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SSMU Council approves AVEQ affiliation motion for referendum

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A motion to affiliate with one of two new provincial student associations, the Association for the Voice of Education in Québec (AVEQ), was approved for the Winter Referendum at the Feb. 11 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council.  Council approved other new motions to be voted on by students, including a motion to create a club fund fee, and heard a presentation by Tim Wilfong, from McGill Student Services, on the development of the co-curricular record.

AVEQ affiliation referendum

Students will be able to decide whether or not SSMU should move forward with joining the new provincial student federation, Association for the Voice of Education in Québec (AVEQ).

"I truly believe that it will be an effective association to advocate for McGill students' rights in so many different ways,” SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Emily Boytinck said.  “I'm excited to ask students if they want their voices to be heard at the provincial government."

SSMU councillors had individually submitted their preferences for AVEQ instead of the the Union Étudiante du Québec (UÉQ) in an online form prior to the meeting, with two councillors noting they would rather not ask the question this year.

"I'd like to state my opposition to the motion, and this has been mandated by the Medical Students' Society of McGill,” Medicine Representative Joshua Chin said  "My personal view is that […] we should not be voting on this at the moment, however it’s something we should review in the next academic year [….] It’s actually my ninth year at McGill, so I’ve seen plenty of student associations [and] federations  rise and fall."

Arts Senator Erin Sobat urged Council to move forward with the motion, citing the importance of SSMU’s presence within AVEQ to further its growth.

"I disagree strongly with the idea that this association is not robust enough," Sobat said. "It's partly not robust enough, because SSMU is not there as a member. I think it's very important that we be there to formally develop [AVEQ’s] stances, and guide this development."

Council ultimately approved the motion for referendum, with 17 Councillors voting yes, five voting no, and two abstaining.

Creation of a club fund fee discussed

Council approved for referendum a motion to instate a non opt-outable fee of $2.75 per student, per semester towards the creation of a SSMU Clubs Fund. SSMU VP Clubs and Services, Kimber Bialik, cited the financial necessity for the fee, explaining that in the first semester of this year alone, clubs applied for $117,000 in funding, and SSMU could only provide $25,000.

"[Clubs and Services] is one of the areas of SSMU that is wildly under-resourced," Bialik said. “It was already an issue that we couldn't support the clubs that we have, and now, going into a tenuous budget situation, I do not anticipate anywhere near the availability of funding that we have this year to be able to continue.”

Zachariah Houston, VP Finance and Operations addressed concerns over whether the clubs fund fee was indirectly related to the failed base fee increase during this semester’s special referendum.

 "This clubs fund fee […] is something we had talked about prior to centralizing the base fee increase,” Houston said. “[The amount] is what me and the VP Clubs and Services believed should be the amount of the fund."

Co-curricular record

Wilfong presented to Council an update on the development of a co-curricular record to outline students’ involvement in clubs, sports, unpaid volunteer work, or workshops—similar to an academic transcript.

"It includes what a student did, and what a student learned by participating in that,” Wilfong said. “Students are excited to get recognition for what they're doing.  Offering this recognition helps to increase their involvement."

Boytinck questioned how the co-curricular record may affect students who participate in fewer activities, or activities outside of the university.

"[The record] only recognizes certain university-allotted things,” she said. “But I don’t think [it] would recognize somebody who’s spent a lot of time in activist groups or […] in grassroots community organizations, and I’m wondering if [there are] plans for extending who is recognized by this, and critically looking at how this might encourage a culture of getting involved in everything”

The pilot program for the co-curricular record was launched in 2012, with an unofficial version having launched in Winter 2015.  Currently, 25 SSMU clubs and eight services are registered within the program as eligible activities, but in December 2015, Bialik approved the program’s expansion.

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