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SSMU

SSMU Legislative Council discusses quorum and grades

McGill/News/SSMU by
(Katia Innes / The McGill Tribune)

The Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on Nov. 1 to discuss the upcoming referendum and the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option. The Council also approved the May 31, 2018 fiscal year end report by Fuller-Landau, the accounting firm that audits SSMU’s finances, and called for a more concerted effort to livestream the Council meetings. In regard to the upcoming referendum, which will take place Nov. 9-12, the Council approved the motion on discretionary funding for the Sexual Assault Center of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) and changes made to the Environment and Anti-Violence Fees.

Council also discussed last month’s Children of the Corn party, for which SSMU had to spend an additional $10,000 to cover the cost of transportation when six of the seven buses they chartered failed to provide return trips downtown. The buses claimed that students had violated their policies by drinking, smoking, and vomiting on board. Currently, Vice-President (VP) Internal Matthew McLaughlin is looking into reimbursing students for their personal transportation costs.

“The last possible option for transportation was to have students order taxis or take Ubers to get back home and have SSMU members pay for that,” McLaughlin said. “So, that’s what ended up happening [….] It’s tragic because of the expense, but we’ve launched a portal [….] So far we’ve had 79 requests total.”

 

Late motion regarding reduction of GA quorum postponed

SSMU President Tre Mansdoefer submitted a motion to reduce quorum of the General Assembly (GA) from 350 to 150 after the Fall 2018 GA on Oct. 29 had only 49 students in attendance.

“I do not like it being 150, I want to figure out other ways to do this,” Mansdoefer said. “[But] I do not feel like we have another choice.”

Arts Representative Andrew Figueiredo critiqued the motion as unjust and pointed out that Mansdoefer had submitted it late, not giving students enough time to contemplate it.

“0.75 per cent of the student body, less than that, actually, shouldn’t be able to dictate the direction of [SSMU],” Figueiredo said. “I think that is fundamentally undemocratic. This is an abomination to bring something up with this much gravity and to try and rush it onto the November ballot doesn’t give people the chance to organize ‘No’ campaigns or ‘Yes’ campaigns on this.”

The motion was postponed indefinitely by Arts Councillor Ana Paula Sanchez.

 

VP University Affairs (UA) motion advocates for S/U grading option  

Upholding his platform promise, VP University Affairs Jacob Shapiro proposed the Motion Regarding VP UA Mandate to Advocate for S/U Grading Option. In the motion, Shapiro asks that SSMU approve his mandate to lobby for students to be given the option to switch to a letter grade in their S/U courses. Shapiro reasoned that the S/U system would continue to encourage students to venture out of their comfort zones, with the possibility of a letter grade also incentivizing them to do well.

“It kind of gives people a fail-safe,” Shapiro said. “If more are taking classes pass-fail, more people can deprioritize the course if they’re [having] a rough or rocky semester, and I think a lot of students would appreciate the value of taking a class pass-fail.”

Senate Caucus Representative Andre Lametti disagreed with Shapiro’s reasoning.

“For me, I believe that motivation to get an A is not the only motivation to take a course,” Lametti said. “If you have the option to change an S/U option into an A […], the motivation to get the grade might still exist. I enjoyed taking courses with the S/U option, and I think that removing the [pre-existing] S/U option removes this and is bad for educational standards, and goes against [the] VP University Affairs Mandate.”

Ultimately, the motion passed with 17 in favour, four opposed, and four abstentions.

Council will reconvene on Nov. 15 in McConnell Engineering 603.

SSMU Legislative Council address resignation of VP External

News/SSMU by
(Nina Russell / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met on Oct. 18 to address the resignation of the SSMU vice president (VP) external, Marina Cupido. Cupido resigned on Oct. 10 due to mental health concerns partially stemming from the heavy workload of the position. The position itself also fell under scrutiny, as the council discussed the appropriate use of executive social media platforms. The discussion was following Cupido’s controversial Facebook post on Oct. 2, which condemned the newly-elected Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ). Meeting lengths and the restructuring of SSMU’s fees were also up for debate.

