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SSMU Candidate Interviews

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STEFAN LINK

STEFAN LINK

How will your past experience influence your approach to the presidential portfolio? I have always been looking at the basic student services that affect the majority of people. So in the Physics Society, I knew that the math department had a really functional help desk that lots of students use and I didn’t understand why physics didn’t have a similar service, so I just wanted to start something similar for the physics people, and I did. The next thing I did was organizing a career fair. Just the basic services that I would expect to see. That was a great experience where I learned a lot about leadership, motivating people, how to deal with administration and bureaucracy. What do you plan to do about the GA?I think that it is extremely important that [students] are discussing things like Israel and Palestine and I think it is important that they have a forum for discussion. However, I do not think that McGill University as a whole should be taking a stance on issues like these, and if that is what it comes down to it should not be with three per cent of the population. I really don’t think that it has a place in the GA. I would like to have [the GA] in the gym and I would increase attendance by physically going and speaking with the departments to tell them ‘Hey there is a general assembly coming up in a month.’ What issues would you seek to advance on BoG and how would you work with other board members to accomplish them? I would like to see a big increase in approaching other private and industrial sectors to give bursaries and scholarships to the students because they have a lot of money … there are private sectors and industries that are interested in this because if they are going to succeed they are going to need the best people working for them. I would also like to push for transparency. What has SSMU done right this year and what would you do differently? They realized that they had to shut down Haven Books, which was extremely good. I think that it’s good that they did the energy audits. They did do a really good job with Gert’s compared to previous years but I still think that it can be improved a lot. I also think that one of the main things they have not done is address basic student services that you would expect to find at a University. It also only costs pennies per semester to have a 24-hour library service. We are at one of the top universities in the world, many other universities already have this service. It is very successful and so why we don’t have it is an extremely good question, especially because it costs virtually nothing. They have not addressed basic things that affect everybody everyday. If you were a type of cocktail, what would you be? Wow, that’s a tough one…sex on the beach?

TRIP YANG

TRIP YANG

How will your past experience influence your approach to the presidential portfolio?Well, one of the things I try to market about myself is that I have a diverse set of experiences. I’ve worked for the Tribune for four years. Writing news stories requires that you have an objective, impartial point of view when you’re trying to cover something. As a SSMU President it’s really important to stimulate debate, to open up discussion, and to try and encourage others to have flexible mindsets. I’m also the president of the McGill Computer Taskforce – it’s a large student-run organization within the [Science Undergraduate Society.]

What would you do to change the General Assembly?I really want to change the GA. I’ve read the editorials by the Tribune and by the Daily, and there seems to be a consensus that the current GA model doesn’t work. I want to reform the GA so that instead of holding a GA once per semester, I want to only hold it when student debate and consultation is required. I want the GA to be televised – hopefully by TVMcGill, if their referendum question passes, and they gain access to more equipment – and made into a two-part process. First, students would debate and amend motions at a GA, then after the GA has been televised and students have had a chance to watch it, the entire student body would be able to vote on the motions online.

What would be your main concerns and areas of focus during the Memorandum of Agreement negotiations with the administration?Outside of securing an acceptable, student-friendly lease for the Shatner Building, I really want to look at the potentially restrictive language surrounding student-run initiatives. Haven Books is a perfect example – $200,000 of debt in three years – and that was largely the result of not being able to advertise on campus or on SSMU Listservs.

How much of a voice do you think the president can have on the Board of Governors, and what are your plans to advance student concerns there?For undergraduates, the president is the only student representative on the BoG, so it’s imperative that the president fights for his or her constituency’s interests. At the same time, there’s a possibility of being intimidated during his or her first time at the BoG, because there are a number of high-profile administrators and businessmen that sit on the BoG. And in order for a president in his or her twenties to be taken seriously, she needs to speak professionally and convey student interests without antagonizing the rest of the members of the BoG.

What cocktail would you be?A martini, because James Bond drinks those bad boys.

