This is a beginner's guide to Union General Meetings (UGMs)
What are UGMs?
Union General Meetings happen at least once a term in the JCR. They are organised by the Sabbs and are Chaired by a someone external from the Union (usually previous Sabbs or Officers from other Unions).
UGMs are the place where all major decisions regarding the Union are made by the Student Body. This is the place where to get updates from the Co-Presidents and from the part-time officers on their daily work, ask questions and initiate debate on issues concerning the SOAS Student body.
Agenda of the UGM
The agenda of every UGM is compiled according to the motions that SOAS students send through before the meeting. Every motion will be presented by the proposers of the motion, will have speaches for and against, and will then be voted upon by the students present at the UGM.
What is a motion?
A UGM motion is a formal proposal that each and every student at SOAS has the right to submit to the regular Union General Meetings. Motions can be on whatever matter SOAS students believe important on how the Union is run, what its aims are and how to achieve them.
What kind of decisions are most appropriate for UGMs?
Motions to be submitted at UGMs are on general issues that will affect all if not most students at SOAS. These can range between endorsing campagins, alligninign the Union to wider political issues, spending the capital funds of the Union, arranging Union space (JCR and Bar), amending and changing the Union constitution, these are all examples of issues that would affect all students and thus need to be openly discussed at UGM.
What happens after a motion gets voted in?
If a motion is passed (by simple majority vote if not a constitutional amendment) the Union officers have a responsibility to make sure, together with the students who proposed the motion, to carry out its resolves.
Not all decisions need to be taken and voted upon at UGM! Given the different nature of the specific issue, there are things that can be decided on a more informal level by Union Societies, the Union exec or the Sabbatical officers, as much as issues that might need be decided only through a referendum, where all students will have the chance to participate equally to the vote (unlike UGMs, where not all students can attend for issues of space and time).
Examples of issues that don't need to go at UGM:
- organisation of Union and societies events
- matters related to individual students or societies
Examples of issues that would need a referendum:
- Student Union affiliation to external organisations
Video briefly explaining UGMs & motions:
Proposers and seconders of motions should take into account the following criteria when submitting their motion:
What are the equality implications?
What are the democratic implications?
What are the welfare implications?
What are the financial implications?
Who will be responsible for the implementation/ development of the motion;
Are you prepared to work with the Students’ Union to achieve this motion?
How to write a motion?
Super easy. Your motion needs the following:
Title: (make it snappy, concise and comprehensible!)
Proposed by: (has to be a member of the Union - all students are members of the Union!)
Seconded by: (has to be a member of the Union)
This Union notes: (facts that back up the motion and provide context)
This Union believes: (subjective opinions on the motion that the authors feel would aid its passing)
This Union resolves: (what the authors of the motion want the Union to actually do)
Here’s an example:
Title: Motion to get a Union cat!
Proposed by: David Suber (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Seconded by: Tiru Valluvar the Blue statue (email@example.com)
This Union notes:
1.1 That cats eat mice and sometimes I-phone chargers.
1.2 That cats are known to make good house-pets.
1.3 That the Union heretofore does not have a cat permanently living on its premises.
This Union believes:
2.1 That a cat would add to the atmosphere of the SOAS SU, especially if it's in a hat.
2.2 That a cat in the JCR would ward off any uninvited guests.
2.3 That everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat's the only cat who knows where it's at.
This Union resolves:
3.1 To get in a cat, or some sort of feline.
3.2 To train the cat to become a vegan.
3.3 To call the cat Chairman Miaow.
If you have anyquestions and doubts about anything related to the structure of the UGM or if you need suggestions on how to write a motion, please do get back to your union officers, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hopefully this has helped! To submit a motion, click here