The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on Oct. 11 to discuss the implementation of a Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) and the renaming of McGill’s Men’s Varsity Teams. Before the debate on the two primary motions, President Tre Mansdoerfer announced the resignation of vice-president (VP) External Marina Cupido.
“We are all very sad to see Marina resign from [their] position [as] VP External,” Mansdoerfer said. “We worked with [them] on a statement released yesterday [Oct. 10] by SSMU. Currently, we are working on how to [replace] the VP External. [At] the next council, we’ll have a proposal or some sort of discussion on what we plan to do.”
Implementation of a Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) and a fee levy
The resignation of two SSMU executives during the 2016-17 academic year following allegations of sexual violence necessitated the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP). The motion for an Anti-Violence Fee calls for an opt-outable fee levy of $0.45 on McGill students to fund the salaries of two Anti-Violence Coordinators, administrative costs, and an Anti-Violence Fund for projects against sexual violence. Anti-Violence Coordinators will be responsible for referring individuals to relevant support resources and conducting investigations into all reported cases.
Bee Khaleeli, SSMU’s GSVP implementation coordinator, presented their work and shared their opinion on the funding.
“Ethically, I don’t think that it should be the case that students should be paying extra money to be safe from their student union,” Khaleeli said. “I think it is preposterous and unacceptable. I would strongly prefer that SSMU were able to fund this on its own budget and SSMU consistently allocated money to sexual violence prevention efforts.”
During the debate on the policy’s funding, SSMU VP Finance Jun Wang argued that the SSMU’s budget is unable to fund the GSVP.
“I would have to cut a portion of the budget, and I don’t think it’s fair,” Wang said. “I can’t say that the GSVP is more important than Indigenous Affairs or Sustainability [….Regardless] the reason why it cannot come out of the operating budget is because the budget has already been approved by [the] previous Council. As long as the money does not fall in [a] category we voted on, we cannot allocate that money elsewhere. Therefore, the GSVP cannot be financed against any part of the budget.”
Arts and Sciences Senator Bryan Buraga insisted that the SSMU must prioritize this policy.
“It’s important to recognize that, if SSMU finds it a priority, they will find the necessary funding for it,” Buraga said. “I think that whenever we tell students they have to pay extra to be safe, it shows that we don’t prioritize these services.”
The motion for an Anti-Violence Fee levy passed with 22 votes in favour, three in opposition, and no abstentions.
Renaming McGill’s Men’s Varsity Teams
The name of McGill’s men’s varsity sports teams—Redmen—has drawn criticism in the past decade for the word’s historical use as a derogatory term for Indigenous peoples. Others have argued that the name has been reclaimed by the athletic teams.
“The historical roots of the teams, according to McGill Athletics, holds no association to [Indigenous peoples],” First-Year Council Representative Robert Hu said. “It is the misrepresented history of the name, and not the name itself, that creates confusion and offence.”
Social Work Councillor Zach Kleiner responded to Hu’s comments by urging the council to protect the Indigenous students at McGill.
“I don’t think it’s up to us say whether Indigenous students are offended by a racial slur,” Kleiner said. “I see that a lot of people in this room are white, and a lot of people in this room are not Indigenous, so I don’t think we have the duty to ourselves as SSMU to vote on anything but protecting the Indigenous students.”
The motion carried with 24 votes in favour, one in opposition, and two abstentions.
SSMU Legislative Council will meet again on Oct. 18.