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SSMU Council opposes deregulation, approves ECOLE referendum question

Motion regarding opposition to deregulation of international tuition

Last Thursday, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council passed a motion to oppose the McGill administration’s decision to lobby the Quebec government to deregulate international students’ tuition in all programs. 

The implementation of this deregulation proposal would increase tuition revenue from international students, as it allows McGill to determine the supplemental tuition it would charge its students. Currently, the provincial government decides the amount of supplementary tuition that international students pay, then reallocates the tuition from them to universities throughout Quebec based on total population rather than international student population.

Arts representative Eddie Lin voiced his concern about the difficulties this would pose for students currently paying higher levels of tuition.

“[International students] already pay about two or three times more than regular Canadian students,” Lin said. “It’s just not reasonable to put a burden on [a group] that’s already so burdened.”

Alternatively, Engineering representative Anikke Rioux urged the Council to consider the advantages of the extra funding that would result from increased tuition.

“One of the biggest benefits is that the effect of budget cuts […] doesn’t affect us quite as much when we’re deregulated because international students bring in a lot of money to the university,” Rioux explained. 

While most Council members were in favour of opposing deregulation, there was discussion about the possibility of amending the motion and voting on it instead at the Winter General Assembly (GA) as a means of more effectively engaging students. However, that amendment did not pass as councillors decided on the need of immediate action. 

“The VP External portfolio can’t move forward if we table all actions that are political to the GA,” Arts representative Lola Baraldi said. “I don’t see it as mutually exclusive to pass this motion […] and then perhaps [bring] a stronger discussion or a second motion building off of this one [to] the GA.”  

Motion regarding the ECOLE referendum question

Council also approved a motion that will allow the Educational Community Living Environment (ECOLE) Project, a student-run sustainability initiative that houses its facilitators in a property rented from McGill on 3559 University, to run a question in the upcoming Winter Referendum regarding the creation of a $2 student fee per semester. If passed, the fee would go towards the funding needed for ECOLE to cover its $144,195 budget. ECOLE recieves $44,000 in rent fees from its tennants, which then goes towards the $94,000 it is charged by McGill for the use of the ECOLE building. Currently, most of ECOLE’s funding comes from the non-renewable McGill’s Sustainable Project Fund.

The motion follows ECOLE’s recently acquired Independent Student Group (ISG) status, which allows the organization to charge student fee levies. Three ECOLE representatives came to Council to address the progress of the project and answer questions about the fee levy. 

“The idea behind this motion is that ECOLE will be able to continue for many years to come,” ECOLE co-coordinator Brooke Nancekivell explained. “We also have, for context, looked into many other funding options at McGill [besides a student fee], many of which we’re not eligible for. We’ve also looked into funding options outside of McGill, and a lot of those grants come from sources that don’t align with our mandate.”

Senate Caucus representative Kareem Ibrahim, who also sits on the Board of Directors of ECOLE, proposed an amendment to increase the fee in the question from $2 to $2.50. It did not pass, and VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley, who is a fellow board member with Ibrahim, expressed that she supported the original motion but couldn’t endorse the fee increase.

“I made the $2 recommendation based upon my professional opinion and I would still agree with that opinion,” Bradley said. “This amendment is not a responsible use of student funds.”

Anti-austerity progress report

In her report to Council, Vice-President External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette discussed the anti-austerity actions that SSMU is currently undertaking. Last Wednesday, Moustaqim-Barrette met for the first time with the Mobilization Committee, a group that was formed under Moustaqim-Barrette’s portfolio after SSMU resolved to take an official stance against austerity at the Fall GA and is open to all students to join. It has arranged to hang anti-austerity banners around the SSMU building, and will be rallying students to participate in an anti-austerity strike organized by the anti-austerity group Comité Printemps 2015, that will be taking place in Montreal on Mar. 21. Moustaqim-Barrette also encouraged councillors to contact her if they would like to bring a strike motion to their constituents.

“What I’d really like to see is us empower departments and faculties having strike votes [at that level],” Moustaqim-Barrette said. “Within my position as VP External, I see myself […]  really just [… trying to] get the information out there to our students about austerity and alternatives to it.” 

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