McGill, News, SSMU

SSMU employees’ media relations policy, president’s absence dominate Legislative Council meeting

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council gathered for their second last meeting of the semester on Nov. 11. At the outset of the meeting, SSMU vice-president (VP) Internal Affairs Sarah Paulin issued an official apology for emails she sent to The McGill Daily. In the emails, she asked the paper to stop investigating SSMU president Darshan Daryanani’s continued absence and to refrain from contacting SSMU employees. 

Paulin’s prepared statement, delivered on behalf of the executives, apologized for the emails and reiterated the SSMU policy governing employees’ media interactions.

“I would like to apologize if any communications that I have made have given the impression that the SSMU is not a transparent organization,” Paulin said. “My intentions were only to ensure any inquiries were directed to the correct parties. Obviously, the SSMU Executive Committee believes that transparency is of the utmost importance when representing the student body. That being said, the SSMU is a student union, but also an employer [….] As such, the SSMU has processes in place to address the media where employees direct any public questions or requests to the Executive Committee.” 

During the period that immediately followed, councillors responded to questions submitted ahead of time and questions from gallery members present. Many questions revolved around SSMU’s policies for casual staff and their implications for campus media.  

SSMU VP External Sacha Delouvrier responded to a question about whether the stipulation in the Casual Staff Employee Manual that reads that “Employees are not permitted to address the media and must direct any public question or requests to the General Manager and the President” constitutes a blanket ban on all interactions between SSMU employees and press. Delouvrier stated these media provisions exist because the employee’s main concern is fulfilling their job mandate, not being a media spokesperson.  

“Unlike us, [SSMU employees] are not here representing constituents,” Delouvrier said. “As such, it is appropriate that they stay within the scope of their mandate, which is why [the policy] is set as it is right now from a human resources perspective. It’s just safer for the society, for the staff in question, as well as for everyone involved.”

When questions about Daryanani’s absence came up, Paulin reiterated that information about the matter was confidential. During the question period, a member of the gallery accused the SSMU executive team of covering up unspecified internal problems and called for Daryanani’s resignation. 

Other members of the gallery also expressed concerns about the implications of the president’s leave—which has been ongoing since at least September 23—and asked about the possibility of an impeachment or resignation. Management Representative Nathaniel Saad questioned where the rest of the president’s salary—which totals around $32,000 annually—would go in the event of a resignation. Delouvrier responded in lieu of the absent VP Finance.

“If no one is appointed to replace this executive […] there [is] the option to give a bonus to the people who were appointed to take on parts of the portfolio,” Delouvrier said 

VP Downie also addressed the cancellation of the SSMU referendum earlier in the week, stating it was due to an error with a ballot question. Downie explained that the problem had been corrected and expressed hope that students would vote again.

Moment of the meeting:

Arts and Science Representative Kevin Franceshini brought up the increase in sangria prices at Gerts, which jumped from $12 to $17. VP Downie cited the effects of the pandemic on the supply chain as part of the reason for the increase. 

“The global supply chain and realities of it have changed a lot,” Downie said. “There are persistent shortages that we can’t really predict. It’s also been three years since the bar’s been open before and there is a persistent rate of inflation that is to be expected.”

Soundbite:

“We must remember the president was elected with a majority [.…] It’s simply our role to ensure that the democratic process was respected until further decisions, further measures are taken [….] The fact that the president has been on leave […] since that McGill Daily article came out is a coincidence of dates.”

 -VP External Delouvrier on the president’s role and the timing of his leave.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that councillors discussed the increase in sangria prices at Gerts. In fact, it was only Arts and Science Representative Kevin Franceshini. The Tribune regrets this error. 

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