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TA support, privacy concerns discussed at Council

Michael Paolucci
Michael Paolucci

Key issues at last Thursday’s SSMU Council included a motion of support for TAs in recent negotiations and proposed changes to how McGill reappoints senior administrators.

Council expanded on issues concerning the support of workers discussed by the General Assembly. In a demonstration of support for graduate students and in the interest of improving the quality of undergraduate education, the council unanimously passed a motion to support the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) in its current negotiations with the administration. Council members agreed to draft and send the administration an official letter vocalizing SSMU’s support for AGSEM’s bargaining priority.

AGSEM is currently engaged in negotiations with the administration and will be meeting with the provost this week to negotiate the number of TAs and the university’s commitment to providing paid training to first-time TAs, among other issues.

The Council also unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the SSMU Representative to the McGill Board of Governors make all reasonable efforts to amend university statutes so that the principal consults an advisory committee when recommending a reappointment or extension for the offices of provost, deputy provost, or vice-principal, not just before recommending a new appointment.

Issues of workers’ solidarity, which were discussed during the first SSMU General Assembly of the year, came up again at Council. The resolution in question emphasized soliciting various perspectives on union disputes, disseminating information to the student body, issuing a statement of support, and encouraging students to support strikers through varied methods, such as participating in picket lines and by petitioning the university. There was heavy debate on whether passing such a resolution would obligate SSMU to support all current and future unions in disputes. However, an amendment to remove a clause supporting future strikes was defeated.

During this discussion, guest speaker and AGSEM representative Jonathan Mooney brought to the attention of the Council the possibility that, once a union contract expires, the administration has the right to lock workers out and deny them re-entry as McGill employees. The resolution was then amended to include support for unions in a lockout and was successfully passed by council. 

The most contentious issue of the night arose when President Knight informed the council of Zach Newburgh’s recent request for SSMU’s membership list

Access to this list is every member’s right under stipulations laid out in the Quebec Companies Act. This act applies to SSMU, as SSMU is a non-profit corporation and accredited student association. As such, SSMU is legally obligated to provide the list regardless of privacy concerns. 

At the time of the meeting, SSMU president Maggie Knight had not received confirmation of Newburgh’s intentions for the list but noted that the former SSMU President had stated that his “rationale was not relevant.” Numerous members of the council expressed discomfort with the potential for privacy violations, pointing to Newburgh’s current employment with the social networking and employment website Jobbook.com.

According to both Knight and SSMU General Manager Pauline Gervais, this is the first time a SSMU membership list has been requested. When asked if there is an existing protocol to address misuse of the information, Knight explained that SSMU would have to take action but that it is too early to consider such options.

“I think it’s premature to speculate, given that I have received confirmation from Zach that he intends to use the list only for the purposes outlined in the act, and since any legal action would have to be evaluated based on the specific circumstances,” Knight said.

The council debated whether the student body should be informed of the situation by SSMU. Some members objected that such a course of action may lead to more requests for the list, raising further privacy concerns, while others noted that students should be alerted of the situation. No consensus was reached during the meeting.

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