On September 28, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened for the second time this semester. On the agenda were motions regarding a referendum on joining the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) and the addition of a new Bike Centre for faculty and students. Questions regarding the transparency of the SSMU’s governance were raised as well.
According to AVEQ’s website, the association offers “…a real alternative for national representation to students in Québec.” In March 2016, this alternative was not tempting enough for McGill students: a referendum question regarding AVEQ affiliation and the levy of a non-opt-outable membership fee was voted down.
Questions for AVEQ’s representatives reflected on the past referendum. Councillor Anderson questioned AVEQ on why they thought affiliation was down voted in the last referendum, and what they have done since the last referendum to gain the support of the McGill student body in the event of another referendum. AVEQ spokesperson Kristen Perry responded, “AVEQ was still very much in development…[it] has significantly expanded.” Perry went on to highlight an increase in the scope of the research conducted by the organization, and growth in contact with government officials.
Other increases in expenditures by the SSMU weighed heavily on council members in the form of a proposed year-round Bike Centre on McTavish. According to representatives of the project, the Bike Centre would improve sustainability at McGill by encouraging cycling to campus. In April 2016, the project gained support in the form of a SSMU plebiscite question, with an overwhelming 83% of students supporting it.
The project aims to alleviate student concerns as well. The desire for the Centre stemmed from studies conducted by McGill that found 39% of student cyclists identified a lack of parking as a barrier to using bikes to get to school. The proposed Bike Centre would have 350 parking spaces, with one third designated for students, another third for faculty, with usage of the last third left to be determined by either faculty or student demand.
Even with support of previous Legislative Councils, the functionality of the project was still questioned by this year’s councillors. One of the main causes of concern stemmed from a membership fee that would be required for those who wish to use the facility. This trepidation was eased by a student representative of the project, who mentioned that the membership fees – which include access to a locker as well as showers – pale in comparison to local rates at similar facilities. As of now, the SSMU has not yet agreed to fund the construction of the Bike Centre, but in the event that it does, completion is expected for August 2019.
Question period highlighted the tension over the recent Board of Directors decision on the legality of BDS and similar motions. Councillor Vithushon Thayalan asked President Muna Tojiboeva a question regarding a perceived conflict of interest that stemmed from Tojiboeva’s previous role as Chief Justice of the Judicial Board.
In response, President Tojiboeva cited the laws surrounding conflicts of interest. She stated that she was not in violation of any such law, as she neither derived any personal gain, nor any financial gain from the decision. To this end, she maintained that her vote at the Board of Directors meeting did not constitute a conflict.
Finally, SSMU Vice President Internal Maya Koparkar motioned to nominate the Vice President Student Life, Jemark Earle, to the Society’s Board of Directors. The motion passed.
The next Legislative Council meeting is set for October 12.
An earlier version of this article stated that the Bike Centre would be open by August 2018. It has been updated to reflect that, if approved, the Bike Centre would be open by August 2019. The Bull & Bear regrets this error.