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SSMU Election 2017: VP Finance

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(L-A Benoit / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) Finance is responsible for developing and managing the annual SSMU budget, authorizing agreements between SSMU and external groups, and overseeing the disbursement of funds to student groups.

Arisha Khan is the only candidate for the position. Her platform includes plans to update SSMU’s invoice and central booking software, introduce a Customer Relationship Management system, and develop a comprehensive professional development program for students who handle club finances.

Khan described the financial benefits of transitioning to newer software during the press conference on March 6.

“We have around six per cent of our annual budget devoted to IT expenses,” Khan said. “Over the last year we spent an additional $2,100 to migrate […] to Gmail [….The technology] we use to manage our clubs and services […] is early 2000’s at best. The cost of that is having to spend a lot more on administrative costs and rough work that people really shouldn’t have to do.”

At the debate on March 9, Khan emphasized the need for a restructuring of SSMU funds to make sure students can access proper resources when needed.

“We spend a lot of money on overhead and administration expenses, compared to other [post-secondary] student associations [in Canada],” Khan said. “For example, SSMU had the largest number of executives across Canada, but nowhere near the largest [undergraduate] population, so with that in mind, there is obviously structural issues that we should be examining with regards to our resource allocation and ways that we can streamline processes to have less administrative burden.”

A question was posed via the live stream about the Symphonic Band Club’s lost sheet music. Approximately $6,000 worth of sheet music was misplaced when SSMU club offices were cleared out in May 2016 and the Symphonic Band Club has been seeking compensation since. Khan assured audience members that she is prepared to deal with the issue if it remains unresolved next year.

“[….If] the sheet music issue is still ongoing if and when I assume the role, I would consult with the appropriate bodies, such as our insurance companies and our legal team,” Khan said.

She plans to increase SSMU transparency by making budget information easily accessible.

“I’d like to create a website that has all of our financial resources and snapshots of our expenditures so that students can be engaged,” Khan said.

In conclusion, Khan said that her previous positions will allow her to raise SSMU to one of Canada’s premier student unions.


“I hope that I can bring my range of experience to integrate here at McGill so that we can be competitive with our peer institutions,” Khan said.

SSMU Election 2017: VP Operations

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(L-A Benoit / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) Operations is responsible for managing the SSMU building, operations including Gerts Bar and Sadie’s, and overseeing SSMU’s sustainability efforts.

Anuradha Mallik is the only student running for election as VP Operations. Her platform includes reviewing SSMU’s unethical and unsustainable investments, continuing the SSMU Environmental Committee, and expanding the Crash Pad project, which allowed students to stay overnight in the SSMU ballroom during the Fall 2016 Frosh.

“There are a lot of commuter students who have early exams that stay at the library late, and wouldn’t want to make their commute late at night,” Mallik said. “So I think that introducing the Crash Pad for academic purposes like that would be beneficial to the students.”

Mallik also answered questions and presented her platform at the March 9 SSMU candidates’ debate. Mallik emphasized utilizing feedback from constituents on SSMU building space use, continuing to work on revenue-generating ventures—such as Gerts, Sadie’s, and SSMU MiniCourses—and maintaining sustainability across SSMU operations.

To increase revenue generated by Gerts, Mallik proposed continuing to hold the Faculty of Science BARmacy at Gerts. She also intends to introduce further employee training to help combat bystander culture.

On the relationship between the portfolio and the McGill Office of Sustainability, the candidate emphasized ongoing communication and utilizing existing connections with representatives from the office.

Responding to a question on increasing Sadie’s revenues—the student-run cafeteria that operates on the second-floor of the SSMU building—the candidate promised to maintain and build upon the work done by this year’s VP Operations, but left the option of bringing more external vendors into the SSMU building.

“Student involvement with Sadie’s is important, but vendors are an important input to Sadie’s in terms of the institutional knowledge that they bring,” Mallik said.

