At the Nov. 3 meeting, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council voted in favour of supporting the Quebec Public Research Group (QPIRG) existence referendum, restructuring Senator elections for the Faculty of Engineering, and creating a Democratic Review Committee.
Engineering Senator Elections
Council passed the Motion Regarding Electing Student Senators from the Faculty of Engineering, which proposes that the election period for engineering senator positions be moved. Formerly taking place during the SSMU election period, members of the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) will now vote on their Senate representative during the general EUS election period in Winter 2017. Engineering Senators will now be elected annually alongside EUS executives and representatives to SSMU, instead of alongside SSMU executives. According to Tre Mansdoerfer, SSMU Engineering Representative, the motion is intended to increase participation and competition in the election of Engineering Senators.
“I'm aware that [the Faculty of Management] runs [their] senator elections under their own faculty elections [as well],” Mansdoerfer said. “I think it’s going to help with voter turnout. That’s the purpose of this motion [… and it] is going to help make the engineering senator position more appealing and not have it be uncontested like it usually is.”
Some councillors expressed concern that the by laws for all senator elections should be revisited instead of addressing problems at the faculty level. In response, SSMU Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Erin Sobat stated that this was something that could be looked into, but that he might not be comfortable changing all SSMU election regulations.
“I think we're happy to look at that if other faculty associations are interested […],” Sobat said. “In terms of the election regulations themselves, we can revisit that, but SSMU is tasked by McGill for filling these seats [for Senate], and we do delegate them, to some extent, to the faculty associations [for] representation. But, [SSMU is] still responsible for putting forward the names, so there should be some sort of central mechanism still from SSMU […] to make sure that those seats are getting filled.”
Creation of an Ad Hoc Democratic Review Committee
Council also voted to create an Ad Hoc Democratic Governance Review Committee to review and produce recommendations for reform to SSMU’s highest governing bodies, including the Board of Directors (BoD) and the General Assembly (GA). According to Arts Representative Igor Sadikov, this motion was presented in response to changes in the role of the BoD last year.
“Basically the main purpose of this committee would be to review some of the procedures and limits on the power of the [BoD],” Sadikov said. “This is mostly just coming out of the changes that were made at the end of last year where the [BoD] got increased responsibilities [….] However, this was done, in my opinion, without the necessary oversight or transparency regulations for the Board [….] It’s expected that big governance changes will be reviewed once they’re implemented, so it’s good to have a committee even if there weren’t major issues [….]”
Sadikov clarified that the committee's purpose was not to eliminate the BoD.
“This motion is far from questioning the existence of the Board, I recognize that it's legally required,” Sadikov said.
According to SSMU President Ben Ger, this committee will help to define what issues the BoD should and should not take responsibility for.
“The division is not properly outlined to some extent. There are times when the Board ends up dealing with something that could be seen as a political matter because it is tangled with something that is legal, so there definitely is room to further define [its role…],” Ger said.
Ger emphasized that this committee will play a different role than the Equitable Governance Committee.
“At least my envisioning of this is that they're very different bodies,” Ger said. “Equitable governance reform is mainly focused on bringing more voices around the table, making sure this is an accessible space to those who maybe are [underrepresented…. The Democratic Review Committee] is more focused on making sure that there is consultative practices, that there is a strict outline for how [these bodies function] democratically.”