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Tribune Explains: GA and Referenda

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(May Lim / The McGill Tribune)

What is the General Assembly?

The General Assembly (GA) is a method of direct decision-making that takes place once a semester for members of Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). The Fall GA will take place on Nov. 7 at 3 p.m. in the Shatner Building.

All SSMU members, which includes all undergraduate students at the Downtown Campus, are able to participate in the GA. Students can submit, directly vote on, and directly amend motions. SSMU has created a guide to help students draft their GA motions, which can be found on their website. The GA is an opportunity for direct democracy, according to SSMU President Ben Ger.

“It’s a place for political change,” Ger said. “You can bring forward motions [and] policies. It’s a great place for debate. Over the past few years, people have talked about what the point of the GA [is]. It provides a large forum for students to come together [and] for students to be part of the discussion, not just the decision.”

According to SSMU Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Cameron McKeich, motions have to pass two rounds of voting in order to be ratified at the GA.

“For the GA, there is an in-person meeting in which students vote by raising their hands [or] sometimes by a secret ballot,” McKeich said. “Motions that are approved by more than 50 per cent of voters [50 members], those questions will be put through an online ratification […] to ensure that a greater number of students have the ability to participate in the GA process that were not able to attend in person.”

Ger believes administrative support would help the attendance and success of the GA, as some students are forced to miss the GA due to academic commitments. The University of Ottawa, for example, has adopted different academic initiatives, such as permitting students to miss class on the day of the GA.

“I think our institution [the administration] hasn’t in the past recognized the importance of student-led initiatives, student debates, [and] student democracy,” Ger said. “Some people in the [administration] are very disconnected from the campus and don’t see how central SSMU governance is. Students in the past have been graded during times of the [GA], while at other universities that is not the case.”

What is the referendum?

The other form of direct democracy for SSMU members is the referendum. Similar to the GA, referenda periods are held once a semester. This semester, the referendum campaigning period starts on Nov. 7, the same day as the General Assembly, and ends on Nov. 8. Voting itself lasts a week, and will take place from Nov. 11 to Nov. 18.

All SSMU members are able to place a question on the ballot, according to McKeich. First, the wording of the question needs to be approved by the CEO. Next, the author of the referendum goes through a signature collecting process. SSMU has created a guide to help students prepare questions, which can be found on their website.

“To get a question on the referenda someone needs to collect 100 signatures from SSMU members from a minimum of four faculties, and a maximum of 30 per cent of signatures can be from one faculty,” McKeich said. “[For] questions that are asking for a fee levy or a specific allocation of money, the CEO will consult with the [Vice-President] of Finance.”

The period for students to submit questions for review and collect signatures was from Oct. 14 to 31 this semester.

Ger said that the Referenda is important because it allows members of SSMU to have a voice in their funding.

“Students want to use student money for student services, like menstrual products, but the university redirects the money,” Ger said. “[A pro of] the Referenda is that it’s a […] place for a direct democracy and a great place to influence change.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Concordia University allows its students to miss class in order to attend General Assemblies. The Tribune regrets this error. 

SSMU Council considers motion to provide free menstrual products on campus

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On Oct. 13, SSMU Council passed a motion to provide free menstrual hygiene products. (Noah Sutton/ The McGill Tribune)

On Oct. 13, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) legislative council discussed motions supporting the Association of McGill University Supports Employees (AMUSE) collective bargaining and distribution of free menstrual hygiene products. The meeting also covered the creation of a fee for the Musician’s Collective and increasing the student fee for Midnight Kitchen.

Free Menstrual Hygiene Products Fee

SSMU President Ben Ger presented a motion that would support the creation of a fund for freely supplying and distributing menstrual products on campus to undergraduate students. According to Ger, the purpose of the motion is to focus on advocacy for the provision of free products and will be funded by a provisional fee of $0.90 per student per semester if approved by the student body.

The higher pricing of products labeled ‘feminine’ and the perception of menstrual products as luxury goods are examples of the gendering of products. In comparison, items that are used by both genders—such as toilet paper—are supplied for free.

“A large part of this motion is about advocacy,” Ger said. “There will be education awareness, like lobbying around the gendering of products and the pricing discrimination surrounding the gendering of hygiene products.”

Elaine Patterson, VP Student Life, explained the logistics behind the distribution of menstrual products.

“[We] have done research on providing different types of menstrual products, mostly tampons and pads,” Patterson said. “We have research on different suppliers [….] The idea is that with [the $0.90] fee, there will be 20 pads and tampons for each student per cycle.”

According to Patterson, if not all tampons and pads get used, the leftover money will go towards alternative menstrual care products in the following school year.

AMUSE Collective Bargaining

AMUSE, a labour union that represents casual or temporary employees at McGill, is currently in the process of bargaining for a new collective agreement for its workers that regulates the terms and conditions of employees in the workplace. According to Claire Michela, president of AMUSE, independent research found that the average living wage in Montreal is $15.38 per hour: however, many AMUSE employees are paid $10.85.

“We compared our situation with McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) employees who work similar jobs for more hours,” Michela said. “They get lots of benefits that we don’t. This [mandate] is basically regarding our demands which are basically to raise our wages, to make our jobs more stable, [and] to increase accessibility for students.”