Additionally, Mallik expressed her intention to consult with students on what they want out of SSMU MiniCourses. She promised to rework the management of MiniCourses, and suggested introducing more dance and exercise workshops—however, SSMU is currently unable to offer services in these areas due to overlap with McGill Athletics.

In terms of qualifications for the job, Mallik referred to her past experience organizing model United Nations events at McGill and her work on various sustainability projects. She emphasized her ongoing passion for and commitment to sustainability throughout the discussion.

“One of my big passions […] is sustainability and I started working on a lot of big sustainability projects from the 11th grade onwards […],” Mallik said. “A lot of the passion I have towards operations and sustainability started a long time ago. [I will] do whatever I can with this position and shape it in a positive way for the McGill community.”

SSMU Election 2017: VP External

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(L-A Benoit / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) External represents the society’s interests to local and provincial governments, other student associations, and groups, including McGill labour unions. The VP External is also in charge of SSMU’s political campaigns and mobilization efforts.

After Mazin Gasim withdrew from the race after the press conference on March 6 and Noah Century withdrew on March 12 after being censured by Elections SSMU, the remaining candidate for the position is Connor Spencer. At the press conference and the debate on March 9, the candidate was able to elaborate on her platforms.

During the press conference, Spencer said that McGill should join the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) and collaborate with other universities in order to fight provincial and federal austerity measures. In the Winter 2016 Referendum, SSMU members voted against joining AVEQ. SSMU has continued to participate in AVEQ as a non-voting member with observer status.

Spencer also plans to overhaul the VP External website in order to promote the outreach of the office.

“The website for the VP External right now is off the [SSMU] page a little bit,” Spencer said. “[…] It would be great if we had a campaigns tab […] with a regularly updated [page] that goes into what has happened this week at the provincial level that specifically would affect McGill students as members of the Montreal community.”

In her opening statement at the SSMU Executive Candidates’ Debate, Spencer stressed integration with the larger Montreal community and student movements, improving accessibility for students, and the implementation of a gendered and sexualized violence policy for SSMU.

The moderator and audience questioned McGill’s role in the Montreal community and Quebec student movements, the candidate's experience and qualifications for the role, and the candidate's specific plans for the indigenous affairs aspect of the VP External portfolio.

“It’s something that I hope to really, really work towards including,” Spencer said. “At the same time, [I] recognize that I don’t come from those communities and it’s important that I don’t have a stance on what that should be because it’s about opening a dialogue with those communities about what they want to see and how we can make that happen.”

Several members of the audience expressed their approval of Spencer’s answer by snapping.

In her closing statement, Spencer emphasized that she wanted to continue her work in student activism and affecting change at McGill.

SSMU Election 2017: VP Internal

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(L-A Benoit / The McGill Tribune)

Maya Koparkar is the only candidate running for the position of Vice-President (VP) Internal, which is tasked with overseeing the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) first-year outreach activities, communications, and student engagement. Koparkar aims to expand the portfolio of VP Internal in order to diversify the events offered to promote first-year engagement.

The VP Internal’s first major project is overseeing Frosh at the start of the Fall semester. Koparkar proposed to act as a mediator between frosh coordinators in order to facilitate collaboration with smaller faculty froshes. In addition, she proposed ways of promoting health and wellbeing through frosh, in line with recent years’ efforts to make frosh more accessible and put less emphasis on drinking and partying for new students with other interests.

“I want to speak to departmental internals about creating cohesive programming [and] better guidelines for student about how to Frosh,” Koparkar said. “For example, taking naps, rest, drinking water, [and providing] accessible food options and [beverage] options besides alcohol during Frosh. Maybe Frosh [would want] to organize morning zumba or yoga, that could be looked into as well.”

Tofunmi Odugbemi, President of the McGill Political Science Students Association (PSSA), raised the issue that the SSMU listserv neglects to include content relating to departmental events. Current VP Internal Daniel Lawrie has sought to reduce the amount of content included in weekly listservs, making selections based on content that he believes will appeal to the largest amount of the student body. Koparkar suggested collaborating with departmental organizations in order to facilitate communication with SSMU.

