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Although her portfolio has quieted down in the second semester, Sarah Olle has had an extremely successful term as vice-president clubs and services. The Tribune had high expectations for Olle, who came into the position after serving as interest group coordinator last year. She has proven herself to be more than capable.

Olle’s biggest strength is her ability to handle the day-to-day issues that arise with various clubs and services. Olle is thorough, organized, and knowledgeable about countless facets of the Students’ Society. She has made herself readily accessible to both clubs and student journalists, keeping regular office hours and always answering emails promptly.

This year, Olle was able to accomplish many things that previous VPs have long discussed, including putting room bookings online and changing activities night to a two-day event. Olle has also taken on significant new projects. The Ambassador Fee, which fills the void in funding for clubs like the Debating Union that attend off-campus events, was largely her initiative. She helped to coordinate a long-term plan for proposed renovations in the Shatner Building.

In addition, she was calm, rational, and fair when dealing with the Choose Life controversy throughout the year. She is a strong, vocal presence at Council, contributing to discussions on a wide variety of issues.

The nature of the clubs and services portfolio means that most of the work occurs during the first semester. However, this year, Olle played an important role in securing independence for the Tribune during the second semester, helping to craft budgets and negotiate various other aspects of the transition. We acknowledge our bias – Olle was the executive we worked most intimately with – but if the dedication she showed to Tribune independence was typical of her work with other clubs and services, then Olle fully deserves an “A.”

In fact, there is only one thing the Tribune can fault Olle for this year: closing down Motion to Blog.


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At this time last year, the Tribune voiced concerns with Students’ Society Vice-President University Affairs Rebecca Dooley’s lack of experience. Before her tenure as VP UA, she’d been Queer McGill’s political action coordinator, which, the Tribune believed, was insufficient training for the portfolio. We were wrong. Since the beginning of her tenure, Dooley has demonstrated a firm understanding of the university’s inner workings, and thanks to her hard work, she has succeeded in most areas of her portfolio.

In the first semester, Dooley worked closely with Jonathan Glencross to promote a new $7.50 student fee for the Sustainability Projects Fund. She also formed an undergraduate student taskforce, “The McGill We Want,” which will ultimately draft a report suggesting ways to improve the undergraduate experience.

At SSMU Council meetings, Dooley spoke frequently, defending her opinions while forging compromise between disparate factions of councillors. At University Senate meetings, though, Dooley appeared timid, and sometimes outmatched by other senators. Behind closed doors, however, Dooley was a strong student advocate. In committees, she fostered strong relationships with professors and administrators, tackling issues such as McGill’s problematic research policy draft.

This past semester, Dooley led a series of meetings between the Equity Committee and Choose Life, the embattled pro-life club, retooling the group’s constitution. Though the meetings were hostile, in the end, Choose Life and the Equity Committee compromised, coming to terms on a document. This was a major victory, and Dooley deserves a large portion of the credit.

Dooley is affable and approachable, and she thoroughly understands the role of the VP UA. We can only hope that next year’s VP UA, Joshua Abaki, emulates Dooley’s work ethic, amiable demeanour, and willingness to compromise with both the administration and other students.


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When Ivan Neilson was elected last year, the Tribune was confident that he would be a competent president. We thought his pragmatic nature would allow him to work effectively with the vice-presidents and build a good relationship with McGill’s administration. He has, for the most part, lived up to our expectations.

Neilson has done a good job balancing the two sides of the presidential portfolio. The president has responsibilities for both internal and external issues: he manages the executive while simultaneously representing SSMU at Senate and the Board of Governors, and, from time to time, in the media. Previous SSMU presidents have excelled at one half of the job while underperforming in the other. Neilson has, in contrast, struck a good balance.

However, we feel that Neilson could have worked to be a more visible public face of the organization. Previous presidents, such as Jake Itzkowitz and Adam Conter, have been more active in engaging with students at various campus events – something we feel Neilson would have been wise to attempt.

SSMU has had a fairly successful year overall, and while this year’s executive, as a whole, has been very strong, some of this success can be attributed to Neilson’s leadership. Despite clashing views on all sorts of topics, this year’s executive has functioned well as a team (at least publicly), and Neilson has done a commendable job leading a group of strong-willed VPs.