Richard (Tre) Mansdoerfer, an engineering representative, voiced concern that small campus businesses may be forced to cut staff if the minimum wage is raised.

“It’s awesome to increase [the] minimum wage, […] but for something […that only has] four employees who are paid $12 an hour, […] an increase to $15 can mean that they can only hire three people,” Mansdoerfer said. “So, instead of increasing the amount of money available to every person, you increase the wage, but you have one person take a hit.”

When asked if raising wages will come at the cost of reducing the amount of available jobs, Michela said that this would not be the case.

“Casuals are doing more of the work than ever,” Michela said. “Casuals are and still would be way cheaper labour than MUNACA labour. It makes sense to keep hiring casual employees. I don’t think [cutting jobs] is very likely to happen.”

Creation of a Musician’s Collective Fee

Since its designation as a service in 2012, the Musician’s Collective has been subsidized by the SSMU general operating budget. The Musician’s Collective provides a public ‘jam space’ that can be booked by any McGill student, free of charge. To financially support the Musician’s Collective, an opt-outable $0.10 fee per student per semester was proposed.

The fee will be used to cover maintenance costs of the jam space. Patterson explained that SSMU’s general operating budget can no longer support the Musician’s Collective.

“All the expenses incurred by the Musician’s Collective [were] subsidized by the SSMU’s operational budget,” Patterson said. “Typically that ended up being $2,000 of SSMU’s operating budget. SSMU’s operating budget is [no longer] able to subsidize things like [the Musician’s Collective] because [subsidizing] is a non sustainable way of funding a service.”


A previous version of this article included a fragment of a quote from engineering representative Richard (Tre) Mansdoerfer that referred to Frostbite employees as members of AMUSE. In fact, only employees of McGill operations are covered under the AMUSE collective agreement, which does not include employees of student association operations like Frostbite. Additionally, the menstrual products fee was previously misstated.

Board of Governors adjourns after interruption by Divest McGill

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James Admin Building
(L-A Benoit/The McGill Tribune)

On Oct. 6, the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) held its monthly meeting, during which they heard an update from Principal Suzanne Fortier on her recent activities and a presentation from the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executives outlining information about their organization. The meeting was interrupted by members of Divest McGill, forcing an early adjournment.

Tuition deregulation

Fortier informed the board of her recent activities, which include her work on external relations and government lobbying. Fortier’s update included a discussion on her advocacy for tuition deregulation, which would allow McGill to keep funds from student tuition that currently are handed to the provincial government to be used in equalization payments across universities.

“When it comes to Canadian, non-Quebec residents […their] fees are higher and the [provincial government claims] a big portion of those fees and puts them into equalization [payments],” Fortier said. “When it comes to international students […the government] imposes significant fees, [then take those] fees and redistribute them in the system.”

Fortier has been lobbying the Quebec government to allow McGill to keep those extra fees from out-of-province and international students, and for universities across Quebec to determine for themselves how they will use these fees.

“When […an international student] pays $30,000 to come to McGill, let’s keep that money at McGill, because it’s very hard to explain to our students why the money they’re spending here is going somewhere else […],” Fortier said. “ Diminishing or decreasing the student to faculty ratios, more opportunities for our students to be involved in internships, better student services—whether its academic services or personal health […] this is what we would do with this money [….] My advice to the government is don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach and impose one model on all universities. The beauty of the Quebec system is we’re all different.”

SSMU presentation

SSMU President Ben Ger and Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Erin Sobat gave the board a presentation outlining basic information about SSMU. According to BoG Chair Stuart  Cobbett, the presentation was part of the board’s regular education agenda at each meeting.

“It has been our habit in meetings to have a presentation, typically it’s been on an academic subject […], but this time we thought it would be helpful to do this so you can hear from the students themselves,” Cobbett said.

The presentation, which outlined the composition and activities of SSMU, drew concerns by the board over equal gender representation on the council and in the executive.  Ger responded by discussing research the Society has started into equity in representation.

“On the executive level, there definitely is a problem with [equal gender representation], and that is going to be looked at in the equitable governance reform that we’re looking at right now,” Ger said. “[We’re] looking at the different ways that our government right now is accessible to different groups on campus.”

Interruption by Divest McGill

Members of Divest McGill disrupted the meeting to address the board, which prompted members to adjourn the meeting early. According to Jed Lenetsky, a member of Divest McGill who was also present at the meeting, the group had often interrupted BoG meetings, but this was the first time the board has adjourned in response.

“Divest McGill interrupting board meetings isn't something new […] we’ve been doing [it] for the past year, mainly due to the fact that the McGill [BoG] is largely inaccessible to the student body and in our dealings with the administration we have never really had the formal chance to talk to members of the [BoG],” Lenetsky said. “So we began using the open sessions of the [BoG] meetings to interact with those members [….What] was new was the fact that [the BoG] decided to adjourn the meeting once we started speaking. Normally what happens is we'll speak and they'll listen and then they'll just continue their meeting.”

The interruption was intended to bring events from the recent open forums on sustainability to the board’s attention.

