Arts Representative to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Andrew Figueiredo announced his resignation on Feb. 20 for personal reasons following backlash over the Arts Undergraduate Society’s (AUS) Executive Council’s handling of the vote on POLI 339 ancillary fees. After the AUS Legislative Council voted not to endorse the $1,000 course fee, the Executive Council overturned this vote, claiming that new information about the course had become available. Figueiredo’s resignation comes after his admission during the Feb. 14 Legislative Council meeting that he had pressured executives to vote in favour of the fee.
The AUS apologized for their revote in an email to the McGill community on Feb. 20 and publicly released the Executive Council’s voting process, which was conducted via Slack and Facebook Messenger. In the messages, although Figueiredo said that he would be in favour of an emergency Council session on Feb. 14, he also pointed out that the professors teaching the course demanded a decision by the next day. He expressed skepticism that they would be able to convene an emergency session on such short notice and argued that an emergency vote should be conducted online solely among the executives.
“I, at times, commented in a manner that could come off as snarky or defensive, in Council and in the chat,” Figueiredo wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “I wish I [had] been more thoughtful at certain moments. Additionally, I wish that we had been able to bring the motion back to Council with the additional information we received as an Executive.”
Secretary-General Sophie Zhao and Deputy Secretary-General Nathan Mendel are currently investigating the entire Executive Council and their voting process. They will present their findings at the Feb. 27 Council meeting.
According to AUS Vice-President Communications Jamal Tarrabain, Figueiredo’s admission to pressuring executives sparked discussion of his resignation. Figueiredo himself raised the possibility of resigning at the Feb. 20 Executive Council meeting, asking fellow executives for guidance. While the executives’ responses were varied, gallery members and councillors had previously encouraged Figueiredo to resign, citing a pattern of misbehaviour.
“Figueiredo’s resignation was first suggested by a member of the gallery and was echoed by some councillors at the Feb. 14 Council [meeting],” Political Science Students’ Association (PSSA) Vice-President External Jennifer Chan wrote in a message to the Tribune.
In his statement of resignation, Figueiredo expressed an interest in continuing to work with the AUS to improve transparency, a sentiment he echoed to the Tribune.
“I would like to leave behind a legacy of pushing for governance and bylaw improvements and working hard for my values and my constituents day in and day out,” Figueiredo wrote in an email to the Tribune. “I’m proud of the hard work I put into SSMU and AUS all year long. We’re currently working on making the FIO bylaws clearer and more transparent, among other improvements.”
Despite the AUS’ apology email and Figueiredo’s resignation, concerns of transparency within the AUS persist. Although arts representatives are only constitutionally obligated to represent the prevailing views of the Council during SSMU Council meetings, Chan still finds fault in all three voting against the Legislative Council’s original decision.
“Looking at the newly-released screenshots, I think seeing that all three of the arts representatives voting in the same way is concerning,” Chan said. “As someone who held the position last year, arts representatives often split the vote among the three of us so the votes are proportional [to] our constituents’ interests. The fact that […] all three of them vote[d] the same way, knowing full well the divide that was reflected in the Feb. 14 Council vote suggests a conflict of interest in at least one of their votes.”
Moving forward, the AUS intends to improve its existing processes, specifically by overturning the FIO bylaw 2.3, which allowed executives to conduct an emergency vote.
“The whole AUS is going to be motioning to strike [FIO bylaw 2.3] going forward so that it’s no longer an option,” Tarrabain wrote. “The whole AUS Executive is [also] planning on bringing forward a motion that prohibits any voting on AUS matters via any [online messaging platforms]. Also, the AUS is bringing forward a motion that the Executive cannot, in the future, vote on any decision that was already decided by the AUS Legislative Council.”
Figueiredo hopes to continue working with AUS to improve transparency.