On Sept. 14, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council held its first meeting of the Fall 2017 semester. Over the course of the meeting, executives and councillors considered amending the rules for membership in the Students' Society Programming Network (SSPN) and discussed budget proposals for McGill organizations—specifically, the Sustainability Project Funds (SPF) and Desautels Capital Management (DCM).
SSMU Council amends SSPN requirements
At the start of the meeting, SSMU Council passed a motion to change the circumstances of sitting on SSPN, the primary event-planning department within SSMU responsible for organizing student events such as 4Floors and Faculty Olympics.
As outlined in their mandates, all 30 Legislative Council members are required to participate in one of SSMU’s 17 committees. Although SSPN is one of these committees, SSMU Council decided that it no longers fulfills this membership requirement. SSPN previously also had seats reserved for Legislative Council members so that they could fulfill their commitment of being on a committee, but SSMU did away with this in the same motion.
"The 2016-2017 executive agreed on this change internally, but a motion was never brought to Council," SSMU Vice-President (VP) Internal Maya Koparkar said. "Because SSPN offers its members more [opportunities to participate in campus events and socials] than other committees of Legislative Council, there is usually a rush to join, which often leaves [fewer] people to sign up for other committees."
The motion passed unanimously. Now that seats on SSPN are open to all students, Koparkar believes that members will be driven to participate more productively.
"The selection [in the past] did not follow the Committee Terms of Reference, so I figured it was probably best to have that change moved through Council officially," Koparkar said. "The people who are valuable to SSPN, in terms of experience and enthusiasm, usually don't come from the Council community."
DCM Proposes Partnership with SSMU
Vadim di Pietro, Chief Investment Officer of DCM and assistant professor of finance, also spoke at the meeting. DCM is the entirely student-run investment firm in the Desautels Faculty of Management, whose purpose is to manage $3.5 million in funds on behalf of companies and provide students with immersive work experience in the field.
DCM intends to create a ‘Socially Responsible Investment’ (SRI) fund that will be used to invest in firms recognized to be sustainable and ethical. Di Pietro requested $1 million from SSMU to invested in the SRI fund.
“[People who work in finance] often are seen as the bad guys, but if we could do something good with the money, that’s really exciting,” Sarah-Anne Brault, a finance master’s student and analyst at DCM, said. “It would be the first SRI fund for DCM.”
SSMU VP Finance Arisha Khan voiced her support for the initiative, which former VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston first proposed in 2015-2016. If the project moves forward, Khan and DCM members estimate that the fund would begin in January 2018.
“[Other firms] would not include the immersive student engagement opportunity that exists with DCM,” Khan said. “[SSMU] is a student-run organization and this further provides an opportunity for students to be engaged in decision-making and project management on a level that they would not ordinarily get.”
Sustainability project aims to empower grassroots efforts
Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) Administrator Krista Houser was another guest speaker at SSMU Council. The SPF was created in 2009 by the McGill administration, SSMU, the Post Graduate Student’s Society, and the Macdonald Campus Student Society, though it is now overseen by the McGill Office of Sustainability. Its mandate is to provide financing and support for student-led projects that make specific areas of campus more socially or environmentally sustainable. The SPF is the largest sustainability fund in North America, with an annual value of $870,000.
One new SPF to be implemented in Fall 2017 is the “Tiny Stream” project, an initiative that provides grants of $250 or less to small sustainability proposals. The organization estimates that the new fund will be available in the upcoming weeks.
“[Tiny Stream] is for smaller projects that are less on an institutional level but more grassroots,” Houser said. “We want to make sure sustainable projects like workshops and events happening are getting funding as well.”
Houser hopes that SSMU will put forward a student referendum on increasing the semesterly fee they pay toward the SPF. The McGill administration has already tentatively agreed to match this funding.