SSMU Council discusses base fee increase, referendum questions

On March 14, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met to discuss motions on Referendum questions including increases to the SSMU base fee and an increase to Student Services fee.

Motion regarding the increase of the SSMU Membership Fee

SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer presented his Master Plan—a long-term project that requires a $30 membership fee increase, from $44 to $74 per semester, for every undergraduate student. The revenue from the increase would have gone toward hiring additional staff, purchasing new spaces, and renovating building facilities; a large part of the plan involved implementing a ‘SSMU Wellness Model,’ under which the society would hire four private psychologists, a nutritionist, a massage therapist, and a physiotherapist to compensate for a lack of mental health resources on campus.

The motion passed at Legislative Council, but the undergraduate student body voted down the proposed increase in the SSMU Winter 2019 Referendum, where it failed by a margin of 162 votes.

Motion regarding the Student Services’ fee question for the Winter 2019 Referendum

Martine Gauthier, executive director of McGill’s Student Services attended theCouncil meeting as a spokesperson for the Student Services’ fee question for the Winter 2019 Referendum, asking to raise the student base fee by four per cent. This would generate an additional $318,000 for Student Services. SSMU initially rejected the motion on February 28.

Gauthier presented the current plan for the Rossy Wellness Hub, a $14 million dollar project to remodel Student Services in the Brown Building. The Hub will combine counselling, health, and psychiatric services and wellness to provide mental health services much in demand at McGill. The proposed fee levy is also crucial  to remedying Student Services’ financial deficiency, which is currently operating at a deficit.

“If we do not address these problems by 2023, we will be almost $2 million dollars back in debt,” Gauthier said. “I do not think it is ethical for students to be paying for a deficit that was brought by not overseeing the financial services.”

If the motion fails in the referendum, Gauthier will be forced to reconsider services under the Student Services portfolio which are considered ‘non-essential,’ such as Campus Life & Engagement (CL&E) and McGill’s Office for Religious and Spiritual Life (MORSL).

“Right now, we are maxed out, and we are going through salary increases now, so we have to cut services,” Gauthier said.

Provided the fee passed in the Referendum, McGill pledged to add an additional $337,000 to the $13 million that it is already donating to Student Services. Senators Bryan Buraga and Andre Lametti critiqued this conditionality, contesting McGill’s incentive to increase its contribution only if the Referendum fee passes.

“It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth for McGill to dangle $300,000 over our heads and say, ‘We’ll match it, if you say yes,’” Buraga said.

In response, Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Jacob Shapiro reiterated the importance of funding Student Services.

“There’s not only one way to take a stance on things, and what we know is that Student Services does need money and counselors,” Shapiro said.

The Student Services Fee passed on March 29 by 61.1 per cent. The Hub is now slated to operate with an additional $655,000 dollars from student fees and the university.

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