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SSMU prepares inaugural year for Faculty Olympics

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Have you always known that your faculty could beat the crap out of any other faculty on campus? You might have to put up or shut up this winter with the introduction of the first ever Faculty Olympics.

Although the idea has been around since at least last year, the Faculty Olympics have never been realized. However, SSMU has been persistent this year in making the Olympics a reality, working with organizers Aneerudha Borkotoky, U3 Finance and Marketing, and Sheera Gendzel, U3 Marketing, to launch the event.  

“We’re still in the preliminary stages, but we already have a lot of ideas formed,” said Students’ Society Vice-President Communications and Events Gill Prendergast. “Now we need to select the best ideas and realize them.” 

There are many possible events already and more to come.

“One idea is to have one activity within each faculty that is naturally inclined toward that faculty,” Prendergast said. “For example, we could have lighthearted scientific experiments for Science and similarly styled trivia for Arts. Another example would be to have one huge immersive activity for all the faculties. Then again, it’s certainly plausible to combine both examples.”

The Olympics are hoped to create camaraderie between McGill’s faculties rather than competition.

“The main goal is to increase faculty interaction,” Prendergast said. “A lot of times, students unconsciously interact chiefly with other students in the same faculty. What we’d like to do is to promote more interaction between the faculties, to stimulate more out-of-faculty relationships. Ultimately I think it’ll be a really productive event.”  

The Faculty Olympics has been tentatively scheduled over a four-day period in mid-winter, possibly January and all the faculties have received invites.

The location of the event has not yet been decided, but everyone involved is working hard to make it a success.

“I hope the event gets a warm reception,” Prendergast said. “If we could get a strong start in the initial year and make this an annual event, all the hard work put in would have been worth it.”

CAMPUS: SSMU Flying Squad getting its wings

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Students’ Society Vice-President External Max Silverman is looking to make some noise on campus with his latest initiative, the SSMU Flying Squad. The group, which is still in its early stages of planning, plans to make it easier to mobilize students for issues that require support. According to Silverman, this may range from campus protests to educating the student body on a number of issues to be decided at a later date.

Drawing from his experience during the 2005 student strike, Silverman is proposing the squad be modelled on the strike unions in order to facilitate the mobilization of SSMU in a more timely manner. The new initiative had a table at Activities Night, where those supporting the idea of a mobilization committee asked students to attend their first meeting the following week.

Roughly thirty students attended the meeting late Wednesday evening in the Shatner building. Silverman took a passive role in the first meeting and said he was eager to listen to others.

“I don’t want it to be Max Silverman’s Flying Squad,” he said.

Attendees attempted to flesh out the club’s mandate and voiced their opinions of how the Flying Squad should be structured, what positions should be created and how the group would operate.

Several different ideas were put forward concerning the group’s structure: becoming a loose network of activists who meet on a need basis; the creation and maintenance of a moderated student list-serv for mass emails; and the assignment of permanent publicity coordinators.

The Flying Squad faced its second challenge later in the week at SSMU Council, where it was decided that the only autonomy the Flying Squad would have is that of organization. The members of the Flying Squad would be allowed to mobilize on campaigns within the SSMU mandate which SSMU doesn’t have means to mobilize for. However, this also may mean that council has purview over the squad and can veto causes adopted by the squad.

SSMU President Aaron Donny-Clark, who chaired the council meeting, felt that councillors reacted positively.

“The issue of the Flying Squad came up during Max’s report,” he said. “There were a few questions about it from council, notably on the procedure,” he said. “It seemed to be quite well received.”

However, not all councillors were as supportive.

One SSMU councillor, who wished to remain anonymous, disagreed with Donny-Clark’s impression of events.

“I’ve been talking to a few people, and councillors are concerned about the level of autonomy, but overall think it is a good idea. We’re in favour of a mobilizing body, but these kinds of decisions on issues should be made by elected bodies.”

The councillor also added that these concerns were brought up during council, but not heavily.

“We’re going to wait and see how it goes before taking any further action,” the councillor said.