Many of Neilson’s biggest achievements were on relatively unglamorous issues that will benefit SSMU in the long run. For example, his efforts to reform committee structures and hold councillors responsible for attending Council meetings were significant accomplishments, and will have substantive, beneficial effects on the way the SSMU operates.

Finally, Neilson has been an excellent representative for students at Senate and on the Board of Governors. His personable nature has allowed him to work well with the administration while not backing down on important issues, such as tuition increases.

This year’s executive, led by Neilson, made substantive progress across the board. Hopefully, the incoming executive will be able to build on their accomplishments.

SSMU Council votes to reinstate Choose Life’s club status

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After a semester of meetings on the future of Choose Life – the controversial pro-life group whose club status was suspended last semester – the Students’ Society Council officially reinstated the group’s club status last Thursday.

Choose Life’s club status was suspended last year on November 12 in light of the conflicts surrounding the club’s “Echoes of the Holocaust” event. This was intended to be a temporary measure, however, until the Student Equity Committee could generate an appendix to the group’s constitution. As a condition of its reinstatement, Choose Life has agreed to adopt an appendix that would specifically govern how the club operates under the SSMU Equity Policy.

Since both Choose Life and the Equity Committee had agreed on this document prior to the meeting, there was little debate before Council passed the motion.

SSMU Vice-President Clubs and Services Sarah Olle expressed confidence that this document has cleared up some of the confusion stemming from Choose Life’s understanding of the SSMU Equity Policy.

“A lot of their complaints revolved around the ambiguity of our equity policy, or ambiguity of their actual violations of the equity policy,” Olle said. “It’s good that we have come to some sort of agreement on a black and white document.”

In particular, the document stipulates that “Choose Life will not advocate or lobby for the criminalization of abortion through the use of SSMU resources.”

“It’s really important that resources from student fees are allocated in a way that reflects our policies, constitution, and ethical practices,” said VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley. “However, if a group wants to take a position, we cannot prevent them from taking that position as long as they are not using our resources to do so.”

Although Choose Life VP Internal Paul Cernek said that the negotiations had facilitated constructive dialogue, he felt that the clause restricting Choose Life from using graphic imagery in their events singled out the club unfairly.

“At some level this is a double standard,” Cernek said. “Other groups on campus use displays of graphic images in open, public spaces to further their points. Not even that anyone [from Choose Life] had an overwhelming desire at this moment to mount one of these displays. We just thought that we should have the right to.”

Olle, however, emphasized that in this situation the Equity Committee was acting as a regulator.

“We are not in the same position as Choose Life because we were in a position where we were enforcing something on a group that had committed a violation of our equity policy,” she said. “Of course, there was an effort put toward getting cooperation from Choose Life and explaining why we would implement certain regulations but at the same time they were being regulated.”

Cernek said he is hopeful that this appendix will help strengthen relations between SSMU and Choose Life next year.

“This should help things go more smoothly,” he said. “Things have been pretty rocky at times. The whole process we went through with the Equity Committee, working with them in close contact, really helped both parties come to an understanding with each other. They want us to keep being able to be a club; shutting down a point of view is not at all their goal.”

A final fireside chat with Students’ Society President Ivan Neilson

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What were your biggest accomplishments this year?I was happy with the style of management that we had this year. The individual vice-presidents started new initiatives and new projects, assisting one another. I’m also thrilled that we were able to reform the committee structure. That’ll be a big improvement next year.

What advice do you have for next year’s SSMU President-elect Zach Newburgh?First, continue to build on the successes that we’ve had this year. Too often, a new executive will come in and reinvent the wheel. In some cases, this is necessary. Obviously I’m biased here, but I believe a lot of the work we’ve done this year can only be improved upon. Beyond that, it’s important to solicit as much input from as many different members as possible – whether that’s advice from the big student groups on campus, or finding different ways to reach out to individual students.

