On March 21, 2014, students voted 53.6 per cent and 60.8 per cent, respectively, against both parts of the proposed SSMU building fee. Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Katie Larson, in a recent interview with the Tribune, condescendingly accused students of ignorance, saying students “did not do their part.” During last week’s SSMU Council, Larson continued to place the blame on students.
“I shouldn’t have to explain to students why they should find something important,” Larson said. “It’s not just my fault, it’s not just the executive’s fault—it’s everybody’s fault.”
The blame does, in fact, lie with Katie Larson and the SSMU executive, and not with the undergraduate student body. The former were the ones who did not do their part. Why should someone run to become a student politician? To represent students, advocate for them, and provide leadership. If the SSMU executives were truly fulfilling this role, they would not be chastising students for the student society’s imminent financial self-destruction. As former and current elected representatives of students in this university, we find the buck-passing of blame to students unacceptable. When you are the president of SSMU and responsible for representing and leading over 20, 000 undergraduates, the buck stops at your office, Katie Larson. We condemn you for your remarks towards students.
Furthermore, the lease of the University Centre itself is shrouded in mystery. The SSMU executives made no attempt to explain it while it was being negotiated or after it had been negotiated. All that students were told was that it had been finalized after several years of negotiations. There was no mention of specifics. Most civil society organizations, such as labour unions, would set public demands during a negotiation, even if the negotiations were confidential. If the negotiating conditions themselves were unjust, they might even run a public campaign. People might disagree about tactics, but no one can deny the results that these methods would yield. Except SSMU, as the executive clearly thinks its members can’t handle the information. As a result of SSMU’s screw-up, there will either be massive budget cuts to essential services or an eviction from the University Centre building. This could mean life or death for SSMU. Shouldn’t they think that this is worth fighting for? The SSMU Council remains indecisive to the whole issue, preferring to merely present options at their last (March 27) meeting instead of taking action.
Third, there was no effort made during the campaign period by SSMU to provide a strong voice for the “Yes” vote. The SSMU executives have no right to blame students for not understanding the importance of this issue. As Larson says, “People clearly didn’t read the context of the question.” We ask, how are students supposed to understand the context of a question if their elected representatives didn’t bother to inform them of its importance? No doubt the vast majority of students do not want student services, especially ones such as Gerts and the Student-Run Cafe (SRC), to disappear or be cut back. Nevertheless, student leaders are entrusted with the duty of informing the student body of these issues in advance. There should have been more of an effort to disseminate information and push for a “Yes” vote.
Fourth, it’s offensive that the SSMU executive expects students to simply vote “Yes” to everything posed during a referendum period just because they deem it to be important. Instead, demonstrate the importance of the issues and advocate for the path that is deemed to be the most beneficial to all students. If SSMU is a democratic civil society organization then, like any democratic civil society organization, it is the leadership’s responsibility to explain what is going on. SSMU members pay the salaries of the SSMU executives; these executives therefore have a duty to inform us. In this case they did not fulfill that aspect of their mandate.
It is our belief that the SSMU executive should first and foremost formally apologize for attempting to place the blame on students for the result of this referendum. Second, they should more clearly inform students of the importance of this issue as it continues to develop throughout the rest of the semester—and possibly longer. This brings us to our third point: the SSMU executives need to rectify this problem immediately. As students who use—and enjoy—the services provided by SSMU, we cannot imagine a year without them. What will happen to our beloved student bar, Gerts? Will the newly-opened Student-Run-Café close down within a year of its opening? What will happen to the children who spend their days in the SSMU Daycare? Will there be another referendum? Will SSMU proceed with the drastic cuts in costs that were talked about at last week’s council meetings? A decision must be made; the time for debate is over.
James Gutman is a U3 History student and former Arts senator, Matthew Eidinger is a U3 Political Science student and current president of the McGill Political Science Students Association. Their views are their own and do not represent those of their respective organizations.
typical jimmy gutman garbage
“The majority of McGill students have expressed confusion over the imprecise language used in the most recent Winter referendum question regarding an increase in the student fee levy to continue funding SSMU operations. U1 Economics student Christian Brown commented, “the referendum said ‘Without this fee, the SSMU would have to cut services to students.’ What does that even mean?” ”
Pointing to the Laffer (“laugher”!) Curve, the economist inferred that a decrease in the fee should actually lead to an increase in revenue and therefore more services!
I wonder if either jimmy or matthew even bothered to come to council to give feedback… I would suppose not. this is oh so typical of jimmy gutman: spouting empty rhetorical nonsense while utterly failing to propose any viable solution. what “decision” are you even talking about?
also, the daycare is an entirely separate corporation and funded independently. idiots. perhaps YOU SHOULD READ THE BUDGET before you smear shit on a piece of paper and call it an editorial.
Calm, down. Go whine to someone else.
Have some respect for your departmental association president, mere mortal.