Motion Regarding Responsible Representation

McGill Arts and Science Senator Bryan Buraga introduced a Motion Regarding Responsible Representation in response to Cupido’s now-deleted post. In the post, which was retracted on Oct. 11, Cupido criticized the CAQ’s “xenophobic, far-right” policies and discussed their implications for students at McGill. The motion, which was tabled at the previous Legislative Council meeting, recommended that SSMU remove the Facebook post and apologize. It also outlined steps for preventing and addressing such instances in the future. Under the motion, operators of SSMU social media accounts would have to ensure that social media posts represent the consensus of the Legislative Council or the Executive Committee, rather than just being matters of personal opinion.

Arts Representative Andrew Figueiredo asserted the importance of the motion in ensuring that the student body’s opinions are represented in student government.

“I think this motion requires that SSMU takes certain steps to be sure that its […] opinions are actually reflecting what is being said by the people who are in SSMU,” Figueiredo said. “I think that this doesn’t encumber [SSMU external communications] in any way, it just makes sure that our voices are being heard [….] It’s a motion that’s made from a place of wanting our student government to represent students, and I think that’s the least we can ask for.”

Vincent Mousseau, stand-in for the Social Work Representative, raised concerns that the motion would negatively impact SSMU’s ability to condemn oppressive policies and protect marginalized students.

“I feel like it’s very irresponsible to have a motion that’s going to stifle the expression of elected members of this student union,” Mousseau said. “We know [which policies will negatively affect our students], and we need to be naming them. We need to be critiquing them, and not just putting out [vaguely] worded statements that give some semblance that we’re willing to critique and [instead] actually [do] something concrete to stand up for our students. And in a larger sense, I think it’s important to understand the way that an amendment like this would appear to marginalized students, who are in need of [our support].”

Following an hour-and-a-half–long debate, the council voted against the motion, with 13 opposed, 10 in favour, and three abstentions.

Generative Discussion on VP External Position

The council discussed how to address the vacant VP External position. SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer announced the SSMU executive board’s plan to redistribute the position’s duties among existing commissioners. While the idea of holding a by-election was mentioned, council decided that a new VP seven months into the year might not be cohesive with the team.

“We will not be running a by-election for the VP External role, [and, instead], we will be creating new student staff positions for the External portfolio to cover previous projects that were previously under the responsibility of the Vice President,” Mansdoerfer said. “As such, we will create a Francophone Affairs Commissioner position, a Sexual Violence Mobilization Advocacy Commissioner, [and] we will be doubling the hours of certain commissioners.”

Though some raised concerns regarding the increased workload for these commissioners, Mansdoerfer stated that a three-person advisory board would be established to offer institutional support and advice on matters specific to the role.

The next SSMU Legislative Council meeting will be held on Nov. 1 in McConnell Engineering Room 603.

SSMU Legislative Council debates a fee levy for a gendered and sexual violence policy

News/SSMU by
(Helen Wu / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on Oct. 11 to discuss the implementation of a Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) and the renaming of McGill’s Men’s Varsity Teams. Before the debate on the two primary motions, President Tre Mansdoerfer announced the resignation of vice-president (VP) External Marina Cupido.

“We are all very sad to see Marina resign from [their] position [as] VP External,” Mansdoerfer said. “We worked with [them] on a statement released yesterday [Oct. 10] by SSMU. Currently, we are working on how to [replace] the VP External. [At] the next council, we’ll have a proposal or some sort of discussion on what we plan to do.”

 

Implementation of a Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) and a fee levy

The resignation of two SSMU executives during the 2016-17 academic year following allegations of sexual violence necessitated the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP). The motion for an Anti-Violence Fee calls for an opt-outable fee levy of $0.45 on McGill students to fund the salaries of two Anti-Violence Coordinators, administrative costs, and an Anti-Violence Fund for projects against sexual violence. Anti-Violence Coordinators will be responsible for referring individuals to relevant support resources and conducting investigations into all reported cases.

