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SSMU may facilitate ablutions

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When McGill Muslim students perform the ablution ritual, in which they wash their feet and hands multiple times before daily prayers, it can lead to wet countertops in Shatner bathrooms. To avoid the inconvenience and to ease the the ritual’s practice, the Students’ Society is attempting to take initiatives towards installing ablution-friendly facilities.

In 2005, Muslim students lost their prayer space in Peterson Hall and are currently forced to pray in the Muslim Student Association office in the Shatner Building.  

“No one really brought it up as a serious issue,” said Anushay Khan, SSMU vice-president clubs and services. “But there were complaints from people at Gert’s and many other services in the ground floor [of the Shatner building], because there often is a lot of water spillage.”  

Many Muslim countries have public washrooms with special facilities for ablution. Although the same expectations do not exist at McGill, SSMU is still taking steps to facilitate the ritual.   

“Being Muslim, I figured I can best understand the issue myself, so I did a bit of research and there are many universities in North America that have installed things like this,” Khan said. “I felt that it was something that Muslim students needed [and] considering that their space had been taken away in the past they were already in an unfair situation.”

After research on the issue, Khan decided a sink that allows its users to sit down was found to be a suitable solution. She contacted the McGill administration, since SSMU was unable to undertake the project alone.

“It is something that the university should have provided as part of a culture of sensitivity, so we are definitely trying to push for the university to pay for at least a portion of it,” Khan said. “But I really don’t think that this is something the university is interested in doing.”

Even though improved washroom facilities would be beneficial for the Muslim community at McGill, Muslim Students’ Association VP External Aya Salah explained that the issue is secondary to their prayer space problem.

“It’s not really a priority right now with us,” Salah said. “The fact that it’s wet, that’s something we can control.”  

Prayer space on the other hand has been a constant issue for the MSA. Their biggest concern is to acquire a room other than their office where prayer, which Muslims must perform five times a day, can take place.   

“We pray in the MSA office, [which] is not meant as a prayer space,” Salah said. “But there is nowhere else on campus.”

Unfortunately, Khan explained that space in the Shatner building is extremely limited, and increasing the prayer space would be a difficult task.

“Right now the space that we give them is small,” Khan said. “I understand that, but at the same time many other services don’t have space, and every Friday we always give them the ballroom.”

The only action that SSMU can take right now, according to Khan, is to assist the MSA with the complaint they have filed under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms against McGill for taking away their prayer space.

Erin Hale, a U3 philosophy student and former McGill Daily editor, had been concerneds, but was relieved to find that it was not their biggest concern.   

“I guess I’m happy it’s a non-issue,” she said.

All motions pass at sparsely attended GA

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Last Thursday, the student body passed all six resolutions proposed at a sparsely attended Fall General Assembly.

The resolutions regarding the Students’ Society liquor licence, gender parity, and liability were passed with few or no amendments. The resolutions regarding the volume in Gert’s, the Arts Undergraduate Society fundraiser, and the student-run printing service also passed, but with major amendments.

After a heated debate on the resolution regarding the volume in Gert’s, an amendment raised the proposed volume limit from 60 decibels to 140 decibels. This amended resolution was eventually discarded, and the final resolution stated “that Gert’s Bar Managers abide by the requests of the majority of patrons.”

Allan Cyril, Engineering Undergraduate Society VP Internal and the mover of the resolution, said he was neutral about the outcome of this resolution but was glad that the bartenders are now mandated to listen to the students.

“I was kind of upset that the Gert’s bartending staff were the ones who didn’t really recognize that there was a problem, even though a lot of students have said there is a problem,” Cyril said.

Gert’s night manager Stephanie Gossage argued that the motion probably won’t seriously affect the way Gert’s operates.

“In the end, what came of it was a nondescript clause that doesn’t really mean anything at all,” she said. “It seemed like a big waste of time. I don’t think we’re actually going to see anything come of this, to be honest.”

The resolution regarding liability was passed after Eli Freedman, the motion’s mover and a Management representative to council, gave an impassioned speech calling for students to show the administration that they should be allowed to use the “McGill” name in the titles of clubs and services. The motion resolved SSMU refer to itself as the “Students’ Society of The Educational Institute Roughly Bounded by Peel, Penfield, University, Sherbrooke, and Mac Campus,” or by the acronym “SSTEIRBBPPUSAMC.”