ZACH NEWBURGH

ZACH NEWBURGH

How will your past experience influence your approach to the presidential portfolio?I have served as the speaker of Council both for SSMU and for EUS, so I have a great knowledge of the various faculty associations that exist on campus. I am also currently the president of Hillel Montreal, and I was the president of one of the largest North American youth movements and then the chair of an international youth movement that held conferences focussing on leadership development and social justice all across the world.

How would you address the issues surrounding the General Assembly?It’s silly for us to pretend that the GA is a democratic forum if you cannot fit five per cent of your student society in the room. There was a great idea to provide an opportunity to debate questions, and to release video and sound clips from that particular debate online. And to have the vote online so students can hear about both the pros and cons of a particular resolution as well as the opportunity to engage in direct democracy.

What would be the main things you push for in the MoA renegotiations?Some very important things should be fought for in the MoA agreement, such as the right to use the McGill logo and the name. [Also important are the] continued use of phone lines, emails, and website domains, as well as ensuring that the Students’ Society is able to operate independently and successfully.

What do you think you could practically accomplish on the Board of Governors, and how would you work with other members of the board to advance student concerns?It’s extremely important that we represent the interests of our students and as president I will certainly represent interests that are important to our students. I’ve indicated in my platform that something I’m interested in doing is increasing accessibility – providing an opportunity for students to be represented fairly and adequately.

What has SSMU done right this year and what would you look to do differently?I think that SSMU has done a great job at revitalizing Gert’s, making it a student bar that is held in high regard by many of our students which is something that has not been in recent history. As president I would be implementing a vision, helping our team be successful. My vision is that we build community together, and we can do so by empowering student
athletes. Athletics is something apolitical everyone can rally around and celebrate the McGill name. Let’s create a student society that we are proud of and this is one of the opportunities in which we could bring people together.

If you were a mixed drink, what would you be?I would be a Jäger Bomb: something that is both tasty and delicious and gets you drunk real fast.

SARAH WOOLF

SARAH WOOLF

How will your past experience with SSMU influence your approach to the presidential portfolio?One of the things that the president needs to do is to always have a really strong institutional memory. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to have been previously directly involved in order to president, but I think you have to have strong sense of SSMU, its history and how it functions, as well as McGill and how it functions. My experience has been firmly planted in all aspects of both SSMU and McGill. I think the relationships I’ve built with the administration, with other councillors, and with people on campus will help me to pursue the best interests of students.

What do you intend to do about General Assemblies?I think it’s an incredibly important institution, and I’m not ready to give up on it yet. I also recognize that, as the president, I’m not the only person with the answers about what GA reform would look like. There are so many options for what we could do to make the GA a better system.

What would be your main priorities in the Memorandum of Agreement negotiations with McGill?One of the biggest things is that the MoA and the lease are tied together. I’d like to see them separate. However, I don’t know if that will be possible. I haven’t been in our previous discussions about the MoA with the administration. What I’d like to see is more security from the administration [with respect to the Shatner Building], whether that’s a longer lease or taking over the utilities. I think the administration needs to give up more security so that we feel comfortable putting more money into it so that the building is best functioning for students.

As the only undergraduate voice on the Board of Governors, how would you work with other members to advance student concerns?I think my experience on Senate has given me a lot of [experience working with administrators]. I have no problem standing strong on student concerns. But I also know how important it is to be collaborative, to be respectful, to recognize that fundamentally we both want student life on McGill’s campus to be as strong as possible. Sometimes we just have different ideas about what that means.

What has SSMU done right this year, and what would you do differently?This year, the executive has been exceptionally strong. I’m impressed with them on a constant basis. I think Council has been weak this year. I’m still thinking about how I would try to stimulate more discussion and make it more accessible to non-councillors. I really think it’s been a strong year for SSMU and I’m looking forward to building off of it.

If you were a mixed drink, what type would you be?I think I would probably be a brown cow, because milk’s really good for you. You really could probably have it any time of day and be just fine.

