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Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) building (The McGill Tribune)

SSMU weighing involvement in developing student federations

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In March, the Fédération des Associations Étudiantes du Campus de l’Université de Montreal (FAÉCUM), a student union at the Université de Montreal, chose to disaffiliate from the Fédération Etudiante Universitaire du Quebec (FEUQ), a provincial student federation. Consequently, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and other student associations entered into congresses about forming a new provincial federation

SSMU Vice-President (VP) External, Emily Boytinck, stated that two new provincial student federations, the Union Etudiants du Quebec (UEQ) and the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), had been formed as a result of these summer congresses. 

“I’ve been going to […] congresses [for both] all summer,” she said. “Things that we decided were […] the voting method, the structures– what are the portfolios, what are the committees– that sort of thing.”

SSMU is a currently a non-voting observer at the UEQ, and a voting participant at the AVEQ roundtable. SSMU has not contributed financially to either federation.

“In April, [the UEQ] wanted everyone to sign this contract, to provide resources for the association,” Boytinck stated. “No financial commitment was technically required. We didn’t sign the contract [because] we didn’t want to.”

Boytinck explained that student associations will decide on their affiliations once the administrative structures of each federation have been finalized. The student associations that have signed contracts with the UEQ are still not officially affiliated with the UEQ because the contracts pertained to the developmental stages of the federation.

“In late September there will be the last [congress] for the AVEQ, that’s where a lot of the final decisions will be made,” Boytinck said. “I think a lot of people are starting to look into affiliations very soon.”

She added that the UEQ had already hired their executives, while AVEQ will be hiring part-time staff. 

“Right now [AVEQ is] in the process of hiring two staff members instead of executives,” she said. “[They will] be hired by any student organizations that are participating [in AVEQ’s roundtable]. [SSMU] didn’t put any money in, but we’re still going to be involved in the decision.”

Both federations are also finalizing their fee structures.

“[The UEQ’s] fee levy per student per semester is $4.50,” Boytinck said. “The AVEQ’s is most likely going to be $2.50. Our finance committee meetings [with AVEQ are] ongoing, so that will be more confirmed later.” 

According to Boytinck, UEQ and AVEQ were created as a result of disagreements over the original FEUQ’s proportional voting system. 

“SSMU was one of the founding members of the FEUQ, and we’ve joined and left three times,” she said. “In recent years [the FEUQ’s] proportional voting system has caused tensions due to the back door politics that this type of voting method creates.” 

The proportional vote, Boytinck explained, required a double majority in order for a motion to be passed. First, every member association at the table received one vote. This is known as the one association, one vote method. Each vote was then weighted based on the size and membership of each association: The larger the association, the more weight their vote carried. 

“[SSMU is] the fourth-largest student association in Quebec,” Boytinck said. “With the double majority system […] large associations […] can stop things that pass by the one association, one vote […. SSMU is] still subject to a lot of risk for that.”

VP External of Regroupement des étudiants de maîtrise, de diplôme et de doctorat de l’Université de Sherbrooke’ (REMDUS), the graduate students’ society at l’Université Sherbrooke, Guillaume Raymond, commented on the financial and contractual obligations UEQ required  from student associations during its developmental stage. 

“Some associations didn’t want to [have a] formal organization […or] have  a contract signed because that would involve putting money [in the project],” Raymond stated. “But we did want this.”

The Université de Quebec à Montreal’s (UQÀM) Association des étudiantes et étudiants de la Faculté des sciences de l’Éducation de l’UQAM (ADEESE) left the UEQ roundtable over such contractual obligations. 

“[ADEESE] wanted to [avoid spending the] resources and money of members in a process they wouldn’t join later; this didn’t fit the consensus around the table,” the executive council explained in French on its website. “We feel [this] urgency isn’t justified, given the importance of taking time to establish the foundations of [the] association.”

Raymond expressed confidence in UEQ’s progress, however. 

“We’re currently still working on it in the hopes that it will be finalized within the months to come,” he said. “It helps with the resources we’ve put on the project […] so I’m confident that in the coming months, we will have something to present to the students.” 

SSMU, the Concordia Students’ Union (CSU), and  McGill’s Post-Grad Student Society (PGSS) released a letter of support for AVEQ this summer. Boytinck highlighted that the roundtable discussions with AVEQ had been productive with regards to establishing core values.

“As anglophone student associations, we’re in a very different place compared to other student associations,” she said. “There’s been a lot [in terms] of accommodation, so we’ve been really impressed by that.”

Going forward, Boytinck stated that she will present information about both federations to SSMU’s Legislative Council. SSMU will have the option to join one federation or remain disaffiliated, and this decision would be ratified through a referendum question that will be presented to all students.

“Personally, I’m in no rush,” she explained. “I think that in order for students to know really what’s going on, there needs to be a ton of consultation.” 

Additional reporting done by Shrinkhala Dawadi

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