What are some of the challenges that next year’s executives will face?Free speech on campus will be an issue at McGill next year. Right now, as we saw at the University of Ottawa with Ann Coulter, there are two different camps on campuses across Canada. There’s one group that wants to maintain the university as a place of learning where students can come and not feel barraged by other ideas. Then, there’s the opposite groups, who says that universities are the final bastions of free and open expression and dialogue.Next year, we also have several leases coming up in the building. It’s really an opportunity for us to decide what type of services we should be offering. And then, of course, in the face of imminent tuition hikes, it’ll be important to represent a solid and unified front to the university and the provincial government.

Do you have any concerns regarding next year’s SSMU executive?They all have strong backgrounds in their respective portfolios. Individually, they’ll be able to handle certain challenges, but it’s going to depend on how they work together as a team. None of them have worked together before. Their success will depend on whether they can come together. In particular, their success will hinge on Zach’s leadership and the vision that he will promote. But it’s also going to depend on their willingness to work together. Again, once you let egos and personalities get in the way, it’s really hard to maintain that sense of collective vision.

Has the Salman Rushdie lecture become more controversial than you thought it would be?Yes. When we brought this to Council, we were given no indication that this would be an issue. I was surprised by the negative reaction. Of course, this was an executive initiative, though it was by no means a done deal when it was brought in front of Council.

What did you think of Council this year? Is it simply a rubber-stamping body that serves as a check on the executive?Council is the body that runs the Society. The trend has been, in the last couple years, for different reasons, that Council’s quality has declined. The number of initiatives being presented by councillors has decreased, the level of interest at Council is dwindling, and the committee activity and participation have fallen off the map. Perhaps it simply wasn’t a good year for individual councillors. But as it’s set up right now, it’s supposed to be the body that runs the Society.

Do you think this year was just a bad year for Council? Or is reform needed?A lot of it depends on the individual leadership of the executive. This year, [the SSMU executive] has been strong. In past years, if there’s less confidence in the executive, councillors see more of a need to step in and intervene. However, many factors play a role, so it’s hard to justify sweeping reform from one bad year.

What action do you recommend taking on General Assemblies?I recommend that the executive look at it and take it on as a project. They’re going to have to look at it and make some tough decisions. Whether that’s firmly entrenching the GA as an institution and accepting its shortcomings, or, in turn, deciding that GAs have no place in the society – thus getting rid of it altogether.

SSMU REPORT CARDS: JOSE DíAZ – VP Finance and Operations

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Vice-President Finance and Operations Jose Díaz began his term in the most difficult position of any of the executives. Tobias Silverstein, his predecessor, had resigned midway through his term, leaving the rest of the executives to handle his portfolio. Despite this initial disadvantage, Díaz stepped confidently into his position and has handled his portfolio well throughout the year.

Díaz’s major success this year has been the revitalization of Gert’s Bar. Thanks in part to the increased number of successful events held in the bar, Gert’s has been become a watering hole for regular students – in addition to its usual crowd of drunken SSMUshies and newspaper editors.

SSMU’s renegotiated beer contract provided approximately $6,000 in sponsorship money from the beer companies, which Díaz used to create the Gert’s Life Fund. The money from the fund was used to subsidize various events – a key factor in boosting the bar’s popularity.

A number of smaller initiatives have also helped to put Gert’s in the black this year. Díaz invested in two new pool tables and instituted a new pricing scheme, which has netted about $6,000 in additional revenue. Thanks to a new lease with Al Ta’b, Gert’s now uses its ovens to serve pizza after-hours, as well as an assortment of fried appetizers. And Díaz is currently in talks about renovating the bar after a successful redesign contest.

The most significant decision Díaz made this year was to shut down Haven Books, SSMU’s financial fiasco of a bookstore. Haven Books, purchased in 2007 by former VP Finance Dave Sunstrum against the advice of SSMU’s auditors, had racked up losses of more than $200,000 by the time Díaz delivered a 40-minute speech to Council in February arguing for its closure. According to Díaz, he and Ben Paris, the bookstore’s manager, examined various solutions to Haven’s woes before deciding to close its doors. The Tribune has editorialized in favour of closing the bookstore several times, and we’re glad that Díaz made the difficult decision to give up on it.