“We were talking about the open forums on sustainability that occurred for the past couple of weeks  […],” Lenetsky said. “Throughout most of the summer, members of Divest McGill […] have been reaching out to the [BoG] in an effort to get them to attend. Only two members of the [BoG…] attended one of the sessions, so we thought it was important for members of the [BoG] to hear from the McGill community in person and hear what happened at these forum that they missed.”
According to Ger, the meeting continued after the adjournment in another location within the James Administration Building. At the continued session, the BoG discussed the disruption.

“The reconvened meeting went on to talk about the rest of the items on the public agenda […] but the large portion of the conversation was more so around the event that had just happened,” Ger said. “A lot of the […] governors were talking about how it was an escalation from last year that was noticed, and how we can maybe go about fixing those problems in the future to make sure there wasn't that level of interruption.”

Ger stated that changes can be made to the BoG structure that will allow for students to voice their concerns in a way that is constructive and non-obtrusive.

“I [suggested] that instead of looking into a way that we could stop people [interrupting…] what could work better is if we could have a question and answer period so people could come in at the end of an agenda [to] ask questions […],” Ger said. “[In] the end, the conclusion was that the nominating governance and ethics committee, which is a committee on the [BoG], would look into the board best practices.”

SSMU Council discusses the role of sponsorship in budget report

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(Christopher Li / The McGill Tribune)

At the Sept. 29 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council, an initial report on the Society’s budget was presented by Vice-President (VP) Finance Niall Carolan. Additionally, executives gave reports on the formation and progress of various committees as well as upcoming plans for the year.

2016-2017 SSMU budget overview

Carolan reported on the budget, which will be finalized and presented at the Oct. 13 Council meeting after SSMU has been audited. Carolan addressed issues of sponsorship, the Student Run Cafeteria (SRC), and Gerts.

“Sponsorship is something that we’ve always used at the SSMU, and […] it has […] come into public light recently,” Carolan said. “However, I just want to provide a little context [….] There are two main allocations of sponsorship [….] A small portion of sponsorship is [for] general administration, and that’s used to pay for our sponsorship coordinators [….] The remaining portion of the sponsorship revenue goes directly to the events that it’s used to […] sponsor. And then more general sponsorship […] around the building and […] specific tabling events [….] goes directly into offsetting the costs of running this building.”

Carolan acknowledged one of the challenges with sponsorship lies in figuring out its impact on the student body. According to Carolan, the goal is to add to the student experience, not to detract from it.

“[Balancing that impact is] something we’re focusing on acutely now, after hearing input from students and […] campus media,” Carolan said. “Also, finding ways to make sponsorship more student-centred and ultimately […] ways that sponsorship can add value to students’ lives on campus[….] Some opportunities we have include getting students more involved in the reviewing of sponsors, and again, just trying find ways to add value to students’ lives through sponsorship.”

According to Carolan, SSMU has been exploring avenues to make the SRC more profitable. Although sales more than doubled in 2016 to approximately $221,000, this was accompanied by a rise in expenses, which in turn led to a deficit of $120,000 in the same year.

“A lot of [why that happened] is to do with how the SRC was set up,” Carolan said. “Advertising, for instance, as per [SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), the SRC is] not allowed to advertise anywhere on campus. This heavily restricts our promotional capacity to McGill students [….] Other issues are some of the mandates the SRC has [….] Things like using locally-sourced produce, sustainable produce, [and] paying workers fair wages. All of those things are good mandates, however, [they do] restrict our ability to be profitable.”

In order to regain profits in the SRC, SSMU is tracking sales on an hourly basis. Carolan emphasized that making the SRC profitable is a priority for all of the executives this year.

“I think having a student operation in this building is […] of paramount importance and I’ve always said that having a profitable student-run operation is always our […] top goal,” Carolan said. “However, we have been working through just about every executive portfolio and permanent staff member available […] on ways we can increase sales and more accurately attribute our costs to those sales.”

Other current and planned initiatives for the SRC include targeting off-campus sales, increasing catering, and introducing McGill ID card scanners to draw in first-years.

Executive Reports

VP Internal Daniel Lawrie addressed some of the positive feedback regarding this year’s Frosh. He also identified aspects of Frosh that could be improved for next year.

“We came up with a few key things that we could work on for next year. We found that [the] communication between all our faculties had improved significantly, but we could still work on that further […],” Lawrie said. “We also had a meeting with the administration about the street teams. Again, that was extremely positive.”

Lawrie also explained his upcoming projects, namely Four Floors and the McGill app. Lawrie plans to integrate SSMU services like the listserv into the app, as well as use it for event ticketing this year.

VP University Affairs Erin Sobat commented on the current state of the Draft Policy for Sexual Violence, which will be presented at the Oct. 19 Senate meeting, and voted on at the Nov. 19 meeting.

“We’re doing a wide range of consultation on this,” Sobat said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of focus groups that have been happening last week and this week until about [Oct. 3], which we are going to be compiling a report on to take to Senate.”

President Ben Ger explained a possible new initiative to increase attendance at the General Assembly (GA) by providing academic accommodations during the assemblies.

“The idea of potentially having some sort of academic amnesty, which would mean that [students] could not be graded during days in which the GA is happening,” Ger said. “That would be a McGill policy so that students could come out to attend the GA without fear of […] grades or missing class [….] The other option is having all classes cancelled or moved that day—with the exception of some […] labs.”

