SSMU and PGSS Winter referendum endorsements

a/Editorial/Opinion by

 

SSMU Winter referendum endorsements

Click here for our previous reporting on the questions. 

Disaffiliation from TaCEQ:Yes
This motion seeks to disaffiliate the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) from the  Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ), a group intended to advocate for student interests at the provincial level. The issue of SSMU’s affiliation with the organization has been re-examined this year, largely in the wake of reporting earlier this year in this newspaper. Several years with few to no major policy or advocacy achievements, in addition to the substantial $17,000 fee SSMU paid TaCEQ this year, already made the organization a dubious proposition.  Following the exit of the graduate student union at the University of Sherbrooke—the Regroupement des étudiants de maîtrise, diplôme et doctorat (REMDUS) from TaCEQ, one of the more cooperative associations in TaCEQ towards SSMU, the case for exiting the organization has become even stronger. The Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote on this question.

Legal Information Clinic at McGill Existence Referendum Question Legal Information Clinic at McGill Fee Increase: Yes to both questions

Both of these motions pertain to the Legal Information Clinic at McGill (LICM), a service which provides information on McGill codes of conduct, Quebec and federal law to students at McGill and members of the general public, free of charge. The service also provides representation to students going through McGill disciplinary proceedings. The first of these two questions is simply an existence question, meaning the clinic would cease to receive undergraduate funding if it does not pass. As the clinic is a valuable service to students on campus, the Tribune endorses a “yes” to this question.

The second question seeks to increase the non-opt-outable fee for the LICM from $3.25 to $4.50. The last increase in the LICM’s fee was to the current $3.25 in the Winter 2001 term—more than a decade ago, and this amount is now worth $4.15 in current dollars, when adjusted for inflation. As the increase is really only $0.35 after adjusting for inflation, and the LICM has recently faced an increase in rent for their office space—with another expected within the next two years—the Tribune endorses a “Yes” to this question.

Implementation of the University Centre Building Fee: Yes, with reservations

This motion seeks to simultaneously create a new fee of $6.08 per semester to go towards paying the SSMU’s increased rent for the use of the University Centre (SSMU) building, as well as index this new fee to a 5.6 per cent annual increase for the term of the fee, which is from Fall 2014 to Fall 2021. This request stems directly from the successful renegotiation of SSMU’s lease from McGill for use of the SSMU   building. As SSMU will now be contributing to the utility costs of the building—which were previously gratis—as well as agreeing to an increase in rent from $126,900 to $165,000 over the course of the new agreement (covering the previous three years and lasting until May 2021) the fee is necessary to avoid SSMU running a deficit each year.

While the Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote, we express reservations as to the lack of concrete or even semi-tangible context as to how SSMU will re-allocate funds in the event of a “No” vote. As the motion is currently constructed, SSMU is asking for extra funding directly from students with the implication of catastrophic financial ruin in the event of a “No” vote, but no context as to what sorts of choices the SSMU would have to make in such a funding environment, which presents an incomplete picture of information to the voter.

SSMU First-Year Council Fee: No

This question intends to create an opt-outable $0.50 fee to the SSMU First-Year Council (FYC), a group which provides services to first-year students, such as representation on SSMU Council. The “First Year Fund” created from this fee would be used to further the FYC’s mission. As the FYC has an unclear mandate as to providing services for students who live outside of residence, already has a budget, and this fee is being charged all students—including upper year students, the Tribune endorses a “No” vote on this question.

Athletics and Recreation Facilities: Yes

This question seeks to renew the existing, non-opt-outable $15 athletics and recreation facilities fee, which goes to improving and renovating athletics facilities on campus. As the fee is applied in a largely transparent manner and has been utilized to bring significant improvements to the Athletic complex—with further changes on the way—the Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote on this question.

Motion Regarding Renewal of the SSMU Access Bursary Fund: Yes

This question seeks to renew the existing, opt-out-able fee of $8.50 per semester to the SSMU Access Bursary Fund, which is matched dollar-for-dollar by McGill Alumni donors and is accessible to all McGill students on the basis of need. Since the Fund exists as a source of financial support for students in need and has served a positive purpose on our campus in its existence, the Tribune supports a “Yes” vote on this question.

Renewal of the SSMU Ambassador Fund: Yes

This question seeks to renew the existing, opt-out-able fee of $2.00 to the SSMU Ambassador Fund, which supports travel by McGill groups to extracurricular and academic competitions. As this fund helps support often cash-strapped clubs in providing a fulfilling experience to their members, and because increasing McGill’s exposure  in such venues benefits students, the Tribune supports a “Yes” vote on this question.

