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Winter 2015 General Assembly Endorsements

a/Editorial/Opinion by

Motion Regarding Unpaid Internships – Yes with reservations

The Tribune supports the sentiment put forward in this motion that advocates for the movement away from unpaid internships, which contribute to social inequalities and to the overall lowering of wages for entry positions and decreasing number of paid positions in the job market. However, many internship possibilities available to McGill students, while unpaid, constitute positive opportunities for students to gain experience and earn credit towards their degrees. 

SSMU must follow through with the motion’s commitment to draft a policy to clarify which unpaid internships would be considered illegal for the purposes of this motion. However, the development of this policy could be difficult in itself, because while SSMU would seek to denounce internships that violate employment laws within the province, the practicality of assessing the legality of the vast array internships—both international and local, which comply to different regulations—offered or promoted by McGill is dubious. In addition, several student groups actively promote internships that may or may not comply with the employment laws. The resolution that their ”new and continued recognition” as SSMU clubs depends on their accordance with these laws would require communicating and coordinating with these clubs prior to implementing this policy.

The resolution to cease crediting internships that are illegal under the applicable employment laws also poses a problem for students seeking to gain returns on their unpaid work. The provision of credit for unpaid internships is a good way to award students with an alternative form of compensation for their work, and should remain in place for students who wish to engage in these internships. Moreover, the elimination or reduction of tuition fees for internship credits disregards the costs associated with faculty supervision of credited internship courses. It is unclear whether the motion proposes to have the administrative fees charged by McGill or SSMU. In either case, covering the costs associated with supervising internships is still necessary.

Motion Regarding the SSMU’s Policy on Accessible Education – No

Although we agree with the intent behind this motion to seek accessible education, it also opposes "any mechanism to raise tuition," which the university has already anticipated for 2015-2016. It recognizes that accessible education is important and that for SSMU to have a tangible impact when lobbying the Quebec government it must ally with other student movements; however, the actions mandated, other than the clause calling on SSMU to “mobilize its members against the provincial austerity measures,” are unrealistic in practice given McGill’s current financial situation, and do not address the need for advocating for more financial aid given the expected increases in tuition set by both McGill and the Quebec government.

This editorial board has previously argued for an upward increase in French students’ tuition as well as transparency, student consultation, and dedication to financial aid in the current deregulation process that the administration is committed to. We deemed these increases necessary in order to ensure that student services that were previously cut are reinstated, the quality of education offered to students is maintained or increased, and that the value of a McGill degree, which has been falling in recent years, is increased.

Within the potential policy to be adapted, this motion calls for the “eventual replacement of any and all ancillary and tuition fees with alternative methods of funding post-secondary education,” without referencing details on what these alternative methods are. Furthermore, although lobbying the government against austerity measures may be effective, particularly with increased student involvement, reducing tuition further without addressing the lack of resources that the university has to provide students with a high-quality educational experience does not offset the cuts from the provincial government.

Motion Regarding Divestment from Companies Profiting from the Illegal Occupation of the Palestinian Territories – No

Although the constitution does call upon SSMU to demonstrate leadership “in matters of human rights [and] social justice,” the motion as it currently stands brought forward presents issues in clarity and representation, particularly in its resolved clauses, which would ultimately dictate the responsibilities of the Council, VP External, and President.

This motion is concerning because it demands that “the SSMU Legislative Council charge all individuals or groups named herein to fulfill these mandates to the best of their ability for a period of [five] years.” As evidenced by the divided voices on campus regarding this issue, it would be preemptive to enact a motion that mandates the President and VP External, both of whom are supposed to represent all undergraduate students, to be bound to this stance for the next five years without giving each year’s constituents the chance to vote on the issue. This risks misrepresenting the majority stance taken by the students for each of the next five years.

The motion also mandates that the Executive Committee—which includes the president and each of the vice-president positions—”educate members of the society about its positions on divestment.” This clause appears to stray from the constitution’s definition of SSMU’s role as a representative body for students to the university; instead it would be broadcasting a stance back to its constituents. The president would also be “mandated to support any recommendations from the Committee to Advise on Social Responsibility (CAMSR) to the Board of Governors” regarding “divestments from the companies profiting from the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.” The CAMSR is currently composed of seven members, of which the President is the only student representative. The president’s decisions would thus be bound by CAMSR’s recommendations rather than by the student voice, leaving little room for student consultation. Regardless of whether or not this motion passes with a majority vote, the role of the SSMU executives, as outlined by their contracts, is to be representative of students to the university, and requiring them to relay a position to students would go against their mandate to represent students. 

Motion to Stand in Solidarity with Students and Protesters Demanding Democratic Government Worldwide, in particular, Hong Kong – No

This motion, which was originally brought up during the Fall 2014 General Assembly but was tabled due to a need for more research and consultation, calls on SSMU to stand in solidarity with, issue a statement condemning repressive actions by police actors, and educate McGill students regarding the situation in Hong Kong. Although this editorial board agrees in spirit with the sentiments of the actions that this motion wishes to enact, we are not in support of the broad scope of this motion to include the adoption of a stance toward all jurisdictions included in Appendix A.

The decision to expand this motion to include 79 other jurisdictions dilutes the strength the stance in solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong. Simply providing a blanket statement in solidarity of these separate movements ignores the intricacies of each individual situation and diverts attention away from the original goal of this motion. Furthermore, asking the student body to vote on a motion with a scope that attempts to encompass so many countries would be an ineffective way of developing a nuanced stance. As such, this motion would have been better served had it stayed closer to the scope of what was initially introduced in the Fall. 

Moreover, the second clause mandates that the SSMU issue its newly-adopted solidarity “through an appropriate mechanism,” without properly identifying what this mechanism is, which was also the way the motion was presented at the Fall GA. This motion, as presented now, still lacks the clarity it needed last semester.

  • Ozymandius

    A shame the Tribune editorial board believes that divesting from companies profiting from the illegal settlements in Palestinian territories is an issue that needs to be voted and agreed upon by each yearly university constituents. These companies are clearly using stolen land, illegally, and this is recognized by the international community and human rights’ groups around the world… I think this would be a perfect example of concrete action on the part of SSMU to show leadership in matters of human rights and social justice. This isn’t against Israel, this is against the illegal settlement policy.

    • Queer Mizrahi Jew

      You do realize this isn’t about only settlements, yeah? Did you read the motion?

      • Queer Mizrahi Jew

        This is a piece of legislation. We SHOULD be looking at it with a scrutinizing lens. In the House of Commons, each bill undergoes three separate readings.

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