Ger explained that Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures, and Equity) Angela Campbell and Provost and Dean of Students Christopher Buddle both seemed receptive to the idea.

“Having more representation at the GA was something that they were behind—more engagement with debates on campus […],” Ger said. “ Moving forward, it will be brought to the Student Life and Learning team, as well as some other areas.”


A previous version of this article incorrectly identified that advertising on campus is against the SRC MOA. In fact, it goes against the MOA of SSMU. A previous version of this article also incorrectly identified that Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Angela Campbell and Vice-President (Academic) Christopher Manfredi both seemed receptive to the idea of academic amnesty during SSMU GA periods. In fact, Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures and Equity) Angela Campbell and the Dean of Students Christopher Buddle have both seemed receptive to the idea.

SSMU copes with reality of failed base fee increase

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The current Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executives have been forced to adjust operations to fit the new budget constraints caused by a failed Winter 2016 referendum motion. The motion proposed a $5.50 increase to the SSMU base fee but failed by 0.3 per cent. The current SSMU executives have adjusted operations to fit the new budget constraints caused by the failed referendum motion. SSMU President Ben Ger assured that the majority of these adjustments consist of reorganizing services and expanding avenues of revenue.

    “Sacha, the new Vice-President (VP) Operations, is working […] on the Student Run Cafeteria (SRC) to make sure this coming year we see major reductions to its costs, improvements and alterations to its menu, and additions to its structure and space,” Ger said. “Niall, our VP Finance, is working on a number of budget scenarios that we will be further exploring in the months to come.”

Temporary student club restrictions

    SSMU is currently not accepting applications for new student clubs, although Ger emphasized that clubs currently holding interim status can still apply for full status and that full status clubs have nothing to fear.

“There are no plans for these temporary restrictions on the ability to receive interim club status to become permanent,” said Ger. “As of now, the entire executive is committed to making sure that this isn't the situation for very long.”

SSMU VP Finance Niall Carolan explained that without the approval of the SSMU fee increase, the creation of new clubs is difficult to accommodate due to a lack of available resources and funds.

“When you create a new club, they need a new bank account [and] they need to have their signing offices approved by the accounting department and myself,” Carolan said. “Not only does it put a strain on our internal resource process, but we also have a great deal of technology that we use in conjunction with club administration.”

Gerts and Student Run Cafeteria operations

SSMU’s largest operations are the SRC and Gerts Bar. Both suffered from a lack of profits last year, and a drop in revenue is expected due to the McTavish Street construction. SSMU VP Operations Sacha Magder hopes that restructuring will improve the profitability of SSMU businesses.

“We realized that staff need to have more training, and most importantly they need to be able to train each other,” Magder said. “Moving forward, we'll be tracking the sales of all meal options to make sure we cut anything that isn't selling; this results in reduced waste and allows us to replace stock with more popular options.”

Magder said that a key issue was a lack of consistent branding, noting that ‘The Nest,’ ‘Grill,’ and simply ‘Second Floor Cafeteria’ have all been used to refer to the SRC.    

“I’ve been working with our marketing team over the summer to define our brand identity and to develop a marketing plan,” Magder said. “We’ve proposed some new ideas–which are confidential for now, but will be released soon–that were validated by working groups in the last week of August.”

Magder hopes to run Gerts activities that will appeal to students. He listed themes, trivia, and open mic nights as potential regular events. B-week was one such an event, providing discounts on various drinks at Gerts from Sept. 12 to 16.

“We’ve already [completed]  B-week […] to keep the momentum rolling from Frosh, and we’ll be having many more fun events throughout the year to make Gerts more than just another bar,” Magder said. “Most importantly, we’re looking to work much more closely with the faculties. We’d like to collaborate for more events and to use Gerts as a basecamp for various events across campus.”

Monetizing the Shatner Building

    Carolan pointed to the member base fee, Gerts, the SRC, special operations (such as SSMU Minicourses), and rental space as the primary sources of income for the Society. He stressed that SSMU is mandated to not repeatedly run on deficits, and believes that student operations alone cannot generate the necessary profits.

“We’ll never be able to rely solely on operational revenues to sustain the Society because it’s a multi-million dollar non-for-profit, and those aren’t the kind of profits you can expect from that scale of student-run initiatives,” Carolan said. “So with that in mind and the failed base fee of last year, there are only so many different avenues of funding that we can pursue.”

Carolan explained that renting space to corporate sponsors is a reliable source of income, and saves costs for the student body as well.

“Before utilizing corporate sponsors, I wanted to make sure that our internal operations were running as effectively as possible so that I would have an idea of our shortfall,” Carolan said. “The only time we’d use corporate sponsors is to save passing that cost to students.”

Rather than charge students or clubs for running events–such as Activities Night–corporate sponsors carry the costs in order to advertise on campus. Carolan believes that this is an effective way to cover costs, provided that the focus remains on students.

“I do agree that we need [to] keep an eye on [sponsors’] impact on the events and make sure it doesn’t detract from the entire experience,” Carolan said. “That’s really the point of it, if we have to use sponsors, we want to use sponsors who are relevant to students and hopefully provide a benefit to students at the same time.”

