McGill Governance 101

STUDENTS’ SOCIETY OF MCGILL UNIVERSITY (SSMU)

What it does:

SSMU is McGill’s highest level of student government responsible for supervising undergraduate clubs and extracurricular activities, managing and ensuring the sustainability of long-term operations such as the student bar Gerts’, advocating for student interests in the McGill Senate, and planning social events for the student body. SSMU is led by seven student executives who are elected by the student body at the end of each academic year. Legislative Council, which is composed of the SSMU executives and 30 other councillors that represent faculties and clubs, determines policy directions. Undergraduate students can directly influence SSMU by attending its virtual General Assemblies and voting in online referenda, both of which are held once every semester. 

Recent Events:

The 2019-2020 school year was an important year for SSMU: In addition to finally securing a long sought-after reading week for 2021, it is also working with UTILE, a housing organization, to organize affordable housing for McGill students. This year, SSMU executives are advocating for racial justice at McGill; they have supported several faculty statements addressing racism and are recruiting a Black Affairs Commissioner to better address Black students’ needs.

POSTGRADUATE STUDENTS’ SOCIETY (PGSS)

What it does: 

Elected by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, PGSS representatives meet once a month to discuss and vote on new policies. The PGSS executives plan social events and workshops, many of which take place in their headquarters at Thomson House. Their mandate is to provide accessible networking opportunities for postgraduate students. Additionally, the society advocates for the interests of graduate students by liaising with other governing bodies at McGill and beyond.

Recent Events:

At a meeting in February 2020, PGSS members outlined their plans to create an area specifically for the use of graduate students in the McLennan-Redpath Library complex, which will be undergoing renovations as part of the Fiat Lux Building Project over the next several years. In addition, PGSS is debating joining the Quebec Student Union, which advocates for student interests at the provincial level. Currently, PGSS sits as an observer, as opposed to acting within the capacity of a full member.

BOARD OF GOVERNORS (BoG)

What it does:

The McGill BoG acts as the final authority over all of the university’s academic and financial affairs. Two student representatives sit on the 25-person board, with the rest of the seats belonging to other stakeholders. Composed of nine standing committees, including the Finance Committee and the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), the BoG governs the daily operations at McGill. 

Recent Events: 

The Board of Governors disappointed many last winter when, on the advice of CAMSR, it advocated for a lower-impact “decarbonization” plan instead of deciding to divest from fossil fuels. Despite Philosophy Professor Gregory Mikkelson’s resignation from his tenured position to protest the decision, Principal Suzanne Fortier and the rest of the BoG showed no interest in reassessing the matter.

MCGILL SENATE

What it does:

The Senate governs academic policies, such as the development of curricula and academic requirements for McGill’s degrees and diplomas. It also takes on a broader role at McGill by managing the university’s libraries and administering Student Services. The Senate is composed of 111 members and nine standing committees, which include the Senate Steering Committee and the Committee on Libraries. The Senate meets on a monthly basis, during which standing committees deliver reports and senators vote on policies and nominations.

Recent Events:

The Senate has devoted its past several meetings to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect learning this year and has adjusted its priorities in accordance with new requirements. In addition, it endorsed the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion plan which aims to address hiring biases and retention rates among BIPOC faculty and staff, in addition to hiring researchers to further investigate the history between McGill and slavery.

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