Correction: Zach Newburgh was originally quoted as saying he was the AUS speaker of council. In fact, he is the EUS speaker of council.

Referendum rundown: what you need to know before voting

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Question RE: Bodily Sovereignty

This question is a toned-down version of the General Assembly motion concerning discriminatory groups, which sought to amend the Students’ Society constitution to prohibit pro-life clubs from existing.

A “Yes” vote would require SSMU to take action against groups that compromise “bodily sovereignty.” The question does not single out pro-life groups specifically, but the notion of “bodily sovereignty” has often been understood to include the right to choose.

Liam Olson-Mayes, U2 women’s studies and history, a sponsor of both the GA motion and the current question, claimed that the question is reasonable enough to be supported by Choose Life members.

Natalie Fohl, the former president of Choose Life, gave limited support to the motion.

“The notion of bodily sovereignty does not pose a problem for pro-life groups specifically,” she said “[But] we are concerned with the implications that some may use to interpret this clause.”

Question RE: McGill Tribune independence

At a Council meeting two years ago, SSMU mandated that the Tribune become an independent newspaper. This referendum question seeks to sever the legal and financial ties between the Tribune and SSMU and replace SSMU’s financial support with a three-dollar non-opt-outable fee levied to all undergraduate students. According to Tribune editors, the future of the newspaper is bleak if the referendum fails, as SSMU is not obligated to continue supporting the newspaper in future years.

Question RE: Policy on Matters External to the Society

This question makes it more difficult for a General Assembly to pass motions on “matters external to the Society’s regular activities.” It requires a quorum of 500 students to discuss such matters, two-thirds of whom must vote in favour of beginning discussion on any such motion. According to SSMU President Ivan Neilson, the question addresses the recent controversies at GAs.

Question RE: Environment Fee

If this question passes, it will renew the $1.25 opt-outable SSMU Environment Fee, which expires this semester, until the Winter 2013 semester. The SSMU Environment Fee funds environmental projects within SSMU.

“This is entirely governed by students, so we get to work to student priorities and student timelines,” said Maggie Knight, U3 environmental science and member of the question’s “Yes” committee.

Question RE: QPIRG bylaw changes

If it is approved, this question would allow the Quebec Public Interest Research Group McGill to make changes to its constitution and bylaws at an Annual General Meeting. Right now the group is only allowed to make changes by SSMU referendum. According to the “Yes” committee, this will streamline the group’s operations.

Question RE: Constitution Section Three

This question would move SSMU committee mandates to the Society’s bylaws. They are currently in Section Three of the Constitution. According to Neilson, this would update the SSMU committee structure.

“It’s really out of date, it’s really ineffective, and it doesn’t allow us to do what we’d like to do,” he said.

Question RE: Student Life Fund

This question would create a new space for SSMU’s unspent money. A “Yes” vote would place funds left over after June 1 to go into a new “Student Life Fund.” The money currently goes into the Capital Expenditures Reserve Fund (CERF), where it is no longer available to student groups.

Question Re: TVMcGill Funding

This question proposes a new $0.50 opt-outable fee to help fund TVMcGill’s operations. Executives say that the fee will provide TVMcGill with desperately needed new equipment and raise the group’s profile on campus.

Question RE: WUSC Refugee Scholarship Fund.

Students currently pay 50 cent each term to support two McGill refugee students selected by the World University Service Committee (WUSC). This question asks students to allow the committee to select deserving students from developing countries in years in which there are no qualified refugee students.

Plebiscite RE: Funding the TaCEQ

This question is non-binding, and is intended to gauge students’ support for the Round Table of Quebec Students (TaCEQ) in its quest for grants from the provincial government.

SSMU Candidate Interviews

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JOSHUA ABAKI

JOSHUA ABAKI

What has Rebecca Dooley done right this year, and what would you do differently?

One of the things she has done well is getting student opinion – for example, “The McGill We Want.” I think that’s a very important task force, because it shows the McGill administration that we are actually going out there and getting the student mandate. One thing I would like to improve on next year are the committees. I’d like to get a wider section of students sitting on [them].

