Reporter and Deputy News Editor
The Queen Margaret Union (QMU) Extrodinary General Meeting (EGM) vote to approve large constitutional changes has been postponed until the new year.
The QMU had hoped to pass new changes in their constitution that include the establishment of a trustee board, removing the voting rights of life members, allowing presidents to have more than one term, and formalising more legal rights.
However these changes came under significant scrutiny during the meeting, most notably from life members who felt that the changes had been rushed, they had had little say in them, and even some claims that some of these changes were “illegal”.
The EGM made the minimum 40-person quorum having that exact threshold. However, only 31 members showed up at 6.25pm. If there had not been 40 members by 6.30pm the EGM would had to have been cancelled. There were some members in other areas of the Union not there for the meeting, but they were brought in to the meeting in order to achieve quorum. There were some procedural quarrels, such as who was able to attend, and the constitutionality of the EGM, at the start of the meeting and throughout, with life members and current students being starkly split.
The Board of Management, recognising there were a number of people who had issues with the proposed changes, have decided to postpone the vote to January 17. That vote will only be on the Student Assembly and Trustee Board and will leave the life membership and the charity questions to the AGM in April. The decision was reached about 35 minutes into the meeting after both sides agreed that the EGM was not ideal to put through the big changes.
There were some legal objections to the proposed changes. Some cited the legality of replacing the entire constitution with these amendments. There was also the idea of the meeting being unconstitutional, on the basis that the idea of being incorporated as a charity required prior permission from the Office of Scottish Charity Regulators. There also lacked a signed physical copy from the Board of Management of the Union which was said to invalidate any proposed changes.
Daniel Donaldson, director of Legal Spark Solicitors, threatened to take the Union to court if the meeting went forth as originally intended. There was a separate concern that this would affect their licensing ability and cut off a line of revenue.
There were some life members who felt the changes were rushed. Some current board members appeared to find that upsetting, arguing that their work was sufficient and to say otherwise was discrediting current students. It was one point noted that by removing life members, there was no incentive for life members to meaningfully participate, nor would there be incentive for current members to listen to life members.
The postponement went through without objection as both sides felt that the aborted EGM had been helpful in discussing and ironing out details and that the January vote will be more insightful and productive.
Courtney Hughes, QMU president, stated: “At the EGM last night there was an overwhelming feeling from both current and life members that not enough information had been released regarding the reasoning behind the proposed constitutional changes. It was agreed that we would hold another EGM on January 17 at 6pm to focus primarily on passing an amendment to the Constitution which would replace the Board of Management with a Board of Trustees and a Student Assembly, allowing us to introduce new executive positions in the March general election. Any other Constitutional changes will be brought to the Annual General Meeting which will be held in April (date to be confirmed).
Over the coming weeks and months, the Executive will be working on releasing more information with regards to our reasoning behind the proposed changes, which will hopefully allow members the opportunity to make an informed decision. We recognise that whilst not enough information might have been released for the EGM, we will do our utmost to prepare members as much as possible for the January’s EGM.
We will also be looking at working more closely with life members. Life members quite clearly have a lot of expertise and knowledge in a variety of different areas, and the Board are more than happy to receive any help that people are willing to provide. Our vice president of Membership, Clubs, and Societies is currently looking at introducing a forum to allow life members to provide their thoughts and comments on the proposed constitutional changes in a productive way.
We hope that at the EGM in January we will be able to pass these constitutional amendments and move the QMU forward, allowing us to place more focus on students and current members and their needs. As always, if anyone has any questions or concerns you can contact me at [email protected]”