On Wednesday Nov. 18, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) endorsed Divest McGill’s petition to remove McGill’s investments in fossil fuel companies and discussed future renovations to the Arts Lounge and McLennan Library.
Divest McGill endorsement
Council approved a motion of support regarding Divest McGill’s petition to the Board of Governors (BoG). The petition, which was submitted last February to the BoG’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), asked the university to cease its investments in the fossil fuel industry, and to invest in other environmentally responsible funds.
Some representatives were concerned about the petition reducing the internships available for McGill students in fossil fuel companies, especially for students in the Faculty of Engineering. Andrew Stein, U2 Environment and a representative of Divest McGill, explained that fossil fuel industries do not represent a significant proportion of the university’s investment.
“Out of our 1.3 billion dollar endowment fund, somewhere between five and eight per cent in the range of 70 million dollars is invested in fossil fuel companies,” he said.
Nevertheless, Stein elaborated on the importance of ensuring that internships in fields other than those relating to fossil fuels are made accessible to engineering students.
“What we can do is we can diversify so that when industry takes a hit, then the Faculty [of Engineering] as whole is not as strongly affected,” Stein said. “It’s not the money itself; it’s about the symbolic message of saying that we’re not interested profiting from a company that’s doing such environmental harm and social harm.”
Council then moved on to a discussion about renovating the Arts Lounge.
“[This] is something that is planned nearly every year, it gets discussed all the time,” AUS President Jacob Greenspon said. “The Arts Lounge is not as great of a place as it could be, and as we want it to be, and there are really a lot of ideas out there.”
Renovation ideas presented at the meeting included repairing walls and increasing study space.
“We could get rid of some of the computers [in the computer lab] and put [in] more study space,” Greenspon said. “The use of the computer lab in the Arts Lounge has […] really decreased a lot in the past year,”
The discussion also focused on a framework for allowing student involvement in the decision making process.
“The first way that this [student] consultation should happen is […] with idea generations outlets to [get] the word out that this lounge redesign is happening and get students to suggest […] different ideas,” Greenspon said.
He also mentioned potential ideas for getting students involved in the redesign process.
“We can do a survey,” Greenspon said. “A lot of people have been using whiteboards when they want to redesign a space [… and], we can put a table in the lounge.
AUS Vice-President (VP) Academic Gabriel Gilling stated in his report that he will meet on Friday Nov. 20 with the AUS Library Partnership Committee (LPC) to discuss improvements to the design of the McLennan Library’s upper floors.
“There [are] a lot of really funky ideas,” said Gilling. “We are going to focus on the landings of [the] second, third, fifth, and sixth floors of McLennan [….] There [are] a bunch of things that we are looking at, especially the colours, and the carpet that we would like to change.”
Mental health on campus
Gilling met with the Committee on Student Affairs on Nov. 11 and discussed mental health issues on campus and the new Early Alert system, which is an online system allowing professors to communicate and engage more directly with their students’ wellbeing by sending them a message via MyCourses.
“Most professors are increasingly aware of [mental health] and we discussed the role of the faculty, that professors would play in mental health,” said Gilling. “It provides a venue for [professors] to show their students that they actually care.”
This project is not finalized yet, and will be put into place sometime during the following month. Council members additionally discussed the difficulty in identifying mental health issues in very large classes.
“For the moment, they are really looking at those 300-level, 400-level, 500-level courses where there is a much higher relationship between the students and the [professor],” said Gilling. “But it is a very good question.”
AUS VP Finance Mirza Ali Shakir explained in his report that SNAX is currently not running a profit according to its most recent financial inventory. According to Shakir, the focus of financial measures would be on adapting inventory management and decrease losses in order to keep the prices as low as possible.
“The idea behind this is to pinpoint each product, how much profit we are making per product, which products are selling more […] so instead of raising prices, we are compensating for losses,” he said.
Moreover, Shakir mentioned that he received a letter from the provincial government concerning the Annual Declaration in Respect of Pay Equity for SNAX employees.
“It requires AUS that it pays its females employees as much as we pay our male employees,” said Shakir. “It is funny because we only have female employees at SNAX.”