SSMU Legislative Council voted last week to sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between SSMU and McGill after hours of confidential debate.
Council voted to publicize the results of the vote on the MoA, which passed with fourteen in favour, five against, and four abstentions.
Those involved with the decision had mixed reactions to ending a multi-year battle with the administration over the use of the McGill name.
Clubs and Services Representative to SSMU Sahil Chaini explained why her constituency is worried.
“I have received numerous complaints about the MoA and how frustrating it is for clubs to have to change their names, merchandise, banners, signs, et cetera. The principle behind the change is the real problem, however,” Chaini wrote in an email to The Daily.
According to Chaini, the MoA creates a precedent of agreeing to the demands of the University in a way that divides the students from the McGill administration.
“We are all part of the same University, and should be able to define ourselves as such,” Chaini added.
Engineering Representatives to SSMU Alex Kunev and Tariq Khan expressed dissatisfaction about the outcome of the vote. Many of their constituents made an appeal at Council for SSMU to postpone signing the MoA, and to support the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS)-organized “We are ALL McGill” campaign.
Kunev explained that EUS is in a different situation than other faculty associations, since they are beginning the process of negotiating their own MoA, and face similar issues pertaining to the use of the McGill name and logo.
Though unsatisfied with the vote, Kunev acknowledged that the issue has dragged on since last year. “Not having an MoA affects every student group’s ability to do their work,” he said.
Former SSMU VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley pointed out that SSMU’s negotiations with McGill are not finished until the lease is signed. Council voted last week not to sign the lease until more information is provided by the University.
“While the MoA is really important for delineating student autonomy and SSMU’s formal relationship to the University, the lease is really key because it’s one of the resources that students use most,” said Dooley.
“You know McGill is going to call upon this student work as a source of pride. They are aware of what their name means, but they treat it as a corporate entity and not something that can empower members of the community,” Dooley added.
Khan sees the battle as far from over. “What I see is that all university students will be united on the forefront and this will be a literal fight with the University,” he said.
SSMU VP Clubs and Services Carol Fraser said that, after voting to sign the MoA, SSMU is seeking student fees that the administration has been withholding for the last month.
“Legally, they have to give them to us within thirty days after the last day of registration under the Act [Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Students’ Associations],” Fraser said.
Fraser explained that SSMU VP Finance and Operations Shyam Patel asked the administration for the fees.
“We were not going to do that, because negotiations were going well and we did not want to seem aggressive about it, but now that we agreed in principle with the MoA, we do need our fees,” said Fraser.
In a memo distributed to the gallery at Council, Fraser wrote that McGill offered $25,000 to help with costs pertaining to name changes, if the alterations are made by November 15.
“Please note that the name you choose must be reflected in your website, Facebook groups, Twitter, any official correspondence, banners, et cetera… If making these changes is going to incur serious financial expenses, McGill (through the SSMU) may be able to reimburse you,” Fraser wrote in an email to affected groups.
“Some groups are really confused and upset, rightfully so…but I think a lot of people understand, because the issue has been around for so long, nobody is personally angry. A lot of people get the trend that McGill, in general, is not prioritizing its students,” said Fraser.