Bee Khaleeli, SSMU’s GSVP implementation coordinator, presented their work and shared their opinion on the funding.

“Ethically, I don’t think that it should be the case that students should be paying extra money to be safe from their student union,” Khaleeli said. “I think it is preposterous and unacceptable. I would strongly prefer that SSMU were able to fund this on its own budget and SSMU consistently allocated money to sexual violence prevention efforts.”

During the debate on the policy’s funding, SSMU VP Finance Jun Wang argued that the SSMU’s budget is unable to fund the GSVP.

“I would have to cut a portion of the budget, and I don’t think it’s fair,” Wang said. “I can’t say that the GSVP is more important than Indigenous Affairs or Sustainability [….Regardless] the reason why it cannot come out of the operating budget is because the budget has already been approved by [the] previous Council. As long as the money does not fall in [a] category we voted on, we cannot allocate that money elsewhere. Therefore, the GSVP cannot be financed against any part of the budget.”

Arts and Sciences Senator Bryan Buraga insisted that the SSMU must prioritize this policy.

“It’s important to recognize that, if SSMU finds it a priority, they will find the necessary funding for it,” Buraga said. “I think that whenever we tell students they have to pay extra to be safe, it shows that we don’t prioritize these services.”

The motion for an Anti-Violence Fee levy passed with 22 votes in favour, three in opposition, and no abstentions.

 

Renaming McGill’s Men’s Varsity Teams

The name of McGill’s men’s varsity sports teams—Redmen—has drawn criticism in the past decade for the word’s historical use as a derogatory term for Indigenous peoples. Others have argued that the name has been reclaimed by the athletic teams.

“The historical roots of the teams, according to McGill Athletics, holds no association to [Indigenous peoples],”  First-Year Council Representative Robert Hu said. “It is the misrepresented history of the name, and not the name itself, that creates confusion and offence.”

Social Work Councillor Zach Kleiner responded to Hu’s comments by urging the council to protect the Indigenous students at McGill.

“I don’t think it’s up to us say whether Indigenous students are offended by a racial slur,” Kleiner said. “I see that a lot of people in this room are white, and a lot of people in this room are not Indigenous, so I don’t think we have the duty to ourselves as SSMU to vote on anything but protecting the Indigenous students.”

The motion carried with 24 votes in favour, one in opposition, and two abstentions.

SSMU Legislative Council will meet again on Oct. 18.

SSMU VP External Marina Cupido resigns

News/SSMU by
(Audrey Carleton / The McGill Tribune)

The executive board of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) is one member short as of Wednesday. On Oct. 10, SSMU announced the resignation of vice-president (VP) External Marina Cupido in a statement emailed to SSMU members by VP Internal Matthew McLaughlin, which cited mental health concerns as the cause of Cupido’s resignation. The statement, also posted on the SSMU website and signed by Cupido and the remaining members of the SSMU executive committee, included plans to address the vacancy of the position at an Oct. 18 Legislative Council meeting.

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Cupido confirmed that their decision to resign arose from the unhealthy strain of the position’s workload.

“Being in this job literally became a threat to my physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing,” Cupido said. “A large part of that is because this job is ridiculous [….] There need to be structural changes at SSMU that, among many other things, make it possible to be a VP, to be an executive and [to] be healthy, and have a life beyond work.”

At the SSMU Legislative Council meeting on Oct. 11, SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer expressed regret at Cupido’s resignation and assured council members that a proposal on how to respond to the resignation was forthcoming.

Cupido became involved in controversy after publishing a post on the SSMU VP External Affairs Facebook page on Oct. 2 which described the recently-elected Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government as ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobic.’ Although SSMU issued a statement on Oct. 11 reaffirming the sentiment, but apologizing for the language of Cupido’s post, Cupido told the Tribune that they did not regret publishing it.

