Undergraduate students voted “yes” to all four questions in the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Fall 2013 Referendum. As a result, SSMU has adopted their revised constitution; the Midnight Kitchen will remain in existence and raise their opt-outable student fee by $1 to $3.25 per semester; and the non-optoutable student fee for SSMU Daycare will increase from $1.50 to $2.50 per semester.
The motion to increase the fee for the Midnight Kitchen—a service that provides vegan lunches by donation to over 200 students per weekday—said that the increased fee would allow them to consider serving breakfast in addition to lunch, and for them to remain free for students who cannot afford to donate money in return for lunch.
Arts Senator Claire Stewart-Kanigan is not involved in running the Midnight Kitchen, but was a mover of the motion when it was brought to SSMU Council. She said she was happy to see that the questions passed.
“It’s a great service on campus, and the opportunity for them to have a bit more financial leeway in order for them to expand that service makes it even more useful and accessible to students,” she said.
SSMU Daycare’s fee increase will allow it to continue regular operations without cutting services. Since its most recent fee increase to $1.50 in 2006, the daycare has opened a nursery and has been paying increasing rent for the space they occupy within the SSMU Building.
Prior to the referendum period, the daycare made cuts to services to prepare their budget as a precautionary measure in case the fee increase was denied. Now that the fee increase has been approved, the daycare aims to reinstate these services next semester.
“The most notable of these cuts was the bursary program that is available to parents who are in especially tight financial situations,” said Stefan Fong, SSMU vice-president clubs and services. “The decision to cut the bursary program this semester was a divisive one, but ultimately [was] made because it wasn’t strictly essential to the functioning of the daycare.”
According to SSMU President Katie Larson, updates to the SSMU Constitution consist of a revision of the Board of Directors (BoD) selection procedure, as well as changes recommended by SSMU’s legal counsel, including the clarification of many definitions and changes to format that will make the document more understandable.
Larson said executives are now working to ensure that other SSMU documents are compatible with the revisions to the constitution.
“We are very pleased that the constitution passed,” Larson said. “The next step will be working on the Internal Regulations (bylaws) to be in line with the new document and to include things that were removed from the constitution back into the governance documents.”
The referendum saw the same voter turnout as last year’s Fall Referendum, with 18 per cent of undergraduate students voting. Ben Fung, chief electoral officer of Elections SSMU, said this year’s turnout is typical, but that he is pursuing methods to increase participation for next semester
“We’re satisfied with the turnout, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to keep trying new things,” Fung said. “It’s Elections SSMU’s responsibility to always look for different avenues for improving turnout.”
According to Fung, Elections SSMU is currently undertaking a project that seeks to apply the methods used by other universities to increase turnout.
“This semester, we’re doing an intensive research campaign into the bylaws and turnout campaigns of other universities so as to improve our [electoral] bylaws and initiatives,” Fung said. “If we can find something that can feasibly be applied to SSMU, you may see something happen in the Winter semester.”