Winter General Assembly 2019: Walkout for Climate Justice, and Executive Reports

Photo by Dan Schechner.

On Monday, February 25, the SSMU Winter General Assembly (GA) took place in the Frank Dawson Adams auditorium with fewer than 50 attendees. Because the number of people in attendance was well below quorum, the meeting was deemed a “consultative forum” whereby all motions, approved or otherwise, are deferred to the next legislative council meeting. The next legislative council meeting took place on Thursday, February 28.

As usual, the GA began with a land acknowledgement, approval of the agenda, and approval of the Fall 2018 GA minutes. Afterward, the Motion to Endorse the Student Walkout for Climate Justice was approved and followed by presentations from SSMU executives.

 

Motion to Endorse the Student Walkout for Climate Justice

This motion was put forward by constituent Noah Fisher and Arts Senator Madeline Wilson. It was approved by attendees to the General Assembly and was sent to legislative council for approval resulting in the publishing of an official statement by the SSMU endorsing the walkout for climate justice, which is to take place on March 15.

SSMU Executives Tre Mansdoerfer and Jacob Shapiro praised the motion as a prime example of members of the society participating in student governance and bringing forth ideas that may have been overlooked by the executive committee. The motion passed with a friendly amendment by Bryan Buraga which mandated that SSMU send a delegation to the walkout under the VP External Portfolio.

 

BoD Report

Mansdoerfer presented the Board of Directors Report. Current projects being undertaken by the Board include the approval of a pizza oven for Gert’s, the possibility of allowing SSMU clubs in good financial standing to use credit cards, and the approval of using 680 Sherbrooke student groups. The Board is also working on governance structure reform, exploring options to overhaul the composition of the Board. Mansdoerfer stated the Board plans to have options presented by March 28.

The rest of the executive then presented their reports. Since the role of VP External has remained open since Marina Cupido resigned last semester, each of the executives have absorbed parts of the External portfolio.

 

Internal Affairs Report

VP Internal Affairs Matthew McLaughlin outlined his progress on the portfolio thus far. He has overhauled the First Year Affairs constitution, launched the Francophone Affairs Committee, overhauled the design of the Listserv, and translated the SSMU Constitution into French.

McLaughlin has also worked on several major events, including the Children of the Corn Halloween Event, the SSMUpwerbowl event, and the upcoming Faculty Olympics. He is also working on initiatives geared at making student politics more transparent for students to incite greater interest and participation, such as a “Day in the Life” series and Facebook Live videos to present executive updates.

McLaughlin announced that he has been working on background research for a long-term project that would make drug testing kits free and available to students. “There’s a lot of risk with drugs, you don’t know what you’re actually using most of the time, so if you have these kits available for students it could be a good harm-reductive measure.”

 

Finance Report

VP Finance Jun Wang’s major initiatives this year have revolved around guiding clubs in the bank transition, including updating student resources, holding workshops on Google Classrooms, and streamlining the funding application form process. Wang is currently looking into restructuring to provide future VP Finances with a finance department.

Wang explained that Sumac, an expensive software with a steep learning curve, has been replaced with wordpress forms, which is a “more intuitive way to track funding applications and an easy way to design forms.” This ensures that all SSMU forms are standardized, and makes access to the form more direct.

Wang is also looking into restructuring the departments with the rationale that there are too many and that the next VP Finance should have access to a finance department, as opposed to overseeing all services alone.

 

University Affairs Report

VP University Affairs Jacob Shapiro has been working on Senate reform, advocacy campaigns, and research. He explained that the Associate Senator position that he started (to increase clarity and preparedness of first-year students who want to be Senators in the future) has been successful but would benefit from more involvement.

The Fall Reading Week Committee, headed by Senator Bryan Buraga, has made significant progress. Shapiro was accepting proposals for library improvements for allocations to begin in the fall, with the goal of “a new library that is hopefully more inspiring and less dark!”

Shapiro has also been working to change the rules around the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) option for elective courses. During the question period, a constituent voiced their concern that the S/U change would lead to some students switching to a regular course from pass-fail when their grade becomes an A to “artificially inflate their grade.” Shapiro defended the proposed change: “I would like to suggest that it’s more difficult than the questioner seems to think to use this [S/U option] to game the system. People who take an elective S/U and do well should be able to uncover their grade… To me, as much as possible, words should reflect grades done, it makes little sense to me that someone who works hard and does well gets an S.”

In regards to the Know Your Rights campaign, Shapiro explained that progress has been made in the form of a move to in-class announcements, data collection on professors doing assessments during the add-drop period, and the potential for an online mini-campaign in the future.

 

Student Life Report

VP Student Life Sophia Esterle was unable to attend, and later announced she would be taking an indefinite leave from SSMU. In her place, President Mansdoerfer presented her report and highlighted Esterle’s work with student groups.

She was able to find space for clubs while building construction went on and executed campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week, and McGill’s first ever eating disorder Awareness Week, which she created to help provide resources to students with eating disorders after the Eating Disorder Program (EDP) was cut last year.

Esterle also ran activities night out of the Fieldhouse and created a numbered directory and floor plan. Her goals for the rest of the year include continuing to work with mental health initiatives and strengthening SSMU’s relationship with Residence Life.

 

President Report

The President announced governance documentation updates, as well as Internal Regulations updates including the creation of a conflict of interest policy. He outlined his plans to increase psychological and dental coverage from $500-$1000 reasoning that it will better reflect the psychological claims made at SSMU, and that the increase will be important for wisdom teeth removals.

He further outlined his plans to make 3501 Peel a student service hub with private psychologists, nutritionists, physiotherapists, etc.. “So the goal will be you can go down the street right next to Gert’s, use the health and dental plan that people already have, go to psychologists in our building and pay $20 out of pocket for psychologists right next to campus as well.”

He went on to detail the Faculty Restriction Policy he’s been working on with all faculties. This will create a streamlined list of people who have been restricted from events like Carnival, Science Games, etc. for prohibited behaviour and ensure their restriction from other similar events. Mansdoerfer hopes that this policy will make events much safer, and claims that in the past 4 years alone, around 100-150 people’s names would be on this list.

When asked about the contradictory series of decisions made by the AUS regarding POLI 339, President Mansdoerfer replied that “from us and from SSMU’s perspective, we normally adhere to what the faculties say… so as soon as we see an email with a signed letter that has the President’s signature… we follow suit… It’s much more of a rubber stamp.”

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