The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its fifth and final Legislative Council meeting of the Fall semester on Dec. 1. Members passed a motion for SSMU to take a position against COP-15, a motion to approve a renewed version of the expired Free Menstrual Hygiene Products Policy, and a motion to donate $4,000 of winter clothing to Resilience Montreal. Throughout the meeting, members also raised concerns about the Student Support progress report.
Ajamu Attard, CEO of Student Support, a for-profit startup which provides students access to Calm, Grammarly, and Udemy through an opt-outable fee, reported that 36 per cent of the McGill student body have not opted out. The Student Support fee is currently in a testing period of one year before it will be up for renewal in Winter 2023 for a five-year term. Attard told the Council that most of the funds the company receives from student fees are used to provide the three services, with a small portion being allocated towards marketing.
SSMU vice-president (VP) External Val Masny questioned whether the collected fees, which amounted to approximately $200,000 this semester according to Attard, was the best use of students’ money, suggesting it should alternatively be used to pay for psychologists. Attard argued that Calm offers a “different value” for students.
“I know for some students they start their journey with Calm, maybe they’re not comfortable going on the phone, or they just need to get something that they can instantly use to deal with whatever they’re going through,” Attard said.
Near the end of the meeting, Masny presented a motion for SSMU to take a position against COP-15, the 15th World Conference on Biodiversity which will be held in Montreal from Dec. 7 to 19. The motion obliges SSMU to encourage its members to mobilize against the summit and provide financial and non-financial support, such as a teach-in, for those who do so. It argues that the summit’s objectives fail to challenge the role of states’ and corporations’ extractivism in the global decline in biodiversity and “the continued privatization of natural resources.”
During the debate period, Councillor Benson Wan, Councillor Emily Thom, and Councillor Sedami-Habib Djossou expressed concern about one of the clauses in the motion that would require to SSMU to support the “Coalition anticapitaliste et écologiste contre la Cop 15” as an unaffiliated political campaign. Unlike affiliated political campaigns, unaffiliated campaigns have not received a mandate from either the Legislative Council, a Referendum, or a General Assembly.
“I have a little bit of hesitancy with supporting this coalition outright in all their numbers without knowing exactly what they’re currently doing and what they will do, especially if they are a public coalition,” Wan said.
“Perhaps the values are good, but […] [fucklacop15.org is] quite a provocative name for an advocacy group,” Thom added.
Wan motioned to remove this clause, and the amended motion passed with 12 councillors in favour.
Moment of the Meeting:
In response to councillors’ concerns about affiliating SSMU with the Coalition against COP-15, VP External Val Masny asserted that the coalition is a central base of organizing against COP-15, noting that various student associations in and outside Montreal have offered support. They explained that it would be difficult for SSMU to fully adopt a position against COP-15 if the union was unable to support students involved in the coalition.
“[Education students at UQAM are] currently facing repression by the administration. The administration once marked their classes as withdrawals to discourage further strikes. This is unprecedented and very dangerous to student democracy. As such, we’re in the midst of writing a letter of support to students mobilizing against this repression.”
— VP Student Life Hassanatou Koulibaly speaking on behalf of Masny about supporting education students at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) who went on strike for five weeks beginning in mid-October