What is your stance on McGill’s Research Policy?

Section 7.24 definitely needs clarification. It just says “in good faith,” so it’s not very specific and it needs to be clarified. It needs to state that if there is research that’s being conducted that is going to be particularly harmful, then McGill’s not going to support that specific research. Then there are Clauses 10 and 11, which we removed. I think these need to be put back, because these are things that groups like Demilitarize McGill worked very hard to have inserted into the Research Policy. I think it’s a step backward for McGill to remove these particular clauses from the policy.

What makes you the best candidate for the position?

I’ve had a wide variety of experiences, not only in Canada but also in Kenya. In Kenya, I was the equivalent of student union president of my high school. However I had to mandate the day-to-day activities of that particular high school since there was actually no adults. Since coming to McGill I’ve been hugely involved in student life here. So when it comes to tuition that’s something I really understand and I think I’d be in a good position to convince the McGill administration not to increase tuition.

What is your number-one priority for next year?

I want to get McGill to not just say in words that we are a student-centred university, because I think the reality proves otherwise. If the administration wants to claim that we are a student-centred university then that must be reflected in their policies.

David Lipsitz

DAVID LIPSITZ

In your opinion, what has VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley done well this year?

She’s dealt with the larger issues on campus well. As you’re aware, for example, the research policy is something that’s been going back and forth for quite a while. Although students didn’t get exactly what they wanted, I think that the effort was there and sometimes there’s just no budging the administration.

What are your views on the research policy?

One of the main goals of various student groups on campus … was to restrict military research. The students have only won one concession from the university administration when it comes to this policy: the removal of the anonymity clause, which means that anonymous donations can no longer be made to researchers. Overall, the policy, as it stands now, is a step backward.

Are you in favour of military-funded research, or are you against it?

I’m somewhere in the middle. Military research has a place in society. That’s not to say that I’m militaristic. I certainly don’t support many of the current campaigns that are going on around the world today. At the same time, though, it is important that university students know where their money is going.

What differentiates you from the other candidates?

I’m the most experienced candidate. I’ve worked with SSMU closely – I’m the chairman of the External Affairs Committee. I’ve made reports to SSMU, discussed the issues that concern SSMU’s relationship with the Quebec government and with other student groups in Quebec. I’m also a senator. I know how the Senate caucus works. I’ve also worked with [the Arts Undergraduate Society] in the past. Basically, I’ve got all the bases covered. I’m a diplomatic person. Level-headedness is an important quality in this job.

If elected, what would be your number-one priority for next year?

My campaign has three pillars. In the tuition category, I’d work towards securing a commitment from the university not to implement a self-funded tuition model for undergraduate education. The second pillar is sustainability, particularly food sustainability on campus. The administration is working towards implementing composting facilities for their residence cafeterias. I want to expand this. The third pillar is improving the undergraduate experience. I’ve focussed on exchange programs, transfer credits, independent classes. There’s a lot of bureaucracy [in these areas]. It would be a shame not to simplify these processes.

Five of seven motions pass at Winter General Assembly

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Five out of seven motions passed at the Students’ Society’s Winter General Assembly last Wednesday, with only a motion that sought to ban discriminatory groups – specifically pro-life groups – failing, and another being ruled out of order.

Unlike last semester’s GA, the assembly managed to address each motion of new business while maintaining quorum throughout.

SSMU President Ivan Neilson, while happy with the turnout, expressed mixed feelings about Wednesday’s GA.

“There was a lot of good, but I think with that there was some bad, so it’s hard to call it a complete success,” he said. “But we can definitely take some satisfaction, or at least some pride, in the fact that we ran through the entire agenda and didn’t lose quorum. I think that was probably the best part of it.”

The Resolution Re: Free Quality Accessible Education was not debated, as it was ruled out of order near the start of the meeting, due to redundancy. That resolution, which called for SSMU to commit to fighting for “free, quality, accessible education” and to supporting student parents and working students, was ruled to be too close to an old motion that had been dealt with by SSMU Council.