Díaz’s competent management of the operations side of his portfolio – breaking even on Gert’s and other operations – aided the financial side, giving the executive more money to work with later in the year. Events like the Girl Talk concert and this week’s lecture by Salman Rushdie were largely financed by these funds.

Overall, Díaz has successfully picked up the pieces of his portfolio, solving previous mistakes like Haven Books while improving Gert’s and tabling a successful budget. Though Díaz’s frequent late nights out meant that he didn’t make into the office until the afternoon some days, his hard work on the portfolio will put Drew in a strong position when he takes over this summer.


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The Tribune applauds Alex Brown for her work with the VP Internal portfolio this year. Brown has been consistently visible and knowledgeable on Students’ Society projects and events since September.

Frosh is always a major undertaking for the vice-president internal, and Brown handled the year’s opening event successfully, generating profits to support other SSMU endeavors.

She has also been innovative and receptive to recommendations with her event planning. Brown made the difficult decision to cancel SnowAP, an event that likely would have lost SSMU over $15,000. In its place, Brown held the inaugural Week 101 in Gert’s, a successful replacement that generated profit for SSMU.

In addition to the SSMU mainstays, Brown sought out creative ways to utilize her portfolio, particularly with the leftover funds that would have gone toward SnowAP. This included smaller events such as the first – and hopefully annual – SSMU Iron Chef cooking competition, and a SSMU-subsidized ice skating outing in the Old Port, not to mention the sold-out Girl Talk concert at Metropolis.

Finally, not being one to slow down as the year comes to a close, Brown recently booked Salman Rushdie to speak to McGill students on Friday.

One criticism of Brown’s year was her lack of engagement with Athletics, an area that past VP internals have done better work in.

In Council sessions, Brown has been an outspoken contributor and never hesitates to exercise her knowledge of Robert’s Rules.

Brown has also worked to revamp the website and communications side of her responsibilities. Under her watch, the Students’ Society established the French-language version of its website.

A former VP internal once said that the main purpose of the portfolio is to make memories for McGill students – with a concentrated, yearlong effort, Brown has served this mission exceptionally well.

Day of fasting held to support world’s poor

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Twenty McGill students went hungry for a day at Macdonald campus in an effort to raise money for impoverished countries. The McGill chapter of Engineers Without Borders held 24 hour famine to educate the community on world poverty and to help send two McGill students to work with NGOs overseas.

"This has never been one of our larger fundraisers before. Generally, what we try to do is get money from faculty and from sources outside of school," said Chapter Co-President Debra Cohen, who was one of the junior fellows sent to Ghana last summer. "The events we do have on campus are generally geared more towards education and less on fundraising."

The students who will be volunteering over the summer will take part in a variety of projects.

"We do a lot of different projects in a lot of different domains, like water projects and a lot of agricultural and farming projects in a sustainable way," said Vice-President Media Patrick Janukavicius. "For example, we have gone and built wells, but we use local material that they have available, and we'll make sure that some of the locals know how to repair this well in case anything ever breaks."

Cohen added that the community receiving the volunteer will usually pay for a portion of the project, giving them a sense of ownership and motivation to maintain it and keep it sustainable in their community.

Participants were supportive of the cause and the fact that a portion of the money they raised would be going to the volunteers' plane tickets and administration fees, as opposed to going directly to poverty stricken countries.

"I actually approve that it's going to volunteers, because I know that if you try to go with other organizations it can be expensive," said Sheree Spencer, U0 Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "This way, we know that our money is going to people who will help contribute and cause a change, whereas with giving aid to Africa, there's a lot of barriers because of political regime and you don't know if the people are getting the money or not."

Laura Mislan, U2 Chemical Engineering, agreed.

"It's a means to an end, because you're paying for a mind to get to where it needs to be," she said. "It's a learning experience for the people who go and it's also a big bonus to have somebody who's knowledgeable and has the ambition to work, because that's half the battle; it's getting somebody to initiate change, you can't just pay for it to happen, you need somebody behind it directing it," she said.

The EWB executives tried their best to keep the students' minds off of food by organizing various activities such as a scavenger hunt, educational presentations, movies and games. A new community service component was also added this year; on Saturday morning, students helped with the fall cleanup at the EcoMuseum in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue before breaking their fast with a lunch prepared by Happy Belly, a group that prepares vegan meals at Mac.

