The SSMU Legislative Council convened for the penultimate meeting of the Winter Term 2022 on March 24. They passed a motion to improve French accessibility and discussed both the SSMU goal of becoming an anti-oppressive space and President Daryanani’s return to the council.
President Daryanani’s Return from Leave of Absence
After a six-month hiatus, Darshan Daryanani announced his return to SSMU on February 14, 2022, saying he planned an immediate return to his position as President. However, he was not present for this week’s meeting, stating in a written letter that he was “acting in [his] official duties as Governor of McGill University.” As such, many questions were posed in the meeting regarding his absence, his return to SSMU, and the confidentiality surrounding his unexplained leave of absence. When asked why President Daryanani’s return was not communicated to the student body, VP External Affairs Sacha Delouvrier explained that the Board of Directors wanted to allow the President to communicate his own return to the McGill student body.
In addition to the lack of communication about President Daryanani’s return, the reason for his leave of absence remains unexplained. Because he was not present at the meeting, President Daryanani answered all questions posed during the question period with pre-written responses. Councilor Zhang asked the President if, “he, at any point during his leave, considered resigning from his position, considering he did not have the ability to fulfill his mandate.” Daryanani responded in the negative.
Councilor Tiniacos then asked President Daryanani if he felt it was responsible for him to keep the position of SSMU President and the $30,000 salary after being on explained leave for six months and having graduated. Daryanani wrote that he “did not choose to be removed, and does not have a degree at the moment.”
SSMU as an Anti-Oppressive Space
During the general question period of this meeting, multiple inquiries were posed regarding the inclusivity of women and gender minorities in SSMU. In the past, according to Councilor Tiniacos, “constituents have expressed uncomfortable feelings about the composition of the Executive body.” Additionally, VP University Affairs Claire Downie, who has been a part of student governance for three years, stated that there is a “long-standing culture at SSMU where men can behave with impunity and women are not afforded the same decency.”
When asked what the executive committee had done to ensure SSMU was equitable and avoided toxicity, VP Finance Eric Sader answered that they had reformed the Human Resources Committee (HRC) to, “fix how it works.” He elaborated that in the past, VP Finance and the President were members of the HRC, creating a conflict of interest in terms of accountability and transparency.
The HRC has since been reformed to have an Equity commissioner as well as three Directors, so no executives nor the President currently sit on the committee. Despite this action and the words of President Daryanani, who says he ran on a platform to ensure a safe and inclusive environment and plans to continue working towards this, many students appear to feel continued distress and frustration towards the lack of inclusivity of women and gender minorities in SSMU.
Motion Regarding the French Accessibility Fee
A motion was unanimously passed to implement a $0.25 fee per student per semester which would go towards the inclusion and promotion of Quebec and French Francophone culture. The fee would give the SSMU approximately $16,000 a year. With this money, they are hoping to better support French-speaking students by hosting more cultural events and advocating for their rights. Additionally, they plan to promote the French language to English-speaking students who want to learn the language but have not previously been able to. After this motion was passed, a member of the gallery asked why this fee is not included in membership fees. VP Internal Affairs Sarah Paulin stated that “they really want to put an emphasis on Francophone students, and with a universal fee the money is distributed differently.”
The council will reconvene over Zoom on April 7, 2022 for the final time this academic year.