This is a developing story. Please check back for details, as more information becomes available.
The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Ben Ger resigned from his position on March 9, citing personal reasons. He is the second member of the SSMU executive team to resign in a matter of weeks, following Vice-President (VP) External David Aird’s resignation on Feb. 22 after multiple allegations of sexual assault.
“Due to personal reasons, he felt that he was unable to continue in his duties as a representative of members of the Society,” read a statement released by the rest of the executive committee on March 9.
The president is the chief executive of SSMU and coordinates and supports the actions of the rest of the executive board. The president is also responsible for the wider vision of SSMU and represents the society on bodies including the McGill Senate and Board of Governors. For the remainder of the semester, Ger’s responsibilities will be divided between the remaining five members of the SSMU executive committee and other permanent staff members.
“These positions in general, from the very beginning, are very heavy positions to take on,” SSMU VP Student Life Elaine Patterson, who will be taking on spokesperson duties for the society, said. “While recent issues have been particularly trying for all of us on the exec team, all of us have had nine months worth of being in [our positions] since last June and all of that building up can create a lot of pressure, especially on the president.”
SSMU has been at the centre of controversy on campus this semester since former Arts Councillor and Director Igor Sadikov tweeted “punch a zionist [sic] today” from a personal Twitter account on Feb. 6, leading him to resign on March 8. Ger’s resignation also comes after Science Senator and Director Sean Taylor stepped down from the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) due to a loss of faith in the body, from which Sadikov resigned on Feb. 23.
According to Patterson, Ger’s resignation creates problems for the BoD as Directors were in the process of choosing next year’s board, but no longer have quorum after the vacancies caused by Taylor, Sadikov, Aird, and Ger’s resignations.
SSMU executive elections for the 2017-2018 academic year are currently in progress with the voting period lasting from March 13-16 and results due to be announced on March 16 at 3 p.m. The winners of the President and VP External positions will be given the option to assume their portfolio in a managerial position ahead of the normal May 1 turnover date.
“Whether or not they choose to do that is entirely up to them,” Patterson said. “It’s still kind of up in the air, who wants to take on the responsibility while being a full-time student. They will be remunerated for doing those jobs. It’s entirely up to them if they want to take it on.”
It is currently unclear whether Ger will be helping in the transition and producing an exit report
On Feb. 21, the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), a group of sexual assault survivors and allies, released a statement calling for Aird’s resignation from his position. The CDN wrote that Aird had committed gendered and sexualized violence—based on testimonies from survivors—and called for SSMU to undertake a number of supportive initiatives to address future cases. Aird stepped down on Feb. 22 and issued an apology for his behaviour on Feb. 23, although the apology was removed when he deleted his Facebook account.
Sadikov faced many calls for his resignation and votes by the BoD and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Committee to remove him from his positions. BoD voted on Feb. 13 to retain Sadikov in his position as Director, but issued a formal censure against him and released a statement from Sadikov apologizing for his actions. Sadikov subsequently resigned from the BoD on Feb. 23, citing pressure from the McGill administration.
“Due to the interference of the administration, my continued membership on the [BoD] is, at this juncture, a legal liability for the Society, and it is in the Society’s best interest that I resign my position,” Sadikov wrote in a statement on Feb. 23. “It has been a privilege to serve the Society as a director, and I hope to continue contributing to the Society’s activities through other avenues.”
On Feb. 22, AUS Legislative Council voted 22-16 not to remove Sadikov. A motion to remove him was due to be voted on at the March 9 SSMU Legislative Council meeting but Sadikov resigned as Arts Councillor on March 8. His decision came a few days after allegations surfaced that he had been abusive in a previous relationship with another McGill student. His statement of resignation cited his mental health and personal reasons for his departure.
Patterson explained how Ger was a key part of the SSMU executive team and that his presence will be missed by the remaining members.
“I think that Ben was a really good teammate. I’m sad to see him go,” Patterson said. “It’s gonna be tough. He’s just a very good person in terms of listening and he was always there to listen when I vented. I think that a lot of the other execs would agree with me. [It’s good to see someone] in a presidential role who can also be a support system.