At its second meeting of the Winter semester on Jan. 24, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) created the Ad-hoc People of Colour Committee and approved AUS budget changes. The motions to amend the Financial By-Laws and call for both departmental elections and a Winter referendum also passed.
Vice-President (VP) Communications Maria Thomas and Arts Representative Jennifer Chan put forward a motion outlining the creation of an Ad-hoc committee for People of Colour within the AUS. The committee, which has been in the works for the past few months, would be a governance body for people of colour to safely discuss their concerns and ideas to make the AUS a more inclusive space. The motion passed unanimously.
“The idea is to create a […] safe space for people of colour that work in any capacity for AUS,” Thomas said. “The idea of it is that there would be a safe space for people of colour to talk about how they’re feeling and their experiences in AUS, whilst also carrying out events which promote diversity and equity, [such as] conversation circles every month which focus on a certain theme [and] a Multicultural Day.”
Thomas and Chan believe that there is a need for such a committee despite it having similar responsibilities to the existing Equity Committee, formed in 2013 to advise the AUS on policies related to equality and protection of marginalized groups. Whereas the Equity Committee has a broad mandate including addressing problems such as sexual harassment, the Ad-hoc People of Colour Committee will be specifically dedicated to the interests of racial minorities on campus and the promotion of conversations surrounding racial identity.
“People of colour within student government don’t have a platform for them to all have a conversation,” Chan said. “We’re quite segregated in terms of our groups already, so [the committee would provide a place] for creating collaboration and conversation.”
As a result of fee increases and amendments to financial by-laws, AUS President Erik Partridge and VP Finance Noah Lew proposed a number of changes to the AUS budget, all of which passed. These included reductions to the Financial Management Council (FMC) budget, which in previous years has not been fully spent, as well as reinstating a reduced Peer Tutoring grant. Lew also discussed plans to create a bursary to subsidize departmental event fees for students with financial need.
“[There are plans to] provide a bursary in which, if a student is in financial need, [and] if it’s a paid event or a departmental event or any AUS event, that [would cover the fee] and provide [the event] free of charge,” Lew said.
Partridge and VP Academic Madeline Wilson moved to accept the FMC’s financial decisions made on Jan. 17, with an additional allocation of $400 made to the McGill Policy Association.
“My concern was […] that the majority of this allocation is going towards cash prizes for the winners of the case competition,” Partridge said. “Considering that this is student funds going to an outside group for cash prizes, it concerns me because it’s hard for us to track that the expenses are legitimate and not being derailed somewhere.”
The motion passed, with 26 votes in favour and 7 votes against.
The AUS Legislative Council will next meet on Feb. 7.