The resolution re: Discriminatory Groups failed to pass after lengthy debate over possible amendments to the motion, including one that would have removed the reference to pro-life groups.

The other five motions passed, however, and SSMU is now mandated to investigate their own and McGill’s financial ties to tar sands industrial developments in Alberta, to lobby the administration for the restoration of ATM machines that dispense five-dollar bills, and to oppose any future increases in mandatory ancillary fees as well as the “self-funded tuition program model.”

Additionally, SSMU is now mandated to reaffirm its commitment to human rights, social justice, and environmental protection, as well as either expand the mandate of the Financial Ethics Review Committee – a committee of SSMU Council – to act as an advisory board to the university “with respect to the ethical practices of corporations with respect to ethical practices of corporations with which McGill University conducts business,” or to create a new committee, known as the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, to do so.

The resolution, which also calls for the lobbying of McGill to divest from companies that do not meet ethical standards determined by FERC or the CSR Committee, generated controversy leading up to the GA because two of the whereas clauses alluded to the occupied Palestinian territories.

Much of the opposition to the motion was organized around this fact, with some calling the motion a “demonization of Israel.”

“I don’t think the GA is the right forum [for dealing with Middle East politics],” said Hillel McGill President Mookie Kideckel, who is also a Tribune columnist. “That’s part of why we organized against the motion. It’s not that you shouldn’t talk about it, but the GA – there’s always too much riding on it, the tensions are too high, there’s too much at stake to have frank, genuine, honest, open dialogue.”

However, Khaled Kteily, the vice-president membership and development of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, the group which submitted the motion, expressed disappointment with the campaign against the resolution.

“We’re unhappy with the characterization of our motion as a ‘demonization of Israel,'” Kteily wrote in an email to the Tribune. “Israel does violate the human rights of Palestinians, and companies that you and I may be paying money to through SSMU or through McGill are helping. We are concerned that companies are profiting from the illegal occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The motion was passed, however, only after an amendment removed the two whereas clauses dealing with the occupied Palestinian territories.

“My reaction is that McGill students demonstrated that they are completely committed to human rights and just have no interest in seeing Israel unfairly singled out,” Kideckel said.

Neilson was happy with the mandate provided to him by the motion, and he pointed out that it fits in with a project he’s already been working on.

“I’ve been looking at all of our committees since the beginning of the year, so this is actually something that fits pretty well with [that],” he said. “And in a way it’s kind of nice to be getting some direction in that, and to have some kind of a mandate from the students is something that’s beneficial, and that I will certainly take into account.”

Neilson did express concern over the scope of the mandate proposed by the motion, however.

“I think there are some issues on the level of what exactly it asks FERC to do, simply because they are issues completely unrelated to SSMU,” he said. “What the motion entirely misses is that McGill already has a committee – the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility – which is a board committee that already accomplishes this function, and would be much more effective at doing the kind of review that I think they’re after.”

However, Kteily expressed concern over this unit, which is a part of McGill’s Board of Governors, and meets on an ad hoc basis.

“The problem here is accessibility. Undergraduate students are not represented on this committee at all,” Kteily wrote. “We believe that this CSR committee will ensure that undergraduate students’ concerns are adequately represented at a university level.”

SSMU to close Haven Books after losses of over $200,000

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After sustaining losses of over $200,000 over the past three years, the Students’ Society has decided to close Haven Books.

On the recommendation of then-Vice-President Finance and Operations Dave Sunstrum, SSMU purchased Haven Books – a consignment bookstore located on Aylmer Street just below Sherbrooke – from Kevin Bozzo for approximately $40,000, according to Vice-President Finance and Operations Jose Díaz, in March 2007.

The Haven Books franchise – originally named Raven Books, was founded in Ottawa in 2002. The bookstore was successful in Ottawa, prompting Bozzo to open a location in Montreal, which he sold to SSMU after sustaining over $95,000 in losses.