Yearbook mementos

After several years of running a deficit, McGill’s yearbook has been discontinued. The SSMU executive team has expressed a desire to see it continue in some form, but details remain unspecified.

“It was just an unfortunate cost-benefit analysis where we thought, if there are these hundred students who are actually buying it, is it worth incurring this many thousands in deficit to make that happens,” Carolan said. “I’m not sure […] whether it will be discontinued indefinitely. I hope not, and I think that we’ll be doing everything we can to bring it back.”

SSMU Council creates ad hoc committee on equity

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SSMU Council members vote on motions. (Lauren Benson-Armer / McGill Tribune)

On Sept. 15, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council held its first meeting of the semester, with several speeches, extensive debate, and confusing points. Council passed five motions, including the Motion of the Adoption of the Standing Rules, the creation of an Ad Hoc Equitable Governance Reform Committee, the repeal of the Accountable Leadership Policy, the creation of an Ad-Hoc Provincial Representation Committee, as well as a motion to amend the Committee Terms of Reference. 

Motion of the adoption of standing rules 

The Standing Rules underwent debate regarding matters of phrasing. Amendments were made to the motion by Joshua Chin, one of the Senate Caucus Representatives. 

“I realize that starting this year, the Board of Directors has a somewhat expanded or more significant role in the passing [and] execution of motions, [and I was] wondering if it was possible to add something to the effect of ‘If any motions we pass eventually get repealed or significantly amended at the Board of Directors, that [action] be communicated to us at a later meeting,’” Chin said.

Igor Sadikov, Arts Councillor, argued for the use of microphones during the council session whenever possible.

“Outside of in camera or confidential sessions, the members must use the microphone to speak whenever possible, to motivate this for reasons of accessibility for Councillors and members of the gallery,” Sadikov said.

When a motion to vote on the amendment was introduced, Sadikov questioned how voting could happen without the adoption of the Standing Rules, leading to some confusion in the Council. The Standing Rules were adopted unanimously at the end of the debate. 

Motion regarding the creation of an ad-hoc committee on equitable governance

Leslie Anne St. Amour, the 2015-2016 SSMU Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, presented a report for more equitable representation on the Council. Two recommendations proposed in the report were the creation of a seat reserved for indigenous students on the Council, as well as the creation of equity seats on the SSMU Board of Directors. St. Amour spoke to Council on the importance of the suggestions made in the report.

“SSMU has made a commitment to social justice and equity and that it is important to have that reflected in our government structures, taking into account the historical and systemic barriers that were put into place to be part of governing structures like the SSMU,” St. Amour said.

The motion proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee to investigate the benefits of such suggestions, and was accepted.

Motion regarding the Accountable Leadership Policy

Services Representative Kahli-Ann Douglas presented the Motion Regarding the Accountable Leadership Policy. The Accountable Leadership Policy had created an Accountability Committee tasked with holding executive members to their obligations as stated in the SSMU constitution. Referencing past examples of the ineffectiveness of the Accountable Leadership Policy, SSMU Vice-President of University Affairs Erin Sobat argued that the scope and authority of the Accountability Committee was either too vague or too specific.

“All the important provisions in this policy are or will be contained elsewhere [….] Historically, the Accountability Committee has not been the most effective committee,” Sobat said.

Similar sentiments were echoed by members of the Council.

"I believe this is a step in the right direction," said Clubs and Services Councillor Adam Templer.

After debate on the motion, the Accountable Leadership Policy was repealed.


A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Ad hoc Equitable Governance Reform Committee as the Ad hoc Committee on Equitable Governance. In addition, a previous version of this article stated that Leslie Anne St. Amour proposed the creation of a seat designated for the Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA). In fact, she proposed the creation of a seat reserved for indigenous students. Finally, a previous version of this article indicated that the Motion Regarding the Future of the Accountable Leadership Policy was moved by SSMU VP University Affairs Erin Sobat. In fact, Sobat stood to motivate the motion which was originally moved by Services Representative Kahli-Ann Douglas. The Tribune regrets these errors.

The Tribune would like to clarify that the creation of the Ad hoc Equitable Governance Reform Committee was the result of a motion presented to council, and not the result of the report presented by Leslie Anne St. Amour at Council. The Tribune would also like to clarify that the Accountable Leadership Policy was repealed to remove duplication between the Committee Terms of Reference and the Policy and Plan Book.  

Meet the 2016-2017 SSMU & PGSS executives

(L-A Benoit/ The McGill Tribune)

What have you done this summer?

I’ve been working on a few things [….] I was working on this project called a crash pad pilot for frosh. I had about 100 kids sleeping in the [Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)] ballroom instead of going home […and we] kept some kids from driving home drunk […. I’ve been] looking at the Student-Run Cafeteria (SRC) inside and out [with VP Finance Niall Carolan] and we have dissected some of the expenses, the losses, and set up a plan of attack on how to push this forward. [The executives] are going to be a lot more hands-on [with the operation…] literally making it all student run [….] Minicourses is moving smoothly, we’ve had long conversations on how to make [it] more efficient [….] I’m going to be doing a lot more feedback surveys as well, looking at what we can do and what’s been successful in the past.

