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Opposition to the New Vic Project prompts debate at SSMU Legislative Council meeting

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its third Legislative Council meeting of the Fall on Oct. 14. The meeting’s agenda included a discussion about SSMU’s opposition to McGill’s New Vic Project, a presentation from the Office of Sustainability, and councillor nominations to the SSMU Board of Directors.

In response to concerns over the SSMU’s stance against the New Vic Project, vice-president (VP) External Sacha Delouvrier cited various SSMU mandates—including its dedication to affordable student housing—as part of the rationale behind the group’s opposition to the project. 

“SSMU has committed itself through legislation to support the Royal Vic for the Public campaign, which is incompatible with the privatization inherent in McGill’s project,” Delouvrier said. “SSMU’s Affordable Student Housing Committee has further committed itself […] to support the Milton Park’s housing and social efforts as a community partner.”

During the ensuing debate, councillors and other members of the gallery raised concerns about the lack of consultation between SSMU and the heads of the initiative. Members also questioned SSMU’s opposition to the project, pointing out that the blueprints for New Vic promise space for on-site sustainability research and state they  have dedication to “healing the planet.”

Citing his experience as a former student at Macdonald Campus, where sustainability research was shut down due to a lack of facility space, Councillor Tiniacos felt it was a good thing that McGill’s proposal for the Royal Vic would give more space for sustainability projects. 

“Does the executive understand that opposing this project is opposing sustainable research [itself] and the mandate of the university’s […] basis of education and research?” Tiniacos asked.  

Delouvrier maintained that the Royal Vic site could be used in a more beneficial way, suggesting that an affordable student housing project as a better alternative. 

The Council also passed a motion to create the Queer Improvement and Partnership Solidarity (QUIPS) Fund and Fee. VP University Affairs Claire Downie and Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Grey Cooper introduced the motion, stating that the proposed fund would provide financial support for queer students with urgent needs and would also help finance grassroots research that would otherwise not be supported due to institutionalized homophobia. 

Medicine Representative Benson Wan questioned why the fee would be exempt from SSMU’s opt-out program. Cooper responded that non-opt-outable fees for equity programs are standard for SSMU, citing the Indigenous Equity Fund

“It is non-opt-outable, because it is specifically a fee to support minority students in the context of McGill,” Cooper said. “McGill’s general community, and the committee as a whole, believes that should be the precedent, that all SSMU members help support [minority students].” 

The council also unanimously approved a motion proposed by VP Internal Sarah Paulin to revise aspects of the Francophone Affairs Committee to increase its productivity and broaden its scope. 

Moment of the Meeting

VP Finance Eric Sader announced a surplus of $300,000 from the previous projection of the SSMU budget for 2021-2022. According to Sader, the previous VP Finance took a more “conservative” approach to the budget given that last year was online. Sader said he was consulting with department heads, executives, and other staff on where the money should be allocated, but said it would most go toward hiring additional SSMU staff in “overworked portfolios.”

Soundbite

“We take pride in presenting the annual report to all the student associations as a measure of transparency and accountability. Since the students contribute to half of the fund, we feel it is important to showcase what our office has been able to do by distributing those funds in the community and in the impacts that the those projects yielded.”

—Executive Director of Sustainability Francois Miller on the Office of Sustainability’s 2021 Fiscal Year report

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