“This is a huge joke, it’s ridiculous, it’s absurd. But it’s a joke with a very serious punch line,” Freedman said at the GA. “That serious punch line is the administration’s liability concerns.”

The motion, which expires at the end of the semester, will not force SSMU to make changes that would incur any costs, such as redesigning the logo.

The motion mandating SSMU to hold a bake sale to raise money for the AUS, which has recently suffered large financial losses, also passed, but was amended so that the money raised be donated to a not-for-profit organization of the AUS’ choosing instead of the AUS.

The gender parity motion, which proposed to do away with the alternating male, non-male speaking order at GAs and council, was passed near the end of the night with little debate or discussion. Some expressed concern that a question with so many implications didn’t receive more student consideration.

“I was surprised that the discussion on gender parity was not more thoughtful,” said SSMU President Zach Newburgh. “This is a very important issue.”

Arts Senator Amara Possian agreed.

“What I was watching in there was a bunch of white males drowning out a bunch of other people’s voices and abolishing gender parity with absolutely no debate on an issue that has implications for equity, implications for people feeling safe on this campus,” she said. “It’s not so much the fact that it passed that bothered me, it’s the way that it happened.”

But William Farrell, the resolution’s mover, said that if students at the GA had had serious objections to the motion, they would not have passed it so quickly.

“I guess maybe that just goes to show how many people realize … that [gender parity]’s pretty silly in perspective,” he said.

The resolution regarding Gert’s renovations, which would have included a “stripper pole” in the upcoming Gert’s renovations and made every Thursday night “Amateur Night” at the bar, was ruled out of order earlier in the week. The motion, Speaker of Council Raymond Xing said, violated article six of SSMU’s constitution, which mandate that SSMU protect “human dignity and bodily sovereignty.”

SSMU VP Finance and Operations Nick Drew added that there were other concerns with adopting such a motion.

“[A stripper pole] is simply a dangerous thing to have in the bar. The last thing we want is to have a drunk student try their hand at pole dancing and then injuring themselves,” he said. “I’ve seen enough YouTube videos of sober people falling flat on their face.”

Another major concern was the fact that the assembly had a difficult time maintaining the 100-student quorum. This led some students to question what had been done to promote the event and whether the GA was a valuable legislative process.

Students, Newburgh said, attend the GA when they’re interested in the motions on the agenda.

“It has been shown in the last number of years that [the GA] has taken a lot of time from the executives to plan and execute, and perhaps instead of using [that] time and the effort and the resources that SSMU has to put toward a legislative body that only every off-time gets quorum,” he said.

Others, however, were more blunt.

“[The GA is] a joke, right?” Cyril said. “I think it should be abolished.”

Council divided over coffee & tea

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A motion was passed at last Thursday’s Students’ Society Council meeting to provide coffee and tea to student councillors at their bi-weekly meetings. This seemingly innocuous resolution met resistance when some councillors objected to the vague wording in the proposed resolution.

The motion, which read, “Resolved, coffee and tea will be made available to councillors during council meetings,” elicited concerns  ranging from where the money would come from to opposition based on principle.

Nick Drew, SSMU vice-president finance and operations, said he thought the motion had been put together at the last minute and cited concerns of poor planning.

“I don’t think we should be allotting student money to pay for councillors’ coffee or tea on a regular basis,” he said. “We all know Council can be long and tedious at times, yet this is what councillors were elected to do by their constituents.”

One of the authors of the motion, Arts Senator Amara Possian, explained that they originally intended to leave space for a discussion of how the beverages would be paid for. However, she said that at the Council meeting, “no one was really interested in talking about it and then the motioned passed.”

Some councillors were concerned that the money for the beverages would be coming from students. Possian said that this was never the intention of the motion, but rather that the cost would be covered by donations from councillors.

“Students’ concerns of paying for coffee and tea are nothing to worry about,” she added.

SSMU VP External Affairs Myriam Zaidi said that the idea of having the beverages paid for by donation was brought up. Others, however, suggested paying for the coffee and tea with money from the SSMU’s investment portfolio, which has seen a $200,000 increase since last year.