In its first year of operation under SSMU, Haven incurred a loss of $72,606. The bookstore lost $91,159 the following year and projected to lose around $65,000 this fiscal year.

The decision to close Haven was made in SSMU Council’s confidential session, after a recommendation from the Operations Committee that SSMU cease bookstore operations in April.

“The numbers showed that shutting Haven down was the most cost-effective solution,” said Díaz. “It wasn’t working, so it was time to let it go.”

The Haven property lease expires February 2011. If SSMU is unable to reach a settlement to terminate the lease, or to find a sublessor, it will be responsible for approximately $23,000 in rent after Haven closes in April.

Both Díaz and SSMU President Ivan Neilson referred to the initial decision to purchase Haven Books as a “mistake.”

“I think there wasn’t enough due diligence done [before purchasing Haven],” Neilson said. “When we were looking to purchase the bookstore we received recommendations from our auditors that it would not be a wise decision – that Haven was already hemorrhaging money when we were looking to buy it. But Sunstrum decided to go ahead and buy it anyway.”

Díaz outlined two main reasons for Haven’s financial difficulties: low traffic outside of add/drop period and restrictive McGill policies regarding on-campus advertising. SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement with the university forbids the Society from engaging in any unauthorized business activities in competition with those provided by the university (with the exception of food services). Due to the existence of the McGill Bookstore, this restricted SSMU’s ability to both advertise and run Haven.

“We weren’t able to advertise Haven on campus with flyers or posters, or to sell coursepacks, because the administration saw Haven as competition for the McGill Bookstore,” Díaz said.

Benyamin Paris, the bookstore’s manager, acknowledged the difficulties Haven has faced but argued that the bookstore provides a valuable and cost-effective service to students.

“For every dollar that SSMU spends on Haven, the students save three to five dollars,” Paris said. “Because students both sell books and buy books at Haven, and because we have such a low commission rate, both transactions save students a lot of money.”

Paris suggested that some of the store’s problems could have been solved by raising the store’s commission rate from 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the sale of each consigned book. He also suggested that the decision to close Haven had political implications for SSMU.

“SSMU officials are negotiating for the rent of the Shatner Building [as the lease expires in 2011], and they didn’t want the political liability that they viewed Haven as,” Paris said. “Closing the bookstore makes things easier for them.”

Díaz plans to replace Haven with a book bazaar in the Shatner Building in the first few weeks of each semester. For a limited period of time, students will be able to buy and sell used textbooks, without the overhead costs associated with operating Haven throughout the year.

“A book bazaar could work, but I have my doubts that it will,” Paris said. “The organization is difficult, the payment system is complicated, and they used to do [a book swap] before they bought Haven and it wasn’t successful then.”

Understanding Wednesday’s General Assembly motions

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Undergraduate students will gather tomorrow beginning at 5:00 p.m. in the Shatner cafeteria to participate in the Winter General Assembly. With seven new motions on the table there is a wide variety of SSMU policy to be decided.

Motion Re: The Defense of Human Rights, Social Justice, and Environmental Protection

Put forward by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, this motion has emerged as perhaps the most controversial Genderal Assembly motion. Should it pass, the Students’ Society would be mandated to “issue a statement reaffirming its commitment to human rights,” expand the Financial Ethics Review Committee, allow for instituting a Corporate Social Responsibility committee, and have either active committee investigate McGill University’s investments.

The motion has drawn attention mainly due to the two non-debatable, non-amendable “whereas” clauses that mention the conflict in the Middle East.

“The main concern was to make sure that McGill has an ethical and moral way of handling business and that they don’t invest in any companies that don’t support human rights or in any way infringe upon anyone’s human rights,” said Samer Sefian, SPHR vice-president internal.

Sefian added that he was not surprised by the opposition garnered by the motion.

“Some people will believe that we are putting Israel aside and just targeting Israel, which is not true at all. I think it came out like this because either they have not read the full motion, which I doubt anybody did, or they are just thinking of it in a different way.”

