The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter 2019 General Assembly (GA) failed to meet the required 350 students for quorum during its Feb. 25 session, with only 27 voting members in attendance. Nonetheless, the Motion to Endorse the Student Walkout for Climate Justice passed within the limited powers of the consultative forum and the Legislative Council subsequently approved it on Feb. 28.
The motion called for SSMU to publicly declare support for the Mar. 15 climate walkout, which is organized by university students across Montreal as part of an international day of climate protest.
“Be it resolved that the SSMU publish an official public statement endorsing the McGill Student Walkout for Climate Justice on Friday, March 15th to demand governmental and institutional action in line with the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)] report’s recommendation to limit warming to 1.5 degrees celsius,” the motion reads.
The executives passed an amendment asking the SSMU Executive to send a delegation to the McGill Student Walkout under the VP External portfolio. The motion’s representatives, Christina Lau, U1 Management, and Noah Fisher, U2 Arts, spoke to the importance of student engagement.
“McGill University’s institutions don’t always and often cannot represent the interests of the student body, particularly the Board of Governors, [which only] has token representatives from SSMU,” Fisher said. “As such, we believe that it is very important for SSMU to recognize and to endorse this movement to amplify the voices of students whether it be in divestment or [with] regard to government change or institutional change, that could not necessarily […] be represented in these institutions.”
The GA’s low turnout prompted SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer to address the issue of attendance, pointing to obstacles posed by the temporary closure of the SSMU building and explaining his proposal for a SSMU public relations department.
“I think we should […] hire someone to do PR specifically,” Mansdoerfer said. “I think that SSMU should be working on how [to] write certain motions that people might be engaged in. There shouldn’t be a desire for a controversial motion necessarily, but things like [today’s motion] are very valuable motions that members would be engaged with.”
SSMU VP University Affairs Jacob Shapiro expressed enthusiasm for the proposal, highlighting it as an example of the community-driven innovation that the GA stands for.
“This is, I think, the best of what a General Assembly is,” Shapiro said. “It is members of society bringing forward motions around important issues that, for whatever reason, executives or councillors or other members of SSMU failed to address.”
Arts and Science Senator Bryan Buraga echoed Shapiro’s sentiments.
“We here at SSMU have a long history of fighting for social justice and upholding human rights, and this motion really embodies what we here at SSMU are fighting for,” Buraga said.
The motion represents the latest in SSMU sustainability and climate legislation. In Mar. 2015, the Student Society also passed the Motion Regarding the Adoption of a Climate Change Policy and approved the Motion Regarding the Formal Ratification of the United Nations Sustainable Goals in Feb. 2017. Additionally, SSMU updated its Sustainability Policy in Mar. 2018.