Though the workload for most members of the McGill community has just started to pile up, the executive members of the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) have been working all summer to plan events and ensure that the interests of all McGill students are being served. In the opening month of the semester, the executive was particularly busy with Frosh, activities night, and influx of new students.
“It’s been pretty crazy since the orientation in mid-August, because it’s been full speed ahead. It’s been exciting and nice to see everyone out, especially this time of year. Not only are we busy but other groups on campus are starting up, and everyone is excited to be back,” enthused current SSMU president Katie Larson.
SSMU made many adjustments to Frosh this year, including a big effort to reduce offensive chants and to improve communication between participants and their leaders. “Frosh, I think, was a really great success this year. I don’t want to compare us to the bad events at other schools, but I was glad to see an excellent commitment from all those involved.”
Larson was referring to orientation events at the University of British Columbia and St. Mary’s University this year, which received attention after leaders at both schools encouraged chants that promoted non-consensual sex. Both universities are now questioning the role of student societies, such as those analogous to SSMU, in planning Frosh events.
A new service introduced this Frosh Week was a hotline in which participants could call to report an issue, to connect to their leader, or to contact McGill security services. There was also a separate hotline for members of the Milton Parc community to alert SSMU of disturbances and any other problems. The phone lines improved the overall communication of the event and proved to be a valuable new feature. “Since the platform was there, it encouraged people to use the phone line and communicate more and therefore was successful overall,” stated Larson.
Currently, however, the biggest project facing the current executive is the revision of the SSMU Constitution and bylaws. In the upcoming General Assembly on October 9, SSMU will release and ratify the revised constitution after almost a year and a half since the project first began. Former Presidents Joshua Redel and Maggie Knight started the process of reviewing the bylaws during their terms. The bylaw last saw revisions in 1999. “The process needs to be ongoing, but we also need to find a way to get it done,” Larson noted.
Larson went on to reassure students that they should not expect any major or controversial changes to the document. The biggest revision is ensuring that the constitution always allows SSMU to have a Board of Directors year round by putting proper election mechanisms in place. These mechanisms in the draft of the new constitution include the dual election of Officers and Directors in the March election and the nomination and confirmation of Councilors by referendum in April.
Larson is eager to complete the review of the constitutional bylaws, for she has seen the process unfold throughout her four-year involvement with SSMU, serving first as a councilor to SSMU and then as VP External and President of the Music Undergraduate Society. Due to Katie’s previous involvement with MUSA, faculty relations are something that she is looking forward to overseeing. She is also excited to tackle the other elements of her portfolio, including sustainability projects such as a possible space audit of the SSMU building.
Another key element of the SSMU President’s portfolio this year is her position on CAMSR, the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility. Once CAMSR meets, Larson will sit on two committees. One committee will revise the terms of reference and the other will review the new terms of reference. “The general feeling of the community is that McGill should be more proactive with how they approach social responsibility,” Larson explained. “How to do that? I’m not sure.”
Aside from the presidential portfolio, the other executives have also made progress within their posts. Samuel Harris, Vice President External, has made an effort to increase SSMU’s involvement with TaCEQ, a national Quebec student association. TaCEQ now does their accounting through SSMU, which Larson believes has strengthened the organization’s relationship with McGill.
With regards to accessibility, it is important to Larson as well as the entire SSMU executive that students can come to them with student issues, “We have to sponsor political advocacy, but I think that can overshadow the fact that we are also here to advocate for student and individual rights,” Larson concluded. “Students should feel comfortable coming in and asking questions about SSMU, or complaining about issues pertaining to them and the University.”