Since the start of Winter 2019, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has been enforcing stricter regulations on its member clubs, sanctioning around 100 according to SSMU VP Finance Jun Wang. Although SSMU sent an email to member clubs on Feb. 18 with a reminder of regulations governing student groups, several clubs and services allege that they were not given sufficient warning or were sanctioned before the email was sent.
To remain in good standing, SSMU clubs must fulfill criteria by submitting audited financial reports, attending training workshops, adhering to SSMU and McGill policies, and informing SSMU of off-campus events 20 days prior to their start date. Clubs and services must list SSMU as the legal entity when signing contracts with parties external to McGill and must request insurance for any events held outside the SSMU building. Since the SSMU building is currently closed for renovations, all events are held elsewhere and, therefore, require insurance through SSMU.
Around 100 clubs have reportedly failed to abide by SSMU policies and were denied access to their bank accounts, barred from booking venues, and subjected to status revision. Wang contends that SSMU did not have the capacity to enforce many of these regulations before transitioning to a centralized bank account in fall 2018, which has allowed it to view clubs’ financial statements and keep track of all their activities.
“Over the summer, the Club Auditor [Richie Youm] and the Comptroller [Desmond Rodrigues] created a comprehensive auditing process to make sure that [clubs undergo] a real audit rather than just [SSMU] checking [clubs’] number of receipts,” Wang said. “Prior to [the bank centralization], we did not have the information or structure to say if clubs did something wrong [….] This year, because we have the resources, we found a lot of [club financial] activities to be very much sanctionable.”
The McGill Polish Students’ Association (MPSA) is one of several SSMU clubs whose members hold that they were unfairly sanctioned. In August 2018, MPSA signed for a food permit from the Montreal government to sell food at Polski Piknik Montréal, a Polish festival. After receiving a payment demand from Régie des marchés agricoles et alimentaires du Québec, SSMU froze the club’s bank account until the end of the semester for signing the contract. MPSA President Ryszard Kubinski expressed frustration over MPSA being sanctioned without warning and believes that, due to high turnover among club executives, SSMU should devote more resources toward making enforceable regulations clear.
“When I was handed down the club, I knew that we had to attend finance workshops, but there was no mention of [regulations about entering into] contracts,” Kubinski said. “We are not running around trying to break all these regulations, we are just trying to have a small Polish community at McGill. If you are going to have a sustainability workshop, you should have a workshop for the rules that you are going to enforce.”
Another SSMU club, which wished to remain anonymous, was sanctioned for signing a contract and not submitting insurance information for its event in February. The co-presidents of the club believe that the regulations were applied inconsistently and that SSMU’s tightened controls will present logistical obstacles for the club’s operations.
“It’s […] not fair because a lot of clubs that were planning events at the same time and didn’t launch yet were able to get SSMU to sign the contracts,” one of the club’s co-presidents said. “But, for us, since we had already publicized our event, SSMU said that we got sanctioned. It is really not advantageous to us if every single event we do, and we have events every month, requires one to two months in advance of notifying SSMU.”
Wang maintains that SSMU’s inability to enforce regulations in the past does not excuse clubs who have recently violated SSMU policies.
“When I sit down with [club executives] and explain the situation, I feel that most understand why [I can’t waive their sanctions],” Wang said. “I have yet to waive a sanction I deemed was appropriate because I don’t want to set a dangerous precedent.”