“When you have someone reporting that we have $200,000 in our investment portfolio, offering coffee and tea to councillors would be something that we could afford,” Zaidi said.

However, Arts Representative Spencer Burger said he was less concerned with the method of payment than with the general notion behind the motion.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of representatives in any form awarding themselves something,” he said. “I oppose it purely out of principle, [but] I understand where the councillors who proposed it were coming from.”

Zaidi pointed out that most of the debate surrounding the motion revolved around the vagueness of the word “provide” in the resolution and how it would be paid for.

“The motion just says we should provide coffee and tea,” she said. “It doesn’t say we should pay for the coffee and tea, it does not mention any other options for people who don’t drink coffee or tea.”

Some were also concerned with the motion because the SSMU executives recently decided to provide pizza to councillors at every other meeting. Some though offering both pizza and hot beverages would cost too much.

“Executive committee decided we could give pizza once a month just to kind of energize students, but looking at the bill, the cost benefit is not worth it,” Drew said. “It doesn’t add up and it’s not worth spending money on that.”

Zaidi said that the decision to provide pizza was made over the summer as “part of our vision for recognizing councillors’ effort.”

But Drew said that “spending $60-$80 on pizza for 25-30 people is exhausting our resources and it does not even satisfy most people’s hunger.”

Because of the concerns brought up after the passage of the motion and the call for more clarity in the resolution, Possian explained that the motion will most likely be appealed at the next Council, and a new more precise motion will be raised.

“It passed, but it’s probably one of the motions that is just going to fall through the cracks,” Drew said. “It will definitely be discussed at the next Council.”

Council puts off Arts & Science rep. decision

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The Students’ Society Council defeated a proposed referendum question at their meeting on Thursday that would have asked students to establish an Arts and Sciences representative on Council.

The issue was later revisited by SSMU President Zach Newburgh allowing the question to be reconsidered as a plebiscite, a consultative instrument that provides non-binding results.

The motion was proposed by Science Representatives Shen Chen and Lauren Hudak, Arts Representative Zach Margolis, and Clubs and Services Representative Maggie Knight, all of whom are Arts and Science students.

“Arts and Science has been around for five years now and the constitution at SSMU has not changed since the program started,” Margolis said. “A lot of other faculties and schools all have seats on SSMU. It just seems like the right thing to do.”

The inter-faculty Arts and Science program has approximately 580 students. It is part of both the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science, but it faces unique academic limitations and specific course requirements.

“It’s harder for [Arts or Science councillors] to represent the needs that we have when they don’t understand the course requirements and the different course restraints that we have,” said Hudak.

Councillors who opposed the referendum question cited lack of consultation and claimed that the reasons given were not valid. Ultimately, they concluded that the question was not ready for the student body.

“We questioned if adequate research was done on the question, if alternatives were considered,” said Eli Freedman, Management representative to Council. “We thought that problem should be worked out before we consider a Council position for them.”

The Arts and Science Integrative Council conducted a survey to determine if the position in council was supported by students in the program. According to Arts Representative Todd Plummer, the results of the survey did not show an actual need for representation on Council but rather that Arts and Science students do not know who their representatives are.

“They have this assumption that an Arts and Science student is not free to come to me if they want to bring a motion to SSMU Council and that’s not the case,” said Plummer.

An additional concern that arose at Council was the fact that currently Arts and Science students are eligible to run for both Arts and Science representative. It is now unclear what would happen if a special position was designated for an Arts and Science representative and whether or not they would still be eligible to be Arts or Science representatives.

“Each faculty decides in their own way who can run for their [representatives], and once this motion is passed, I fully expect different faculty associations to change their policy.”

Hudak and Margolis explained that the defeat of the proposed referendum question at Council was completely unexpected. They hope to alleviate concerns by bringing forward resolutions at both Arts  and Science Undergraduate Society Councils.

“Maybe we should have been more clear in terms of what we were trying to say. They might have taken it as if representatives of the Faculty of Arts or Science weren’t doing a good job and that is not our intention at all,” Hudak said.