The issue of autonomy was also raised during the initial Wednesday meeting. Arts councillor Rachel Abs explained there that she was confident that SSMU would be on the same page as the Flying Squad and would not quash any of their initiatives. Silverman added that if a protest was blocked by SSMU, students can still act outside of the group and participate regardless of their affiliation.

-Additional reporting by Kate Spirgen

EDITORIAL: A hit and a miss: tales of execs’ summer projects

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The academic year is back in full swing, and Students’ Society executives are for the first time facing oversight of their actions from SSMU Council. Two notable summer projects have come up so far, the Harm Reduction Centre (HRC) and the Flying Squad. Both are still in the larvae stage, and there are many details that remain to be worked out concerning their structures before they can be given full approval. The Harm Reduction Centre deserves a chance to work out its kinks. The Flying Squad does not.

The mandate of the HRC-the brainchild of Vice-President Clubs and Services Floh Herra-Vega-is education about drugs and alcohol and activism on drug policy. The HRC plans to take a realistic approach towards drug use, which is refreshing. It is time that drug education took a page from sex education and went beyond “just say no”.

Preaching abstinence from drug use is all well and good, but it ignores the fact that many people will use-and abuse-drugs and alcohol regardless of how many times they are told that it is bad for them. This is especially true during university, a time when many people experiment with drugs.

This natural tendency to experiment, together with the lack of knowledge that many students have about drugs, means that there is potential for the HRC to do a lot of good by teaching people how to minimize the harm they do to themselves with their drug use. Additionally, the HRC has a reasonably clear mandate. While the granting of “interim service status” is an odd move, the concept has been well thought out and most importantly, the benefits of the HRC to students are clear.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Flying Squad, which is an excellent example of how not to start a new student group. This initiative is the summer brainchild of VP External Max Silverman. The Flying Squad’s mission, which admittedly is still being fine-tuned, is to organize students around various causes, which would be chosen by the Flying Squad with no input from SSMU.

The Flying Squad would not be dedicated to any one particular cause. Supposedly, it would allow for quicker and more effective organizing of actions on issues of interest to students. However, the Flying Squad is basically an umbrella organization and it would simply be creating another level of bureaucracy, diminishing its effectiveness.

Currently, if SSMU Council wants to organize student opposition or support for a particular cause, it can pass a motion creating a committee, and give the committee money to carry out its mission. What is unclear is how the Flying Squad will improve on this process. Its budget will still be controlled by Council and its actions will likely need ultimate approval from Council.

How can an umbrella group which has to meet and make its decisions democratically and whose members may not have any interest in particular issues possibly act faster than a focused group made up of people dedicated to a cause?

Effectively, the Flying Squad serves as a duplicate the work of the Grassroots Association for Student Power (GRASPe)-a generalist activist group-except that it lacks GRASPe’s ability to act in an expedient manner. In fact, around half of those who took part in last week’s first meeting of the Flying Squad were members of GRASPe, further adding to the question of why there is a need for the Flying Squad.

In addition, the idea that the Flying Squad could take up any cause it chooses, is troubling. The Flying Squad, as a wing of SSMU, would lend an air of credibility to causes that may be of no interest to the vast majority of the student population. Although SSMU Council would supposedly have a veto over the Flying Squad’s actions, what good would that veto do if the Flying Squad had already taken action?

Silverman should take a page from Herra Vega’s book and re-examine what he is doing with the funds SSMU allocates to him. He must make sure that this money is being put to a use that will provide a substantial benefit to the student body, and this is one test we feel the Flying Squad will not pass.

Alleged plot enrages SSMU

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Relations between the Students’ Society and La Fédération Etudiante Universitaire du Québec have reached the boiling point this week due to what SSMU has deemed a “scheme to undermine the political sovereignty and democratic processes of the McGill campus.”

SSMU’s membership in the provincial association must be renewed this winter in a campus-wide referendum.

Members of the FEUQ executive and several McGill students met on Sept. 27 to discuss the upcoming referendum. According to SSMU, this was a violation of FEUQ’s constitution, which states that the local student union should have sovereignty over the campus, barring any independent campaigning by la FEUQ on McGill’s campus.