“If I were writing a political science paper about the CAQ, I would describe it with a lot of the same language but also with more nuance,” Cupido said. “But I wasn’t [….] I honestly don’t regret posting that, I think that it was the right thing to do, I think it was called for and appropriate and basically fair. And I wish that SSMU was an institution where that was the norm.”

While Cupido is the first SSMU executive to resign this academic year, two executives, VP Finance and VP Operations and Sustainability, resigned during the prior academic year. In an email to the Tribune, McLaughlin concurred with Cupido’s statements regarding the strenuous workload of SSMU VPs and said that he hoped McGill students would be sympathetic given the body’s history of resignations.

“The sad reality is that executive resignations have become a staple of a typical year,” McLaughlin wrote. “As much as some people might think that resignations are often the result of politics and interpersonal issues, the reality is that executive roles are practically designed to cause resignations; the positions inexorably lead to burnout and issues of both mental and physical health. It’s easy to pass judgment and point fingers, but I’d encourage students to consider that executives are people, too.”

Cupido argued that the position of VP External would be easier to manage if the SSMU student positions under the External Affairs portfolio were expanded.

“To varying degrees, none of the student staff have enough hours,” Cupido said. “The VP External job has a lot of very disparate parts and having more of a team running those projects would be better [….] A [good] place to start would really be investing more in the team that does this job.”

Student committee to advocate for fall reading week

McGill/News/Private/SSMU by
(Arshaaq Jiffry / The McGill Tribune)

The first major steps are underway for the implementation of a fall reading week and a restructuring of the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors. Following the 2018 SSMU Winter Referendum, in which over 96 per cent of electors voted in favour of a fall reading week, conversations have begun at the administrative and student level with the creation of an ad hoc Fall Reading Break Committee and a subcommittee under the Enrolment and Student Affairs Advisory Committee (ESAC).

Among the leaders of the reading week committee is McGill Arts and Science Senator Bryan Buraga, who researched the implementation of a fall reading week last year. He sees more potential in this year’s effort compared to SSMU’s attempts in 2015, which were sparked by a motion endorsing a fall reading week.

“[Campaigning in] 2015 was focused more on administrators and deans as far as I am aware,” Buraga said. “It is different now because there is a new Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning who is open to hearing student concerns, and that is a huge leap from where we were last year.”

According to Fabrice Labeau, McGill’s interim deputy provost of Student Life and Learning, obstacles to a fall reading week encountered during the 2015 discussions still need solutions. Scheduling a fall reading week could mean having to compact the final exam schedule or start the term before Labour Day, which could leave some students having to pay an additional month’s rent.  

“There is the question of when […] we make up for the time during the semester that will be taken up by this fall reading break,” Labeau said. “Some faculties, like Engineering and Medicine, have accreditation requirements that involve a certain number of contact hours. So, whenever you lose a day, you need to add a day to the semester either at the end or before the usual beginning of the semester.”

Buraga intends for the Fall Reading Week Committee to split into two working groups, one of which will lobby and negotiate with McGill administration while the other group collects data and researches the needs of the student body.

“I think it’s going to be important to listen to the needs of all students,” Buraga said. “It’s going to be a balancing act, for sure, because [while] we cannot please everybody, […] we need to get a large majority of students to agree that we are okay with Saturday exams or we are okay with starting earlier before Labour Day or some sort of compromise.”

Buraga remains optimistic about the implementation of a fall reading week at McGill.

“Before the 1990s, there was not a winter reading break,” Buraga said. “It was a student-led initiative to get a winter reading break. With that precedent in mind, it is definitely very possible that we may get [a fall reading week].”

The SSMU Board of Directors could also face major changes within the next couple of years. SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer has taken action to examine the structure of the board and address what he argues are systematic weaknesses. According to Mansdoerfer, the board, which consists of five members at large, three councillors, and four executives, is easily exploited by members with strong political ideologies.

