This Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) is holding a special General Assembly (GA)—its second one in less than two months. Much has been made in the past about the accessibility and relevance of GAs, as the events themselves consistently suffer from poor attendence. While the broader debate about procedure and format will no doubt continue, the fact is that this GA does matter, and students really should care.
A main reason for this assembly is that October’s regularly-scheduled GA barely achieved half of the required quorum, which left SSMU unable to appoint a Board of Directors (BoD) for this year, a requirement dictated by its constitution. While SSMU’s daily functions are not affected by it, this failure does compromise the association’s ability to perform some of its broader administrative tasks. Without a BoD, SSMU is unable to update its investment portfolio, and may have trouble renewing its liquor licence for Gerts.
Another pressing issue to be addressed at this GA is SSMU’s budget. At last week’s Council meeting, VP Finance Tyler Hofmeister presented this year’s budget report. The budget raises many questions, most notably about the financial management of frosh. While the event was planned to break even, as per SSMU policy, the omission of taxes in estimated sponsorship revenue and of PayPal fees caused frosh to run a $21,000 deficit. These errors boil down to pure mismanagement, yet there has been no word regarding responsibility nor accountability for the errors. At the very least, SSMU owes its membership an explaination for the needless loss of several thousand dollars.
Furthermore, Council’s subsequent question-and-answer period was held behind closed doors, restricting access for the media and its membership at large to fully understand the implications of this year’s budget. This GA will be an opportunity for students to seek answers as to how their money is being spent.
Finally, students should take an interest in the upcoming Student-Run Café (SRC), which is slated to open in the SSMU building at the beginning of January. Tomorrow’s GA will feature a presentation from SRC Manager Josh Redel about the plans for the café, after which Redel will be taking questions. Although SSMU has been successfully engaging students in the ongoing name campaign for the café, all decision-making to this point has been handled internally by the SRC team. This update will give students a voice in the development of a café purported to reflect student interests.
Many of SSMU’s operations take place behind closed doors, and we don’t learn about them until they have already happened. The GA is an opportunity for all of us to lend our voices to the process, and to demand accountability from those we have chosen to speak on our behalf the rest of the academic year. Whether you are concerned about the spending of your money, want to know more about the development of the SRC, or simply want to make sure Gerts can keep its liquor license, this GA impacts you. Although we are under no illusions that the GA will be fun or engaging, we encourage each and every member of SSMU to attend.