The gathering was organized by Eric van Eyken, former FEUQ secretary general and former SSMU executive and invovled Trevor Hanna, FEUQ vice-president federal and international affairs, Simon Lafrance, FEUQ VP internal, Jacob Itzkowitz, SSMU board of governors representative and arts senator and McGill student Esther Benoit.

Itzkowitz recieved an email on September 20th from Van Eyken inviting him to come to a meeting at Les Trois Brasseurs and after notifying SSMU executives, Itzkowitz attended the gathering.

However, when SSMU executives contacted la FEUQ’s President Christian Bélair, they were told that Lafrance had reported the meeting to be a casual gathering between friends who had happened to run into each other and decided to go out for a beer.

“When Jake and I talked about it we decided that it could just be Eric van Eyken meeting with friends… to talk about FEUQ and this, while sketchy and inappropriate, is certainly not a violation of anything,” said SSMU VP External Max Silverman.

Van Eyken, who organized the meeting, described it as a preliminary get-together.

“The purpose of the meeting was to be the first lobbying meeting,” he said. “It was to evaluate resources, establish people we could contact, establish the opinion leaders which in this case would be SSMU executives and faculty leaders and the press, evaluate what the state of their opinions are, evaluate the structure we’re working in, how many votes it will take and then what it was we wanted to focus on. Any lobbying group would have done the exact same thing,” Van Eyken said.

However, Itzkowitz claimed that during the meeting Van Eyken identified himself as Speaker of Council, proposing questions to be asked at the next SSMU Council meeting, which is a violation of that position. Van Eyken, who was not Speaker at the time, denied that this happened.

“Eric van Eyken in particular was concerned with exerting his influence on the faculties and working with the faculties to make sure they’re all well and good,” Itzkowitz said. “Eric felt pretty confident that he had the faculties of arts andscience and law, as well as several others. He also wanted to make sure he had all his ducks in a row on council. He said that he felt that since he was elected as speaker that he could move council, which is kind of inappropriate.”

Van Eyken objected to this characterization.

“I think that people are well aware of my beliefs on issues,” he said. “If people choose to have the same beliefs, that great. But they’re saying this as if I have dirt on people or I’m blackmailing people, which isn’t true.”

SSMU executives had accused Van Eyken while he was acting as Speaker of Council and asked him to resign.

“I was shocked when they asked me to resign,” he said. “They actually threatened me, that they would publicly embarrass me, which I guess they’re trying to do,” said Van Eyken, who had reapplied to be speaker after the incident.

The agenda of the meeting at Trois Brasseurs included plans to campaign on the referendum, funds available and a general sharing of information.

“They were trying to get my impression on the SSMU position, their feelings, their attitude on the referendum,” Itzkowitz said. “A big part of it is my positions on campus and the perceived rivalry between Max and myself. We butt heads a lot and I think they wanted to play off that. I was supposed to be really excited about pulling strings behind the scenes.”

He also claimed that it was insinuated at the meeting that la FEUQ would support his campaign for SSMU president.

“They didn’t say it outright, but it was 90 per cent explicit,” Itzkowitz said.

However, van Eyken said that Itzkowitz was invited due to his campaigning skills.

Discussion was also held about the Flying Squad, during which Itzkowtiz claimed that Benoit was to be designated as the “spy” in the Flying Squad, which is a newly formed autonomous wing of SSMU that would help mobilize the student body on urgent matters that they feel call for action.

“From what I understand of the Flying Squad, it can choose what issues it wants to campaign on,” van Eyken said. “I think that any independent group who is going to get together and decide what issues to campaign on. It’s kind of contradictory for Max on the one hand to be supporting an independent group that can go and act on issues and then condemn other people trying to engage in lobbying methods.”

Van Eyken said he was disenchanted by the ordeal.

“I’m saddened by the whole thing. I wish that SSMU was dealing with real issues as opposed to going on ghost hunts. I hope they have the maturity to move beyond what I do and do what’s important.”

