MASU approves 7 Mondays levy for 2014

Issues with constitution appealed and corrected.

After a year of failed funding campaigns, 7 Mondays will collect its $3 student levy next year.

The Mount Allison Students’ Union reversed its interpretation of the January referendum results after 7 Mondays pointed out that MASU had approved funding for other projects with much lower support from students at the ballot box in previous years.

In January’s referendum results, MASU ruled that 7 Mondays did not pass referendum because with a 64.8 per cent majority, the society failed to achieve a two-thirds majority. However, as 7 Mondays President Karissa LaRocque outlined during her official appeal to council on Feb. 3, both MASU’s online bookstore and the Centre for International Studies had levies approved during the spring 2013 elections with 54.2 per cent and 53.9 per cent of students voting in favour of their referendum question, respectively.

The inconsistency between the 2013 and the 2014 referendum results arise from a contradiction between the MASU’s constitution and its operating procedures.

The 2013 questions passed because the operating procedure VII states that referenda only need to achieve a simple majority of fifty per cent plus one to pass, unless they are constitutional changes, in which case they require a two-thirds majority. Because 7 Mondays does not fall into the category of a constitutional change, the society’s question should pass with their 64.8 per cent majority, according to the operating procedure.

However, the MASU Constitution, which carries precedence over both bylaws and operating procedures, makes no mention of this distinction, and only states that a two-thirds majority is required for referenda to be “deemed binding.” Therefore, as LaRocque points out, an inherent contradiction exists between the constitution and the operating procedures in regard to referenda policies.

During the council meeting, MASU President Melissa O’Rourke recognized the “grey area” resulting from this conflicting information. MASU proceeded to consult with their lawyer about the issue, who said that the 7 Mondays referendum fell under the category of “non-binding” because the voting results came between fifty per cent plus one and a two-thirds majority, therefore requiring a secondary stage of approval by council.

With that, O’Rourke put forth a motion to approve the 7 Mondays referendum to correct this discrepancy, and the motion passed, with twelve council members in favour and two opposed.

Vice-President, Academic Affairs Ryan Harley said that although council has the final say with regards to approved but non-binding referenda results, a fifty per cent plus one majority is indicative of sufficient student support for a referendum and that this should be respected. He said that if council voted against a referendum that more than half of voting students had already approved, they would be directly opposing the decisions and desires of the student body.

The issue remains that MASU’s operating procedures, bylaws, and constitution appear to contain flaws and contradictions with respect to referenda policy. The council plans to rectify and review these inconsistencies in the near future.

LaRocque was pleased to see the referendum approved this year, noting that it felt like “poetic justice.”

“What happened during this referendum was never really just about 7 Mondays, it was about larger issues in MASU policy,” said LaRocque the day following the council meeting. “[…] I wanted to pursue this issue because I think our referendum outcome of 64.8% is valid under Operating Procedure VII, but I also think that it’s important to look more carefully, and on a larger scale, at the way in which the MASU is working towards identifying and amending their policy on referenda.”

The passed referendum means that 7 Mondays will be able to secure student funding for the next three to four years, which according to LaRocque means that both the university and the society “can continue to publish another generation of Mount Allison poets, writers, and artists.

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