Students flock to (free pizza) LUSU General Meeting

It was delicious

Ian Kaufman

Last Tuesday about fifty Lakehead students participated in the yearly shit-show that is the student union’s Annual General Meeting. It’s telling that the most exciting moment came when one student questioned the point of even holding such meetings.

“I would just like to bring up the obvious point that most of the people attending this meeting are here for free pizza,” said Katie Scheibler-Smith, who sat on LUSU’s Board of Directors last year.

“Initially pizza was the reason I came,” admitted one student after witnessing the convoluted inner workings of LUSU’s Board of Directors, “but then I was touched by this performance.”

I think she was being sarcastic.

Others disagreed with Scheibler-Smith’s cynical take. “If you’re going to use the fact that we eat food against us… come on,” protested Kyle Tyo. “I didn’t even know there was pizza.”

The cheesy, delicious pizza (from new pizzeria on the block Eat Local) aside, the idea behind an annual general meeting is to allow input from the wider student body and ensure that the union is properly representing students. The beauty of these meetings is that any student can walk in off the street and put forward whatever idea they like, and if students vote for it, LUSU is compelled to do it.

Last year, for example, then-board member Louise Haukeness was able to pass her motion compelling LUSU to undergo a third-party “operational policy review,” essentially an audit of how the organization is structured and how it does business.

It’s a motion that may not have passed in a normal board meeting and could generate some interesting changes in how LUSU is run in the future.

At this year’s meeting, though, no bold ideas were proposed, although there are two issues of note.

Let me take a closer look…

Bucking tradition, students declined to approve LUSU’s financial statements for last year. After a brief presentation by auditor Blair Smith of BDO Dunwoody, a few vocally protested that most students hadn’t even seen the statements yet.

“What’s been presented at this meeting does not provide us with the adequate information so that we can make informed questions and informed decisions on this audit,” said one.

Instead, students voted to set up a separate general meeting that will be devoted exclusively to the financial statements, to take place later this year.

It’s the first time in at least fifteen years that students have asked a question about the statements, let alone refused to approve them, said LUSU General Manager Pat Callaghan. President Mike Snoddon pointed out that the statements have been available in the LUSU office since early January, but says he’s happy students are expressing an interest in their student union.

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Bucking tradition, students declined to approve LUSU’s financial statements for last year. After a brief presentation by auditor Blair Smith of BDO Dunwoody, a few vocally protested that most students hadn’t even seen the statements yet.

Political football with CUPE

The other issue that arose at the AGM should be familiar to the small group of sociopaths that actually follows LUSU politics: CUPE’s demand for space on campus. CUPE – the Canadian Union of Public Employees for the uninitiated – has been shunted back and forth between different rooms on campus in what amounts to a political football match between LUSU and Lakehead Administration.

LUSU is hard-pressed to give them free space – VP Finance Chris Vaillant says there are already 38 clubs waiting for a room. “If I had to deny 38 people, why would CUPE slide in ahead of them?” he pointedly asked. But Scheibler-Smith pointed out that most clubs who represent as many students as CUPE – around 400 – do have space on campus.

Lakehead, meanwhile, is all too happy to see the two unions, both representing students, fight amongst themselves, suggested Scott Miller, the President of Lakehead’s CUPE chapter.

“There’s no other place on campus that LUSU has given space to an outside organization for occupation with no charge,” countered Vaillant.
But Miller says they’re happy to pay rent – just not the astronomical $1,400 figure that had been proposed by Vaillant. It’s the same rent the Study pays to the university, he said, for a space that would barely fit a couple of the coffee shop’s tables.

“CUPE Ontario is the one responsible for lobbying the government to raise minimum wage. They’re currently changing the Health and Safety Act to include students,” Miller told students. “So it’s important that we keep CUPE on this campus, because they do good stuff… it’s another avenue to get student rights. But we’re not a club. So we’re asking you to consider us a club for the purpose of office space.”

Those present apparently agreed with Miller’s argument, approving CUPE as a Lakehead club for the purposes of office space. But as some pointed out, this does not necessarily resolve CUPE’s problems. The next step will be for the organization to approach the Board of Directors to ask for space.