At the Jan. 25 meeting of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council, Dental Students’ Society (DSS) President Ryan Siciliano defended the society’s response to sexual assault and harassment allegations in the Faculty of Dentistry. The allegations were detailed in a report by the CBC, which was presented to Council on Jan.16.
Additionally, representatives from the McGill Office of Sustainability presented their Vision 2020 Climate and Sustainability Action Plan, and a member-at-large of the SSMU Accountability Committee outlined the group’s progress. SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer was appointed to the fourth seat designated for executives on the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD), and the SSMU General Assembly (GA) was rescheduled to March 26. The meeting was also the first for newly elected SSMU VP Finance Esteban Herpin.
DSS responds to question regarding sexual assault allegations in faculty
During the question period, Speaker Nicholas Dolmat reintroduced a question submitted by a member of the gallery at a prior council meeting on Jan. 16 to Dentistry Representative Nishath Syed, who was absent at both meetings. The submission questioned how the DSS planned to support its members in light of recent allegations against professors and staff in the faculty. Siciliano, who sat in as a proxy for Syed, read a statement from the DSS executive and answered questions about it.
“I know students very, very well, and we at the DSS, and me as the president of the DSS, and many other students involved don’t feel that we have a fear of harassment, or something more systemic than these allegations made by the two individuals,” Siciliano said during the question period. “At this moment, [the DSS is] satisfied with the outlets that are currently being explored, and we won’t be taking any actions regarding the current allegations.”
Later, Council unanimously voted to pass a motion endorsing the SSMU Survivor Bill of Rights, which enumerates the forms of support that survivors of sexual violence can expect from the organization. During the question period prior to the vote, Sexual Violence Policy Project Coordinator Caitlin Salvino claimed Siciliano’s comments exemplified when advocacy for survivors might be necessary.
“[The policy was created so] that individuals on the SSMU Council could advocate for survivor’s rights at higher levels,” Salvino said. “For example, earlier there was the discussion of the dentistry case, and some of the survivor’s rights in this bill we would argue were violated. So then that would require their representative to advocate on their behalf at higher levels.”
Accountability Committee representative delivers report
The Accountability Committee is a committee of the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) tasked with creating a standardized method for evaluating the performances of student senators, councillors, directors, and other student officers. Maeve Botham, a member-at-large on the committee, explained that evaluations for officers’ Fall 2017 terms were based on the officers’ attendances and whether their reports were submitted on time. She said that, due to inconsistency in tracking and recording, the committee evaluated only two senators and was not able to assess any directors.
Some members of Council questioned the Committee’s lack of scrutiny.
“My impression from that report is there’s basically no accountability for the Board of Directors,” Spencer said. “Has the Accountability Committee discussed, especially because there are three directors on the Accountability Committee, any options of how to make them accountable?”
McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS) presents ambitious action plan
MOOS Sustainability Director François Miller and MOOS Communications Officer Toby Davine presented the office’s Vision 2020 Climate and Sustainability Action Plan, which the university recently adopted after a long consultation process that began in Fall 2016. In addition to 22 short-term actions to be completed by the university by 2020, McGill’s plan has two main long-term targets: to attain a platinum sustainability rating by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
“I think if we can achieve [carbon neutrality] here at McGill we can really be an inspiration for Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and then the whole world,” Miller said.