The controversy produced by these events has further strained the already tense relations between SSMU and la FEUQ, with whom SSMU executives had worked over the summer to create a relationship based on honesty, transparency and good faith and had successfully worked together until this incident.

“The simple fact that they would hold a meeting on the subject of our intentions with la FEUQ without even letting us know that this was going on proves that those involved with the meeting aren’t interested in maintaining a relationship of transparency or good faith,” Silverman said.

Van Eyken claims that this meeting did not in any way undermine SSMU’s local sovereignty.

“I think that there are two different definitions of local sovereignty,” he said. “What it essentially means, the concept, in my view, is that a FEUQ executive who is not from the campus in question will not campaign on that campus. That would not have happened here. There would have been no campaigning on campus by people who were not McGill students.”

No word has come from Bélaire since Friday and SSMU executives are fearful that the entire FEUQ executive was aware of the meeting and its purpose.

“The fact that there were three out of eight execs there is telling,” Itzkowitz said. “It definitely felt like the workings of FEUQ.”

SSMU executives are concerned that this event is typical of la FEUQ but are hoping that it only a few executives were involved.

“It’s too early to tell right now,” Silverman said. “We’re fearful that it’s reflective of of the whole organization but there’s still hope that it was merely a couple of bad apples.”

Now SSMU’s recommendation to their membership in la FEUQ is uncertain.

“How the president reacts will be a major deciding factor. If this is just business as usual, we aren’t going to do business as usual,” Itzkowitz said.”The thing is, it doesn’t seem on the face to be such a big deal except that FEUQ used to do this kind of thing in the past and we thought that we had an agreement with them.”

But it’s the students who will make the ultimate decision.

“I feel that students should be horrified that this is happening. The referendum is their chance to make a decision based on proper information, on whether or not they want to stay a part of this organization and so this organization is trying to mislead them into making a decision they wouldn’t otherwise make, then students should be disgusted,” Silverman said.

CAMPUS: Just in case you had SSMU withdrawal…

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The Students’ Society of McGill University is back and ready for a new year after a summer of hard work. But who are the personalities behind these photos? What do these power-wielders do with their three month break. Read through this handy guide to find out more about them and their plans for this year.

Aaron Donny-Clark, President.Goals for the coming year: Donny-Clark plans to stick to the goals he ran on: putting more focus on the environment, developing better communication between departments, getting rid of booking fees for the Shatner Building and coming up with a “Developmental Plan” for the year that advocates students.Projects at the moment: “It’s the nature of my job to do whatever people need me to do,” Donny-Clark said, so lately he’s been working on Frosh, Discover McGill and the regular bureaucratic duties.Summer Vacation: Along with Max Silverman, Donny-Clark went on a tour of 30 student unions all over Canada to explore new ideas. “We got to see how other student unions run themselves and see how we can improve,” he said.

Floh Herra-Vega, Vice-president Clubs and ServicesGoals for the upcoming year: Making it easier for campus clubs to gain access to SSMU and to obtain resources.Projects for the moment: The first is helping establish “Organic Campus,” which is expanding its services this year. It operated last year as a co-op, and will now be based downstairs in the Shatner building. Herra-Vega’s second project is the implementation of the Harm Reduction Centre. This is a new group focused on drug use and abuse. They will be working on informing students about what may be putting them at risk and activities they should avoid. The group will also be doing advocacy work. Summer Vacation: “Or lack thereof.” Cleaning up a lot of paper work in clubs and services. However, she did get two weeks off at one point.

Gill Predergast, VP Communications and EventsGoals for the coming year: Prendergast plans to focus on athletics this year and stick to everything she campaigned on. “It’s going to be a huge year with the election and everything. I feel like last year they laid the ground work and now we can really take the reins,” she said.Projects for the moment: Organizing Frosh and making sure that all runs smoothly. Summer Vacation: Prendergast spent most of the summer dealing with red tape, setting up Frosh, and meshing with the SSMU team. One of her biggest accomplishments was setting up an online registration for Frosh that can be used for years to come.