The motion doesn’t specify any direct action to condemn Israel, though opponents to the motion believe that it has been written in a similar spirit to last year’s motion to condemn Israel for the bombing of educational institutions in Gaza.

“A lot of last year’s motion was about not wanting the campus to be polarized and we have the same position – we have no interest in seeing this campus as being divided on ideological lines,” said Mookie Kideckel, Hillel McGill President and Tribune Columnist. “But in a way, we almost see this resolution as more underhanded than last year because last year some actually asked McGill students to take an ideological position – this one does so in a really sly, covert way.”

Motion Re: Discriminatory Groups

In the aftermath of this year’s chapter in the Choose Life saga, a motion has been put forward to ban any pro-life group from becoming an official SSMU club.

If passed, the motion would amend the SSMU equity policy to include the following statement: “The SSMU further resolves to condemn any group, student association or organization whose goals and methods compromise the safety and health of any person or engage in acts of discrimination such as but not limited to pro-life groups; the SSMU will not grant full or interim status to any such group.”

Natalie Fohl, president of the suspended Choose Life club, said that the motion is a preemptive attempt to disallow Choose Life from being reinstated with full club status.

“It is very unfortunate to hear, coming from a group of students, that they would basically like to stifle dialogue on a legitimate topic by deeming the topic, or at least one perspective on it, illegitimate,” Fohl said. “I think that’s really against the spirit of what a university campus is supposed to foster, which is to question everything and open dialogue.”

Motion Re: Self-funded Tuition Model

As the University struggles to close a $14 million dollar deficit, the administration has announced that it will instate a self-funded tuition model for the Master’s of Business Adminstration program, a move which will create a flat tuition rate of $29,500 per student in the 2010-2011 academic year.

The motion seeks to establish a formal policy against self-funded tuition models and mandates SSMU to lobby against the self-funded tuition model on the university, provincial, and federal levels.

Motion Re: SSMU for Free Quality Accessible Education

Staying with tuition issues, the motion for Free Quality Accessible Education seeks to require SSMU to lobby for ultimately eliminating university tuition and student debt and also to “reinvest in education to maintain the quality and accessibility.”

Motion Re: Ancillary Fees

Ancillary Fees are another issue with strong ties to the McGill deficit. With the Quebec Ministry of Education’s current cap of $15 per student per semester set to expire on 2011, this motion seeks to mandate SSMU to oppose any future increases in ancillary fees unless passed by referendum.

Motion Re: Tar Sands

Should it pass, this motion would mandate SSMU to condemn the industrial development of the Alberta Tar Sands, examine investments of over $15,000 for ties to the Tar Sands industry, create a sub-committee of the FERC to research investment ties that McGill may have to the Tar Sands, and redefine the criteria for what is considered involvement with the Tar Sands.

Motion Re: Restoration of $5 Bill ATM Machines

If passed this motion will require SSMU to negotiate with the McGill administration to reinstate the availability of five dollar bills in ATM machines on campus.

GA Reform

Although tomorrow’s GA will go ahead under the current rules, the possibility for reform has again been brought up. At last Thursday’s SSMU Council meeting, a motion was passed that will create a council-initiated referendum question to be put to students in the Winter Referendum period.

The referendum question, signed by SSMU President Ivan Neilson, VP Clubs and Services Sarah Olle, VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley, and Councillor David Marshall, would amend the constitution to make it more difficult for GAs to set policy on issues external to the Society.

“The spirit behind the question was to sort of redefine the GAs so we get all the really positive elements of direct democracy, and leave out some of the confusion, and the messy, more problematic motions which tend to come up and which don’t really have anything relating to SSMU,” said Neilson.

Currently, Article 28.1 of the SSMU Constitution reads: “A General Assembly may establish, amend or rescind any policy of the society except” and lists the constitution, membership fees or other financial matters of the society, and the composition of the society’s staff. The amendment would add to this list “policies on matters external to the Society’s regular activities.”