“A lot of the standardized process for submitting content to the listserv is set in stone, but I would look forward to working with departmental organizations,” Koparkar said. “[There are] lots of things [departments] can offer to students that [SSMU] can effectively promote [….] For example, I want to work [with] departmental organizations to better engage them with SSMU events.”

Furthermore, given recent scandals involving SSMU executives, Koparkar intends to mend the relationship between the society and its members.

“I want to create channels for students who don’t usually get involved with SSMU,” Koparkar said. “[….I will] create engagement in terms of diversifying the events portfolio. [Something] I learned as a member of the [Students’ Society Network Program (SSPN)] for two years [is that] events don’t need to be large to engage students. [They] could be small, [like providing] food during exams. [I aim to] collectively engage campus away from politics.”

In her closing statement, Koparkar explained the importance of mending SSMU’s image.

“[I have] lots of passion for providing students with [a] great connection to SSMU,” Koparkar said. [I want to] humanize SSMU by taking away the bureaucratic elements. People see the role of VP Internal as a party planner, but there’s more to offer students. Building from the ground up with first-year engagement can create a more unified SSMU and student body moving forward.”

SSMU Election 2017: VP Student Life

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(L-A Benoit / The McGill Tribune)

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) Student Life manages relations between SSMU and its clubs, services, and independent student groups. In pursuit of this, the position is tasked with helping student groups coordinate events, assisting student groups with resources, managing the Society’s mental health initiatives, and collaborating with university staff from Student Services.

Jemark Earle is the only candidate for VP Student Life. His platform features a significant focus on projects that complement student mental health services, including training all faculty student executives in Mental Health First Aid and creating a Mental Health minor.

During the press conference on March 6, Earle described the specifics of his plan to address mental health on campus.

“Right now we have the Career Support Centre […] which deals extensively in helping destigmatize mental health and allowing students to speak when speaking to a professional is too intimidating,” Earle said. “[Training student executives in mental health would] create a space where [executives] would be […] more approachable, more empathetic to situations, and create a space to talk.”

At the debate on March 9, Earle spoke more on his emphasis on mental health.

“My platform deals extensively with mental health and this is because I’ve seen how detrimental this can be on campus,” Earle said. “What’s missing from the equation is student input and as your VP Student Living I plan on dealing with the administration because I don’t believe they’re being transparent in how they deal with students.”

Incumbent VP Student Life Elaine Patterson asked Earle about conflict mediation, with Earle explaining his approach.

“What I believe helps or is beneficial in dealing with student conflicts is sitting with both parties and acting as mediator between them, ask them to say what the conflict is […], working towards asking them what they want from the other party, and what the other wants from them,” Earle said.

Patterson also inquired into how Earle will balance his time between supporting his personal projects, mental health, and over 150 student groups on campus—Patterson believes that the latter is the largest part of the portfolio. Earle clarified his priorities.

“In the first few months I know a lot of the job is going to be dealing with clubs and services, we have activities night so I’ll have to be responding to a lot of emails and talking to a lot of clubs and services representatives,” Earle said. “So I think that dealing with the mental health and the clubs and services […is] what I will prioritize over my personal projects.”

SSMU President Ben Ger resigns, citing personal reasons

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Ben Ger at a tense SSMU Council session last month. (Noah Sutton / The McGill Tribune)

This is a developing story. Please check back for details, as more information becomes available.

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Ben Ger resigned from his position on March 9, citing personal reasons. He is the second member of the SSMU executive team to resign in a matter of weeks, following Vice-President (VP) External David Aird’s resignation on Feb. 22 after multiple allegations of sexual assault.

“Due to personal reasons, he felt that he was unable to continue in his duties as a representative of members of the Society,” read a statement released by the rest of the executive committee on March 9.

The president is the chief executive of SSMU and coordinates and supports the actions of the rest of the executive board. The president is also responsible for the wider vision of SSMU and represents the society on bodies including the McGill Senate and Board of Governors. For the remainder of the semester, Ger’s responsibilities will be divided between the remaining five members of the SSMU executive committee and other permanent staff members.