Max Silverman, Vice-president ExternalGoals for the coming year: Silverman wants to create a healthier neighborhood in the ghetto by opening discussions between student reps and community members and creating a landlord registry in which students can compile complaints on those landlords. He also plans to prepare for the upcoming provincial election and get the tuition freeze extended and applied to international and exchange students. On the national level he wants to explore the Canadian Student Movement.Projects at the moment: “I’m preparing for fights with a “flying squad” – an autonomous mobilized SSMU wing,” he said. These wings would be able to organize outside of SSMU and work with the community on their own projects, thus increasing the scope and efficiency of SSMU’s policies.Summer Vacation: Silverman joined Donny-Clark on a 30 day tour across Canada to see about 30 student unions in all the provinces except PEI. “We wanted to see the best ways to organize and get some ideas,” he said.

Dave Sunstrum, Vice-president Finance and OperationsGoals for the upcoming year: Sunstrum is looking to work with Donny-Clark to end room-booking fees in the Shatner building. “We can’t really tell McGill University to abolish room fees if we continue to charge them ourselves,” he said. Projects at the moment: Making atmospheric changes at Gerts by getting clubs to paint the tables, making a CKUT mural on the wall and improving the decor. “Gert’s has taken some good steps,” he said, “but it’s not quite yet what I had envisioned.” Sunstrum is also taking a course to improve his French skills.Summer Vacation: Who wouldn’t love to worry about Gert’s all summer? Sunstrum has spent a significant part of his summer improving the under-used campus hangout by hiring a new manager, signing new beer contracts to bring Griffon, Moosehead and Carlsberg into the bar. Sunstrum also gave catering service Savoir Faire the boot from their downstairs space which is being converted into an organic foods space.

Finn Heather Upham, Vice-president University AffairsGoals for the upcoming year: Upham will be looking toward developing new undergraduate research opportunities. She stresses the need to evaluate who is getting these opportunities and suggests that we need to open the process up. She will be promoting an academic integrity campaign by working with TV McGill to release a video.Projects for the moment: Being excited and terrified all at once. In addition to that, Upham is chairing three committees including Senate caucus, university affairs and the library improvement committee. Her role (self described) is to be the student representative. “I’m here to speak up for the undergraduate voice.”Summer vacation: Spent largely in front of a computer researching contracts, the quality of education and course evaluation. She’s also been working with la FEUQ to help preserve the tuition freeze in Quebec.

CAMPUS: SSMU delays handbooks

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A recent controversy over the content of the SSMU handbook has resulted in a three week delay in its realease due to the firing of the two original editors.

Genevieve Friesen and Sara Kipp-Ferguson, the original editors for the handbook, were let go in August when the finished product was deemed unacceptable by Students’ Society executives, said Vice-President University Affairs Finn Upham. “There was material in the handbook, both pictorial and written, that was offensive,” Upham said. “Particularly in the assumptions about the reader. Not everyone at McGill is a rez-inhabiting U0 Anglophone who is comfortable with over-the-top sexuality.”

However, Friesen and Kipp-Ferguson were required only to make relatively minor changes at first. According to Friesen, a former Tribune design editor, after receiving a print at the end of July that was reviewed by executives, Upham asked that a section of the handbook be changed. The section was a four page pull-out of colouring pages that featured different sexual positions.

Despite that one section, it seemed that the handbook was acceptable. Friesen fixed the four pages, one of the more lewd sections of the sexually-toned handbook, before she left later that evening to visit family in Manitoba. Kipp-Ferguson was also away during this time, and it was not until the two editors returned a week later that they learned of SSMU’s decision to hire a new team of editors.

Upham explained that there were complications with the handbook and that Friesen and Kipp-Ferguson were no longer editors. According to VP Clubs and Services Floh Herra Vega, they have been replaced by Carly Boyce and Jenna Wakami. However, Friesen claimed that she was not given an opportunity to fix the problems.

“They didn’t give us a chance and they didn’t give us the credit. We didn’t find out until two days after the entire process had been restarted,” she said.

Upham acknowledged that there were mistakes made that could have been avoided.