“You have people of similar political ideologies on the board with an intent to express their political ideologies on a board issue,” Mansdoerfer said.

According to Mansdoerfer, an ideal board would see the council representatives and members-at-large replaced by academic representatives from every faculty.

“The [concerns of the] board should be financial, legal, [and] operational and the current structure doesn’t really reflect that,” Mansdoerfer said. “We can have faculty presidents where stakeholders from every single group [will be] on the board deciding the financial operational decisions for McGill students. [….The proposed reforms are] really trying to make sure the board is what it should be, looking [out] for the best interests of students.”

SSMU motion on far-right postponed

News/SSMU by
(Gabriel Helfant / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on Sept. 27, during which councillors Bryan Buraga, Mu Rong Yang, Garima Karia, and Andrew Figueiredo were nominated to the Board of Directors (BoD). The Legislative Council also approved a motion to prohibit the Vice-President (VP) Internal from becoming intoxicated at events and event organizers from spending SSMU funds on personal drinks.

 

In more routine matters, the Council renewed the motion designating affiliated clubs as SSMU’s highest priority and confirmed the membership of the health and dental care review committee. It also discussed a policy defining SSMU’s stance toward far-right groups and a motion addressing the lack of student participation in SSMU politics.

Motion regarding far-right groups postponed indefinitely

Council members voted to indefinitely postpone the Motion to Adopt a Policy Against Affiliation with Far Right Groups, which would forbid individuals or clubs affiliated with far-right groups from being directly involved with SSMU. During the discussion period, VP External Marina Cupido defended this move, stating that the policy in its current form was not yet ready to be submitted to the Legislative Council. Cupido will submit a revised motion in the near future.

 

“This is a very nuanced issue, and I think that there are a lot of concerns that need to be taken into account when trying to fight the far-right on our university campus, or anywhere really,” Cupido said. “I think that the […] draft that was brought up last year is a good start, but […] I don’t think it is adequate, frankly [….] I would like to see something better and more thorough, and I would like to have the time to put that together.”

 

The vote was initially proposed by the outgoing 2017-18 SSMU Legislative Council at the Apr. 5 council meeting, during which councillors voted to postpone discussion to the second meeting of the 2018-19 council. Despite this delay, Cupido expressed their commitment to preparing a policy in the coming months to address the presence of far-right groups on campus.

 

“I want to get this done by the end of October, so I really don’t want to drag [it] out,” Cupido said.

Council unanimously passes motion regarding student governance

 

Council members unanimously voted in favour of the Motion for Special Emphasis to be Placed on Greater Engagement with Student Governance. The policy, which will establish an ad hoc committee to undertake a comprehensive governance review, is an attempt to address student apathy toward and subsequent distrust of SSMU. These feelings have resulted in low voter participation in SSMU elections, including in the 2018 Winter Election, where only 32.8 per cent of the student body voted. This was the highest voter turnout in 14 years.

 

“The terms of reference engage in a serious attempt to address a longstanding problem,” VP University Affairs Jacob Shapiro said. “It’s a problem that traditionally has been addressed in ad hoc manners. I hope that this indicates a more sustained effort. Ultimately, we’ll be judged by the actions of this committee and not by words or bad raps.”

 

During the discussion period, Senate Caucus Representative Bryan Buraga expressed optimism that the policy would improve student perceptions of SSMU.

 

“I think this is a fantastic step in the right direction for reforming our society and making sure we re-engage our members, and [making] sure that they have faith in this institution that can do so much great work,” Buraga said.

Meet the Execs

News/SSMU by

Tre Mansdoerfer – President

What have you done this summer?