What upcoming projects have you been working on?

I’ve been looking at a project to get connections with the indigenous community and display indigenous artwork in our building. We have a policy on indigenous solidarity and one way to uphold this is to offer the opportunity for indigenous artists to display their work [….] I’ve reached out to the on-campus community and I’m looking to have indigenous students form a selection community [….] One of [my other] biggest focuses is going to be handling some of the construction issues.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

A building as old as this one often has a lot of surprises […. I’m] certain that there will be building issues in my time in office. [It’s] frustrating because [I] have to drop other projects just to keep the status quo, essentially. [The executive structure] is better than before because we now have someone who can drop everything and respond quickly when we need crisis management.

McGill Governance 101

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(Hayley Mortin / McGill Tribune)

McGill University has an extensive system of governance bodies that manage its affairs from the undergraduate level up to administration. Making sense of this immensely complicated system is challenging to the untrained student, so we’re here to help you understand the who’s and what’s of this year’s campus politics. 


Who they are and what they do 
The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) represents all undergraduate students at McGill, as well as students in professional degree programs, including law, dentistry, and medicine. SSMU advocates on behalf of students to the administration, and to provincial and federal governments, manages services such as student groups and minicourses, and operates businesses such as Gert’s and the Student-Run Cafeteria (SRC). 

SSMU is led by seven executives who are elected annually during the Winter semester. The Legislative Council is the legislative body of SSMU, and consists of the executives and 30 councillors elected from faculty associations and certain student demographic groups, such as First Year Council. The Legislative Council is responsible for large-scale policy and decisions pertaining to the society’s finances. At least once a semester, members of the society have the opportunity to vote in referenda and participate in General Assemblies, with the resulting policies decided through these platforms becoming SSMU regulations. 

The SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) consists of seven students, most of whom are from the Faculty of Law. They make rulings on cases in which any individual, organization, or referendum associated with the society is alleged to have violated the SSMU Constitution or Bylaws. Decisions of the J-Board can only be overturned by a four-fifths majority vote by SSMU’s Board of Directors.

Recent actions 

Last year, SSMU Council passed a Policy on Indigenous Solidarity that laid out ways in which the society can pursue its social justice goals for indigenous students. Council also passed a new climate change policy. In the Winter 2017 referendum, students voted to add a seventh executive portfolio and to redistribute responsibilities among the executives. A motion to increase the society’s budget failed leading to a round of budget cuts. 

On the agenda this year 

This is the first year that SSMU has a Vice President (VP) Operations, and a VP Student Life. The roles of most of the executives have been adjusted as well, so it will be a year of precedent-setting for these student leaders. Furthermore, the executives are faced with the added challenge of operating the SSMU on a smaller budget. The SSMU Sexual Assault Policy Working Group’s policy was recently rejected by the administration, ensuring this year will see extensive discussions on the creation of a new policy proposal. Furthermore, the J-Board recently ruled against divisive motions, such as last year’s motion in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, a decision that is sure to be the subject of discussion in coming months.


Who they are and what they do 

The Postgraduate Students’ Society (PGSS) represents all graduate students and postdoctoral students. It is comprised of six executives, four commissioners, and eight staff members, who advocate for postgraduates at the university, provincial, and federal levels. The PGSS is housed in Thompson House, and is a source of social activities and support for its members. PGSS Council is the governing body of the society and meets monthly to vote on policies pertaining to the long-term vision of the society. Councillors are elected from various postgraduate faculties and student groups.

Recent actions 

Last year, PGSS Council unanimously passed a motion calling on McGill to divest from oil and gas industries. Additionally a traditional territory acknowledgement that will be displayed predominantly on the PGSS website and be read before each Council meeting was approved. PGSS has just completed its second graduate student orientation, which featured expanded programming. 

On the agenda this year 

This year, PGSS executives have promised to focus on the political role of the society, increasing their representation in activism on issues approved by their constituency. This includes increased emphasis on environmental sustainability initiatives. Expanding programming for graduate student orientation will likely be a focus as the new program continues to find success. 

McGill Senate 

Who they are and what they do 

The McGill Senate is an administrative body with jurisdiction over the academic policy of the university. It serves as a platform for representation at the administrative level. There are 107 voting members, including professors, support staff, students, SSMU executives, and representatives from McGill’s senior administration. Thirteen student senators are elected annually to represent each academic faculty. The Senate has multiple committees on specialized issue areas that advise on policy such as honorary degree recipients, enrollment, and student affairs. 

Recent actions 

Last year, the Senate passed a motion to establish a statement on academic freedom intended to reaffirm McGill’s commitment to research. They also extensively discussed tuition deregulation and a new commitment to increasing funding for refugee students

On the agenda this year 

Last year, the Senate deferred $1.3 billion of maintenance upgrades to campus buildings, renovations that will most likely be a topic of discussion again this year. The Senate will make further revisions to the Student Assessment Policy.

McGill Board of Governors 

Who they are and what they do 

The McGill Board of Governors (BoG) has final authority over all university affairs. It is comprised of 25 voting members, including one representative each from PGSS and SSMU, and members of senior administration, as well as two non-voting student observers. The Board manages all university property, appointments of personnel, management of investments and finances, ethics and human resources. Usually, the board meets six times per year. 