Organizers were pleased with the turnout, but would have liked to see more students from faculties outside of Engineering.

"It's a major stigma about the group," said Janukavicius. "The reason why it's called EWB is because the two co-founders were both engineers, but it's really open to everyone and a lot of people can be scared if they're not engineers."

Cohen stressed that the group's connection to engineering is more ideological than technical.

"There really is not a lot of technical engineer work that EWB does, a lot of it is just communicating and working with other people," she said. "The engineering mindset is that there's a lot of analytical and technical thinking that is bred through the engineering curriculum, but it's not specific to engineers."


FEUQ membership on fall referendum

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For the second time in two years, Students’ Society Council has taken steps to remove SSMU from student lobbying group la Fédération Etudiante Universitaire du Québec. In a special Council meeting held Thursday, a motion was passed that will add the question of SSMU’s membership in la FEUQ to the fall referendum ballot. Students will now be able to vote on whether or not SSMU should terminate its relationship with the provincial student interest group in the October referendum. If students vote to remain in FEUQ, another referendum question must be presented in March; should students elect to disassociate, the question will not appear in the next referendum.

The meeting, called by SSMU President Aaron Donny-Clark to be held 10 minutes after the regularly scheduled council meeting, was in reaction to a gathering held between two FEUQ Vice-Presidents, former FEUQ Secretary General Eric van Eyken, SSMU Board of Governors Representative and Arts Senator Jacob Itzkowitz, and McGill student Esther Benoit.

The meeting was described by Van Eyken as an initial campaigning attempt to evaluate opinions and resources on campus with regard to the upcoming spring FEUQ referendum.

The main concerns expressed by SSMU executives were the undermining of the SSMU’s local sovereignty and the alleged unconstitutionality of the meeting organizers’ intended actions.

To SSMU VP External Max Silverman, the urgency of the matter warranted the addition of the question to the October 2006 referendum.

“Given that we have this referendum four months away, why should we allow the FEUQ executive to continue to work in this very backhanded, very undermining, very subversive way that’s going to undermine our democratic processes and really throw out the whole idea of fair campaigning on campus?”

FEUQ VP Federal and International Affairs Trevor Hanna said that the meeting should not be cause for concern among SSMU executives.

“I think [the meeting] has been made a big scandal out of something that really is very small. It’s a mountain that’s been made out of a molehill,” Hanna said. “I don’t think there is anything controversial about FEUQ wanting to keep McGill as a member and there certainly is nothing controversial about four McGill students and one non-McGill student getting together to discuss a campaign that is months away.”

Some councilors were concerned that the decision was a rushed knee-jerk reaction and may take away from a longer, more in-depth debate.

“We’re moving a little quickly,” said Medicine representative Donal Finegan. “It’s a little fast and all I’m suggesting is that we have a good debate about this issue.”

Van Eyken made it clear that he takes full responsibility for the gathering and that the council should not go so far as to disassociate SSMU from FEUQ for his actions.

“I regret that I personally caused a rift between la FEUQ and SSMU because of actions that I took by myself. This is not a debate between la FEUQ and SSMU. The issue here is that I acted badly. I fucked up. Don’t make this about punishing la FEUQ. Have a real debate on the issue.”

However, Silverman was not convinced that Van Eyken acted alone in organizing the meeting.

“This idea that he was acting alone, that it was purely innocent and that the two VPs were there by happenstance or were there out of some sort of friendship for him-you’ll forgive my language, but it’s a load of horseshit,” Silverman said. “The fact that these VPs would show up was problematic enough and the fact that they would be very active leaders of the discussion, as reported to us by the description of events, is unacceptable. And you [Van Eyken] can’t justify that even by your own stupidity.”

In an email sent on Oct. 4, former SSMU VP University Affairs Max Reed asked councilors to throw out the motion proposed by Silverman, addressing the hasty nature of the issue.

“Last year, SSMU left CASA, our formal federal lobby group. This decision took us four years of debate. Now, this year’s SSMU is preparing to leave FEUQ, which is 100,000 times more effective and efficient than CASA with four days’ notice,” he said.

