Breaking Quorum in the GSU
By Colby Fisher, Representative, Geoduck Student Union 2013-14
To my constituents: An open letter concerning the GSU quorum-busting on November 21
On November 21, I walked out of the Geoduck Student Union [GSU] meeting in order to prevent a motion from passing. I was joined by Representatives Khadija Hassan and Andrew Pawlicki-Sinclair, however I may only speak for myself regarding our actions. I would like to make it clear that my intention in breaking quorum (one half plus one voting members) was not to disrespect my colleagues in the GSU, it was not to disrespect our adviser, and it was not to disrespect the students who were present. I believe that the proceedings being carried out before I left the meeting were out-of-sync with the mission and values of the GSU.
The motion at hand was a version of the Organizing for Action Act [OAA], which would establish hard-and-fast administrative roles for representatives by amending the bylaws of the GSU. Despite my opinion that most of these new positions are unnecessary to functioning of the GSU, my primary objection to the OAA is actually the manner in which it has been put forth. The OAA was developed by a group of representatives who met on several Fridays in an attempt to create a viable compromise on the much-debated issue of the GSU’s organizational structure. To these representatives’ credit, the whole GSU was invited, but the meetings were held outside our dedicated governance hours, and so only a handful of representatives were able to attend them.
More than once, proponents of the OAA entreated the Union to, “just pass it, because we can change it later if we decide we don’t like it.” As the official representation of the student body, the GSU is not an appropriate place for haste. By redefining the GSU’s internal structure, the OAA would have fundamentally impacted the culture and identity of Unions present and future. Because of their significance, I believe that changes of like these should come out of a much longer discussion and should include input from students across Evergreen’s campuses. I tend to side with the mythical ent, Treebeard: if it isn’t worth taking a long time to say, then it probably isn’t worth saying at all.
As I collected my things and stood up to go, one representative made the comment that by leaving the meeting, we were “not respecting the process” of the GSU. This may be the most correct of the criticisms directed at us. Value is not inherent to any process, and I have no qualms with direct action against injustice. My decision to leave was a statement of conscientious objection, and I considered it necessary to preserving my ethical integrity as a representative of the Evergreen student body.
It seems to me that most GSU representatives—myself included—see a need to improve the way in which the Union operates, and I believe an agreement may yet be reached. I believe the wider student body must participate in this process, and I encourage all students to attend our upcoming meetings to tell us what they would like to see the GSU doing. The Geoduck Student Union meets every Wednesday at 1:15 p.m. on the third floor of the CAB in room 301.
Update: At the GSU’s subsequent meeting, a version of the OAA was passed that included significant input from the objecting representatives, including the addition of the of the social agreements and assumptions underpinning the structural changes. Representative Colby voted in favor of the amended act.
You can contact Colby Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.