Renewal of the SSMU Campus Life Fund: Yes

This question seeks to renew the existing, opt-out-able fee of $2.00 to the SSMU Campus Life Fund, which can be applied to by any group on campus that can lay claim to be improving campus life, including those that are not SSMU-managed clubs. As this fund provides a widely-accessible and judiciously-distributed source of funding to many positive on-campus actors, the Tribune supports  a “Yes” vote on this question.

Renewal of the SSMU Library Improvement Fund: Yes

This motion seeks to renew the existing, opt-out-able fee of $8.50 per semester to the SSMU Library Improvement Fund, which goes towards the management of the university libraries in cooperation with the university. In the past, these funds were, in part, used to bring 24-hour service to the libraries. As this fund supports an invaluable campus resource, and stands as a bulwark against the possibility of further budget cuts and decline in service, the Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote on this question.

Approval for Organic Campus Fee Creation Question for Winter 2014 Referendum: Yes 

This motion seeks to create an opt-outable fee of $0.22 per semester to fund the activities of the Organic Campus service. This fee is largely in response to labour regulations which require Organic Campus to remunerate its volunteers for their work—according to the group, without this fee they would have to raise prices, making their food less accessible to the community. The Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote on this question.

Full disclosure: Sports Editor Remi Lu is a volunteer at Organic Campus. He was not involved in the discussion that resulted in this endorsement. 

PGSS Winter referendum endorsements

Click here for our previous reporting on the questions. 

 uApply fee: Yes

The uApply system was recently revamped by McGill, resulting in changes that surpassed previous budget projections. The referendum question aims to increase the uApply application service fee from its current number of $102.60 to $120.00 over the course of five years, beginning this June. uApply is a key service for graduate students, and the recent improvements have allowed graduate students to save money when applying to multiple programs. The increase in service cost will help balance out McGill’s budget after overspending on the changes to the system. The Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote.

Needs-Based Bursary Fee: Yes

The Needs-Based Bursary Fee was originally increased to a value of $4.01 with the intent to create an endowment fund for students who demonstrated financial need. This year, PGSS reached its target goal of $150,000—a number that McGill stated it would match. Consequently, the referendum question proposes a decrease from the current annual fee of $4.01 to $1.01. The reduced fee will allow the fund to continue to grow annually, while easing the financial burden on students. The Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote.

Fund for Rutherford Park: No

The referendum issue in question proposes a non-opt-out-able fee of $3 per semester for PGSS members, which would go towards updating Rutherford Park (Reservoir Field). The fund would extend to the Winter 2019 semester, and would be overseen by McGill Athletics. Although the renovations would introduce a bevy of services for PGSS members—including an artificial turf, a full sized soccer pitch, and lighting in the evening—the infrequent usage of Athletics’ services by the overall PGSS student body deems this an unnecessary fee. Furthermore, PGSS members already pay a full Athletics fee of $116.42 per semester. As such, the Tribune endorses a “No” vote.

Midnight Kitchen Fee: No

Midnight Kitchen (MK) is an organization that provides lunches to undergraduate and graduate students. At the moment, it is financed by donation and by members of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). This question proposes an opt-outable $0.50 per semester fee to support the MK. However, the PGSS already pays over $4,000 annually to SSMU for access to its services, and since MK is a service of SSMU, PGSS members would not gain any representation within MK by paying this fee. While graduate student support for MK could be valuable to the organization, it is unclear what PGSS members stand to gain by passing this fee. The Tribune endorses a “No” vote, and recommends that MK design a proposal for how it would use this additional funding in a way that specifically benefit graduate students.

Increase in fee for PGSS Grants Program: Yes

The PGSS Grants Program enables students to apply for grants to host either social or academic events. Last year, the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) withdrew its pledge due to financial issues, yet the Program still received its greatest number of applications this year than ever before. As such, the Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote to increasing the PGSS Grants Program fee from $1.26 per semester to $2.07 to help supplement the financial support that GPS was previously providing.

PGSS Health and Dental Plan: Yes

The PGSS Health and Dental plan is a well-used service by the PGSS, which currently has over 7,000 members. The Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote to renewing the current PGSS Health and Dental plan fee for three years. This proposed opt-outable fee would be adjusted annually at a rate that would not exceed $252.04 for health insurance and $176.74 for dental insurance.

Increase to the PGSS Membership Fee:Yes 

This proposed question will increase the PGSS regular membership fee by $1.51 to total $33.33 per semester starting in Fall 2014. The additional fee is in anticipation of an increase in rent for Thomson House and the Coach House given ongoing negotiations with McGill. It has been calculated based on the expected worst-case scenario for the rent increase, and any surplus will support new PGSS initiatives. The Tribune endorses a “Yes” vote.

Errata: a previous version of this article disclosed that the the Tribune was awarded a grant of $777 through the Campus Life Fund towards the purchase of a new office printer. In fact, the grant was through the Space Fund, not the Campus Life Fund. The Tribune regrets the error.