According to Hanna, the benefits of membership outweigh the costs.

“It’s $2.50 a semester. If you’re a student who does four years, thats a total of $20 you’re going to be spending. That’s less than a case of beer,” he said. “Look at all the accomplishements we’ve made. We’ve kept tuition frozen since 1994, we won international students the right to work off campus and we have a lot more work to do.”

Reed asked councilors to consider the possible long term effects of leaving la FEUQ.

“A provincial election is weeks away. Why are we thinking of leaving the most effective lobby group in North America? What are our alternatives? How are we going to fight for the tuition freeze for all students: international, out of province, and Quebec? FEUQ represents the vast majority of Quebec University students: we should be fighting with them not against them in this time of crisis.”

He went on to claim that the executives’ call for expediting the question was the result of recurring friction between SSMU and FEUQ.

“This whole ‘scandal’ nonesense with Eric van Eyken is just a pretense to act on long-standing ideological desires.”

According to SSMU VP University Affairs Finn Upham, there have been recurring issues with the student lobby group that go beyond the recent subversive meeting.

“One of the problems over and over again was their unwillingness to take into consideration the priorities that we put forward, that we pressed and that we, in consultation and committee, had decided were very important.”

SSMU President Aaron Donny-Clark echoed Upham’s concerns.

“The issues we needed to address in FEUQ weren’t changing the constitution or changing the positions of la FEUQ,” he said. “It’s a cultural problem and the members of la FEUQ refused to address these sorts of problems.”

Itzkowitz said that considering all aspects of FEUQ, it would be beneficial for the SSMU to end its membership.

“FEUQ has done good things but FEUQ has problems. Unfortunately the problems seem to outweigh the benefits,” Itzkowitz said. “As we’ve shown in federal affairs, we can do things on our own that we maybe couldn’t do with FEUQ. Maybe we’ll lose some power, but I think that in the long run it’s better for us to leave.”

All GA motions pass

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The Students’ Society held its first semi-annual General Assembly of the year last Thursday. Required once a semeseter after an ammendment to the Students’ Society constitution made last spring, the GA is designed to provide a way for students to take part in active democracy on campus. 

The Shatner Ballroom doors opened at 11:30 a.m. and students poured in to vote on issues put forth by fellow undergraduates. Roughly 170 students attended, exceeding the necessary quorum of 100 students and making any GA decisions binding. 

The agenda contained three motions. The first two, submitted by the Grassroots Association for Student Power, committed SSMU to take a stand against rising corporate influence on campus and to support workers in their struggles with McGill administration. A third motion was submitted by Midnight Kitchen to guarantee the group access to the third floor kitchen in Shatner, which they claim belongs to the organization after a verbal agreement made with SSMU during the 2003 renovations to Shatner.

The issue of kitchen space for Midnight Kitchen, a SSMU service that provides free vegan food to students, was the first to be discussed.  

The motion called for guaranteed access to the kitchen in the form of a key ensuring that members could get into the kitchen at any time. Problems were cited with the current agreement in which other organizations were using the kitchen, interfering with Midnight Kitchen’s operation. 

“We’re bringing this to the GA because the relationship [between SSMU and Midnight Kitchen] has disintegrated, and the SSMU has not been able to accommodate the discussion,” said one supporter during debate.

The motion to allow Midnight Kitchen full access to the third-floor kitchen was passed to bouts of applause from Midnight Kitchen supporters.

“It wasn’t our last resort, but it was a step along the way and we needed it to show that we had student support,” said Josh Pavan, Midnight Kitchen participant. “It shows that we have a student mandate.”

Corporate influence on campus was the next issue discussed. The motion suggested that SSMU would “condemn corporate invasion of public space and interference in academic life, actively oppose increasing negative corporate influence on campus and support the publicly-owned and funded nature of the university.”

Supporters of the motion cited the fact that one third of McGill’s budget is from corporate sponsors and questioned whether the money was funding student interests or those of the corporation.

Dissenters asked students to look at the loss of educational freedom that would come with the cut funding that the university would suffer if corporate sponsors were done away with. They also noted that the loss of funding would most likely result in higher tuition.

