Legislative Council Considers VIP Culture at SSMU Events and Engagement with Student Governance

photo by Erica Sheffres

Update: Motion to Adopt a Policy Against Affiliation with Far Right Groups

A Motion to Adopt a Policy Against Affiliation with Far Right Groups brought to Council during the Winter 2018 semester that had been postponed was brought up at the meeting on September 27. VP External Marina Cupido appealed to the council seeking to again postpone this motion indefinitely. They cited a need for more time to finalize a thorough draft and explained that due to health-related issues which persisted over the past two weeks, they were not able to put forward a motion that “does justice to a really important, nuanced issue.”

Cupido further outlined their motivations for postponing a vote on the motion, saying: “There are a lot of considerations that need to be taken into account when trying to fight the far right on university campuses or anywhere, specifically through policy. I think that the current draft, or the draft that was brought up last year, is a good start – but I don’t think it’s adequate… I would like to see something better and more thorough. I would like to have the time to put that together.”

Council passed Cupido’s proposal to postpone this motion indefinitely. In response to questions and concerns regarding the timeline of this motion and whether it will be brought back up, Cupido stated that they are working to bring a more fully developed motion back to Council for a vote by the end of October. The adoption of such a policy is particularly pressing given the increasing presence of far right groups, such as Identity Canada and La Meute, in the Montreal area.

 

VIP Culture at SSMU Events

SSMU VP Internal Matthew McLaughlin presented the Motion Regarding Policy on VP Internal Intoxication and VIP Culture at SSMU Events, which was postponed from the last Council meeting on September 13. The motion condemns the “historic abuse of power in the portfolio of the Vice-President (Internal Affairs) that has normalized spending copious amounts of money on alcohol” and other special privileges for individuals in charge of planning SSMU’s drinking events.

The language outlines appropriate behavior and spending restrictions for the VP Internal and other members of the Students’ Society Programming Network (SSPN) at events, as well as possible punitive measures for the SSMU VP Internal if they are determined to have been “intoxicated to the point that they were incapable of performing their duties at a SSMU event of which they were in charge”.

When asked if such accusations should first be directed to the Accountability Committee rather than sent directly to Council, McLaughlin asserted that “the nature of these accusations might be serious enough to warrant going directly to council.” Arts Representative, Andrew Figueiredo, seconded this sentiment, positing that bringing accusations straight to Legislative Council, whose meetings are open to all SSMU members, will allow the council to uphold “the transparency that we should be held to and the accountability that we should be held to”.  

Despite this, Engineering Representative, Gareth Price, and VP External, Marina Cupido, expressed concerns about public shaming and confidentiality; in regards to accusations being brought to the thirty-member council at public meetings, potentially airing factors such as an individual’s personal matters or addiction would have harmful consequences. With this in mind, council amended the motion in order that formal complaints be brought to the Accountability Committee before being reviewed by the smaller Board of Directors during confidential session. Council passed the finalized motion with twenty-three in favour, one opposed, and one abstention.

 

Engagement with Student Governance

A Motion for Special Emphasis to be Placed on Greater Engagement with Student Governance for 2018-2019 was moved by twelve councilors. The motion addresses the extremely low voter participation in SSMU Winter elections that has persisted since 2004, the issue of most candidates for positions running unopposed in recent elections, and the fact that “many students feel that SSMU is not run fairly, efficiently, accessibly, or according to principles of good governance.”  

The terms of this motion declare SSMU’s dedication to increasing SSMU members’ engagement with student governance and voter turnout for 2018-2019, in addition to the formation of a committee that will work to further develop McGill’s student government into a system that “best reflects students’ needs and realities”. VP University Affairs Jacob Shapiro ensured that, “while 2018-2019 is the year of special emphasis, nowhere in the Terms of Reference does it suggest that the work will be done within a year.” Rather, he believes that this motion will spark a sustained effort to engage SSMU members with their government and re-establish trust.  

The motion was praised by Councilors, with Senator Bryan Buraga cementing his support: “I think this is a fantastic step in the right direction for reforming our society and making sure that we re-engage our members and make sure that they have faith in this institution that can do so much great work.” Following a brief question period, the motion passed unanimously with all Councilors present in favour, and none opposed.

 

Council Nominations to SSMU Board of Directors

The SSMU is managed by a twelve-person Board of Directors, four of which are members of Legislative Council. At Thursday’s meeting, Council approved the nominations of Senate Caucus Bryan Buraga, Education Representative Mu Rong Yang, Arts Representative Garima Karia, and Arts Representative Andrew Figueiredo to the SSMU Board of Directors. These Councilors will start their terms on the Board of Directors on November 15, granted their nominations are approved by the student body at the upcoming General Assembly.

 

Guest Speakers

Britney Williams, Executive Director at McGill’s legal clinic, gave a brief presentation on the role of the Legal Information Clinic at McGill (LICM) and Student Advocacy, which see more than two thousand cases annually. Under the umbrella of the LICM, Student Advocacy provides free legal information to McGill Students to aid them in becoming more knowledgeable about their rights, and administers free representation to McGill students in disputes pertaining to plagiarism, cheating, immigration, and other issues that may arise in the university context.

The second guest speakers were Sustainability Director François Miller and Sustainability Officer Krista Houser from the McGill Office of Sustainability, who gave a presentation regarding the Sustainability Projects Fund. This past year, the fund debuted Tiny Stream, which is a simpler, faster application process for small-scale sustainability initiatives. The goal of this stream is to make funding more accessible to different stakeholders – particularly McGill students. Houser emphasized that Tiny Stream’s simplified application and swift response time for requests under two-hundred-fifty dollars has and will continue to make funding more available to the McGill students, staff, and faculty it serves.

 

Other Business

Council voted unanimously to pass a Motion Regarding Policy on Clubs and Services as SSMU’s Highest Priority, as well as a Motion Regarding Amendments to the Health and Dental Review Committee. A Motion Regarding Changes to the Internal Regulations and a Motion Regarding Changes to the Internal Regulations on Strike General Assemblies were submitted for approval; Council will vote on these motions at the next Council meeting on October 11. Thursday’s Council meeting concluded with various committee reports and individual executive reports, all of which can be found on SSMU’s website.

The Fall SSMU General Assembly will be held on Monday, October 29 at 5:30pm in the New Residence Hall Ballroom. Motions to be brought forth at the General Assembly are due October 15. For more information on motions and General Assemblies, see https://ssmu.ca/governance/general-assembly/.

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