SSMU Council addresses mental health initiative and women-only gym hours

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Council met last Thursday to discuss women-only gym hours, mental health initiatives, and the SSMU budget.

Discussion regarding women-only hours at the gym

Law Councillor Pierre Fullerton began by attempting to address misinformation about the proposal, citing a conversation he had with Soumia Allalou, the student who raised the proposal.

“This whole idea was not about excluding men whatsoever, but about accommodating people who have different preferences,” Fullerton said.

Fullerton continued by explaining that Allalou had recently met with the McGill Athletics administration in hopes of finding a solution that would appeal to both men and women, including potentially having a separate room for women to exercise.

Vice-President University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan expanded upon Fullerton’s report, explaining that Allalou had initially approached McGill Athletics in January, but that the matter had only recently been addressed by the McGill Athletics administration.

“The director of Athletics was not aware that a staff member had spoken with her several months earlier and asked her to come and speak with him,” Stewart-Kanigan stated.

Councillor Rachel Weaver raised the question of how ‘woman’ would be defined. According to Fullerton, Allalou believes the hours should be trans* inclusive, and trans* people should be accommodated if they are also asking for their own hours.

VP Finance budget presentation

VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley presented the February budget, addressing multiple long-term projects that SSMU has been working on. Fullerton raised concerns as to whether the the student-run café, the Nest, which is still running a deficit, was a profitable venture. 

Bradley claimed that she was fairly confident the cafe would break even by next year. She also stated that the Nest’s budget had greatly improved in terms of funding compared to last semester. 

In addition, Bradley emphasized that Gerts, which previously had the greatest surplus in SSMU, was continuing to face lower sales. Bradley stressed the importance of Gerts in raising money for the SSMU, and encouraged Council members to continue holding events at the student bar.

“If you think Ace is the place, it hurts your student union,” Bradley said. “So come to Gerts instead.”

Notice of motion regarding mental health policy and the five-year plan

Stewart-Kanigan explained that current implementation of the SSMU mental health policy did not require additional funds through a fee levy.

“The mental health fee levy—we haven’t identified a need for it yet, we haven’t spent all of our budget from SSMU [on it],” Stewart-Kanigan stated. “We’re going to check in with student groups on whether they would need a fee as opposed to mandating it now.”

According to Stewart-Kanigan, changes to the current mental health policy include creating a collaborative website with McGill Mental Health, which would help reduce costs; changing the date of Mental Health Week to coincide with Rez Life as opposed to lining up with the Students in Mind conference; doubling the number of mental health coordinators from one to two; and decreasing the amount of councillors on the committees.

When asked by Medicine Councillor Joshua Chin about the purpose of the committee composition change, Stewart-Kanigan explained that the initial make-up was too large for the task at hand, and the new composition would include members from a more diverse range of groups.

“It would be preferable to have one fewer councillor and one more representative from student initiatives,” Stewart-Kanigan said. “We’ve been trying to reach out to groups like the Sexual Assault Center of the McGill Student’s Society (SACOMSS) that deal with mental health in a more indirect way.”

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