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Fall 2017 SSMU Referendum Endorsements

Editorial/Opinion by

Motion Regarding Sustainability Projects Fund Fee Referendum Question: “Yes”

The Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) is an open fund that students can apply to to finance community projects and environmentally friendly ideas, thereby promoting sustainable initiatives across campus. Some projects sponsored by the SPF currently are The Plate Club, Rez Life, the McGill Farmers’ Market, and Community Engagement Day. This motion does not change the nature of the SPF on campus, rather, it is an increase in fees from $0.53 to $0.55 per credit. This increase incorporates the estimated inflation for the the next five years, until the fee is brought up again in 2023. The SPF was founded in 2009 by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS), and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), in collaboration with the McGill administration. McGill matches every student contribution. In sum, this motion promotes the continuation of sustainable community building, empowers students to take initiative on this front, and facilitates student participation and leadership.

Motion Regarding First Year Council Fee Referendum Question: “Yes”

First Year Council (FYC) is an elected SSMU body that represents and organizes social events for all first-year students, regardless of academic program, residence, or age. It aims to ease students’ transition into university and consolidates relations across all first-year organizations on campus. This fee will support the Council’s activities and events, and was first approved in Winter 2014. FYC has encountered some difficulties in the past: It failed its service review in 2016, for not meeting the requirements of a “Service,” and needing stronger “Executive-level” support. However, now under the portfolio of the Vice-President (VP) Internal, the Council is broadening its scope to cater to more underrepresented groups—such as off-campus students and varsity athletes. According to current Vice-President (VP) Internal Maya Koparkar, it is also planning on conducting sustainability initiatives. While the $0.50 fee is opt-outable, the FYC provides new students an opportunity to get involved in the McGill community and engage with fellow students.

Motion Regarding Peer Support Centre Fee Referendum Question: “Yes”

The Peer Support Centre (PSC) is a SSMU student service that provides one-on-one support for a range of student needs, from general support and listening services to suggesting appropriate resources. This motion would create an opt-outable fee of $0.62 for a designated fund for the PSC, charged to all SSMU members from Fall 2017 until renewal in Winter 2021. As McGill’s pattern of deprioritizing mental health issues bleeds into another school year, the PSC strives to address the waitlists and gaps in the administration’s services. The PSC is run entirely by student volunteers, who commit to hours of rigorous training to prepare themselves to help anyone who walks through their doors. Unlike McGill Counselling Services, the PSC is available on a walk-in basis, or by appointment. Located in room 411 in the University Centre, the PSC offers a reliable, accessible support system for students in need. A sustainable source of funding would provide it needed security.

Motion Regarding Renewal of the SSMU Ambassador Fee: “Yes”

The SSMU Ambassador Fund, established in 2010, subsidizes McGill student clubs and services to attend academic competitions and conferences in Canada and abroad. Through SSMU’s Funding Committee, student clubs and services can consult SSMU to plan and receive funding for cost-effective trips that help further their education. One of the most applied for of SSMU’s funds, the Ambassador Fund has subsidized a diversity of projects, including the Chemical Engineering Student's Society (ChESS) Council’s trip to the Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference in Quebec City, the McGill Muggle Quidditch Club attendance at the Canadian Eastern Regional Quidditch Championship in Mississauga, and the McGill Formula Electric’s presentations at local CEGEPS. Without a renewal of the fund’s opt-outable fee of $2 per student per semester, many clubs and affiliated organizations would be unable to send their members on such trips, and students would lose valuable opportunities to interact with peers and professionals outside of McGill.

Motion Regarding the Proposed Bike Centre Facility: “Yes”

The proposed bike centre facility is a jointly-funded effort between SSMU, McGill University, and the SPF, with $800,000 coming each from the former two and $300,000 from the latter. In a 2016 plebiscite, 83 per cent of undergraduate students indicated strong support for this project. SSMU’s portion of the funding will be withdrawn by McGill from the existing Internally Restricted Endowment Fund (IREF); therefore, it does not come out of SSMU’s operating budget and students are not paying for this facility. The bike centre is an ideal use for this fund, as the IREF has numerous restrictions placed on it, making it difficult to access. For example, funds must be spent on improvements to the University Centre, and it cannot be used for profit generation. A significant portion of the seemingly hefty cost to this project goes towards renovating the parking garage underneath the SSMU building that is currently vacant. This renovation will repurpose the space to house parking for 350 bikes, shower facilities, a new space for The Flat Bike Collective, and additional space for SSMU clubs and operations. This project is much more than just an additional 350 bike parking spots: It represents a symbolic commitment by McGill and SSMU to sustainable and active transportation, it makes it easier for cyclists to bike to school throughout the year, and it will benefit students by upgrading a currently unused space.

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