“I spent time working on new initiatives, improving our internal documentation/structures, and finding space for student groups on campus. Regarding new initiatives, I reached out to over 70 student body presidents across Canada and the US to learn about what initiatives they have at their schools [….] Our internal documentation was severely outdated, I spent time collecting and verifying numerous sessions of the Board of Directors and Legislative Councils from previous years [….] Finally, [VP Student Life Sophia Esterle and I] spent significant time finding building space on campus. Working with [campus groups…], we are hoping to mitigate the impact of not having a SSMU building.”

What are you working on now?

“Two of [SSMU’s new] committees include the Fall Reading Week Committee and Governance Reform Committee [….] We’re hoping to engage on the fall reading week conversation more seriously than what was done in previous years [….We’re working on] the Governance Reform Committee, which VP University Affairs Jacob Shapiro has committed significant time to. We’re hoping to critically evaluate SSMU’s governance structures and work on reforming the structure of groups like the Board of Directors.”

What challenges do you foresee this year?

“The biggest challenge for this year is the building closure. Not having a building significantly hurts clubs, services, and operations such as Gerts. Knowing this, [Sophia Esterle and I] have spent a lot of our time […] helping groups get additional space on campus. We’ll continue to put our time into helping out clubs and services as much as we can so that student life on campus is not severely impacted.”

 

Sophia Esterle – Vice-President Student Life

What have you done this summer?

“I took on a lot of the communication with both our clubs and within SSMU, [and also with our banks]. [We’ve been looking] to find space, and I’ve coordinated with all of our student groups to [hear] their needs [….] I also worked […] to clean up our list of clubs and make sure we had an updated list of everything, and also worked […] on the new interface/login system they are developing for clubs. Finally, [I worked on] Activities Night. The change of locations was quite a challenge, [and,] this year [,] I attempted to organize it a bit more by assigning tables and publishing a set floor plan with all of the groups, as well as creating an entirely new layout and organization of the tables [….] I hope everyone enjoyed the event!”

What are you working on now?

“Right now, my main priority is building space. I want to make sure that as many groups as possible can function and be successful this year. We also have mental illness awareness week at the end of the month […] being organized for the first time, which is very exciting. Additionally, I’ve been working with Rez Life to set up an event in residences centered around mental health throughout the year.”

University Centre reopening delayed until 2019

News/SSMU by
(ssmu.ca)

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has postponed the opening of the University Centre building until the end of the 2018-19 school year due to construction delays, according to an Aug. 14 Facebook post. The construction, which began on March 17, was initially scheduled to be completed by the winter of 2018, with Gerts Campus Bar opening in September followed by the rest of the building in December. However, underestimates of the time needed to remove contaminants have caused the expected opening to be pushed back until the summer.

“We were under the impression that the building was on the original timeline until shortly before our update on August 14th,” Tre Mansdoerfer, SSMU President, wrote in an email to the The McGill Tribune. “There was more hazardous material in the building [than] was originally anticipated.”

The building was closed to allow for the replacement of the heating and ventilation system after the discovery of traces of asbestos. Asbestos, a construction material commonly used during the 1950s and 60s, has been linked to numerous lung conditions when its fibres are inhaled in large quantities. The building will also be equipped with improved electrical distribution, an additional washroom, and various other upgrades.

The University Centre is leased through McGill, which is responsible for the repairs and has been in communication with SSMU throughout the duration of the project.

Construction on a leased property falls under the control of the lessor,” Mansdoerfer wrote. “Both McGill’s project management team and contractors are responsible for the building repairs. We’ve been in contact with the contractors for the project throughout the summer, they updated us on the timeline in early August, and we subsequently updated the student body.”

The construction delays pose challenges for the 19 clubs that were forced to relocate ahead of the University Centre’s initial closure. Many were moved to spaces on Robert-Bourassa Boulevard and Peel Street, where they will remain for the duration of the construction period. However, clubs that require specific equipment and ample space to function are now encountering issues resuming regular activity.

