Proposed Changes to the Constitution

Members feedback – Committee responses

Meeting procedure

Member comment
The Committee is incorrect, changes proposed by the committee can be changed by amendments made at the AGM.
Committee’s reply
The Constitution requires that all members regardless of whether or not they will be attending the AGM must be given at least 21 days notice to consider the proposed changes to the Constitution prior to any voting. Clearly this 21 days notice applies to all proposed changes, which means no unnotified changes either in the form of amendments or additions can be allowed at the AGM.

Member comment
Members must be given an opportunity to ask questions, make comments and to support or oppose the proposed changes at the AGM.
Committee’s reply
Members will express their support or opposition by voting to accept or reject the Committee’s proposals. All members have been notified of the changes and they have until 12 August 2020 to ask questions and to make their views known to the wider membership via the website. These will also be available on handouts at the AGM.

This is the same process used for the 2016 Incorporation AGM, chaired by Stuart Leitch, when there was no discussion about either the proposal to Incorporate or the Constitution as both had been previously notified to members and included a clearly established deadline for feedback prior to the AGM.

Section 7 – Committee

Member question
Why change the number of committee members to “between seven and nine” instead of just leaving it at nine?
Committee’s reply
For a significant number of years is has been difficult to find willing volunteers to stand for committee and then to have them stay the whole year. This past year is a good example when two further resignations during the year to a committee already one short at the AGM, reduced committee membership to six.

Whilst the Constitution currently allows for the committee to operated with five members, a greater number of members allows administrative tasks to be more widely shared. A committee of seven will be fine but in the unlikely event we find nine willing volunteers, then let’s not turn them away/discourage them!

By adding a clause making it clear that the Committee can invite members to participate in a non-voting consultancy role we hope this will encourage some of our talented members who don’t want to be on the committee to never-the-less make a contribution to the committee from time to time. Voting committee members must be elected by the membership thus the proposal to clarify this by replacing several contradictory clauses with a single new clause stating that an election must take place.

Section 8 – Committee Meetings

Member question
Committee decisions made by the same numbers of votes as the committee quorum? Isn’t this undemocratic?
Committee’s reply
There are no perfect decision-making rules! All can lead to situations where either no decisions are made or the decisions are inconsistent. This proposal is not an uncommon committee requirement within organisations. For U3A BoI this is equal to the same number of votes required in a committee meeting with a full compliment of nine members. So the real question is If the number isn’t five, then how many committee members should be in agreement on behalf of over 200 members? If five members cannot agree then maybe the proposal needs to be reconsidered and/or be put to the wider membership for discussion and advice.

Consider this
In the past controversial proposals set aside at an eight member committee meeting were reintroduced to a five member meeting where two disagreed, one abstained and the two in agreement included the Chair who cast two votes, thus declaring a majority! In theory had three abstained and one disagreed with the Chair, then the proposal previously set aside could have been passed by the Chair alone. Are either of these situations desirable?

Abstentions are always a problem and often resorted to by timid committee members to distance themselves from discussion and decision making. Should they be counted as a ‘no vote’?

Should this proposal be sent back for further discussion? How can this be done?
Any member is welcome to put forward an agenda item something like:
THAT should the AGM disagree with the Section 8 proposal regarding the number of votes required for agreement at committee meetings, this issue should be discussed by the incoming committee and presented to a general meeting for further consideration and discussion.