Following lengthy discussions, a global climate change policy and a motion regarding Demilitarize McGill’s proposal for campus alterations were adopted by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Council this past Thursday.
Adoption of climate change policy
Council, following extensive debate, passed a climate change policy.
Engineering Representative to SSMU, Malcolm McClintock, spoke against adopting the policy, citing the occupational investments that many of McGill’s engineering students have in the oil and gas industries.
“It is part of the mandate of the Engineering Undergraduate Society […] to support the environmentally responsible and ethical development of oil sand industry,” McClintock said. “This motion inherently opposes that [….] When a large portion of our constituents benefit and have invested both educationally and occupationally […] in this industry, it’s not in the best interest to support this.”
Joey Broda, U4 Chemical Engineering student and member of Divest McGill, disagreed with McClintock’s claims.
“I want to make it clear that not all [engineering students] are in support of the ethical development of the oil sands, as frankly, I don’t believe that’s possible,” he said. “It is understood currently that a lot of engineering students do get employed by oil sands development […] however, we understand, as people who are scientifically literate, that climate change is an important issue [….] We need to understand that we can’t support a dying industry.”
The motion for adoption of the policy was put to a vote and passed with 21 in favour, two against, and four abstentions.
Demilitarize McGill motion
Arts and Science Representative to SSMU Matthew Satterthwaite proposed a motion regarding the SSMU response to “#RememberThis: A Call For Campus Alteration.” The motion was brought forward in response to a statement put out by Demilitarize McGill on the group’s website on the morning of Oct. 15, asking members to the McGill community to physically alter campus in the lead up to Remembrance Day. Satterthwaite explained his desire to avoid SSMU being negatively implicated in any harmful actions taken as a result of this posting. “A lot of students in the general population […] they directly associate [Demilitarize McGill] with SSMU, and if these actions are taken by members of [Demilitarize] McGill, the students at large would directly blame SSMU,” Satterthwaite said.
The statement, as proposed by Satterthwaite, would reaffirm SSMU’s support for the reduction of harmful military technology on campus, while stating that SSMU does not support vandalism or illegal acts.
Science Representative to SSMU Sean Taylor spoke in favour of this motion, explaining that despite the fact the online posting may have been intended to be satire—as argued by Vice-President (VP) External Emily Boytinck—SSMU cannot condone acts of vandalism. “Even if [the post] was satire, it could motivate students, especially [those] that are with the group, to carry out actions like this,” Taylor said. “We’re condemning these actions being done. We’re not saying that what these actions are supposed to illicit are not important.”
VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke urged members of the Council to consider the posting in its entirety, rather than solely the call to action.
“I think we’re focusing on […] the call to action for vandalism on campus, but we’re completely ignoring the entire preface of it, in which it describes the alternative narratives of history […] something that SSMU is very much in support of,” Rourke said. “What they’re saying is actually quite valid [.…] Their arguments are actually not really that relevant to harmful military technology research which we have a policy in support of. They’re actually quite fundamentally equity issues.”
Boytinck asked councillors to consider further research and consultation before releasing a statement. “[The motion is] being so hastily passed through, when I don’t think this is within our role as a student society at all,” Boytinck said. “I would be so embarrassed if this was something we passed through SSMU. I don’t think we gain any student support by shaming another group of students.”
After further discussion, and an amendment to reference SSMU’s support of alternative narratives of history on campus, the motion was passed with 14 in favour, 10 against, and two abstentions.