the whole meeting. In addition, because of Zoom’s polling function, votes are anonymous and students can’t be swayed by a wave of hands. Not to mention that it’s more accurate than a guess from a quick glance.

The length and density of the online meeting did make it dreadfully boring, but it’s three hours in exchange for potential years of impactful change. It’s also a great introduction for students to get involved with and be aware of student politics. It gives them a lot of perspective on the routine business proceedings that go on behind the student-led organization that we benefit from. It would be beneficial for the whole student body for future AGM meetings to be held online, pandemic or not.

The online format of the AGM did exactly what the SFSS advertised and brought back student power. Not only from the resounding votes in favour of the motions that plan to do so, but in the inclusivity and accessibility of the event which gave attendees a greater understanding of the processes that empower them as students. Let’s hope that by next year the pandemic has passed, but online AGMs stay.

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