News, SSMU

All items in SSMU Fall 2021 referendum pass after initial technical difficulties

McGill students were invited to vote in the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Fall 2021 referendum between Nov. 9 to Nov. 15. Voting was initially slated to start Nov. 8 and end Nov. 12, but after technical problems and content errors on certain questions, the original ballot was cancelled and the voting period re-opened with a new ballot on Nov. 9. Referendum results were published just after 5 p.m. Nov. 15 after the polls closed—all eight questions passed.

The SSMU runs a referendum once per semester; the fall referendum takes place early November and the winter one, early March. This semester’s vote was mostly made up of fee referenda—questions involving the addition, removal, preservation, or increase of student fees for certain clubs. The ballot also included a constitutional amendment and a new policy proposal—The McGill Student Union Democratization Initiative (MSUDI). 

MSUDI aims to make the various student unions at McGill more democratic. It proposes to do so by creating small general assemblies for the different student unions that would facilitate a form of non-hierarchical direct democracy—including eliminating elected representatives from student unions. MSUDI also proposes that delegates be elected from the smaller assemblies to represent various student interests at the larger union meetings. 

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Bryan Buraga, U4 Arts & Science, explained that the passing of the MSUDI will provide funding for the initiative in its pursuit of democratizing student and faculty unions on campus like the Arts Undergraduate Society and the Science Undergraduate Society.

“Our student body has spoken,” Buraga said “Things need to change in our student unions […] We are looking forward to working with our fellow students to build solidarity between one another and put the power of student unions back into [student] hands.”

Campus radio station CKUT and the McGill branch of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) both ran existence referenda. The referenda will determine whether those organizations will be able to continue operating because if the ballot question for their respective fees failed, they would no longer be able to deliver services in the same capacity.

The referendum passed increases to the Nightline Service fee, the Safety Network fee, and approved the creation of a Queer Equity Support fee and the opt-outable MUSTBUS fee—a bus service that would provide more affordable transport to major cities like Boston, Toronto, and Ottawa. The referendum also passed a constitutional amendment to add a seat to the SSMU Legislative Council for an Outaouais campus representative. 

Specific fees often fund more than one student organization. For example, the SSMU Referral Services fee will go toward both Eating Disorder Resources Support Centre (EDRSC) and Queer McGill (QM). 

“QM is beyond pleased with the referendum results, both the increase of the Referral Services fee and the creation of the Queer Equity Support fee,” wrote Brooklyn Frizzle, U3 Medicine and Health Sciences and administrative coordinator of Queer McGill. “These new and increased fees will truly go a long way in supporting an empowered Queer community at McGill.”

For organizations like CKUT on the other hand, a “no” vote would have resulted in CKUT significantly reducing their operations—and likely losing their frequency modulation license (FM).

“Our FM license is dependent on us being a campus community radio station,” said Tia Kattler, U3 Arts and engagement coordinator at CKUT in an interview with the Tribune before referendum results were published. “[Student fees] provide such a significant portion of our spending, we would likely have to cut down on staff as well, and it could very well mean the end of CKUT as it’s known.”

Emma Gurney, U2 Management and QPIRG board member, also worried that losing their funding would take away services the group provides to the McGill community. She was relieved after having read the referendum results. 

“We are responsible and accountable to a larger community,” Gurney said. “I am happy that QPIRG gets to continue existing.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Queer McGill was running an existence referendum. In fact, they were not. The Referral Services fee change would potentially impact funding, not Queer McGill’s existence. The Tribune regrets this error.

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