“I think the mistakes were failures of institutional memory, bad habits from years of the executives being too hands-off and no one properly informing the editors and incoming executives of what was expected in terms of content and contact,” she said.

However, she remains confident that this decision was in the best interests of McGill students.

“The handbook in its present state is more inclusive, contains more accurate information, and is designed to inform, not to shock,” Upham said.

Friesen disagreed with Upham’s contention about shocking content.

“We’re in Montreal, one of the most open cities in the world, and we can’t talk about sex in our book?”

Barring unforeseen delays, the revised handbook will be available today.

CAMPUS: SSMU ditches room fees

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Making good on a central campaign promise, Students’ Society executives announced last week that rooms in the Shatner Building can now be booked free of charge. Beginning last Friday, internal clubs, faculty associations, media, SSMU recognized groups and others are now able to use the rooms without the customary bill.

However, not all groups will have free access. Outside groups not approved by SSMU will still have to pay a fee to use the Shatner rooms.

SSMU President Aaron Donny-Clark, Vice-President Clubs and Services Floh Herra-Vega and VP Finance and Operations David Sunstrum all campaigned with one of their goals as the elimination of booking fees in the Shatner Building.

“We can’t ask McGill to get rid of room booking fees if we’re still doing,” Sunstrum said earlier in the year.

Herra-Vega agreed, adding, “McGill should be encouraging students to use their facilities and some clubs have trouble affording that. We think that booking should be accessible. The fees right now aren’t representative of the administrative effort that goes into booking rooms.”

Sunstrum estimated that SSMU had an income of $33,000 from internal room booking fees, $8,000 of which was from SSMU mini-courses. Another $2,500 was made from faculty bookings and $15,000 from external university administration.However, SSMU will not be going into debt or running a deficit due to the loss of booking income.

“We don’t have to rework the budget at all because we had such a large surplus last year and such a large projected surplus for this year,” said Sunstrum. “Now more club subsidies can go to students for this year.”

“It just seems silly to charge students for space when we’re giving out grants to pay for room bookings,” Herra-Vega said. It’s just a huge slush fund. The money is going out and coming right back to us in room booking fees,” Herra-Vega said.

“We’ve been trying to do this since we took office. It was just a matter of geting us all together,” said Sunstrum.

SSMU executives spent the summer coming up with the best system to implement to abolish fees, and agreed on Saturday to the current plan.

Clubs will now be able to book ten hours per week in the Shatner Building for free, excluding the Ballroom, which can be booked at a maximum of thirty hours per month.

“The Ballroom is different because groups need to book it for a longer chunk of time,” said Herra-Vega. “They have to do sound check and set up which takes a lot longer than just a meeting. Also, people don’t tend to book them for two meetings a week every week. It’s mostly special events.”

Any group found leasing their time in the rooms to a company or private party will lose booking privileges for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. This policy is designed to ensure that the rooms are being used for McGill clubs and students.

Another concern for the new policy is the amount of space in the building in proportion to the number of clubs.

“Everything is really full,” Herra-Vega said.

In order to book the larger rooms in Shatner: the kitchen, the ballroom or Lev Bukhman, a form must be filled out explaining the need for the room in order to ensure that all space is being used in the most effective manner.

“We want to be sure that our space is being used the right way,” Herra-Vega said. “We don’t want someone using the Ballroom for a wine and cheese when they could be having the meeting in a smaller room.”

Anyone that has already booked a room in the Shatner Building will not need to refile, they will simply not be sent a bill for their time in the room.

CAMPUS: Activites night reaches new heights

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Adding the Shatner building’s fourth floor to last week’s Activities Night received mixed reviews from clubs and services. According to Students’ Society Vice-President Clubs and Services Floh Herra-Vega, the decision to open the top floor was made because this year SSMU recognized more clubs than ever before.

To help draw traffic, large, popular clubs were assigned to the top floor. However, many of those clubs were unhappy with being placed in the out-of-the-way clubs lounge.

Sabrina Mawani, U2 IDS and Biomedical Sciences of Habitat for Humanity was initially worried.

“A lot of people don’t use the fourth floor,” she said. “Although, I thought it would be a lot worse.”

