Second-year Environment Economics student Benjamin Ger is campaigning for the McGill School of Environment to obtain a seat on the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Council. While the McGill Environment Student Society (MESS) itself is not pushing for a seat, Rachel Gould, third-year Arts & Science student and one of the MESS’s presidents, noted that Ger’s actions were supported by the MESS.
“We specifically are not [seeking a spot on SSMU Council],” Gould said. “A motivated environment student wanted to get Environment a seat on SSMU and has been taking it on. He does have Council’s full support, though.”
The School of Environment is currently represented under many different faculties, including the Faculty of Science, Arts, and Arts & Science. According to Gould, placing Environment under one banner would give the School of Environment a larger voice.
“Environment actually makes up a large portion of the student body, but not when you separate it out into all those different groups,” explained Gould. “It would be nice to have a united voice for all environment students instead of it trying to trickle down through other facilities.”
MESS’s presence on SSMU’s legislative Council will also offer another perspective on the undergraduate student body, Ger explained.
“The social, economic, and environmental equity policies we study are exactly what is needed on our campus to create a flourishing environment for all students,” he explained. “An extra seat on SSMU [Council] also gives another student a voice to comment on, help shape, and provide constructive criticism for SSMU’s actions.”
Obtaining a seat in the Council requires a fundamental change in the established principles of the undergraduate student body. According to SSMU President, Courtney Akuyuwa, the constitution would need to be amended in order to include an additional seat.
“[There can be one] councillor appointed by each faculty or school, [if] that school is not already represented by a faculty-level student association, for every 2,000 students or part thereof to a maximum of four councillors in accordance with the procedures set out by that constituency,” Article 8.2 of the SSMU constitution reads.
The student-run initiative will not change the composition of SSMU’s staff or any financial matters. According to Ayukawa, obtaining a seat for the School of Environment would not necessarily entail eliminating another councillor’s seat at SSMU Council.
“[The outcome] depends on how the referendum question is posed and how students on campus vote,” Ayukawa said.
For the referendum question to be presented to the members of SSMU, it will require 500 signatures by January 29 for its creation. The Winter 2015 referendum period will occur in mid-March.
Ger is in the process of fulfilling the first step in the process of obtaining a seat.
“I have collected 200 signatures so far and need 300 this week,” Ger said. “People have been so amazing and supportive of the idea so far, so I’m not too worried; but if anybody sees me around campus and wants to sign but hasn’t yet, feel free to stop me.”
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Elections SSMU must approve the question before it is put on the ballot. The CEO’s role is to ensure that the question posed respects the referendum question rules, which are found in the constitution and bylaws.
In addition to MESS’s support, some members of the SSMU Council have facilitated Ger’s initiative.
“Courtney Ayukawa, Ben Fung, and Claire Stewart-Kanigan [of SSMU Council] have been fantastic to work with,” Ger said. “They were open to the idea and helped me with many steps along the way. MESS is fantastic to work with and [has] been very supportive through everything.”