Legislative Council approves question on SSMU Membership Fee increase

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its biweekly Legislative Council meeting on Feb. 11, where councillors approved a motion to implement a policy for McGill to transition out of the research and use of harmful military technologies, and a referendum question requesting an increase of $1.20 to the SSMU Membership Fee. 

Vice-President (VP) External Affairs Ayo Ogunremi moved the policy regarding harmful military research at McGill. The proposal advocates for increased transparency with respect to such research on campus, with an end goal of transitioning away from supporting the development of military technologies. Ogunremi specified that the aim of the motion was to explicitly define and distinguish between terms like “military research” and “technologies” to clarify which forms of academic work would fall under the scope of the motion.

“It’s recognized that research that is not intended to be used for harmful purposes […] can nonetheless lead to […] harmful military technology,” Ogunremi said. “The policy is specifically trying to target harmful military research [….] By virtue of that specificity, it enables actionable items [against harmful military technology].”

After Council passed Ogunremi’s motion, it approved a motion regarding their stance on institutions of public safety. As a result, SSMU can now publicly recognize the systemic oppression embedded within the criminal justice system and its acting bodies, such as police forces, and can advocate for institutional overhauls such as defunding and the replacement of punitive justice with restorative and transformative approaches.

Next, VP University Affairs Brooklyn Frizzle proposed a motion concerning a referendum question to increase SSMU’s Membership Fee by $1.20—a non–opt-outable fee that all members of SSMU must pay. If passed, the funds from the increase will go towards creating hourly wages for SSMU Councillors and student Senators. Frizzle spoke about the decision to specifically increase the fee—rather than seek faculty funding for its representatives or allocate funds from a separate new fee—in order to create student wages. 

“I’ve been talking about this particular project […] for as long as I’ve been on Council,” Frizzle said. “After due consultations with the finance and accounting departments and the [SSMU] general manager, we came to the conclusion that the best solution would be to increase the society’s membership fee.”

Councillors were divided on the topic of the fee’s increase. Some, such as Management Representative Noah Gundermann, argued that the motion would erroneously incentivize students to run for representative positions solely for their monetary imbursements, while others, including Music Senator Addy Parsons, asserted that the positions’ current unpaid standings constitute labour theft. 

Engineering Representative Jake Reed added that paid employment was a matter of accessibility. 

“Paying elected members of SSMU is actually something that increases the number of people that are able to run,” Reed said. “Not only are there members who are elected officials who have to face anxiety because they’re unpaid for their work, but there are also certainly other members of SSMU who would happily run for a position were it financially feasible for them.”

Soundbite:

“I can speak directly to the fact that […] every time we have to campaign for our fee renewals [for services], it takes up a significant portion of our resources and energy. It is entirely standard for fees to be renewed every five years [….] Should it have to be renewed within a year, then that would cause undue effort placed upon Drive Safe, MSERT, SACOMSS, and Walk Safe [….] Asking them to have to campaign for their continued existence two years in a row seriously takes away from the ability for them to actually provide these services.”

—Mo Rajji Courtney, SSMU mental health advocacy coordinator, on the need to keep the renewal of Safety Service Fees in 2026, instead of the proposed 2022. 

Moment of the meeting:

Senators Addy Parsons and Alex Karasick, and Arts Councillor Chip Smith congratulated SSMU President Jemark Earle on his creation of the acronym, “SSAMMOSAthe name for the committee overseeing the implementation of Earle’s five-year Master Plan.

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