At its meeting on March 29, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council passed the Motion to Organize the Fight for Free Education and the Cancellation of Student Debt. Council also passed the Motion Regarding the Adoption of a Sustainability Policy and the Motion to Amend the Internal Regulations to Improve Accessibility, Impartiality, and Stability of the Board of Directors (BoD)
Council votes to support free tuition and debt cancellation
McGill’s Chapter of Socialist Fightback (SF)—a group advocating for a societal transition to socialism—has campaigned to pass the motion at both the General Assembly (GA) and at Council since March 16. Vishwaa Ramakrishnan, U0 Arts, a member of SF, presented the motion, which councillors discussed in an extensive question period.
SSMU Vice-President (VP) Connor Spencer explained that both the Quebec Student Union (QSU) and the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) would have major roles in lobbying the provincial government for the right of students in Quebec to strike. Councillors raised concerns about the legality of a student strike in Quebec after the passing of Bill 78, which was passed following the student strikes in 2012 and prohibits protests on school grounds.
“The best avenues for us to address this is through [QSU] and AVEQ,” Spencer said. “So both of them at their congresses were talking about what specific needs their members want them to bring to the provincial governments to do with the legal rights for students to strike.”
After the question period, Medicine Representative Andre Lametti proposed an amendment to the motion, replacing the call for SSMU to immediately establish monthly democratic assemblies with a call for SSMU to “work towards” establishing monthly democratic assemblies.
“The modalities have not been established yet and this motion taking effect, right now, would mean we would have to start having monthly democratic assemblies, at this present time, which I suppose is what the movers want, but we still have to decide how we are going to do it,” Lametti said.
Following the introduction of this amendment, councillors engaged in heated debate over the accountability and integrity of next year’s SSMU Executive.
“‘Work towards’ has been what has been put in the prior SSMU resolutions for the last 2 years,” Ramakrishnan said. “In those resolutions, there is no concrete action.”
While councillors quickly came to the defence of next year’s SSMU Executive, SSMU VP University Affairs (UA) Isabelle Oke acknowledged students’ general mistrust of SSMU and expressed her support for the inclusion of a firm timeline in the motion, rather than mandating SSMU to take action in an indefinite period of time.
“The issue at hand isn’t necessarily one of questioning the integrity of the [SSMU Executive], but […] it seems like there is little trust in SSMU as an institution,” Oke said. “If we’re being asked to stick to this higher standard, I would speak against the amendment just in terms of taking the small steps [toward increased accountability] that are required to have that relationship with a membership where we can make these changes and they’re taken for what they are.”
Ultimately, the amendment passed with the addition of a line stipulating that the monthly democratic assemblies must take place by Fall 2018. The motion also passed, with 13 in favour, nine opposed, and two abstentions.
Council votes to revamp the BoD
Council passed the Motion to Amend the Internal Regulations to Improve Accessibility, Impartiality, and Stability of the Board of Directors. The motion stipulates that the chair of the BoD must be a non-voting member who will not be counted toward the quorum at BoD meetings. It also requires the BoD to include two alumni representatives in an advisory capacity.
SSMU President-Elect and current Engineering Senator Tre Mansdoerfer presented this motion following concerns raised about lack of transparency from this year’s BoD due to meetings being scheduled on Sunday evenings in the SSMU office, when both the University Centre and the Brown Building require keycard access to enter. To address this, one the motion’s amendments specifies that the agenda for all BoD meetings must be made publicly available at least 48 hours in advance.