Recent actions 

Last year, the BoG voted not to divest university investments from fossil fuel companies, a decision that was met by student and alumni backlash. They also launched a study into the acquisition of the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) and how it can be turned into classroom space. 

On the agenda this year

The acquisition of the RVH site, as well as divestment from fossil fuel companies and ethical investment, are sure to be continued subjects of conversation for the BoG this year. Given the provincial government’s continuing austerity programs, limitations of the university budget will likely be debated. 

2015-2016 SSMU executive reviews

McGill/News/SSMU by
Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) building (The McGill Tribune)

The McGill Tribune Editorial Board reviews the 2015-2016 SSMU executive on its performance.  Although these blurbs intend to review the executives' entire term not all information received regarding each executive was published due to space constraints in the paper.

The Tribune reached out to all SSMU councillors for anonymous feedback on the executives and received four responses from 30 councillors. Councillors were asked to give a score from 1-10 about how they perceive the executives have performed. The Editorial Board also gave each executive a score from 1-10 based on how we felt the executives performed. The grades are an average of the feedback from councillors and the Editorial Board's assessment of how each of the executives performed. The grades were converted from a percentage into a letter grade based on the McGill grading system. Under this grading scale a "C" is a passing grade that meets expectations, a "B" exceeds expectations, and an "A" refers to an outstanding performance. 

Click on one of the pictures to get started.

Kareem Ibrahim



Zacheriah Houston



Kimber Bialik



Chloe Rourke



Omar El-Sharway



Emily Boytinck



(McGill Tribune)








President, Kareem Ibrahim: 7.63/10 = B+

As President of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), Kareem Ibrahim has made great strides in behind-the-scenes work which assured that SSMU could function successfully, cohesively, and inclusively. He organized the largest General Assembly in the past 30 years, spearheaded an overhaul of the Constitution, re-established the First Year Undergraduate Network, contributed to the Executive Restructuring Project, as well as collaborated to draft both a Family Care Policy and a Human Resource policy.

Despite Ibrahim’s accomplishments, his performance suffered from his lack of visibility and student engagement throughout the year. Aside from #McGill24—a one-day challenge aimed to unite students, alumni, and staff—and Centraide he was generally absent from the public eye . This may be a reason that much of his accomplishments have gone unnoticed, and some students feel disconnected from SSMU.

On the other hand, Ibrahim can be commended for ensuring SSMU’s  sustainability and smooth sailing throughout the year despite many resignations. For example, Ibrahim managed the SSMU Daycare in the absence of its manager, oversaw the election for VP Internal in the second term, and developed a transition report for incoming SSMU presidents in order to ensure smooth integration into the position. SSMU did not fall apart this year and he should be commended for his leadSSMU stayed afloat.
















VP Finance and Operations, Zacheriah Houston: 8.50/10 = A





As the last VP Finance and Operations, Houston worked hard to increase the institutional memory of both his position  and numerous committees that his office oversaw. This included his management of the digitization of the Funding Committee’s application records as well as the revision of their by-laws. Houston also helped to create the Ad-Hoc Health and Dental Review Committee, which resulted in the approval of a referendum question adding  mental health coverage to the SSMU insurance plan. The committee, now a permanent part of council, will continue to be involved in consultative efforts with students in order to improve SSMU’s Health and Dental Plan. 

Houston excelled in the financial  part of his portfolio; he created a clear budget that was easily digestible and improved the overall transparency of SSMU by being readily available to answer students’ questions. However, the Operations side of Houston’s portfolio was noticeably neglected, evidenced by the fact that the Student-Run Café (SRC) remains unnamed. Instead, Houston took on the additional tasks of negotiating SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement with McGill, an ongoing project that will be passed on to the next group of SSMU executives. 


















VP Clubs and Services, Kimber Bialik: 8.63/10 = A





This has been an extremely tumultuous academic year for SSMU, with multiple resignations and a myriad of organizational problems that came as a result of this instability. Despite this, Bialik has excelled in her role as VP Clubs and Services.

Following the resignation of the general manager in the Fall and the absence of the building director due to paternity leave, Bialik was forced to assume many extra duties. In many aspects she has gone above and beyond her portfolio. One of Bialik’s greatest accomplishments was the creation of a Club Fund Fee, which should create a more sustainable funding structure for SSMU’s clubs. Additionally, she was able to reevaluate the sustainability of the building and created an ad-hoc Space Committee to address issues surrounding the long-term vision of space within the Shatner University Centre. 

Bialik’s plan to reorganize club space on the fourth floor of the SSMU Building was met at the time with resistance, and some clubs have not yet moved out of their former offices spaces. Despite this, Bialik has maintained positive relationships with SSMU’s many clubs; however, her work on the Independent Student Groups section of her portfolio has been lacking. Overall, Bialik has had an extremely successful year.














