On October 24, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met to discuss matters of internal and external governance, new regulations, and an affordable student housing committee.
University Senate Governance Reform
Professor Gregory Matthew Mikkelson, the President-elect for the McGill Association of University Teachers, brought forth a proposal to make McGill governance more democratic by ensuring student representatives are elected by their peers, making the dean selection-process transparent, and having advising committees to the principal elect their own chair.
VP University Affairs Madeline Wilson voiced her support, calling the motion “important.” Echoing Wilson’s thoughts, VP External Adam Gwiazda-Amsel said supporting the proposal would be a “good show of union solidarity … setting a good precedent.”
Seeing the councillors in consensus, President Bryan Buraga motioned for a vote of unanimous consent in support, which passed.
Report from the CGRC
Speaker Husayn Jamal, also the Governing Documents Researcher from the Comprehensive Governance Review Committee (CGRC), presented the CGRC report from the 2018-2019 school year, which included changing the composition of the legislative council for Fall 2020.
The report proposes to remove four seats (the interfaculty Arts and Science councillor, the two undergraduate Senate councillors, the Residence councillor, and the Environment councillor), while adding three non-voting seats (from the SSMU Indigenous Affairs Committee, the SSMU Equity Committee, and the MacDonald Campus Students’ Society).
In defense of the removal of the Arts and Science councillor, Jamal said that “Arts-Sci already has representation in both the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) and the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS), and we want to avoid double representation.”
Engineering councillor Bruno Marcoux raised concerns about why other minorities are not getting represented in the same way as the Indigenous Affairs Committee. Jamal, in response, added that the Indigenous Affairs Committee’s non-voting seat came out of a conversation with the Committee about better representation.
The report also proposed allowing members of the student body at large to bring motions to regular legislative council meetings. Following a question-and-answer session, the council voted to return the report to the CGRC and to hold consultations with the CGRC about the proposed changes to the council.
Internal Regulations of Elections
VP University Affairs Madeline Wilson presented a motion to amend election regulations, ensuring candidates didn’t campaign “abusively.”
I believe in the ability of the electoral office to make decisions.
Reacting to the vague language of the amendment, Arts Councillor Andrew Chase was concerned that candidates would be reprimanded for things they weren’t explicitly told not to do.
Senator Andre Lametti responded, “It’s better to keep [the regulations] vague, because it would be outdated too quickly if we made it too specific. I believe in the ability of the electoral office to make decisions.”
Deputy electoral officer Ben Howard stated that the first violation of electoral regulations would be a warning, while the second violation would be an infraction – a clause Chase moved to be added to the amendment.
The motion passed (22 in favor, 1 opposed, 0 abstaining), and as a result, Elections SSMU withdrew their amendment of the same article, citing satisfaction with the newly-amended one.
The Creation of an Affordable Student Housing Committee
VP External Gwiazda-Amsel brought forth a motion regarding the creation of an affordable student housing committee, citing inspiration from similar efforts at Concordia University to promote accessibility to affordable student housing.
VP Internal Sanchi Bhalla proposed the designation of some transitory spaces as “crash pads” for students during frosh, which Gwiazda-Amsel said will be considered as the committee moves to adapt to McGill’s needs.
Student Rights Commissioner Adrienne Tessier, proxy for Councillor Jeremy Garneau, was concerned about “the optics of SSMU being a landlord for students and taking them to court over late rent.” In response, Gwiazda-Amsel clarified that UTILE, as a nonprofit organization, would be the landlord for students, not SSMU, because SSMU does not have the capacity to manage student housing by itself.
The motion passed (24 in favor, 1 opposed, and 1 abstaining), prompting the nomination of councillors to the newly formed committee. Councillors Jo Roy and Noah Merali expressed interest in the two open councillor positions, and were voted in unanimously.