The last AMS Council meeting was six hours long. Councillors say that’s a problem

Emmanuel Cantiller’s first AMS meeting was longer than he’d been used to with the Arts Undergraduate Society.

He was vying for a student-at-large committee seat and was told that the selection process would begin at 7 or 7:30 p.m. Even though committee appointments were later on the agenda, he received an email encouraging him to join the Zoom call when the meeting began at 6 p.m.

But the entire meeting, including the committee appointment process, lasted nearly six hours, ending at midnight.

“It’s courteous to be patient but there isn’t that much to be gained other than learning what student government does from just sitting there and waiting your turn to try and run for something,” he said.

While this meeting was especially long, councillors said the length of regular Council meetings has historically been a barrier to student participation.

Lengthy meetings

AMS Council meetings are held every two weeks throughout the winter term and every three weeks throughout the summer term. And according to AMS President Cole Evans — who has attended Council meetings since 2018 — meetings often run for well over four hours. Participation is low in part because many students have evening classes and jobs, or are commuters and unable to set aside so many hours of their evening.

For students wanting to sit in, Cantiller, who was appointed to the Student Life Committee, said that the length of the meetings can be an obstacle.

“If it’s someone who just wants to try it out, I would assume that they would be very discouraged and would think it would be a huge mismanagement of time going through the process,” Cantiller said.

In the May 13 meeting, the AMS piloted a new voting system that contributed to the length of the meeting, something that Cantiller said students-at-large were unaware of.

AMS Board of Governors representative Max Holmes said that this process was problematic.

“[T]he poorly thought out process adopted this year by the President and Speaker of Council lengthened the process considerably with no clear benefit and clearly did not follow the rules of order for the meeting,” he said in a statement to The Ubyssey.

Cantiller said that there was not enough transparency about the meeting schedule. This under communication can often come from a mismanagement of time in which presentations and appointments happen hours later than they were supposed to happen, something that Cantiller said was “stressful.”

“You’ve sat there for hours waiting, thinking, ‘Okay, when are the committee appointments going to happen?’ … And it happens hours later than anticipated or expected.”

Increasing accessibility

Evans and Holmes said that one feasible way to increase meeting efficiency is to have committees do more work in preparation of meetings, including voting and appointing people to committees beforehand.

“What we’re looking at right now is potentially along the lines of an application process that we are able to vote on in advance instead of during the meeting,” said Evans.

Evans is confident that once the new voting system introduced on May 13 has its kinks ironed out, it will increase meeting efficiency and will “expedite” meetings by allowing the AMS to load motions into the agenda ahead of time.

Evans said the AMS will be looking at live streaming and recording future meetings so that students unable to attend meetings in person will be able to watch them later. This will increase the accessibility of AMS Council meetings, he said, but Cantiller said virtual meetings present their own challenges — staying engaged and connected can be harder without face-to-face interaction.

Evans said that these changes would begin at the Council level and then would be adopted by the committees. He’s optimistic that implementing these changes is feasible and would be consistent with the goals of the AMS.

“Things like that — that aren’t sacrificing the transparency element the AMS Council provides, but [are] allowing meetings to be conducted in a more efficient manner … [are] giving us more room to have an in-depth discussion on high-level strategic issues,” said Evans.