Council divided over coffee & tea

News/SSMU by

A motion was passed at last Thursday’s Students’ Society Council meeting to provide coffee and tea to student councillors at their bi-weekly meetings. This seemingly innocuous resolution met resistance when some councillors objected to the vague wording in the proposed resolution.

The motion, which read, “Resolved, coffee and tea will be made available to councillors during council meetings,” elicited concerns  ranging from where the money would come from to opposition based on principle.

Nick Drew, SSMU vice-president finance and operations, said he thought the motion had been put together at the last minute and cited concerns of poor planning.

“I don’t think we should be allotting student money to pay for councillors’ coffee or tea on a regular basis,” he said. “We all know Council can be long and tedious at times, yet this is what councillors were elected to do by their constituents.”

One of the authors of the motion, Arts Senator Amara Possian, explained that they originally intended to leave space for a discussion of how the beverages would be paid for. However, she said that at the Council meeting, “no one was really interested in talking about it and then the motioned passed.”

Some councillors were concerned that the money for the beverages would be coming from students. Possian said that this was never the intention of the motion, but rather that the cost would be covered by donations from councillors.

“Students’ concerns of paying for coffee and tea are nothing to worry about,” she added.

SSMU VP External Affairs Myriam Zaidi said that the idea of having the beverages paid for by donation was brought up. Others, however, suggested paying for the coffee and tea with money from the SSMU’s investment portfolio, which has seen a $200,000 increase since last year.

“When you have someone reporting that we have $200,000 in our investment portfolio, offering coffee and tea to councillors would be something that we could afford,” Zaidi said.

However, Arts Representative Spencer Burger said he was less concerned with the method of payment than with the general notion behind the motion.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of representatives in any form awarding themselves something,” he said. “I oppose it purely out of principle, [but] I understand where the councillors who proposed it were coming from.”

Zaidi pointed out that most of the debate surrounding the motion revolved around the vagueness of the word “provide” in the resolution and how it would be paid for.

“The motion just says we should provide coffee and tea,” she said. “It doesn’t say we should pay for the coffee and tea, it does not mention any other options for people who don’t drink coffee or tea.”

Some were also concerned with the motion because the SSMU executives recently decided to provide pizza to councillors at every other meeting. Some though offering both pizza and hot beverages would cost too much.

“Executive committee decided we could give pizza once a month just to kind of energize students, but looking at the bill, the cost benefit is not worth it,” Drew said. “It doesn’t add up and it’s not worth spending money on that.”

Zaidi said that the decision to provide pizza was made over the summer as “part of our vision for recognizing councillors’ effort.”

But Drew said that “spending $60-$80 on pizza for 25-30 people is exhausting our resources and it does not even satisfy most people’s hunger.”

Because of the concerns brought up after the passage of the motion and the call for more clarity in the resolution, Possian explained that the motion will most likely be appealed at the next Council, and a new more precise motion will be raised.

“It passed, but it’s probably one of the motions that is just going to fall through the cracks,” Drew said. “It will definitely be discussed at the next Council.”