Tomorrow (Wednesday) marks the Fall General Assembly of the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU). Here are the Tribune’s endorsements on the four resolutions.
Motion Regarding Action on Climate Change—“Yes”
The resolution, moved by the VP External and several councillors, proposes that the SSMU join the anti-pipeline student coalition, Étudiant(e)s Contre les Oléoducs (ÉCO), as well as work towards preparing a further policy on fighting climate change, to be presented later this year. While this situation may be reminiscent of the mess SSMU got into with the Table de Concertation Étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ)—another student coalition that turned out to be riven—by infighting and was largely ineffective, a major difference here is that TaCEQ had no real initiatives. This organization at the least has the focus of a relatively narrow goal: opposing in-province pipeline projects. SSMU is mandated. As such, the Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote on the resolution.
Motion Regarding Support of a Campus Free from Harmful Military Technology Development—“Abstain”
This resolution, moved by petition—from a group of students other than SSMU executives or councillors—calls on the SSMU to “renew its stance of opposition to the development of harmful military technology on campus” and to support such groups—here meaning Demilitarize McGill—through the VP External’s office. The Tribune endorses an “Abstain” vote on this motion for several reasons. First, the petitioners’ calls for the end of military research at McGill seem to stem from a reductive view of the uses of these technologies. The “harmful consequences” attributed to the results of military research are a direct result of policy decisions made by governments, rather than a direct consequence of the existence of whatever is developed. Unmanned drones, an example frequently cited by opponents of military research, are a prime example. With that said, there is also a need for greater transparency on the uses and processes that military and defence contractor-funded research are put to at the university.
Motion Calling on SSMU to Stand in Solidarity with the People of the Occupied Palestinian Territories—“Abstain”
This resolution, again moved by petition, calls for the SSMU to condemn multiple incidents stemming from the renewed conflict between Israel and Palestine earlier this summer, as well as for SSMU executives to “endorse and sponsor events and efforts conducted by student groups working to combat oppression and misrepresentation of marginalized groups including but not limited to Palestinians, and to provide a safe platform for students to voice their views and experiences accessibly.” The Tribune endorses an “Abstain” vote on this resolution, specifically because such an issue should not necessarily demand SSMU action in the first place. The SSMU is indeed a political body, but if we are to make the oft-invoked analogy between student and labor unions, the political nature of SSMU, much like a labor union, is with regards to issues that affect McGill undergraduate students as a recognizable group of students. The Israel-Palestine resolution cites SSMU’s stances taken on issues such as divestment from South African companies during the apartheid, companies operating in the oil sands, and tuition-free university. However on all these issues, there is a clear link back to the university or an issue that primarily affects students as the central call to action. Here, there is no such link; the issue at hand is a much broader geopolitical question where the SSMU’s engagement would have marginal effect on the actual issue, and instead cause strong divisions regardless of the result that may not accurately represent its membership. This is not to say that activism on the issue shouldn’t take place on campus, or that students shouldn’t advocate for either side of this issue on their own time or in other groups. Rather, the union representing the entire undergraduate student body is not the appropriate vehicle through which this should occur. To those who would argue that there should be a place to discuss such issues as a campus, we would agree; we would also argue that such avenues to engage students on controversial political issues already exist, without the attempt to use the imprimatur of the entire student body to further a largely symbolic stance on a wholly external issue.
Nominations to the Board of Directors—“Yes”
The Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote on this question. The Board of Directors is a critical component of the SSMU that allows for the association to make, and adjust investments, as well as approve the decisions of Council and hold the liquor licence that allows for the existence of Gerts. This requirement became an issue last year when the previous SSMU executive abdicated efforts to reach quorum at last year’s GA, necessitating a special GA later that term .