Knight, one of the councillors who proposed the question, stressed that the interfaculty program has a  uniquely interdisciplinary perspective, which requires that they have their own council representative .

“It’s just basically updating the SSMU constitution to effectively address this inter-faculty degree,” she said.

According to the councillors who proposed the questions, the  completely different atmosphere among the Arts and the Sciences  makes it difficult for them to represent their respective constituencies. However, these reasons were not enough to convince the rest of council to have a referendum question.

“No one has been able to give me a single good reason as to why Arts and Science  students need a representative on SSMU council,” said Plummer. “The problems that they have addressed are academic problems which are more in the view of faculty associations.”

SSMU considers switching to kegs for on-campus events

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The Students’ Society is looking into the possibility of substituting kegs for bottles at campus events such as Frosh and OAP. SSMU President Zach Newburgh said that the recently proposed alternative has several benefits over the use of beer bottles, including sustainability, safety, and ease of use.

“By using kegs we are avoiding the process of having to use bottles,” Newburgh said. “They get thrown away and are unfortunately not reusable in the same way. Kegs hold a lot more and the containers in which they are supplied cut down on the transportation cost and the recycling reusability.”  

Switching to kegs will also  make transportation easier and therefore improve safety standards, he said, since their use minimizes the potential for an accident, and therefore the chances of students getting cut or injured.

“We’ve been using bottles for years and it’s been extremely difficult to transport them,” he added. “It has been a safety issue, [and] people have reported injuries. It isn’t as effective as the better alternative that it is offered by the keg.”

Furthermore, the aesthetic benefits stemming from keeping liquid in a single container behind a serving location rather than out in the open makes kegs an appealing option.

“It just simply does not look good on the part of the university to have a pile of empty beer bottles sitting on campus, or to have empty beer bottles scattered across Lower Field,” Newburgh said.

Even though switching from beer bottles is arguably beneficial to the university community, the decision will not be finalized until SSMU receives the university’s approval.

SSMU has determined that the operation of kegs on campus is in accordance with Quebec law as long as the university grants permission for it to do so. McGill has stated that it is receptive to SSMU using kegs as long as such use is legal.

“We raised this point at the Advisory Committee on Alcohol Policy and further to that we have been speaking with legal services and the deputy provost (student life and learning) on this issue,” Newburgh said.

SSMU is in the process of getting the university’s approval, and hopes that by OAP in April the policy will be finalized and implemented.

Councillors move to debate QPIRG’s fee

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Several Students’ Society councillors took the first step on Monday toward introducing a referendum question asking undergraduates to abolish the student fee that support McGill’s chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group, a student-run environmental and social justice organization on campus.

The proposed motion, if approved first by SSMU Council and then by undergraduates in a referendum vote, would abolish the $3.75 per semester opt-outable fee students currently pay to support QPIRG’s operations—the organization’s primary source of funds.

The notice of motion, which will be considered at Thursday’s SSMU Council meeting, comes after several weeks of escalating tensions between OPIRG and the QPIRG Opt-Out Campaign, a student group that encourages undergraduates to opt-out of paying QPIRG’s fee.

On September 23, several QPIRG members surrounded a table set up by the Opt-Out Campaign in the McConnell Engineering Building and allegedly began ripping up the group’s flyers. In response, the Engineering Undergraduate Society banned QPIRG from tabling in the building at the September 28 EUS Council meeting.

According to Spencer Burger, one of the councillors who submitted the motion, the proposed referendum question is a response to QPIRG’s actions of the past few weeks, which the motion refers to as “acts of political intimidation and violence.”

The text of the proposed motion also accuses QPIRG of supporting and funding “goals and groups that deeply disturb members of the SSMU,” including Tadamon! and Students Taking Action in Chiapas.  

In an interview, Burger, who is also a member of the Opt-Out Campaign, said that QPIRG is not treated like other campus political groups.

“Political groups can apply for funding through SSMU,” he said. “That’s how Conservative McGill gets their money, that’s how Liberal McGill gets their money, that’s how NDP McGill gets their money.”

Burger emphasized, however, that the councillors who submitted the motion—Lauren Hudak, Eli Freedman, and Matt Reid, in addition to himself—are looking to allow students to weigh in on the debate.

