Josh Redel, manager of the Student Run Cafe, discusses the cafe's upcoming opening. (Wendy Chen / McGill Tribune)

SSMU Special GA addresses $21,000 Frosh deficit, seeks input for Student-Run Café

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A $21,000 deficit from frosh and the opening of the student-run café were at the forefront of discussion at last Wednesday’s special General Assembly (GA) for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).

Reasons for the special GA

The special GA took place following the Oct. 9 GA, which failed to meet quorum— an attendance requirement of 100 students who must be present for the GA to pass motions as binding resolutions.

With only approximately 50 students in attendance, October’s forum could not pass motions such as ratifying appointments to SSMU’s BoD, the society’s highest governing body.

The special GA maintained quorum throughout the evening. SSMU President Katie Larson said councillors had made a greater effort to advertise the special GA on campus.

“We were a little bit more active in trying to communicate the urgency,” Larson said. “I did make a bunch of materials for councillors to distribute at meetings and reminded them that it’s their obligation per our constitution and by-laws to promote the event.”

Attendees of the GA voted in favour of appointing fifteen councillors to the BoD. An active BoD is required for some decisions regarding SSMU’s financial matters. For example, SSMU needs a BoD to purchase stocks to add to its investment portfolio, and to hold a liquor license for Gerts.

“In order to hold [a liquor permit], you have to have a company that’s in legal standing,” Larson said. “If we don’t have a BoD, we can’t declare our corporation to the government [….] If our corporation status is in jeopardy, eventually it would go down the chain and we could get our liquor license revoked.”

Following the special GA’s success in reaching quorum, Larson said Council would make additional efforts to advertise and promote awareness for the Winter GA.

“We’re going to probably hold an open forum or some kind of session at the beginning of the Winter semester […] to say, what is the GA and what are [students] expecting from it,” Larson said.

$21,000 Frosh deficit

Students at the GA also called on executives to explain the $21,000 deficit Frosh incurred this year, which was announced last Thursday at SSMU’s Legislative Council.

“Who is responsible for the $21,000 loss in Frosh, and why hasn’t there been a clear explanation on this?” Luis Pombo, U2 Engineering, asked.

According to SSMU Vice-President Internal Brian Farnan, there were a number of factors involved with the loss.

“A couple things were miscalculated months in advance of the actual event of frosh,” Farnan said. “All money that was funneled through frosh, a percent of that goes to PayPal, [but] this was not actually accounted through the budgeting process [.…] Certain mistakes were made when calculating the taxes [.…] In addition, there was a brand new system implemented that actually split up sponsorship revenues with faculties this year.”

Pombo said the deficit indicated “incompetence” in frosh planning.

“If you’re going to use an online payment system, you should know that they charge a fee to use their services,” Pombo said. “Same with the issue with the sponsorship money—whoever was in charge of it should have known.”

According to Farnan, SSMU’s in-house accounting services will review proposed Frosh budgets in future years to avoid these problems in the future.

“Most of these mistakes were budgeting so, as you can see, there’s a very, very simple explanation,” he said. “Our plan is to actually involve the accounting department next year, since it is such a sizable budget—$200,000. This can’t just be handled by students anymore.”

Student-Run Café seeks student engagement

Josh Redel, manager of the upcoming Student-Run Café (SRC), gave a presentation that encouraged students to become involved with the project as it moves towards its January 2014 launch.

According to Redel, SSMU will host sessions in the upcoming weeks to hear student feedback on the existing plans. Discussion topics will include how the physical space should be used, what the true meaning of “student-run” is, and what the ultimate mission and vision of the café should be.

Redel said the café will make an effort to keep students engaged throughout the year.

“You’ll be able to text in feedback after your meal,” he said.  “Additionally, we’ll be holding events on the regular—once, if not twice a month—having big community conversations about SRC.”

Redel said the menu will include low-cost vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Although it will accept debit, credit, and cash, the café will not be able to accept Martlet meal plans this upcoming semester, although Redel said it could be possible in the future.

“Unfortunately, McGill is going through a pretty big change right now with how they accept meal plan cards on campus, so they will not be able to provide us with a system for that,” Redel said. “But they’re very much on board for future endeavours with the meal plan.”

Discussion sessions will take place in the Madeleine Parent room on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 3:00 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 4:00 p.m.,and Friday Nov. 29 at 12:00.