Habitat wasn’t particularly suffering from reduced traffic. “It’s more spacious [up here], and less crowded. You get a chance to tell more people as opposed to shouting.”

Representatives of the Gamer’s Guild, also on the fourth floor, were more enthusiastic.

“Look at all these names we have,” said Andrew Bernstein, keyholder of the Gamers Guild, pointing to his list. “Plus, all the clubs in this lounge are intellectual clubs. These [board] games are intellectual games.”

Although the smaller clubs didn’t mind the change, the larger clubs were less at ease.

Dan Radmanovic, president of the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill University, was disappointed with the decision.

“SSMU put the prestigious clubs up here,” he said. “Look who else is up here. There’s been no traffic. Last year we were club of the year. We had 550 people sign up [at Activities Night] and this year we’re just under 200.”

Radmanovic stressed that Activities Night is important for recruiting students rather than having a quiet atmosphere to fully explain the mandate of his club.

“People have been asking us ‘Why aren’t you downstairs?’ I don’t know,” he said.

The McGill Debating Union cited similar concerns, and noted dramatically fewer sign-ups than in previous years.

Certain clubs noted advantages to being on the fourth floor, namely groups who currently occupy offices on the top level of Shatner.

Pascale Dequen of le Centre pour les Étudiants Francophones pointed out the benefits.

“It’s less crowded, less loud and there’s less traffic,” she said. “Also, it’s an advantage to be right in front of our office.”

“I think it would be better if we were [also] handing out pamphlets downstairs,” she added.

Meg Atkinson, U2 Anthropology, who was representing the McGill Global AIDS Coalition, summarized the general feeling.

“I was kind of surprised when I found out [our table would be here]. There’s not as much traffic, but it’s not detrimental. I do have mixed feelings but I’m happy to go with the flow.”

Motion moves SSMU towards vegan-friendly Shatner Building

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Thanks to a motion passed last Thursday by the Students’ Society Council, McGill vegans may soon have more food options available to them in the Shatner Building.

The motion, put forward by Emil Briones, the representative from the Faculty of Music requires SSMU to encourage its food service tenants to offer more vegan-friendly choices, though it does not mandate tenants to provide vegan options.

“I worded the motion very carefully,” Briones said. “I just wanted action to be [taken] in terms of making sure the vegan food options are visible in the Shatner Building without pressuring food services into doing something that they can’t be forced to do.”

SSMU Vice-President Clubs & Services Sarah Olle echoed Briones’ sentiments.

“We discussed a requirement to mandate our tenants to have at least one vegan food item,” Olle said. “However, we felt that, first of all, it would be too hard for our tenants, and second of all, that wouldn’t actually be as effective as the way the motion is written now.”

Currently, Midnight Kitchen is the only food service in the Shatner Building that offers vegan-friendly meals on a daily basis. The student-run organization is only available during lunch hours, though. With the passage of the motion, current tenants will be encouraged to take steps toward offering vegan options without overhauling their menus.

“This is really a customer-focussed motion,” Olle said. “It shows our tenants that having vegan food options is not really a requirement, but is something they should do for their customers because it is important to them and it will increase their business.”

While preparing the motion, Briones and several other vegan students visited Shatner’s food service tenants to investigate the current options for vegan students, in addition to holding discussions with current councillors and incoming executives. Briones said that he expects next year’s executives to carry out the terms of motion.

“I think the main implication would be if right now [the tenants] may be a little sloppy in how they are preparing something – where it would be almost vegan if they changed one ingredient or one procedure of cooking – they would now be encouraged to change so that an item could get the vegan sticker of approval,” Olle said.

Simin Sattari, the manager of Café Supreme in the Shatner Building, explained that Café Supreme currently offers several vegetarian options, but changing their menu to offer vegan options could be problematic.

“About changing, you’d have to talk to the company,” Sattari said. “We don’t choose the food ourselves. They mandate our recipes. If we’re going to change anything, they’re going to charge us. We have to serve what they offer because we are a franchise. We don’t have the power to change the menu.”