“This is a resolution to bring it up—not to close debate but to open it,” he said.

But Rae Dooley, a member of the QPIRG Board of Directors, said that such debate is already open. QPIRG holds a referendum every five years to renew its student fee; the most recent one passed in March 2009. In addition, she said, the proposed motion is likely illegal, as SSMU lacks the power the introduce a motion annulling QPIRG’s fees.

In an email to the Tribune, Dooley said that the motion painted “an inaccurate picture of QPIRG, our mandate, and our activities” and would stifle, rather than promote, campus debate.

“This motion is a clear attempt by a small group of students who disagree with the political opinions of QPIRG to stamp out our voice, and thus stamp out discussion on campus,” she said.

Because the proposed referendum question is only a notice of motion, it is not currently scheduled to be discussed at Thursday’s SSMU Council meeting, as per Council’s rules of debate.

According to a source within SSMU, however, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, SSMU Council will likely suspend the rules and open discussion on the motion. If it passes, undergraduates will vote on the question during the Fall referendum period in November. But if the motion is not debated on Thursday, the motion will fail to meet the deadline for this referendum period.

The councillors who proposed the motion, Burger said, do not necessarily support annulling QPIRG’s fees. Instead, they are seeking a wider debate on the issue.

“I hope it passes, and I’m reasonably confident it will,” he said. “This is a resolution not to take a side on this issue, but to put it out there.”

SSMU will support campus food boycott

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In an effort to pressure the McGill administration to reopen the Architecture Café, the McGill Students’ Society Council voted to support a student boycott of McGill Food and Dining Services at its meeting on Thursday, despite the vocal opposition of several councillors.

The motion, brought to council by Arts Senator Tyler Lawson and Arts Representative Kallee Lins, represents the most direct attempt to engage students in SSMU’s efforts to convince administrators to reconsider McGill’s summertime decision to close the popular student-managed café.

Erin Hale, a former McGill Daily editor, first proposed the idea for a campus-wide boycott of Food and Dining Services shortly after the September 21 rally outside the Leacok Building, where of hundreds of students gathered in support of reopening the café. Hale started a Facebook event urging students to boycott all McGill Food Services, which had more than 3,000 members at press time.

Lawson and Lins proposed the motion after seeing the groundswell of student support for the boycott. According to Lawson, the motion commits SSMU to supporting the boycott until McGill releases the financial data showing that the café was losing money—a major point of contention for Architecture students, who have claimed that the café was in the black—and agree to discuss reopening the café. The motion exempts students with prepaid meal plans, however, as well as first-year students in residence.

“The point is to try and get some consultation on the issue,” Lawson said.

However, several councillors declined to support the motion on Thursday, with four dissenting and five abstaining, with the latter group including SSMU President Zach Newburgh. One of the most vocal councillors who opposed the motion was Lauren Hudak, a Science representative to SSMU and an occasional Tribune contributor.

“I felt that we could do something more constructive, more positive, in trying to get the administration to listen to the demands of students,” Hudak said.

Along with other councillors, Hudak argued that passing a motion supporting the boycott did not address students’ frustrations with the administration, which contracts out the management of food outlets on campus to Aramark, an outside company.

“I think by placing the pressure on McGill Food and Dining Services, we’re moving away from the original reasons students were upset that the Architecture Café closed,” she said.

Other student associations on campus have echoed Hudak’s concerns. The Management Undergraduate Society discussed passing a motion in support of the boycott at a meeting on September 26, but ultimately decided against it.

The MUS, said Eli Freedman, Management representative to SSMU, decided to not to take a stance in the fight over the Architecture Café, which few Management students patronized. In addition, the MUS feared damaging its relationship with Sinfully Asian, the popular eatery in the Bronfman Building.

“To be honest, I don’t know how many people in Management are that concerned and are participating in the boycott,” Freedman said, though he added he was personally supporting the boycott.

The Engineering Undergraduate Society also decided against endorsing the boycott at a meeting on September 29, instead leaving the decision of whether or not to boycott up to its members.

“We wanted the debate to stay centred on the lack of support for student initiatives, the lack of consultation with students,” said EUS President Daniel Keresteci.

