SSMU Legislative Council discusses Executive’s international political positions, S/U policy, 5-year plan

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On December 3, 2020, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its last legislative council meeting of the semester, to discuss several motions put forward, including a discussion on the S/U policy, the adoption of a 5-year plan, and the “Motion Regarding the Clarification of an International Political Position.”

5-Year Plan

Legislative Council unanimously adopted a 5-year plan, moved by SSMU president Jemark Earle, which included the proposal to open a pharmacy for students run by SSMU. It would require a partnership with leadership of a registered pharmacy, such as Jean Coutu or Pharmaprix, per Quebec law that demands pharmacies be run by licensed pharmacists. The 5-year plan would begin in January 2021.

Release of Official Communications

After a controversial statement released by the SSMU on November 7, SSMU has elected to adapt new guidelines for the release of official communications by the executive committee of SSMU. 

The relevant motion stated that “Concerns raised, by members, to the Executive Committee questioned the legitimacy of statements made by the Committee on behalf of the Society. It has, furthermore, been suggested that communications made on behalf of the Society, as a whole, should rest under the authority of the Legislative Council.” The motion was approved, however only 13 members were in favour, while 6 opposed the motion, and 6 abstained from voting.

S/U Policy

The SSMU proposal to implement the S/U option for the Fall 2020 semester was rejected by the McGill Senate Steering Committee. The Steering Committee chose not to present the proposal to the McGill Senate, on the basis of their belief that it devalues the McGill degree, concerns that the faculty has not implemented adequate preparations, and not trusting that McGill students will make responsible decisions regarding the matter.

“The choice element here is what it comes down to, we are not negatively affected by the choice of whether or not to do something,” stated Engineering Representative Jake Reed. “That is what’s really infuriating here, the paternalism that the institution is presently showing us by saying that they have to make that decision for us…It is clear that the student body favours an S/U option.”

Motion Regarding the Clarification of an International Political Position

The SSMU contemplated the adoption of a procedural framework to reference when making and releasing political statements on behalf of the society. The proposed framework by the executive committee originally included the following statement, which proved controversial:

“Colonialism, imperialism, expansionism, and globalization are mechanisms through which capitalism promotes the exploitation of physical and human resources and undermines the protection of human rights.”

This statement, among others, proved to be highly contentious among the legislative council. VP University Affairs Brooklyn Frizzle, an advocate for the passing of the motion, explained that “to ignore the concerns of marginalized groups in favour of avoiding controversy or representing as many people as possible would, in fact, be contrary to our equity policy. Our first priority should be to give a platform to those that don’t already have one.” 

In response, Engineering Representative Jake Reed, stated that “I think it would be extremely hypocritical of SSMU, and damaging, to pretend to be an anti-capitalist institution…I don’t think it makes sense if we’re going to take political positions to imbed anti-capitalist language or rhetoric in there.” He also cited the fact that SSMU has an investment portfolio and often helps students obtain jobs in large and highly controversial businesses.

After revisions which removed the aforementioned statement, the motion ended up getting approved, with 18 in favour, 2 opposed, and three abstentions.

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