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SSMU General Assembly discusses menstrual health initiatives and reimbursement procedures

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its Fall 2022 General Assembly (GA) over Zoom on Sept. 29. With roughly 25 attendees—including the six SSMU executives and the SSMU Speaker and Parliamentarian—the semesterly meeting failed to meet quorum, which requires a minimum of 350 attendees to pass any motions. During the GA, each of the executives presented a report on their current projects and introduced upcoming initiatives. As this was the first GA of the 2022-2023 academic year, each executive also prefaced their presentation with a brief explanation of their role and portfolio within SSMU.

SSMU President Risann Wright presented the forthcoming pilot Groceries Program, which aims to provide groceries to students facing food insecurity. Wright reported that a pilot run of the project would take place during the Fall 2022 semester to determine what a longer-term program would look like in the future. She also shared that she would be updating SSMU’s five-year plan—a framework designed to guide the organization’s decisions based on its long-term goals. 

Vice-president (VP) Finance Marco Pizarro then drew attention to the surplus of funding currently held by many services at McGill, including for each of the eight SSMU funds that finance student projects. These funds include the Club Fund and the Mental Health Fund.

Next, VP University Affairs (UA) Kerry Yang discussed various menstrual health initiatives in his presentation. In particular, he highlighted a plan to “revamp” the monthly menstrual product pick-up program to provide biodegradable and reusable products, such as menstrual cups, to students free of charge. Yang also discussed SSMU’s intentions to provide free menstrual products in a greater number of McGill buildings but did not provide a timeline for reaching this goal. 

“The team is hard at work [distributing] products across campus, and we are expanding to new locations,” Yang said. “Although the locations that we [currently] have are pretty good, we want to  reach a [few] more people.” 

During their presentation, VP External Val Masny reported on various community relations programs that SSMU is currently engaged in. In particular, Masny highlighted SSMU’s work on a project to build affordable housing for McGill students that will be available in 2026. SSMU is partnering with organizations such as L’Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), the Popular University Student Housing (PUSH) fund, and the Native Friendship Centre to complete the project.

Following VP Student Life Hassanatou Koulibaly’s report on clubs and services, Leon Picha, U3 Management and President of WALKSAFE, asked about SSMU’s system for reimbursements for costs incurred when volunteering at the society’s services.

“For WALKSAFE, as an example […] we have to ask [those being reimbursed] for an itemized receipt [to give to SSMU] but also […] a bank statement, which can be partially invasive,” Picha said. “I was wondering if there is any way to possibly show a little bit more trust to our volunteers.”

Koulibaly responded to Picha by confirming that SSMU is exploring alternative options for facilitating reimbursements but provided no further detail. Pizarro also suggested that volunteers block out unnecessary personal information on the banking statement before sending it to SSMU to help address privacy concerns.

Picha remarked that in previous years, bank statements were not required by SSMU for reimbursement and questioned their necessity. Pizarro responded that the measure was crucial for accounting purposes during the summer auditing period.

Moment of the Meeting:

While presenting the report of the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD), SSMU President Risann Wright highlighted BoD’s decision to approve a plan to allocate $65,000 to provide students with reusable menstrual products. 

Soundbite:

“We are studying the urbanism and mobility plan of Montreal [.…] Affordable student housing is more than this project and these various partnerships. It is also about education and advocacy mobilization.” 

–VP External Val Mansy on SSMU’s affordable housing initiatives

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