On Oct. 23, The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Fall 2017 General Assembly (GA) ratified the SSMU members of the SSMU Board of Directors. The GA also passed motions that urge McGill to become involved in the Institute of International Education’s Syria Consortium, mandate SSMU to develop an action plan for clubs affected by the building closure, take steps to limit selling bottled water on campus, provide regular updates about the Society’s sustainability policy, and condemn Dalhousie University’s disciplinary actions against student leader Masuma Asad Khan.
Assembly also voted on whether or not to add a motion of no confidence in SSMU President Muna Tojiboeva to the agenda, but this motion failed, reaching only a simple majority, not the required two-thirds majority. Initially, the number of SSMU members present at the GA was approximately 200, with only 100 members necessary to meet quorum.
Ratification of the 2017-2018 SSMU Board of Directors
The ratification of the Board of Directors (BoD) was conducted by a separate vote for each Board member after a motion to split the ratification process carried. Of the 10 nominated directors, seven were ratified for year-long terms beginning on Nov. 15. The nominations of three members—Noah Lew, Josephine Wright O’Manique, and Alexander Scheffel—failed to be ratified.
The failure of Lew’s ratification prompted a large portion of the students present to exit the ballroom in protest. Tojiboeva later expressed her belief that anti-semitic discrimination had played a part in the Assembly’s decision.
“I think it’s very disappointing that, as a school, we would vote against a member [Lew] only on the basis that people recognize his last name, and on the basis that he’s Jewish,” Tojiboeva said. “I think it’s quite shocking that in the 21st century such an elite institution would still go with that [racial prejudice].”
In an interview with The McGill Tribune, SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer cited the board’s decision to suspend VP Finance Arisha Khan as her reason for voting against Lew’s ratification. Lew already serves as a member-at-large on the BoD.
“I’m very concerned about how [Khan’s] suspension was decided,” Spencer said. “From what was said at [SSMU] Legislative Council by the different directors, it made me worried about [having] members on the board of directors who are not officers, that the students very clearly distrust.”
Motion for a Concrete Action Plan regarding Club Displacement
Players’ Theatre Technical Director Nadine Pelaez moved a motion mandating SSMU to develop a concrete action plan regarding club displacement in light of the SSMU building closure. The motion passed.
Players’, an independent student-run non-profit, is Montreal’s oldest English-speaking black box theatre. Pelaez expressed her concerns over the theatre’s ability to find a new space sufficient for their needs
“We feel kind of abandoned by SSMU, ” Pelaez said. “We already scheduled four shows in the spring, and we had to sit down with a director, who was excited about her show and tell her that we don’t think we can put it on. ”
President expresses desire to reconcile after failed motion of no confidence
Members also raised questions over the sincerity of Tojiboeva’s stated intention to repair her relationship with the rest of the executive team and membership in light of allegations of a lack of transparency. In an interview with the Tribune following the GA, Tojiboeva discussed her plans to overcome these rifts.
“We’re going to be engaging in talks about that, trying to reconcile our differences and move forward,” Tojiboeva said.
Spencer noted Tojiboeva’s lack of action to resolve differences among the executives thus far.
“Every attempt I’ve made [to reconcile] has been shot down,” Spencer said. “I’m waiting for someone else to propose solutions [….] It’s up to the president now to decide how she’s going to move forward with the team, because she’s the team leader and it’s ultimately up to her to decide where we go next, [and] multiple members have put forward solutions that have not been taken up.”
Khan also cited Tojiboeva’s failure to take reconciliatory actions.
“I don’t think there are [any attempts at reconciliation],” Khan said. “I can say that no steps have been taken and it’s kind of clear that there isn’t a willingness to admit wrongs. I’m not about to go into personal attacks [….] We could respond to every single thing that she said, but that’s not conducive to creating a healthy work environment, and its not conducive to shame your executives. I don’t know what we’re doing in terms of any steps [….] I’m hoping that we can [reconcile].”