“These positions in general, from the very beginning, are very heavy positions to take on,” SSMU VP Student Life Elaine Patterson, who will be taking on spokesperson duties for the society, said. “While recent issues have been particularly trying for all of us on the exec team, all of us have had nine months worth of being in [our positions] since last June and all of that building up can create a lot of pressure, especially on the president.”

SSMU has been at the centre of controversy on campus this semester since former Arts Councillor and Director Igor Sadikov tweeted “punch a zionist [sic] today” from a personal Twitter account on Feb. 6, leading him to resign on March 8. Ger’s resignation also comes after Science Senator and Director Sean Taylor stepped down from the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) due to a loss of faith in the body, from which Sadikov resigned on Feb. 23.

According to Patterson, Ger’s resignation creates problems for the BoD as Directors were in the process of choosing next year’s board, but no longer have quorum after the vacancies caused by Taylor, Sadikov, Aird, and Ger’s resignations.

SSMU executive elections for the 2017-2018 academic year are currently in progress with the voting period lasting from March 13-16 and results due to be announced on March 16 at 3 p.m. The winners of the President and VP External positions will be given the option to assume their portfolio in a managerial position ahead of the normal May 1 turnover date.

“Whether or not they choose to do that is entirely up to them,” Patterson said. “It’s still kind of up in the air, who wants to take on the responsibility while being a full-time student. They will be remunerated for doing those jobs. It’s entirely up to them if they want to take it on.”

It is currently unclear whether Ger will be helping in the transition and producing an exit report

On Feb. 21, the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), a group of sexual assault survivors and allies, released a statement calling for Aird’s resignation from his position. The CDN wrote that Aird had committed gendered and sexualized violence—based on testimonies from survivors—and called for SSMU to undertake a number of supportive initiatives to address future cases. Aird stepped down on Feb. 22 and issued an apology for his behaviour on Feb. 23, although the apology was removed when he deleted his Facebook account.

Sadikov faced many calls for his resignation and votes by the BoD and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Committee to remove him from his positions. BoD voted on Feb. 13 to retain Sadikov in his position as Director, but issued a formal censure against him and released a statement from Sadikov apologizing for his actions. Sadikov subsequently resigned from the BoD on Feb. 23, citing pressure from the McGill administration.

“Due to the interference of the administration, my continued membership on the [BoD] is, at this juncture, a legal liability for the Society, and it is in the Society’s best interest that I resign my position,” Sadikov wrote in a statement on Feb. 23. “It has been a privilege to serve the Society as a director, and I hope to continue contributing to the Society’s activities through other avenues.”

On Feb. 22, AUS Legislative Council voted 22-16 not to remove Sadikov. A motion to remove him was due to be voted on at the March 9 SSMU Legislative Council meeting but Sadikov resigned as Arts Councillor on March 8. His decision came a few days after allegations surfaced that he had been abusive in a previous relationship with another McGill student. His statement of resignation cited his mental health and personal reasons for his departure.

Patterson explained how Ger was a key part of the SSMU executive team and that his presence will be missed by the remaining members.

“I think that Ben was a really good teammate. I’m sad to see him go,” Patterson said. “It’s gonna be tough. He’s just a very good person in terms of listening and he was always there to listen when I vented. I think that a lot of the other execs would agree with me. [It’s good to see someone] in a presidential role who can also be a support system.

Allegations of sexual violence lead to SSMU VP External David Aird’s resignation

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On Feb. 21, the Community Disclosure Network (CDN), a group of sexual assault survivors and allies, released a statement calling for David Aird’s resignation from his position as Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) External. The CDN wrote that Aird had committed gendered and sexualized violence–based on testimonies from survivors–and called for SSMU to undertake a number of supportive initiatives to address future cases. Aird stepped down on Feb. 22 and issued an apology for his behaviour on Feb. 23, although the apology was removed when he deleted his Facebook account. Aird declined to comment.

