Winter referendum period to see questions on LICM fee increase, first year fund

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A fee increase for the Legal Information Clinic at McGill and the creation of a fund for First-Year Council were two of the referendum questions students will be voted on in the Winter referendum period, which will take place March 10th to 21st.  The motions were approved at a meeting of SSMU Council.

Existence and fee increase for Legal Information Clinic

Council approved two questions related to the Legal Information Clinic at McGill (LICM)—one that asks students to support LICM’s existence with its current non-optoutable student fee, and another to increase this fee from $3.25 to $4.50 per semester.

LICM was established in 1973 to provide free legal information to McGill students and the Montreal community. According to the motion, the fee has not been adjusted in 13 years, despite additional costs such as rent increases and computer maintenance.

“LICM would be unable to operate at its current capacity without increased revenue, and would need to decrease services if the LICM fee remains at its current 2001 level,” the motion reads.

First-year fund

Another question would create a new optoutable fee of $0.50 to go towards a fund managed by SSMU’s First-Year Council. The fund is designed help the representation of first year students through new student forums, town halls, community outreach programs, and greater interfaculty collaborations among first year students, according to the motion.

“First-Year Council now is very underfunded; its target group is 7,000 first year students, so that means exchange students, transfer students, and any other first years,” Élie Lubendo, Services Representative and one of the movers of the motion, said. “A first year fund will engage students in first year to be more involved in school, but [also] create more collaborations between first-year groups.’’

Science Councillor Devin Bissky Dziadyk acknowledged the financial issues facing the First-Year Council, but said charging a fee for all SSMU constituents was not appropriate.

“Is that fair to anyone beyond first year that is being forced to pay this fee?” he said. “Although it may not be a significant sum of money, I think it sets a poor precedent when we’re imposing a fee on something that, to the best of my understanding, is for a specific group of people and we are charging everyone for it.’’

Motion on Gerts

SSMU Council also passed a motion that would task the SSMU Vice-President Finance and Operations with the responsibility of ensuring greater transparency for the booking procedure for charity events at Gerts.

According to the motion, the VP Finance must post the procedure for bookings on the SSMU website. The form is currently downloadable online. Furthermore, the comptroller, general manager, bar manager, and VP Finance must meet with charity groups to discuss ways to make the process for booking and hosting events at Gerts more understandable.

Issues regarding transparency were brought forth to SSMU, after the student-run bar raised its retention of profits from 30 per cent to 50 per cent in November 2013.

The motion initially aimed to establish a new fee policy, under which charitable organizations would be eligible to keep 100 per cent of cover and coat check fees  from attendees depending on bar sales and sufficient evidence of advertising. Currently, Gerts charges 50 per cent of cover and coat check charges to charitable organizations hosting events in the bar.

“Student groups holding charitable events at Gerts Bar entice patrons to utilize the student service and augment food and beverages sales,” the motion reads. “Montreal bars and clubs often welcome charity events for free.”

However, Vice-President Finance Tyler Hofmeister voiced concern over the financial implications of the original motion for Gerts.

“The math that has been done doesn’t really account for the cost of goods sold, the cost of security, [and] the cost of staffing, which eats our sales to the point where we are literally paying to have certain events in the bar some nights,” Hofmeister said.

The motion was amended to its current form before it passed.

Notice of Motions

Other fee-related referendum questions include Organic Campus fee creation and University Centre Building fee creation questions; as well as renewals of the Access Bursary Fund, Ambassador Fund, Campus Life Fund, and the Library Improvement Fund. Students will be able to vote on the motions between March 14 and 21.