Though the boycott will not affect the McGill administration directly, Newburgh said he hopes the indirect pressure on the university will convince administrators to reopen the café.

“Because this will affect Aramark’s sales,” he said, “which are unrelated to any kind of profit that would be received by the university, Aramark will then have some kind of incentive to approach the university and say, ‘Listen, it’s time to reconsider the closure of the Architecture Café.'”

SSMU is currently exploring several options for promoting the boycott, Newburgh said, including Facebook and the listserv emails. All six SSMU executives have been boycotting Food and Dining Services since the motion passed.

Along with representatives from other campus groups, including the EUS and the Architecture Students Association, Newburgh said SSMU has been planning additional events to protest the Architecture Café’s closure. A potluck outside the Macdonald-Harrington Building, which housed the café, is planned for the near future. Newburgh also intends to bring up the issue at the next senate meeting.

“I am confident that the university will hear us,” Newburgh added, “and that they will respond positively and constructively.”

SSMU REPORT CARDS: IVAN NEILSON – President

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When Ivan Neilson was elected last year, the Tribune was confident that he would be a competent president. We thought his pragmatic nature would allow him to work effectively with the vice-presidents and build a good relationship with McGill’s administration. He has, for the most part, lived up to our expectations.

Neilson has done a good job balancing the two sides of the presidential portfolio. The president has responsibilities for both internal and external issues: he manages the executive while simultaneously representing SSMU at Senate and the Board of Governors, and, from time to time, in the media. Previous SSMU presidents have excelled at one half of the job while underperforming in the other. Neilson has, in contrast, struck a good balance.

However, we feel that Neilson could have worked to be a more visible public face of the organization. Previous presidents, such as Jake Itzkowitz and Adam Conter, have been more active in engaging with students at various campus events – something we feel Neilson would have been wise to attempt.

SSMU has had a fairly successful year overall, and while this year’s executive, as a whole, has been very strong, some of this success can be attributed to Neilson’s leadership. Despite clashing views on all sorts of topics, this year’s executive has functioned well as a team (at least publicly), and Neilson has done a commendable job leading a group of strong-willed VPs.

Many of Neilson’s biggest achievements were on relatively unglamorous issues that will benefit SSMU in the long run. For example, his efforts to reform committee structures and hold councillors responsible for attending Council meetings were significant accomplishments, and will have substantive, beneficial effects on the way the SSMU operates.

Finally, Neilson has been an excellent representative for students at Senate and on the Board of Governors. His personable nature has allowed him to work well with the administration while not backing down on important issues, such as tuition increases.

This year’s executive, led by Neilson, made substantive progress across the board. Hopefully, the incoming executive will be able to build on their accomplishments.

SSMU Council votes to reinstate Choose Life’s club status

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After a semester of meetings on the future of Choose Life – the controversial pro-life group whose club status was suspended last semester – the Students’ Society Council officially reinstated the group’s club status last Thursday.

Choose Life’s club status was suspended last year on November 12 in light of the conflicts surrounding the club’s “Echoes of the Holocaust” event. This was intended to be a temporary measure, however, until the Student Equity Committee could generate an appendix to the group’s constitution. As a condition of its reinstatement, Choose Life has agreed to adopt an appendix that would specifically govern how the club operates under the SSMU Equity Policy.

Since both Choose Life and the Equity Committee had agreed on this document prior to the meeting, there was little debate before Council passed the motion.

SSMU Vice-President Clubs and Services Sarah Olle expressed confidence that this document has cleared up some of the confusion stemming from Choose Life’s understanding of the SSMU Equity Policy.

“A lot of their complaints revolved around the ambiguity of our equity policy, or ambiguity of their actual violations of the equity policy,” Olle said. “It’s good that we have come to some sort of agreement on a black and white document.”

In particular, the document stipulates that “Choose Life will not advocate or lobby for the criminalization of abortion through the use of SSMU resources.”

“It’s really important that resources from student fees are allocated in a way that reflects our policies, constitution, and ethical practices,” said VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley. “However, if a group wants to take a position, we cannot prevent them from taking that position as long as they are not using our resources to do so.”