The members of CDN came together to protect their anonymity and to provide a collective response to several incidents in which Aird allegedly committed inappropriate acts. CDN published an anonymous form on Feb. 9 in order to collect disclosures while preserving survivors’ privacy.

“CDN was formed when a small group of allies and survivors realized that there was a long history of disturbing behaviour [by Aird] beyond what they had experienced/was disclosed to them,” the CDN wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “CDN began to try and find a way to, as a first step, remove Aird from his position at SSMU in a way that would not require one survivor to go through what, due to his position, would most likely become a very public process.”

CDN will continue its work after reading week with an open support group for anyone in Montreal who felt threatened by Aird.

SSMU President Ben Ger clarified at the SSMU Legislative Council meeting on Feb. 23 that SSMU executives were unaware of the severity of Aird’s behaviour. They had instituted educational check-in sessions for Aird to ensure he acted appropriately in a workplace environment after receiving complaints in the Fall about incidents when he made at least two women feel uncomfortable.

As VP External, Aird was tasked with managing student demonstrations on campus through various organizations, such as McGill Against Austerity (MAA). An anonymous member of MAA explained that several MAA members became aware of allegations of sexual assault in November 2016 and soon learned of similar cases in other student groups, including NDP McGill. They were unable to find a way to remove him from his SSMU position without disclosing the survivor’s identity, and so severed professional ties with Aird under the pretense of differences in politics.

NDP McGill along with the Jeunes néodémocrates du Québec (JNDP)–a youth organization that manages NDP chapters in universities across Quebec–first became aware of sexual harassment committed by Aird in October 2016. Aird had been elected VP Politics of JNDQ in the same month and, while they pressured him to resign by threatening to expose him, JNDQ executives were unable to revoke Aird’s status as a federal NDP card-holder without survivors having to give public testimonies. Like all card-holders, Aird is technically a member of NDP McGill, although Co-President Malaya Powers emphasized that he had stopped participating in events and was removed from all official methods of communication.

“It was just by default, he’s involved with NDP McGill because he’s a federal card-holding member,” Powers said. “[….] We resolved that if [Aird attended an event], we would ask him to leave at any club event he partook in, and also we just spread awareness amongst our members of his behaviour.”

Powers similarly had difficulty bringing awareness to the issue at McGill because she felt like she could not ensure the survivors’ anonymity when appealing to the SSMU Board of Directors.

JNDQ Co-President Kiana Saint-Macary explained how JNDQ addressed members’ reports.

“We didn’t want to go through any formal processes that would make the people who want to stay anonymous, basically, go on trial themselves because that happens so often with sexual harassment and sexual assault cases,” Saint-Macary, said. “And also we didn’t know the scope of it [….] I don’t think we realized that there was such a large movement of people until [CDN passed around the survey].”

The McGill Tribune met with a survivor who had several close encounters with Aird, which resulted in sexual harassment and coercive consent. Although she notified members of the student clubs she was involved in, public progress was only achieved when CDN released its statement.

“Seeing that there are so many testimonies […] is very empowering,” she said. “It tore me apart thinking that there are so many other women, […] but at the same time […] that means I can stop feeling so guilty about everything and stop feeling guilty of feeling guilty.”

She said that there are therapeutic benefits of voicing her trauma. Although she previously suppressed memories of the incidents, acknowledging the experience helped her dissociate from it.

“[Your] brain is like ‘You don’t want to have to deal with that, doesn’t exist,’” she said. “[But] the more [I] talk about it, the more it’s outside of me kind of [….]”

The survivor pondered how the responses to Aird’s behaviour will impact him and whether he grasps the full implications of his actions.

“There’s no way to make sure he feels sorry, not for himself, but really for us, and that he understands like how this goes way beyond just the event,” she said. “[….] It’s something you carry with you afterwards, and that I think shapes your identity.” 

Igor Sadikov resigns from SSMU BoD, Legislative Council to consider motion to remove him

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(Lauren Benson-Armer / The McGill Tribune)

Following votes not to remove Director and Arts Representative Igor Sadikov from the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD) and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council, SSMU Legislative Council will consider a motion to remove Sadikov at its March 9 meeting.

