Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Upcoming PSA SGM- What is it, why are we having it, how does it work, and should I care?

The Upcoming PSA SGM- What is it, why are we having it, how does it work, and should I care?

When: 11am, Monday 16th September
Where: Sue Boyd Room (see map below)
Who: All members of the PSA are entitled to attend, speak, and vote (i.e. all enrolled Postgrads).

I just thought I would take the time to explain the Special General Meeting, why we are having it and how it will work for you all. I understand that for many of you this may seem a little out of the blue, but this is something the Committee has  been working on for a large chunk of the year!

At the beginning of the year the PSA reviewed our current constitution in order to ascertain whether it was arranged so that the PSA Committee could represent postgraduates to the best of their ability. We also reviewed how the PSA sat within the Guild, and whether the Guild was adequately representing postgraduates. What we found was that there was room for improvement.

A Little Bit of Context for the Year.

At the end of last year the PSA’s budget for this year was approved at $100, 000 which would have been back to the level it was at in 2005 before the introduction of VSU. Due to changes in the proportion of SSAF that the Guild receives at the beginning of this year from the University, the Guild Finance and Planning Committee then reviewed this figure and told the PSA that they would be receiving $70, 000, and insisted on the PSA justifying all of our budget items, from the money we spent on awards and grants, to our Connects and professional development sessions. We were also asked why we did not at least break even, or turn a profit at events and workshops by charging Postgraduates.   After negotiations which took some time, we were required to cut the amount of money that we spent on social events where alcohol was served. The biggest event that had its funding reduced was the Cocktail party. Our budget was confirmed at $70, 000 with another $10,000 mid-year.

As some of you may know the PSA is currently considered a department of the Guild. As Department the PSA President is a standing invitee to Guild Council and Education Council. This means that we are allowed to propose issues and speak on issues at these meetings- but we are not allowed to vote. In the past the PSA has tried to gain a vote on Guild Council; however they have been rejected to a variety of reasons ranging from out lack of formal election regulations, to the fact that we are considered a ‘minority group’.  This year the Guild has been more open to the idea of the PSA gaining a vote on Council as well as having wider representation on more Guild Committees.

Throughout the course of the year, the PSA has endeavoured to continue to improve our relationship with the Guild so that they can better understand Postgraduates position, and hopefully end up fairly representing  all students. This year the PSA has asked for the PSA President to have a vote on Guild Council, for the PSA President to be on the Guild Finance and Planning Committee, for our Faculty Reps to have at least standing invitee status (and ideally a vote) on Education Council, and ideally for the PSA to no longer be considered a Department within the Guild, but to be an Association affiliated with the Guild.

What is a SGM and how does it work?

An SGM is a Special General Meeting. They are called and held when the PSA Committee has some urgent business that needs to be approved. In this case we need general members of the PSA (aka all enrolled postgraduates) to vote on our proposed changes to the Constitution and the proposed Election Regulations. We could not put this to you at the AGM as we need them to be approved before the AGM for these to apply to the election of next year’s committee. 

Every enrolled postgraduate is a voting member of the PSA at General Meetings. On the day we will have a list of enrolled postgraduates. What we ask of you is to bring your student card as ID and that we can mark you off as a voting member of the PSA. Each member of the PSA will have one vote on the issue. Unless a secret ballot is requested and the motion passed by the majority of attendees, voting will take place by a show of hands. Observers to the meeting are welcome (ie staff, undergraduates, post-docs, etc.) however they do not have speaking rights unless granted by a vote at the General Meeting. Motions are passed by a simple majority. This means that we need half of those attending, plus one, to pass a motion.

At the meeting the President of the PSA (i.e me) is the Chair of the meeting. This means that I will present each agenda item to the meeting, ask for votes on the agenda items, and if need be tell people off if they are getting rowdy/rude/discriminatory. The Chair also has the power to eject people from the meeting for unacceptable behaviour or breeching meeting rules.

The meeting is a place to have a conversation about the proposed changes, let everyone know the committee thinking, get feedback from the general postgrad population on our hard work. It is not a venue for people to get angry or accusatory (however we will have cake, I doubt anyone can get angry while eating cake). The PSA Secretary will also be there taking minutes of the meeting that we can display on the website a few days after the meeting letting people know what happened and what the outcome of the meeting will be.

I will be asking attendees to flag the changes that they wish to discuss at the beginning of the meeting so that we can talk through the changes is an ordered manner.

At this meeting we will be voting on two items: Whether we are accepting the changes to the Constitution , and whether we are accepting the proposed Election Regulations.  The changes to the Constitution will be considered as one motion (i.e. we will vote once to accept all of the changes, or to reject all of the changes). The election regulations will also be considered in their entirety.

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