Although Choose Life VP Internal Paul Cernek said that the negotiations had facilitated constructive dialogue, he felt that the clause restricting Choose Life from using graphic imagery in their events singled out the club unfairly.

“At some level this is a double standard,” Cernek said. “Other groups on campus use displays of graphic images in open, public spaces to further their points. Not even that anyone [from Choose Life] had an overwhelming desire at this moment to mount one of these displays. We just thought that we should have the right to.”

Olle, however, emphasized that in this situation the Equity Committee was acting as a regulator.

“We are not in the same position as Choose Life because we were in a position where we were enforcing something on a group that had committed a violation of our equity policy,” she said. “Of course, there was an effort put toward getting cooperation from Choose Life and explaining why we would implement certain regulations but at the same time they were being regulated.”

Cernek said he is hopeful that this appendix will help strengthen relations between SSMU and Choose Life next year.

“This should help things go more smoothly,” he said. “Things have been pretty rocky at times. The whole process we went through with the Equity Committee, working with them in close contact, really helped both parties come to an understanding with each other. They want us to keep being able to be a club; shutting down a point of view is not at all their goal.”

A final fireside chat with Students’ Society President Ivan Neilson

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What were your biggest accomplishments this year?I was happy with the style of management that we had this year. The individual vice-presidents started new initiatives and new projects, assisting one another. I’m also thrilled that we were able to reform the committee structure. That’ll be a big improvement next year.

What advice do you have for next year’s SSMU President-elect Zach Newburgh?First, continue to build on the successes that we’ve had this year. Too often, a new executive will come in and reinvent the wheel. In some cases, this is necessary. Obviously I’m biased here, but I believe a lot of the work we’ve done this year can only be improved upon. Beyond that, it’s important to solicit as much input from as many different members as possible – whether that’s advice from the big student groups on campus, or finding different ways to reach out to individual students.

What are some of the challenges that next year’s executives will face?Free speech on campus will be an issue at McGill next year. Right now, as we saw at the University of Ottawa with Ann Coulter, there are two different camps on campuses across Canada. There’s one group that wants to maintain the university as a place of learning where students can come and not feel barraged by other ideas. Then, there’s the opposite groups, who says that universities are the final bastions of free and open expression and dialogue.Next year, we also have several leases coming up in the building. It’s really an opportunity for us to decide what type of services we should be offering. And then, of course, in the face of imminent tuition hikes, it’ll be important to represent a solid and unified front to the university and the provincial government.

Do you have any concerns regarding next year’s SSMU executive?They all have strong backgrounds in their respective portfolios. Individually, they’ll be able to handle certain challenges, but it’s going to depend on how they work together as a team. None of them have worked together before. Their success will depend on whether they can come together. In particular, their success will hinge on Zach’s leadership and the vision that he will promote. But it’s also going to depend on their willingness to work together. Again, once you let egos and personalities get in the way, it’s really hard to maintain that sense of collective vision.

Has the Salman Rushdie lecture become more controversial than you thought it would be?Yes. When we brought this to Council, we were given no indication that this would be an issue. I was surprised by the negative reaction. Of course, this was an executive initiative, though it was by no means a done deal when it was brought in front of Council.

What did you think of Council this year? Is it simply a rubber-stamping body that serves as a check on the executive?Council is the body that runs the Society. The trend has been, in the last couple years, for different reasons, that Council’s quality has declined. The number of initiatives being presented by councillors has decreased, the level of interest at Council is dwindling, and the committee activity and participation have fallen off the map. Perhaps it simply wasn’t a good year for individual councillors. But as it’s set up right now, it’s supposed to be the body that runs the Society.

Do you think this year was just a bad year for Council? Or is reform needed?A lot of it depends on the individual leadership of the executive. This year, [the SSMU executive] has been strong. In past years, if there’s less confidence in the executive, councillors see more of a need to step in and intervene. However, many factors play a role, so it’s hard to justify sweeping reform from one bad year.

What action do you recommend taking on General Assemblies?I recommend that the executive look at it and take it on as a project. They’re going to have to look at it and make some tough decisions. Whether that’s firmly entrenching the GA as an institution and accepting its shortcomings, or, in turn, deciding that GAs have no place in the society – thus getting rid of it altogether.

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