One of the lesser-known expenses of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) is the portion our association devotes to membership in the Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ). Established in 2009, TaCEQ is a federation of student associations that seeks to advocate for broader student interests at the national and provincial level. However, given TaCEQ’s dubious leadership structure and lack of tangible achievements in the past five years, SSMU should seriously reconsider its membership in the organization.
Currently, the other members of TaCEQ include the undergraduate and postgraduate student unions of the Université Laval—CADEUL and ÆLIÉS, respectively—and the post-graduate student union of the Université de Sherbrooke, REMDUS. The numerous issues with SSMU’s membership in TaCEQ start right here. The minimum membership for a federation to be nationally recognized is four student associations on four different campuses, a mark which TaCEQ has yet to meet. The lack of national recognition prevents the union from receiving certain government subsides, which means TaCEQ’s constituent student unions shoulder the entire cost of keeping it afloat; SSMU pays for just under a third of TaCEQ’s budget—this year that totaled about $17,000.
The lack of national recognition substantially reduces TaCEQ’s influence in political advocacy, especially compared to that of the much larger Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ).
In light of SSMU’s tumultuous past experiences with FEUQ, TaCEQ’s highly decentralized structure—each student association directs decisions on campaigns, spending, and political positions, while also holding an unconditional opt-out—has been advertised as an asset. However, this decentralized structure also leads to internal disputes. SSMU’s relations with both of the Laval student associations in TaCEQ have been distant at best. Additionally, a congress planned to address structural reform this October was singlehandedly blocked by ÆLIÉS.
The suspension of the congress points to another problem with TaCEQ—a paucity of accomplishments to date. In its five years, TaCEQ has failed to achieve tangible results, most recently on the tuition debate in 2012. One of the organization’s few accomplishments was attending the provincial government’s Higher Education Summit this past year, an event of dubious success.
Even worse, TaCEQ is hardly a transparent organization. Five years into its existence, the association has yet to produce English versions of even basic online documents, an issue TaCEQ claims will be rectified early next year. It has also been noted that official reports, such as meeting minutes, shed astonishingly little information on the operations of the organization.
Is any of this worth $17,000 a year? While there might be some value for SSMU to be a part of a larger federation of student associations, it is clear that the interests of many of its members are not quite served by what has largely been a stagnant, ineffective organization. TaCEQ’s lack of major achievements, balky decision-making apparatus, and cumbersome annual budget—$53,500 this year—are all critical shortcomings with the organization. The money SSMU spends on TaCEQ could be put towards funding for clubs, the forthcoming student cafe, or any number of initiatives more relevant to McGill students.
Recent news that REMDUS is holding a referendum this December to leave TaCEQ provides the perfect opportunity to demand changes. SSMU needs to put serious pressure on TaCEQ to make tangible, quantifiable improvements to its management structure. Insufficient progress within a clearly defined and short timetable should trigger a SSMU referendum question to withdraw from the organization.
Click here to read the Tribune’s investigative report “Is TaCEQ right for SSMU?”
With the dentisty fee, keep in mind how far-fetched it would be for the student government to all of a sudden impose a fee of that scale without being persuaded to. It almost certainly came to them from their Dean, and Deans report to and work closely with the university’s top budget office, the Office of the Provost, which is run by Tony Masi. That office is in the unpleasant situation of needing to save money all over the university, and sees students as one of the only elastic sources of funds. Yes the issue is that the student association didn’t follow good process, but remember why they would be pressured to do so and by who.