VP University Affairs, Chloe Rourke: 7.87/10 B+





Rourke has been a strong advocate for students at the university level. Unlike the other executive portfolios, the majority of the VP University Affairs position is involved in long-term policy changes for the entire university. As the sole link between SSMU and the upper administration, Rourke has made progress on various components of her portfolio, including sexual assault (although the new policy is not yet complete), mental health, and equity. She has consistently lobbied against the university’s position on tuition deregulation, made strides in working towards a Fall semester reading week, and was involved in the development of the SSMU Happy Lights Lending Program.

According to councillors, Rourke has done well in making headway with the Smoking on Campus Working Group and in her work as a representative on the Senate. Despite various hurdles faced by SSMU over this year, Rourke has moved forward in several policy areas. Her assistance in the review of the wellness strategy, as well as her work with Student Services, were particularly popular with councillors, as was her work in negotiating on mental health policy with McGill.

Although Rourke has done well to balance the various aspects of her portfolio, there were delays in improving the visibility of her portfolio. A website platform, which was begun during this year, will not be launched until Fall 2016.














Omar El-Sharawy, VP Internal: 6.13/10 = C+





VP Internal Omar El-Sharawy came into the position in the middle of the year after the previous VP Internal resigned in October. With his late start, El-Sharawy did not have much of an opportunity to shake up the position but nonetheless made some improvements.

After taking input from students, El-Sharawy revamped the weekly SSMU listserv to make it less robotic and more visual. He added features such as a location of the week and a club spotlight. Since he started in January, El-Sharawy had to rush to plan Faculty Olympics, which this year had the highest number of participants in its history. He added more academic and athletic events and a trip to Beach Club, but reviews from participants were mixed. El-Sharawy has done a good job of adding more new non-drinking events, including an upcoming talk with US ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman.

Overall, El-Sharawy did an adequate job of keeping the position functional and taking care of the roles in his portfolio, admirable given his limited time in office.













VP External, Emily Boytinck: 7.75/10 = B+





Boytinck has put in an impressive amount of work this year into the two new provincial student federations, Association pour la Voix Étudiante au Québec (AVEQ) and the Union Étudiante du Québec (UEQ). Although the motion to associate with AVEQ did not pass. Boytinck went to all of the student faculty association councils to advocate for joining student federations and was very committed to the motion’s passing. It was through issues misrepresented by the “No to AVEQ” committee that the motion did not pass and is through no fault of Boytinck herself.

Some aspects of her portfolio were neglected in comparision, such as Milton Parc community engagement and the Francophone Affairs Committee. Francophone Affairs were particularly overlooked by Boytinck. She put most of her energy into student federation-related work and has had little to say on the matter other than she has worked on improving her French language skills.

During her time as VP External she has straddled line between furthering her own beliefs and causes that she is mandated to support by SSMU Council. This has been apparrent on issues such as the Motion to Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) and divestment from fossil fuels.

By being so present and active, however, she has changed how the VP External position is viewed overall. Her consistent passion in addressing relevant social issues has made the position much more visible to students.






















This article has been updated to add further detail to the grading process

SSMU Council passes Policy on Indigenous Solidarity

News/SSMU by

At its March 31 meeting, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council passed a comprehensive Policy on Indigenous Solidarity that lays out ways in which SSMU can pursue its social justice goals for indigenous students. In total, Council passed five motions updating executive job descriptions, amending SSMU’s child-care policy, updating procedures for electing CKUT representatives, changing the status of First Year Council (FYC) and adopting the new Policy on Indigenous Solidarity.

Motion regarding the Policy on Indigenous Solidarity

This policy aims to start to addressing issues of underrepresentation and misrepresentation that indigenous students at McGill face. SSMU Indigenous Affairs Coordinator Leslie Anne St. Amour was involved in writing the policy and was present at the meeting to outline the document and answer representatives’ questions.

“The policy includes consultation protocols for matters that have a direct impact on indigenous students at McGill, which is really important considering some of the struggles indigenous students have been having […] in the past few years,” St. Amour said, “[The policy includes] ways in which SSMU can support indigenous students, including access to status as a SSMU club, different ways to access the SSMU Building, [and] ways that SSMU can support indigenous communities to have input on SSMU events.”

Clubs and Services Councillor François-Paul Truc expressed his concern with the policy requirement that a Traditional Territory Acknowledgement be made before all SSMU-run events in addition to events hosted by SSMU clubs and services.

“We have clubs at McGill that are incredibly political—like Conservative-McGill political,” Truc said. “Are we really going to tell a political organization that has formed a club under SSMU […] that they now have to make a land acknowledgement that they do not agree with?”

St. Amour responded that she held public open consultation sessions both before and after the policy was drafted and had not received any such complaints.

“I had no feedback against this policy but I had a lot of feedback that was very pro this aspect of the policy, emphasizing the importance of this for indigenous students and indigenous student groups,” she said.

Motion regarding First Year Council restructuring

Council also passed a motion restructuring FYC that would move it from a SSMU service to the vice-president (VP) Internal Affairs portfolio and amending the SSMU internal regulations to reflect that fact. 

“SSMU service status […] isn’t the most appropriate for a student group that’s run by first years, which generally requires more support than a lot of our really autonomously run services,” VP Clubs and Services Kimber Bialik said. “The Internal Affairs portfolio […] has more space to take on additional projects and would also benefit from more representation from first-years.”

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