The motion also mandates SSMU to move toward improving the visibility and labelling of vegan food products in the Shatner Building, in addition to taking the vegan issue into consideration when 2011 lease renegotiations with food service tenants.

“Right now in the music cafeteria there are little tags that say ‘This soup is vegan-friendly,'” Briones said. “Little things like that will make a lot of difference because being vegan personally, I don’t feel comfortable eating anywhere in the SSMU building aside from Midnight Kitchen. I don’t know if a knife, say, touched something with meat in it or chicken broth in it. I just want to make sure that vegans are comfortable eating in the SSMU building while Midnight Kitchen is not operating.”

Additional reporting by Tori Crawford

Newburgh wins SSMU presidency

News/SSMU by

Hillel Montreal President and former EUS and SSMU Speaker of Council Zach Newburgh was elected SSMU president on Thursday evening, narrowly edging out his competitors with 28.6 per cent of the vote. Newburgh’s margin of victory was only 1.5 per cent of the vote over AUS Senator Sarah Woolf.

“It was an extremely close race,” said Newburgh. “All of the candidates ran a tremendous campaign.”

In the other contested elections, Myriam Zaidi earned 46.7 per cent of the vote to win the position of vice-president external. Josh Abaki pulled out a victory in the VP university affairs race with 49.3 per cent of the vote-winning on a platform of a “student-centered university.” Abaki, who claimed that he was the underdog, was overjoyed with his victory.

“It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “I’m really, really glad. I didn’t think it would happen, especially after not getting the endorsements and so many things happening, but I am really glad. I think I was able to get through to students and the hard work that I’ve put in through the year has finally paid off.”

In another contested race, Tom Fabian was elected VP internal with 54.9 per cent of the vote, the highest percentage of all the races for SSMU executive positions. Fabian credited the victory to his platform of promoting athletics and expanding university social affairs, although he felt the race was hotly contested until the last minute.

“I’m speechless,” said Fabian. “Five minutes before this I was stressing out so much, I just had it in my head all day. I’m very relieved.”

In the acclaimed elections, Nicholas Drew and Anushay Kahn were approved for the positions of VP finance and VP clubs and services, with 67.8 per cent and 66.4 per cent of the vote, respectively.

Among the referenda questions, The McGill Tribune won its independence with 49.9 per cent of the vote, ensuring that the Tribune will become an independent organization funded by a non-opt-outable $3 student fee. A referendum to insert the words “bodily sovereignty” into the SSMU Constitution was also approved, with a 64.2 per cent “yes” vote. TVMcGill also secured a 50-cent per semester opt-outable fee with 50 per cent approval.

“At the bottom of our souls, we thought we weren’t going to get it, but we’re so happy we did, and we can’t wait to really make a big impact on campus next year and really make our presence felt,” said Alex Seltzer, features and series producer for TVMcGill.

“We know TVMcGill isn’t a huge organization, but this is the next step,” said Executive Producer Arthur Cormon. “It’s what we want to do to keep going and become more legitimate. This was definitely the year for this to happen, and we’re super excited. We’re not the Daily or the Tribune yet, but we’re getting there.”

In the senatorial elections, Matt Reid was elected management senator, securing 34.9 per cent of the vote in the six-candidate race.

“I feel spectacular,” said Reid. “I’m in first year now, but I’m ready to make changes. It’s a really great opportunity for me.”

Claudette van Zyl, Amara Possian and Tyler Lawson were elected as arts senators, earning 28.5 per cent, 25.3 per cent and 16.2 per cent of the vote respectively. All of the new senators were excited by their victories.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” said Lawson. “I’m so excited. … It’s going to be fantastic and I’m pumped. I’m just so taken aback right now.”

Andrew Doyle and Simon Liu were both elected as engineering senators. Hui Long Li and Annie Ma won 25.6 per cent and 33.6 per cent of the vote, and will serve as science senators next year. In the race for law senator, Randall Blom captured 53.6 per cent of the vote. Catherine Ready was also approved as music senator, with an 81.3 per cent approval rate in the uncontested race.

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