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April 29, 2013 | by  | in News |
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VUWSA to Fight Climate Change

After waiting six weeks to attend VUWSA’s Initial General Meeting (IGM), VUWSA members who were in attendance at the Memorial Theatre on Wednesday 17 April found that the IGM was almost over before it had begun.

The meeting commenced at 1.27 pm, with a quorum count just minutes into the meeting confirming that the required quorum of 100
VUWSA members had been comfortably met. For VUWSA, who have had ongoing problems reaching and maintaining quorum in recent years, Wednesday’s crowd of 127 was an impressive turn-out.

Once commenced, President Rory McCourt rushed through items on the agenda; attempted to call a vote on a motion before opening the floor to members who wished to speak for or against it; requested that speeches be kept to thirty seconds, and “forgot” to allow members to raise general business.

Under Part II, Section 2(1) of the VUWSA Constitution, IGMs are generally required to be held within the first four weeks of the first trimester. However, as section 2(3)(a) requires the Executive to present an audited statement of income and expenditure for the previous year at this meeting, the Executive was allowed an exception due to a delay caused by the auditors consolidating the accounts of VUWSA and the VUWSA Trust.

Chair of the VUWSA Trust, Dave Guerin, explained that the Trust has $6 million in net equity, compared to VUWSA’s $1 million. In 2012 the Trust’s contribution was $150,000, allowing VUWSA to balance the books and erase their deficit (at least on paper). When Salient asked if the Trust’s funds would continue to be used to prop up the financially-vulnerable VUWSA, Guerin confirmed that they would. Treasurer Jordan McCluskey assured members that the deficit will be reduced—but not fully overcome—this year.

“[VUWSA has a] long-term strategic liability, making us dependent on the University,” said McCluskey.

Following the financial summary, McCourt presented a recap of VUWSA’s key activities in the past year, including the implications of VSM; VUWSA’s ongoing commitment to supporting marriage equality; VUWSA’s ongoing commitment to representing the views of those students who don’t support marriage equality despite VUWSA’s mandate for support; a governance review which “made this organisation a lot better”; the membership card; a promise for better O-Weeks in future, and the Fairer Fares campaign.

“I’m confident the legacy this Exec can leave is a really good O-Week for next year,” said McCourt.

The IGM also included the passing of two climate-change motions, “That VUWSA acknowledges the current and future impacts of climate change on students and society and the need for an urgent and comprehensive response”, and “That VUWSA takes appropriate action where possible to support the transition to a prosperous and equitable low-carbon economy”.

The motions were bundled as one, and moved and spoken to by students Brittany Packer and Wilbur Townsend. The speakers emphasised the academic consensus on climate change, the intergenerational importance of the issue, and students’ altruism and global conscience as reasons to support the motion.

VUWSA Vice-President (Academic) Sonya Clark questioned the extent to which VUWSA would be enacting this motion, given limited resources, and asked whether it meant the Executive would support every green campaign asking for endorsement. The question went
unanswered, with the Executive choosing to keep tensions confined to their offices.

Two fourth-year Geology students in the audience both cited the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report as reasons why the motion both should and should not be supported. Russell Bicknell argued the West Antarctic ice sheet would melt regardless of whether VUWSA passed the motion, while Tamsin Bertaud-Gandar said that VUWSA should be part of the adaptation to the inevitable five metres of sea-level rise.

A vote was held and passed with no vocal opposition to the motion, and only Clark and a couple of other VUWSA Executive members abstaining.

As the meeting closed, free movie passes were handed out and mountains of pizza delivered, proving that there is such thing as a free lunch—so long as you’re willing to play quorum.

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