The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council reconvened on Feb. 27 to debate fee increases associated with library renovations and student clubs food sale fundraisers.
The meeting began with a presentation by Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook, who shared the feedback received from consultations with students regarding library improvements. Cook reported that students feel the need for more seating and a better atmosphere in the libraries on campus, and that the university will be funding a six-year project to reconfigure the McLennan-Redpath Complex into the Fiat Lux Library Building. The new $13.27 per semester fee, which is currently up for renewal for the next 10 years, according to Cook, will be put towards doubling the amount of study spaces available and purchasing new learning technology.
Cook assured the council that student input is being sought to ensure that the project reflects the needs of the community.
“Each library has an advisory committee, and there is student representation on those, as well as on the Senate Committee on Libraries,” Cook said. “We also actively reach out to students in formal and informal channels.”
SSMU Law Representative Beatrice Mackie challenged Cook about the reality that sections of the library will remain quiet during the renovations and expressed concern for the availability of study spaces during the construction period.
In response, Cook acknowledged that space will be lost within the complex during the construction, but affirmed that temporary study spaces will be available elsewhere.
“I am confident that with all the libraries in our constellation of libraries, we will always have some quiet spaces for students during this project,” Cook said. “In the end, we have to do this. We are truly far behind.”
The council meeting also passed the Motion Regarding SSMU Club Fund Fee Referendum Question, which was moved by Vice-President Student Life Billy Kawasaki. The policy proposes a $0.82 increase to the opt-outable SSMU Club Fund Fee to help eliminate the financial burden of the $25 Food Handling Sales permit. After a SSMU club was reprimanded by the City of Montreal for unsafe food handling last semester, all clubs and services must pay SSMU to use the food handling equipment for all food-related fundraisers.
Medicine Senator André Lametti raised an objection to SSMU’s plans to subsidize this expense of the permit in order to reduce the cost of hosting a food sale fundraiser for student clubs and services.
“I think subsidizing the price of samosas is against our core values,” Lametti said. “It is a progressive tax where all students contribute to people who want to buy food on campus, while the students with [fewer] financial resources have to stick to the cheaper option of bringing food themselves.”
Arts Representative Adin Chan emphasized the potential of the fee increase to allow student groups to operate effectively.
“While it is important to appreciate that samosas are essential to McGill culture, we should not overlook that clubs rely on the funding [raised by samosa sales],” Chan said. “Having to pay the $25 fee is counterproductive to the very purpose of [a] sale, which is to generate revenue for the good services that clubs serve on campus.”
Following further debate, the motion carried with 14 in favour, six opposed, and three abstaining.
The Legislative Council will reconvene on Feb. 12 in McConnell Engineering 603 at 6:00 pm.
Moment of the Meeting:
Clubs Representative Victoria Flaherty emphasized the importance of subsidizing food on campus by describing a $12 sandwich with a single tomato she saw in the McConnell Café.
“No one likes samosas more than I do. In fact, I was one of the only two SSMU [representatives] to go to the protest. But I am concerned that our solution to this is passing another fee. I think there are other avenues we should [pursue] before charging this [fee] to the student body, such as advocating to Montreal Public Health.” – SSMU Music Representative Sebastian Duckett, on the proposed club fee increase.