Some also took issue with the broad nature of the motion’s wording, requiring SSMU to take a stance against any form of corporate funding, regardless of the circumstances.

After almost half an hour of debate, the motion was passed.

The third and final motion up for discussion was the issue of Workers Solidarity. The motion moved that “the SSMU support, by whatever means at its disposal, the workers’ struggles affecting our campus and the greater McGill community” and that “when the rights of students anywhere are under attack, the SSMU use whatever means at its disposal to defend said rights.” 

This issue seemed to generate much less controversy than the previous two. By the time this motion came up, many students had left and after a short debate, the motion passed.

Students’ Society Vice-President External Affairs, Max Silverman acknowledged that the GA could be improved.

“The biggest problem I saw is that everyone came with their minds made up and didn’t have a desire to work towards something more acceptable for everyone. There’s no point having a debate unless you’re going to change peoples minds or change the motion to be more acceptable.” 

The low attendance was also an area of concern for the GA, which in ideal circumstances is supposed to be representative of McGill’s student body.

Silverman placed the blame of low attendance on SSMU, claiming that while the event was well advertised in the week leading up to it, better organization would have been beneficial.

“I think we could have started earlier and then we might have had more diverse conversation,” Silverman said. 

He went on to say that students have a responsibility to come out and vote.

“If you choose not to vote, or not to come to the GA, then you’re abandoning your right to have a say in that. I do think that’s problematic and I’d love to see a GA with 18,000 students, I just don’t think its going to happen.” 

Students had varying reactions to the results of the GA. Mike Jancik, U3 Political Science, was critical of the Assembly. 

“[The fact that] fewer than 200 students can bind SSMU to broad positions is a clear sign that GA’s are not democractic, but also that the only way for reasonable McGill students to get their government back is to attend these meetings and prevent the SSMU from being hijacked,” he said.

Other students weren’t as concerned with the possible results of the GA.

“There are a lot of restrictions on [the motions themselves] and I think that it really acts as a balance,” said Alix Stoicheff, U1 English and History, who was pleased with the results.

Silverman cautioned those who were worried about the implications of 170 people binding SSMU to a policy by pointing to the minimal impact that the resolutions would have. He said the motions passed mandate policy and a general framework, but do not require any specific action.

“None of them mandated any sort of course of action,” he said, “but rather broad sentiment and policy, and so it will be up to the executive to interpret the mandate given to them.”

However, many students were unaware of the GA and were therefore unable to make their voices heard.

John Menzies, a member of Conservative McGill, helped to mobilize students who were opposed to the motions at hand.

“The GA was very poorly publicized right up until it happened. When SSMU sent out the email for the GA they never put the resolutions in them. So a group of friends and I got together and said, ‘you know these two motions are radical motions, we disagree with them strongly, and the student body has not been informed about them. And further, the majority of the student population will not be able to voice their opinion.'”

Both Liberal McGill and Conservative McGill were involved in the movement.

“[Liberal McGill President] Simon Bessette and I had never met before, a friend introduced us. We got talking about this, and we were both on the same page. So we talked to our execs, and our execs agreed and so we sent out a message on our listservs,” Menzies said.

Though organized by two political groups, the opposition to the GA and the motions was non-partisan according to Menzies.

“The posters had no political party on them, it was not officially endorsed by any political party. It wasn’t even our execs that came up with the idea. Of course people from the executives came out and helped, but it wasn’t just Liberal and Conservative. It was non-partisan and it was from people of all ends of the political spectrum,” he said.

Menzies felt that the problem with last Thursday’s GA was its execution, not necessarily it’s concept.

“I think [the GA] is a very good forum for debate. Some very good points were brought up for both sides. But I still believe that this is incredibly undemocratic that this is held during class time, when people have to choose between the GA and going to class. I think it was a very poor decision to schedule it during that time. I think a better way of making it more democratic would be to, if a motion passes through the GA, then put it through an electronic vote.”

Menzies believed the GA in its current form was not in accord wit
h students’ expectations.

“Nearly 80 per cent of students voted for the GA [last year]. They did not vote for one during class time, unpublicized, during midterms, before thanksgiving weekend and almost under the radar.”

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