“Be it Resolved that Igor Sadikov be formally removed from his role as Arts Representative to Legislative Council, effective immediately, for impropriety and for violation of the provisions of the Constitution,” reads the motion.

On Feb. 23, Sadikov issued a statement to fellow SSMU representatives, members of the McGill administration, and campus media announcing his resignation from the BoD, citing pressure from the McGill administration.

“Due to the interference of the administration, my continued membership on the [BoD] is, at this juncture, a legal liability for the Society, and it is in the Society’s best interest that I resign my position,” Sadikov wrote. “It has been a privilege to serve the Society as a director, and I hope to continue contributing to the Society’s activities through other avenues.”

On Feb. 6, Sadikov tweeted “punch a zionist [sic] today” from a personal Twitter account, causing significant controversy on campus. The BoD voted on Feb. 13 to retain Sadikov in his position as Director, but issued a formal censure against him and released a statement from Sadikov apologizing for his actions.

“I regret that members of the McGill community have felt unsafe as a result of the tweet, which, without context, appears to be a genuine call to violence,” Sadikov wrote. “[…] I do not wish to enact, and would not condone, violence of any kind toward anyone in my community. I hope that, despite the high level of attention it garnered, my tweet can be understood for what it was: a misguided joke with a political meaning, rather than a credible call for violence.”

Shortly following the BoD vote, a meeting was held between Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, Sadikov, and SSMU President Ben Ger. It was alleged that during this meeting, Fortier threatened to withhold student fees collected on behalf of SSMU if the Society did not publicly call for Sadikov’s resignation.

“The University’s senior leaders shared their strong belief that the SSMU executives should ask for the resignation of SSMU Board member Igor Sadikov, who recently sent a Tweet inciting violence against a specific group,” Fortier wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “While McGill’s administration normally does not recommend a course of action to the SSMU leadership, this situation is exceptional. With any incitement to violence, it is the administration’s duty to intervene.”

Ger said that SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the university gives the administration the ability to exert influence over SSMU affairs.

“The MoA was referenced in viewing the situation,” Ger said. “The university was [saying], ‘Look the constitution lays out specific principles. You need to adhere to those.’ They basically [said], ‘Here’s the constitution. It’s our opinion that this is the case, is it yours?’ Ultimately, the executive said, ‘Yes it is our agreement between our bodies because technically, we’re tied to it.’”

In an email sent to the student body on Feb. 17, SSMU Vice-President (VP) Internal Affairs Daniel Lawrie announced that the SSMU executive board recommended Sadikov’s resignation due to his violations of the SSMU Constitution (16.1 Standard of Care), which requires every Director, Councillor, Officer, and member of any committee of the BoD or Legislative Council of the Society to conduct himself in good faith with a view to the best interests of the Society.

“Every [member of the SSMU BoD or Legislative Council] must uphold the Standard of Care for all members of the community as outlined in our Constitution,” Lawrie wrote. “It is the decision of the Executive Committee that Councillor Sadikov’s recent actions did not uphold this responsibility. More specifically, we believe that Councillor Sadikov’s actions were an incitement of violence and, for that reason alone, we have recommended that he resign from his position as a Director and as an Arts Representative to the Legislative Council.”

Sadikov did not comply with the calls for his resignation and condemned the university administration for involving itself in student-run institutions.

“This level of interference in student government is a new low for the university,” Sadikov told The McGill Daily on Feb. 17. “The Principal made it very clear that what she cares about in this situation is bending to political pressure from donors and alumni, rather than acting in the best interest of the campus community and respecting the decisions of the student groups affected.”

On Feb. 22, AUS Legislative Council voted 22-16 not to remove Sadikov. The motion was moved by a collection of departmental representatives.

“The movers of this motion […] feel that Representative Sadikov’s attempts to apologize for his tweet have failed to properly reassure constituent members of the AUS that he can represent them impartially and in good faith, particularly if those members are Jewish and/or Zionists,” read the motion. “[…] The movers of this motion strongly believe that his service and presence on both this council, and at the SSMU, is damaging to the society, a failure of service to the membership, and cannot continue.”

