Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)
What it is:
The Students’ Society of McGill University is the undergraduate student union. SSMU supervises undergraduate clubs and student organizations, operates Gerts Bar & Café, and advocates on behalf of all undergraduates at the McGill Senate. SSMU is composed of six executive members, a Legislative Council comprised of representatives from undergraduate faculty associations, and a Board of Directors that ensures that SSMU abides by its constitution. As SSMU members, undergraduates can attend its biannual General Assembly and vote in SSMU referenda.
Risann Wright was elected SSMU President at the end of the Winter 2022 semester. The rest of the executive team consists of Hassanatou Koulibaly as vice-president (VP) Student Life, Marco Pizarro as VP Finance, Val Mansy as VP External, Kerry Yang as VP University Affairs, and Cat Williams as VP Internal. Other recognizable faces at SSMU include Wallace Sealy, the building manager who often occupies the front desk of the University Centre, and Alexandre Ashkir, the chair and speaker at Board of Directors meetings, General Assemblies, and Legislative Councils.
Since July, SSMU has been entangled in a lawsuit filed by McGill Arts student Jonah Fried over the Palestine Solidarity Policy, which passed with a 71.1 percent majority during the Winter 2022 referendum but never went into effect. After the initial Winter 2022 vote, the McGill administration threatened to terminate its Memorandum of Agreement with SSMU if the student union implemented the Palestine Solidarity Policy. Over the summer, SSMU suspended Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill for “harrassing” SSMU about its decision to drop the Palestine Solidarity Policy.
Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS)
What it is:
The Post-Graduate Students’ Society represents graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Like SSMU, it advocates on behalf of students to the McGill administration and holds several seats in the McGill Senate. PGSS is made up of six executive members, a Legislative Council composed of PGSS executives and representatives from the Post-Graduate Student Associations, and a Board of Directors. In accordance with its mandate to create a financially accessible social environment for graduate students, PGSS plans several events throughout the year. PGSS also runs Thompson House, an affordable restaurant and bar on McTavish exclusively for graduates and associate members.
The new executive team took over their respective roles on June 1 after being elected in March 2022. The current members include Kristi Kouchakji as PGSS Secretary General, Onkeya Dike as External Affairs Officer, Faezeh Pazoki as Financial Affairs Officer, Adel Ahamadihosseini as Internal Affairs Officer, Naga Thovinakere as Member Services Officer, and Hossein Poorhemati as University Affairs Officer.
Compared to SSMU, PGSS has fewer notable events as it is relatively controversy-free. Throughout the academic year, PGSS offers a variety of health and wellness activities for its members, such as yoga and karaoke. In September 2022, the student union will run an orientation program designed to build community between its members. The next PGSS general meeting will take place on Nov. 16, and its first Council meeting, held at Thompson House, will take place on Sept. 4.
What it is:
The McGill Senate is responsible for overseeing all academic matters at McGill. It is composed of 111 members from various constituencies around the university, including students, faculty, staff, administrators, Board of Governors members, and alumni. Students hold several seats in the Senate: Each undergraduate faculty association elects a student, both the SSMU President and VP University Affairs are members, and PGSS holds four seats.
The McGill Senate is where you’ll find some of the key decision makers at the university, including Chancellor John McCall MacBain,outgoing Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, Chair of the Board of Governors Maryse Bertrand, Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Fabrice Labeau, and interim Principal and Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi—Fortier stepped down on Sept. 6.
In April, the Senate approved plans for new academic programs at McGill, such as a Population and Global Health program in the Faculty of Arts and a Certificate in STEM Foundations in the School of Continuing Studies. Senate members also debated whether to keep certain pandemic accommodations in place long-term, such as the flexible Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option, or whether to mandate lecture recordings, but has not yet agreed on whether to keep the policies in place.
Board of Governors (BoG)
What it is:
The BoG is McGill’s highest governing body. It has the final authority over all academic, business, and financial matters at McGill, and is also responsible for the maintenance and management of the university’s property. It is composed of 25 voting members, which includes the Chancellor, the senior administration, a member each from SSMU and PGSS, some faculty members, alumni, Senate representatives, and administrative staff. Two non-voting student observers from the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society and the McGill Association of Continuing Education Students also hold seats on the BoG.
Many members of McGill’s Senate also sit on the Board of Governors: Christopher Manfredi and John McCall MacBain are both members. Maryse Bertrand is Chair of the Board, and her vice-chairs are Claude Généreux and Pierre Matuszewski. Risann Wright, in her capacity as SSMU President, also sits on the BoG, along with Naga Thovinakere, a PGSS executive.
In April, the BoG passed McGill’s 2023 annual budget and approved the appointment of Lisa Shapiro as the next Dean of the Faculty of Arts. Professor Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Equity & Academic Policies) also presented the annual report on McGill’s Policy against Sexual Violence, which summarized the developments and cases received under the Policy in 2021.