The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)—who could have expected that such an innocuous-sounding group could elicit such a divisive reaction? And yet, we the student body, are embroiled in yet another series of scandals involving SSMU.
SSMU is a body that supplies many services to students that are rarely noticed—it lobbies for an easier exam deferral system, advocates for sexual assault resources, provides on-call medical services nightly in residences, as well as numerous other services that the student body often takes for granted. The week leading up to the winter break, however, have called into question the judgement and credibility of the society’s leadership. That’s why, before reading week, I tendered my resignation from my position on the SSMU Board of Directors.
I personally felt disdain for SSMU in my first year at McGill. I saw it as an annoying body that only led to undue tension and stress on campus, exemplified by Farnan-gate, the mis-election of Tariq Khan, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) General Assembly motions that caused emotional strife on both sides of the debate. In light of all of this anger and frustration that I and my friends felt toward SSMU, I decided that whining wasn’t going to help anyone. Instead, I involved myself in SSMU to try to find ways to get past the surface scandals and focus on the important services and support networks that lay beneath.
I was elected to the position of Science Representative to SSMU in 2015-2016, and Science Senator this year. I was also nominated to a seat on the Board of Directors of SSMU, which I have been a member of since Fall 2015. During these past two years, I have sat through hours upon hours of council, senate, senate caucus, committee, and board meetings, and have gained an understanding of governance documents, compromise, respectful discourse, and the beloved and bemoaned Robert’s Rules that dictate how meetings should be run. There have been ups and downs, but overall, it has felt like the governance bodies were working towards the betterment of the student society. Unfortunately, as of recently, that feeling has changed drastically for myself and other students.
The reputation and image of the Board of Directors and Legislative Council have been dragged through the mud by students and media as a result of the actions of Directors Igor Sadikov and David Aird. The Board was not notified of the concerns over David Aird’s conduct until the Community Disclosure Network (CDN) released its findings to the public. The decision of SSMU executives to proceed with “check-in meetings” as the most appropriate way to address Aird’s behaviour is an insult to the standards that SSMU aims to maintain and promote on campus, and to the experiences of those who spoke out against Aird.
Director Sadikov’s tweet, which incited violence against a political identity espoused by a number of people on campus, was unacceptable and required more to remedy the situation than SSMU’s promises to have one-on-one discussions with those affected by his comments. The Board decided not to impeach him, but he has since resigned from his position as a director.
The hypocrisy exhibited by these two members who, as directors of SSMU, have a mandate to promote safety for all its members, is shocking. Despite the efforts by myself, some other executives, and members of the Board of Directors to repair the reputation and accessibility of SSMU, a few of the members on the board and the executive committee focused unduly on the persecutions of political identity and alleged strong-arming by McGill administration, delegitimizing the executive committee’s call for Sadikov’s resignation and undermining the discussion on appropriate conduct of students in leadership positions. The selfishness and misconduct demonstrated by Directors Aird and Sadikov, along with those that would further their personal and political agendas over the interests of the society, has led me to lose faith in the Board of Directors as a whole. I see no other course of action than to resign from my directorship.
It is a shame that the actions of a few have tarnished the image of other members of both the board and executive committee who have worked incredibly hard to improve the society. I wish them the best and have faith they will do their best for the SSMU; sadly, I can no longer justify putting my time and effort into something which now seems to have such little internal respect for its integrity and well-being.