 

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the AUS Legislative Council motion to remove Igor Sadikov was moved by AUS executives. In fact, it was moved by a group of departmental representatives.

SSMU General Assembly approves Motion Regarding Policy Against Ancillary Fee Increases

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(Natalie Vineberg / The McGill Tribune)

On Feb. 20, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter 2017 General Assembly (GA) passed motions to oppose increases in ancillary fees and to formally ratify the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The GA was delayed by one hour in order to meet quorum. Although quorum was eventually reached, it was not held long enough to approve the final motion regarding floor fellow bargaining.

Motion Regarding Policy Against Ancillary Fee Increases

This motion proposed that SSMU call for a moratorium on overhead fee increases from the university until Feb. 20, 2022. Additionally, the creation of a committee with student parity representation was proposed in order to review and approve budgets of ancillary fee-funded units. These units include Student Services, Athletics and Recreation, Athletics Facilities Improvement, Access McGill, and the World University Services Canada (WUSC) Refugee Program. This motion passed with a majority vote.

Ancillary fees are mandatory student fees that are often increased through motions submitted by the fee-funded. These units are subject to overhead charges from the university for expenses including accounting, legal, and maintenance services. Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Erin Sobat said that overhead charges for Student Services have increased from $30,679 in 2010 to $651,385 in 2017.

Sobat, one of the movers of the motion, responded to a concern from the audience that halting ancillary fees increases will result in services being cut.

“The university has certain financial obligations to maintain,” Sobat said. “In the context of student services, in particular, we would not expect that because they do have a surplus."

Motion Regarding the Formal Ratification of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a set of 17 SDGs in order to combat climate change and promote cooperation among member states. This motion proposed that SSMU ratify the SDGs in order to make a tangible impact on its members’ awareness of sustainability. Attendees of the GA voted to pass the motion.

Joelle Moses, U1 Arts, moved the motion and said that McGill would be the first educational institute to ratify the UN SDGs if approved at the GA.

“These 17 goals provide [the background] for policies for universal prosperity, peace, and equality,” Moses said. “These goals include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, encouraging economic growth.”

Some students at the GA, including Rez Life Coordinator Lucie Lastinger, questioned the productivity of this motion, as existing like Divest McGill which strive have the the same goals. Moses responded that spreading awareness about the UN SDGs alone will help members of SSMU.

“If the GA [passes] this motion, it goes onto all [SSMU] students at McGill,” Moses said. “If a student looks up SDGs, that step has positive implications.”

Motion Regarding Support for Floor Fellow Bargaining

Since October 2014, McGill floor fellows have been lobbying the university to receive monetary compensation for their work. Before this motion was voted on, some students left the GA, breaking quorum and causing the GA to become a consultative forum. Remaining attendees voted to support the motion, but could not officially approve it due to the loss of quorum. The motion will be presented for approval at the SSMU Legislative Council meeting on Feb. 23.

According to the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE) VP Floor Fellow Isabelle Oke, floor fellows do not receive a wage but are instead given room and board as remuneration. Senate Caucus William Cleveland said that  against the Quebec Act Regarding Labour Standards, which states that workplaces must provide employees a minimum wage for their labour.

In a post made on Feb. 3, AMUSE announced that representatives from both parties had signed an agreement in the presence of an arbitrator, but McGill ultimately backed out. Oke said that this motion would require SSMU to assist floor fellows attempting to improve their working conditions as the administration has not been receptive thus far.

“Floor fellows are currently being paid $0 an hour and are without a proper union,” Oke said. “This motion is to mobilize SSMU members to support Floor Fellows.”

McGill administration and SSMU meet to discuss Igor Sadikov

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SSMU recommended the resignation of Igor Sadikov on Feb. 17. (Audrey Carleton / The McGill Tribune)

On Feb. 17, protesters demonstrated around the James Administration Building in response to the McGill administration’s alleged threat to terminate the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) if SSMU did not release a public statement calling for the resignation of Arts Representative Igor Sadikov. Sadikov caused controversy after posting a tweet reading “punch a zionist [sic] today,” on Feb. 6.