The amendment would also insert a new section, 28.2, which would read: “exceptionally, a policy on a matter external to the Society’s regular activities may be adopted at a General Assembly if the following conditions are satisfied,” and lists as the conditions: 500 members of the society are present, two thirds of the General Assembly votes in favour of debating the resolution, and the resolution passes with a simple majority.

Students will be able to vote on the question in the referendum period in early March. The campaign period begins on March 2, and regularly polling takes place from March 9-11.

– Additional reporting by James Gilman

Eight candidates vie for two spots in SSMU C&S Rep election

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Two Students’ Society clubs and services representatives vacated their positions last semester, necessitating an election, to be held this Wednesday, to fill the positions.

One representative from each full-status club, service, or publication can cast a ballot on Wednesday, though anyone can ask questions or participate in the debate to be held before the vote. The debate and election will take place in Room 302 of the Shatner Building.

Nathan Goldstein and Lorna Sampson were the two students who gave up their positions, paving the way for this Wednesday’s election. Sampson resigned for personal reasons, and Goldstein was forced out due to poor attendance at Council meetings.

“If you fail to show up for two Council meetings without telling us ahead of time, and then do not meet with the SSMU president to explain why you have been absent then you lose your seat,” said Vice-President Clubs and Services Sarah Olle.

Natalie Fohl – president of pro-life club Choose Life, whose club status was suspended by SSMU Council in November – is running, alongside seven other candidates. Choose Life’s controversial event, Echoes of the Holocaust, held last October, drew considerable public outcry, and led to the suspension of the club’s status.

Olle initially expressed concern that Fohl couldn’t run in the election, because Choose Life’s club status is currently suspended. Only members of full-status clubs, services, or publications were eligible to participate in the election.

“However, her participation in other clubs [Conservative McGill and the Newman Students’ Society] qualified her,” said Olle.

Council’s motion to suspend choose Life’s club status, which passed narrowly, mandated Choose Life and the Student Equity Committee to draft a set of rules, outlining what the club can do within the parameters of the SSMU constitution, bylaws, and policies.

Members of Choose Life, the Student Equity Committee, and VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley are meeting to discuss the rules this Friday.

“We had a preliminary meeting in December with the two equity officers,” Fohl said. “Both Choose Life and the equity committee are going to bring proposed solutions to the table [on Friday].”

If elected, Fohl claimed that she would “ensure that clubs at McGill are treated fairly.” In her pensketch, Fohl maintained that her “experience with a variety of clubs” would help her “effectively represent the interests of SSMU’s clubs and services” on campus.

Olle acknowledged that, if Fohl is elected and Choose Life’s club status is debated, again, this semester, it would be “a unique and rare situation that we really haven’t dealt with before – at all.”

“It’s the combination of so many unique circumstances, so we’d really have to figure out what would be the just thing to do. But we haven’t come to any conclusions yet,” she said.

Seven other students are running in the election: Bilal Manji, Sarah Rivin, Cathal Rooney-Cespedes. D’Andre Wilson, Adam Wheeler, Keane Yarish, and Timothy Abdulla.

Wheeler is a former Queer McGill political action coordinator – he resigned his position last semester. Olle described him as a competent administrator, adding that “he’s dealt with SSMU extensively.”

Rooney-Cespedes, U2 arts, is a “large contributor” to the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill. His pensketch outlines a plan to increase communication between Council and clubs and services.

“I would not only make an effort to implement ideas of my own, but also make sure that the voices of all clubs and services are being considered,” Rooney-Cespedes said, according to his pensketch.

Wilson, a U3 chemical engineering student, was an executive of the Caribbean Students’ Society and the National Society of Black Engineers, gaining an “in depth” understanding of managing clubs. As a representative to Council, she “would ensure that all clubs continue to get access to the resources they need to keep this campus lively.”

Olle acknowledged that, in the past, SSMU has had a number of acclaimed, or open, political positions. But with eight candidates running in a mid-year election, she was “excited that so many people are ready to jump into Council.”

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