This year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) has been postponed until Tuesday 23 November. The AGM was due to take place at 1.30pm in Mandela Hall on 16 November but only 120 students turned up to the meeting.
For an AGM to take place and union policy to be decided on, there needs to be quoracy – at least five percent of the student population at the University of Sussex, which is approximately 550 students.
Every year, the Students’ Union holds the AGM to approve the union’s budget as well as allow every student to have a say about union policy.
As it became apparent that more students were needed, members of the Student Activities Committee began urging those present to get in contact with friends at the university and remind them about the meeting as without the necessary 550 students present, the union cannot make any decisions and thus the meeting cannot take place.
More people came into the hall at around 1.45pm and eight people had already been dispatched to Library Square to try and appeal to students there with little success despite their efforts. A lack of attendance is not a new issue for the AGM at the University of Sussex. Last year the meeting, which was also held in Mandela Hall (located within Falmer House) was delayed whilst students rallied their peers to boost numbers up to the required level.
This year the students who were present tried to recruit more people via text messages, emails and phone-calls. One particularly determined student went so far as to bang his fist on the window and to get passers-by out on the forecourt.
Despite these individual and group efforts the AGM rules dictated that time had run out and at 2.10pm, Chair David Cichon, who is also Chair of the Union Council, was forced to officially postpone the meeting due to a lack of attendees, rescheduling it for the same time and place a week from the original date.
Cameron Tait, President of the Students’ Union wrote in a letter that “The Annual General Meeting is not just about talking. It is an opportunity for students to input into the Union’s activity. How should we respond to the cuts? What do you think the Union should be doing to represent your views on a national and local level?
“Discussion, debate and conversation are a vital part of student politics. We need to draw our lines and make our statements together, and we need to march under a banner that we’ve all threaded together. This is what the Annual General Meeting is for.”
One English undergraduate felt that the timing may have affected the turnout.
“Part of the problem no doubt is the time-clash the AGM has with some lectures and seminars taking place elsewhere on campus, especially for the second and third year students for whom the workload is inevitably more intense.”
The atmosphere as people reluctantly started leaving Mandela Hall was one of frustration. One infuriated student, venting her disappointment to a friend on the way out said: “It’s just not right! Where the fuck was everyone? People should be here!”
However, one international student said: “the event was not publicised well enough as I had many friends who didn’t know this was happening until I mentioned it to them.
“The union needs to have a longer campaign across campus and ensure that there is awareness of the importance of the AGM and student participation. I am saddened by the low turnout and that it had to be postponed.”
The union has now sent out an e-mail to all students emphasising that “The AGM is the most important meeting in the Students Union’s calendar.”