At a meeting on Feb. 13, the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) made the executive decision to censure Sadikov, who is also a Director on the BoD, but not to impeach him. The BoD posted a press release that included a formal apology from Sadikov. Protesters claimed that sometime after SSMU’s decision, a meeting was held between Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, Sadikov, and SSMU President Ben Ger. It was alleged that during this meeting, Fortier threatened to revoke all funding from SSMU if the Society did not publicly call for Sadikov’s resignation.

Kyle Shaw, U3 Arts, and protester said that this threat is a breach of student democracy.

“This is the administration way of overstepping its boundaries,” Shaw said. “[I believe] one of the main reasons [the university is] doing this, and Suzanne Fortier said it herself, is because they’ve been receiving a lot of pressure from donors [….] It’s purely plutocracy  in that regard, where the rich donors are deciding what’s going to happen in our student democracy […] and I find that deplorable.”

Ger wrote in a message to The McGill Tribune that the administration never threatened to withhold student fees collected by the university on behalf of SSMU. A prior report in The McGill Daily on Feb. 17 suggested that Fortier had made such a threat, citing an anonymous source close to the SSMU executive. The claims expressed in the The Daily were corroborated by Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Erin Sobat.

“The MoA and Constitution were both referenced in the discussion, however it was not said that they would take away SSMU’s funds,” Ger wrote. “The University was considering putting [a statement] out but it wasn’t a threat. Where VP Sobat was coming from […] the executive can see where that interpretation could have happened, but he was acting on his own. It was not our interpretation that [the administration] was doing that.”

The Daily wrote that Fortier called Sadikov’s behaviour a violation of the SSMU Constitution. According to sections 12 Event of Default and 13 Remedies of the MoA, SSMU violating its own constitution is a breach of its MoA with McGill, enabling the university to withhold SSMU funding. Fortier acknowledged that members of McGill’s senior leadership team met with members of the SSMU Executive Committee on Feb. 15 to remind the executives that they had an obligation to abide by the terms of SSMU’s constitution.

“The University’s senior leaders shared their strong belief that the SSMU executives should ask for the resignation of SSMU Board member Igor Sadikov, who recently sent a Tweet inciting violence against a specific group,” Fortier wrote in a comment to The Tribune. “While McGill’s administration normally does not recommend a course of action to the SSMU leadership, this situation is exceptional. With any incitement to violence, it is the administration’s duty to intervene.”

Ger said that, during the meeting, the administration sought to confirm SSMU executives' interpretation of the constitution.

“The MoA was referenced in viewing the situation,” Ger said. “The university was [saying], ‘Look the constitution lays out specific principles. You need to adhere to those.’ They basically [said], ‘Here’s the constitution. It’s our opinion that this is the case, is it yours?’ Ultimately, the executive said, ‘Yes it is our agreement between our bodies because technically, we’re tied to it. We consulted legal to see what the potential threats were and one of us [Sobat] came away with a different grasp of the situation.”

In an email sent to the student body on Feb. 17, SSMU VP Internal Affairs Daniel Lawrie announced that SSMU recommended Sadikov’s resignation due to his violations of the SSMU Constitution (16.1 Standard of Care), which requires every Director, Councillor, Officer, and member of any committee of the Board of Directors or Legislative Council of the Society to conduct himself in good faith with a view to the best interests of the Society.

“Every [member of the SSMU BoD or Legislative Council] must uphold the Standard of Care for all members of the community as outlined in our Constitution,” Lawrie wrote. “It is the decision of the Executive Committee that Councillor Sadikov’s recent actions did not uphold this responsibility. More specifically, we believe that Councillor Sadikov’s actions were an incitement of violence and, for that reason alone, we have recommended that he resign from his position as a Director and as an Arts Representative to the Legislative Council.”

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