This document lists the motions themselves, explains their affects, and explains the reasoning behind each of these proposed amendments.
July 22, 1996
It seems that the world is changing. With the advent of Java, the few ProgSoc members who are developing software are shifting in part towards Java development rather than developing for UNIX. Initially, we (Chris Keane, myself and others) had thought about calling the Society "YUSP" for Young UNIX System Programmers. For reasons that I don't recall, it was decided to generalise the name somewhat. Particularly with the advent of Java, it seems appropriate to generalise this particular object as well.
Clause 2.e simply defines the term "UNIX". It has been coupled with the replacement of 3.4 because if the replacement of 3.4 goes ahead, 2.e defines a term that is not used elsewhere in the constitution and is therefore redundant.
This is a bit of a mystery. Clause 2.d simply defines the word "Student", however that word does not appear anywhere else in the constitution. We are proposing to remove it because it is not neccessary, and removing makes no change to the affect of any part of, or all of, the constitution.
This problem was high-lighted at this year's AGM. 5.1.1 states that the Executive Committee includes a Public Relations Officer, but 5.5 ("Executive Committee-person's Duties") does not define this person's duties. So, there is a need to resolve this one way of the other: either remove the position from the Executive Committee, or insert a definition of the encumbant's duties. We believe that removing the position is the better approach.
The Union's sample constitution lists an Executive Committee of five: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Public Relations Officer. This number is sensible in that it is an odd number, so other than the in the absense of one member, the President need never exercise a casting vote. Because of ProgSoc's unusual nature (compared to other Union affiliated clubs, most of which revolve around organising events whereas ProgSoc revolves around running and continually using a computer facility), we have a computer administrator in our Executive Committee instead. It is the current Executive Committee's belief that ProgSoc is best served by maintaining a five member Executive Committee and that a Publicity Officer be appointed if needed (or rather, if one volunteers), much as the TFM editor is currently.
We have for a long time referred to the Society Computer Administrator as "CSO". "SCA" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
Clause 7.5.1 requires that business to be transacted at Ordinary General Meetings be announced at least seven days in advance, however 5.2 requires that a vacancy on the Executive Committee be filled at the next OGM after the vacancy occurs, so if a vacancy occurs, say, the day before an already announced OGM, it is too late to give adequate notice, but the vacancy must be filled at that meeting. Any nominee must accept, so the vacancy would have to be filled at that meeting, from amongst the members who happened to attend. Whilst this would in practice be resolved by a decision of the Executive Committee, requiring this 14 day break gives the membership time to discuss and plan, should this particular situation ever arise.
Granted, it's pretty unlikely.
5.5.5 is the clause which defines the duties of the CSO/SCA.
In practice, the operation of ProgSoc's computer facility has required no booking system at all, but has required a great deal more than access control. So, whilst we are making lots of little changes to the consitution, we figured we may as well improve this description.
Here is the clause that sparked this round of changes. Our constitution had written into it the bank and branch at which an account was to be operated. Regrettably, the specified branch no longer exists! So, the above generalisation of the clause not only allows us to operate a bank acocunt in accordnace with the constitution, but also to make appropriate changes in future if circumstances change again.
These two changes have the same motivation. When the constitution was written, it was assumed that people would turn up to the AGM, all existing memberships would expire (except for those who knew they couldn't make the AGM, so renewed in advance), those present would renew their membership and the meeting would proceed to make resolutions based on these renewed memberships. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) ProgSoc is an order of magnitude bigger than we ever expected it to be, so clauses 7.2.2 and 7.3.2 as they stand start to become a little risky. More importantly, this year things happened in a different order. By the time of the AGM, we already had 400 members. Our constitution defines in that case a quorum of 100 members! Those who attended will know that we got nowehere near that.
So, this change endaevours to keep AGM quorums manageable, whilst still protecting the society from vandalism at some future date when the number of members is small (e.g. if an early AGM is called which no-one knows about or can attend).
My comments below describe the situation at AGMs, but the thinking is similar for OGMs.
Previously, the Society was protected by requiring a quorum of 25%, but not less than 10 under any circumstances. Instead we propose that the quorum be raised to 50% (so that when the society is small, half the members have to be involved in decisions) but need be no more than 20. (This number is chosen in light of the numbers who actually turn up.).
In order to achieve this change, we raise both numbers (the percentage, and the threshold which is now maximum instead of minimum) and specify lesser instead of greater.
7.6 requires that the Executive Committee meet at least once in each semester and defines a quorum.
Nothing in our constitution defines what Executive Committee meetings are for, what they shall achieve, what business they are to conduct as a minimum, etc. (The sole exception is 4.3.2 which deals with expulsion of a member, but this spells out the requirements very clearly.) We believe that it is appropriate that the Executive Committee regulate itself in this regard. When there is little need to meet formally, don't. (This has been the case for some years.) When there are things to discuss, meet frequently. (The Executive Committee currently meets approximately monthly, when there are things to discuss.) In practice, the quorum defaults to majority rule. If a minority of the Executive Committee (2 members, or just 1) ran off and did its own thing, the remaining three members would presumably raise hell.
The constitutions of many clubs, societies, associations and the like contain clauses prohibiting the distribution amongst members of nett assets upon dissolution. Amongst other things, this prevents a future Executive Committee from purloining for other use, assets that the Society has worked hard to produce.
The Union's standard constitution simply states that the assets are vested in the Union itself, simply because most of the affiliated clubs are social clubs which do not build/have significant assets, or those that they do were paid for entirely (or largely) by the Union. Additionally, the job of cleaning up when a club dissappears generally falls to the Union.
ProgSoc has substantial assets that were not provided by the Union. The bulk were donated by Sun, the School of Computing Sciences and to a lesser extent, the School of Mathematics. If ProgSoc were to be dissolved, it would be appropriate that the remaining membership at the time choose what to do with the assets. If they really couldn't find an organisation with similar objects, then the constitution could conceivably be changed at that point in time to cope with an alternate decision, but placing this intention in the constitution now makes it harder for the Executive Committee of the day to dispose of ProgSoc's assets inappropriately.
Granted, we hope that this day will never come.