Reporter and Editor-in-Chief
The Queen Margaret Union (QMU) has called for an Extraordinary General Meeting which will be held today, on Monday 9 December, to pass major changes to their constitution and by-laws – a move that has been criticised by former members, board members and presidents.
Proposed changes include the establishment of a trustee board which will incorporate external help, removing life member voting rights, allowing a person to become president more than once, and formalising more legal elements of the constitution.
This overhaul comes at a precarious time for the Union in recent years. Last year Food Factory was closed due to budget cuts, surveys showed high levels of student dissatisfaction and budget deficits, and they were criticised for their handling of sexual misconduct allegations following a Glasgow Guardian investigation. This year the QMU discontinued the club night Propaganda due to rising costs and low attendance.
The proposed changes intend to outsource help in finance and human resources in order to prevent such problems occurring again.
However, past members and presidents of the Union have expressed their concerns to The Glasgow Guardian. Criticism includes issues such as some vagueness about the electoral procedures of Current Student Representatives, and the potential difficulty to remove trustees. The largest concern is the stripping of life membership voting rights and seemingly the minimising of student voices. They stated that there has not been a problem with former members in the past and that there is no reason to remove alumni connections to the Union, as well as removing many current students’ ability to affect change.
There are also sentiments that this meeting is being done covertly and that the Union has deliberately accelerated the process by only giving a 10-day notice and no formal campaigning. This is unlike the “matriculation vote” held years ago, which included a month-long campaign and debates before the actual vote. Alumni and former board members have come out against the proposed changes.
Former Hon. Sec. Alec Nicholson said, “I appreciate that the membership may not be quite so involved these days, but I personally don’t think that reducing student involvement is the right thing […] without that, we become another canteen, or study area.”
This was followed by several life members who put similar sentiments towards the QMU announcement on Facebook.
Former presidents themselves have been getting involved. Gary Brown is a former president of the Union and helped to write a book about the Union’s history. He acknowledges an irony in that it is the older generations trying to preserve the will of current students.
Citing the creation of a trustee board and allowing the president to run more than once, Brown said: “Current students should be in charge and these changes don’t make it accessible for future first years.”
He continued: “We’re supposed to get young fresh ideas, not taking it from the future generations.”
Brown feared the growing power of external actors, explaining that “by-laws can be easily changed compared to the constitution and this gives power to the trustees.”
Courtney Hughes, the Union’s current president, has urged students with any questions or concerns to contact her.
In a statement posted on Friday, the QMU said that the Union “has come very close to oblivion in the recent past, and it would be an absolute tragedy if the QMU were to cease to exist, therefore we as a collective of representatives, volunteers, and members at the QMU want to make the changes needed to ensure that we will always be the inclusive and diverse home of Glasgow’s bold, alternative and brave students.”
There is mounting concern that the proposed changes will be unable to pass as the measure requires 40 Union members to be present. The recent lack of student engagement, alongside December exam season, may lead to a shortfall of a 40-person quorum, meaning these changes would be unable to be implemented. At time of writing there were only 22 marked as “going” on their Facebook event.
The meeting is to be held at 6pm in BISTRO at the QMU today – Monday 9 December. You must be a member to attend the meeting.