On Sept. 28, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met to appoint a fourth executive to the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD). In addition, Council discussed their affiliation with the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), a province-wide student union, as well as the proposed bike facility project, which would build a high-capacity facility for students, staff, and faculty to lock their bikes in the Shatner building.
Guest speakers propose bike facility
At the start of the meeting, Council welcomed guest speaker Amelia Brinkerhoff, coordinator of Vision 2020, McGill’s sustainability action plan. Brinkerhoff presented a project proposal for an indoor bike facility on campus, located in the basement of the SSMU building. The space would serve as a safe location to store up to 350 bikes for students, faculty, and members of the McGill community, complete with a shower and locker room for those who endure long commutes to campus. Brinkerhoff sought support from Council to move ahead with the project.
“I see [the bike facility] as a really interesting proposal because it’s a very visible and tangible symbol of climate action,” Brinkerhoff said. “If you look at McGill’s greenhouse gas emissions, 12 per cent of our emissions are from commuting activities […] and this might be a tool to reduce that number.”
The proposal was not met with full support, however. Several executives voiced concern about accessibility considering the project would only allow space for 350 students to use it, a small fraction of the number of bikers on campus. SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer echoed these worries, and noted the irony of the initiative, given McGill’s failure to take other sustainable actions, such as divesting from fossil fuel corporations.
“I agree that this [would be] a very visible project,” Spencer said. “[But] I’m wondering, within the McGill climate and [the] sustainability action plan […], when we have a university that refuses to divest from the $70,000 that it has in environmentally irresponsible funds right now, why [would] having […] a $1.9-million-dollar project for bike storage [be feasible] if we are already running out of space for this project and might want to look into getting a new building in the future?”
Guest speaker Kristin Perry, AVEQ
SSMU Council also welcomed guest speakers from Kristin Perry, the Coordinator of Mobilization and Associative Development, Sophia Sahrane, the Coordinator of Education and Research, and Isaac Stethem, the Advisor to the Executive from the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ). AVEQ is a provincial organization that aims to advocate for the social needs of Quebec’s student population through activism and research. Sahrane discussed AVEQ’s research pillar, and shared its findings on student healthcare access.
“We have [done] research on health insurance for international students,” Sahrane said. “It came out last semester and it talks about [how], if you are an international student or [a friend of one], you would know that their health insurance sucks. They [do not receive] the same standards as Quebec[ois] or Canadian students.”
In 2015, the referendum question of AVEQ affiliation with SSMU ultimately failed to pass, with SSMU continuing its non-voting observer status. Now, Council plans to bring the question of AVEQ affiliation to referendum again next week. Though several Council members expressed worries about the referendum not passing once again, Spencer emphasized that AVEQ’s previous failure could be attributed to a lack of understanding.
“The vote in 2015 was […] split, and most students voted abstaining instead of no,” Spencer said. “So that shows that there wasn’t much knowledge of AVEQ, [and] students didn’t properly know what they were voting for [….] AVEQ has been around for two more years now and is much more visible, so, probably, students would be able to make a more informed decision now.”
Motion regarding nominations to the SSMU Board of Directors
After the guest speakers’ presentations, Council voted to nominate SSMU VP Student Life Jemark Earle to the BoD. At its last meeting on Sept. 24, the BoD discussed the murky constitutionality of its current arrangement of members. With a maximum of 12 members, the Board is currently composed of nine members-at-large and three executives, which does not leave room for the constitutionally-mandated fourth executive.
VP Internal Affairs Maya Koparkar confirmed that if this motion were to be approved by Council, one of the nine members-at-large would need to step down.
“As we discussed in our last Board of Directors meeting, in order for the board to maintain its composition of 12 members, there will be one member-at-large of the board who will need to resign from their position in order for Vice President Earle to take their spot,” Koparkar said.
The vote passed, and Earle was successfully elected to the BoD, effective immediately. The decision was approved at the BoD meeting on Oct. 1, following the resignation of Director Nikolas Dolmat.
Council will meet again on Oct. 12.