“For general space needs, we’ve been working with the building directors of Athletics facilities and Residence Halls,” Mansdoerfer wrote. “Science Undergraduate Society, Management Undergraduate Society, Engineering Undergraduate Society, and Arts Undergraduate Society will be providing space to SSMU clubs at specified times during the year. Through the Deputy Provost office, we are booking available classrooms for club usage. We are also in conversations with McGill on getting additional permanent space for clubs/student groups on campus.”

For smaller organizations such as the McGill Plate Club, a student group which aims to promote sustainability by loaning reusable eating utensils on campus, the delays have created inconveniences to their regular functioning.

“Our core ability to function as an event plate rental service has only been slightly disrupted, since we are fortunate to have been assigned temporary storage space,” a representative of the Plate Club wrote to the Tribune. “Since our user base extends beyond SSMU groups, usage has been sustained even if this one sector is holding less events as a consequence of the building closure. I do feel that the loss of a central student space will put a damper on undergraduate student life in general.”

Meanwhile, for bigger groups such as the Players’ Theatre, which was evicted in February and requires a large space to operate, the move has been particularly difficult. Nonetheless, Cheyenne Cranston, Executive Director of the Players’ Theater, remains optimistic about the community’s ability to function despite the delays.

“After meeting with SSMU, it is clear that they are doing everything in their power to assist the clubs and services that have been impacted by the building closure,” Cranston wrote in an email to the Tribune. “There’s an old saying in theatre that says, ‘The show must go on!’ and we plan to follow this saying. While acquiring a theatre space through SSMU would be ideal, we’ll perform in someone’s living room if we have to.”

SSMU Board of Directors reduces dental coverage

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(ssmu.ca)

As a result of an unforeseen deficit, at a meeting on June 11, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD) voted to reduce student dental coverage from $750 to $500 for the upcoming academic year. The motion was approved by the Board, with seven votes in favour and one abstention.

The SSMU Health and Dental Plan is administered by the Alliance pour la Santé Étudiante au Québec (ASEQ) / Studentcare, founded by McGill alumnus Lev Bukhman (BA ‘93) in 1996. Studentcare is dedicated to facilitating access to health and dental plans for post-secondary communities across Canada.

While the health care services component of the Plan only covers Canadian SSMU members, the Dental Plan provided by Studentcare is automatically available to all SSMU members. For an annual Dental Plan fee of $100, students are usually guaranteed coverage of dental services of up to $750 from Sep. 1 to Aug. 31 of that academic year. Following the BoD’s decision, however, students enrolled in the Dental Plan for 2018-2019 will only have access to services totalling up to $500 for the same payable fee of $100.   

SSMU pays a total $134.15 premium per student on the Studentcare Dental Plan, financed in part by the annual $100 student fee. The Society is responsible for the remaining costs, which amount to over $600,000 for the approximately 18,000 students covered by the Plan. Typically, SSMU covers this amount using Plan reserves they have built up over the years. Due to a miscommunication on the part of the previous SSMU Vice-President (VP) Financial Affairs Esteban Herpin, however, the reserves are not sufficient to shoulder the cost for the coming academic year.

“Esteban communicated in an email that we had over two million dollars in reserves which we didn’t have, so we never restructured the [student] fee accordingly last semester,” SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer said. “As a result, we only have about $200,000. It’s significantly smaller, meaning that we are currently slated a $320,000 deficit if we don’t adjust the fee.”

Following consultations with Studentcare, Mansdoerfer presented the dental coverage reduction to the Board as the only rational choice in the face of such a sizeable projected deficit.

“The suggested plan of action was to decrease dental coverage from 750 to 500 dollars,” Mansdoerfer said. “[…From] everything that I have gathered […] this is the most logical thing to do. Going forward this coming Fall, we can run a fee referendum for the next cycle of dental and health care coverage, and we can raise it back to 750 dollars if that’s what students deem is important, and I think they probably do.”

According to Mansdoerfer, SSMU’s Studentcare insurer estimates that five per cent of the Dental Plan subscribers exceed $500 worth of services over the course of 12 months. Indeed, only one third of dental services required by students constitute more expensive urgent reactive care, while the remaining two thirds are simply preventative services.

