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Letter to the Editor: The problem with SSMU’s GSVP funding gap

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Content warning: sexual violence

On Oct. 6, The McGill Tribune’s editorial board published an editorial titled “The Anti-Violence Fee Levy requires immediate support.” In the article, the Editorial Board advocated for students to support the Anti-Violence Fee Levy that went before the student body for referendum Nov. 9-12. I wish that the Editorial Board had published an editorial titled “The Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy requires immediate support.”

I write this Letter to the Editor hesitantly, only to speak out against charges that I brought a case to the Judicial Board to further my own political agenda, or to virtue-signal without taking substantive action. This case has personal significance and implications for me, as well as for the undergraduate student body that the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) seeks to protect.

Early in my first year at McGill, I became a survivor of sexual violence. The trauma I experienced and continue to experience as a result still haunts me to this day. This is why, when the GSVP came to Legislative Council, I took an immediate interest in it. To me, the passage of this policy would help protect me from my abuser and aid me in representing my constituents without having to retraumatize myself or jeopardize my mental health.

However, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executive has maintained that the only way to fund the $20,000 GSVP is through a fee levy due to a current budgetary deficit. As a result, the implementation of the procedural measures regarding sexual violence disclosures of the GSVP has been delayed to next semester due to the apparent ‘lack of funds’ immediately available for it, despite the fact that the executive was financially able to authorize unexpected reimbursements for the Children of the Corn event. I have tried and failed, on more than one occasion, to convince the Legislative Council to mandate the Vice-President (VP) Finance to find funding for the GSVP immediately, without resorting to the use of a fee levy. At the time, I was not prepared to share my personal experience as a survivor of sexual violence.

I argued that if the SSMU made the GSVP a priority, they would find the necessary permanent funding for it. In finding the funding, the adjudicative measures of the GSVP could have been implemented in October immediately after the passing of the policy instead of waiting until next semester. Four months is four months too long for survivors to have to wait in order to feel safe on campus.

Although the Finance Committee has been tasked with restructuring SSMU’s fee levies, providing a permanent source of funding for the GSVP in the SSMU’s base operating budget, there is currently an urgent lack of funding for the GSVP. I feel that the SSMU executive is using the Anti-Violence Fee Levy to put off the immediate and appropriate funding of the GSVP. At the SSMU’s Children of the Corn Halloween event, the SSMU executive resolved to reimburse students’ taxi and Uber rides home after their planned transportation fell through, and rightfully so. This ensured students’ safety at the cost of adding around $10,000 to our current deficit.

In response to concerns about deficits, VP Internal Matthew McLaughlin has stated that SSMU can carry deficits without substantial impact on its operations. This has led me to ask myself why the SSMU executive has chosen to prioritize the safety of one group of its constituents over another, when it has the means to ensure the safety of both. In the absence of an executive or legislative branch that is willing to protect its constituents, the judiciary has always been an option to turn to. That is why I am appealing to the Judicial Board to right this wrong and adjudicate the protection that I and all SSMU members need and deserve.

To this day, I still have to opt myself out of participating in clubs I am interested in to avoid contact with my abuser. To this day, I still have to ask my friends to check Facebook and see if my abuser will be attending a SSMU event. To this day, I still have to retraumatize myself every time I see my abuser at a SSMU function. To me, this represents a failure on the part of the SSMU to protect its members through its duly-passed and currently active Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy.

While I wish that I did not have to share my story as a survivor of sexual violence under these circumstances, I want students to understand that the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy is not dependent on a fee levy to work; it is dependent on a SSMU executive that is willing to fund and enact it immediately.

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