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SSMU Winter GA features clickers

For the first time in McGill history, students used clickers at the General Assembly (GA) held by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) on Feb. 27. Although the GA did not reach quorum of 100 students, the gathering was a consultative forum that passed motions to support the Social Equity and Diversity Office, to support Indigenous peoples and allies, and to oppose the mining of conflict minerals.

GA reform

A major change in the Winter GA was the use of clickers for voting. SSMU President Josh Redel had aimed to include clickers in the Fall GA, but the order fell through before the date of the event. Redel said he was satisfied with the use of clickers in the assembly on Feb. 27.

“It did what it’s supposed to do—it’s supposed to [help the process] move fast so that people [can] spend more time talking and debating, and less time getting frustrated over the length of counting votes,” he said.

Some students, such as Sam Baker, president of the Economic Students’ Association, noted that anonymity was an additional advantage of using clickers instead of placards.

“Sometimes you can tell people want to be anonymous, especially if they’re voting against a motion,” Baker said. “Anonymity is a good thing to guarantee to people.”

The GA included several other additional new features, including a live stream application through AdobeConnect, which incorporated live minutes in English and French, as well as a chat room. According to Redel, the number of people using the application ranged from 25 to 35, or almost half of the attendants.

Redel also noted that SSMU led a significant advertising campaign before the GA, including 85 Facebook announcements, 55 classroom announcements, eight and a half hours of posting flyers in buildings, and nine hours of distributing flyers outdoors on lower campus.

Debate lacking

Following reports by the SSMU executives and a vote to approve SSMU’s auditor, attendants debated the motions. The first motion on the floor was a motion to support the Social Equity and Diversity Office (SEDE) and to call upon McGill to maintain funding for this office.

“In the current context where budgets are being cut, it is easy to cut out certain offices if you do not have quantitative impacts, which it is hard to have with SEDE,” SSMU Vice-President University Affairs Haley Dinel explained.

She added that the continuation of funding for SEDE was unclear even before McGill announced its upcoming budget cuts of $19 million by April 2013.

Without debate, the motion passed with 55 votes in favour, seven against, and two abstentions.

Students then passed a motion calling on SSMU to support the Idle No More movement. The motion passed with 51 in favour, four against, and three abstentions.

Members of STAND McGill presented a motion mandating that SSMU’s Financial Ethics Research Committee “consider the role of conflict minerals in current and future investments.”

Conflict minerals are minerals obtained in conflict regions, and whose sale and export contributes to violence by funding rebel groups. The motion passed with 54 in favour, three opposed, and three abstentions.

“We’ve been thinking about how we could get the student union behind us and have more of a symbolic statement so we could eventually target the administration,” Jessica Newfield, U3 arts and member of STAND McGill, said following the assembly.

Chris Bangs, U3 arts, was the mover of the final motion of the evening. Alluding to a recent review by the University of Toronto, which found that the institution was charging students additional illegal fees, the motion calls for SSMU to review McGill’s tuition and fees to “ensure that all charges comply with regulations internal to the University and with the laws and regulations of Quebec and Canada.”

Music Councilor Katie Larson and Dinel proposed an amendment calling for the SSMU Vice-President University Affairs and student representatives to Senate to lobby McGill to review their fees if deemed necessary. The amendment passed, and the motion subsequently passed, with a vote of 29 in favour, six against, and six abstentions.

As all the motions were passed by a consultative forum, they will be discussed and brought to a vote at the upcoming SSMU Legislative Council meeting on Mar. 14.

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