VP External Affairs Marina Cupido raised the concern that, for those approximately 900 students who were expected to exceed the reduced coverage, no other funding would be available to help alleviate the incurred costs.

“If we do have a member who is in a crisis situation and needs more coverage, is there anything we can say to them, is there anywhere we can direct them to, is there any pool of money that we could [use]?” Cupido said.

Mansdoerfer answered that he was unaware of any supplementary financial assistance that SSMU could provide to those students. The Board stressed the necessity for a fee referendum in the coming academic year to rectify the discrepancy between the maintained Plan fee and the reduced dental coverage.  

“[It’s going to be] really important to run this referendum in the Fall if there’s this number of students that are going to be underserved,” Cupido said.

SSMU Council discusses the presence of far-right ideology in McGill community

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(ctv.ca)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on April 5 to discuss methods to prevent the spread of far-right groups within the campus community, and implement policies against sexual violence. Additionally, Council voted to update SSMU’s equity policy, to support the Fiat Lux library improvement plan, and to change the Arab Students’ Network’s status from a club to a service. Council also heard reports from the SSMU Environment Committee and the First Year Council (FYC).

 

SSMU’s relationship to “far-right” politics in a local context

Council members considered adopting a policy to not affiliate with any groups with a connection to the far-right, and to prohibit any individuals with far-right affiliations from working for SSMU. According to SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Connor Spencer, the policy would use RationalWiki’s definition of “far-right” ideologies, which describes them as values rooted in  inequality, like segregation. The motion mandates future VP Externals to annually update a list of far-right groups in Montreal.

Speaker Nikolas Dolmat and other council members questioned whether this ban could violate discrimination laws. Some also argued that any candidate with far-right affiliations would likely not be elected anyway.

“My one concern […] is are we allowed to ban people in our society from positions?” Engineering Senator and 2018-19 SSMU President-Elect Tre Mansdoerfer said. “Is that OK legally with McGill and the Charter of Student Rights, and Quebec legislation? […] It would scare me to pass something that was immediately violating multiple laws.”

Other Council members, including Spencer and Social Work Representative Matthew Savage, defended the legality of the motion by stating that genocide and other far-right beliefs are too hostile to be considered legitimate political opinions and therefore are not protected grounds for employment. They also pointed out that the motion is becoming increasingly relevant with the growing presence of the far-right in Montreal.

“The sentiment that I’m hearing from a lot of people here is that they want to protect that one person that might have some slightly right tendencies,” Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) VP External Alice Yue said. “But that’s not the purpose of this motion. The purpose of this motion is to make sure that that one far-right person does not get to run and make thousands of students feel unsafe on campus [….] It’s totally fine to be conservative.”

After the debate, Mansdoerfer moved to postpone the question to the second meeting of the 2018-2019 SSMU Legislative Council, which passed by a vote of 16 to seven.

 

Progress on anti-sexual violence initiatives discussed

Guest speakers Caitlin Salvino, the co-creator of the Our Turn National Action Plan and SSMU’s Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy (GSVP) Coordinator, and Priya Dube, a student policy advisor, presented the progress they made in drafting a GSVP. They explained that the Policy covers sexual violence prevention, advocacy, and response. The GSVP will also offer survivors both formal and informal responses and resolutions to their disclosures.

Additionally, Council voted unanimously to mandate anti-sexual violence training in the 2018-19 school year for all SSMU officers, directors, and councillors and at the clubs workshop and services summit, a requirement that Salvino hopes to continue through the GSVP. Spencer predicts that the final draft will be passed next academic year.

“We’re trying to push McGill to better support their students,” Salvino said. “We tried to mandate this in the policy so that we’re not just relying on an exec who’s passionate […] but it’ll be every year that SSMU has to continuously advocate for survivor-centered policies and appropriate responses.”

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