News | SSMU Fall GA struggles with quorum

Ethical investments, war with Iran, and accessible education discussed

Correction appended October 16, 2012.

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its bi-annual general assembly (GA) last night to hear progress reports from SSMU executives and to vote on six motions concerning diverse issues from a bouldering wall to official stances on the threat of war with Iran.

Several procedural changes were implemented in last night’s GA. Guides were tasked with helping students to participate and answering any questions they might have about GA procedures. Former SSMU VP University Affairs Emily Yee Clare acted as “moodwatcher,” receiving text messages from students who felt threatened in the case of a hostile atmosphere.

In addition, this was the first GA to include online ratification since fall 2008. The motions that were passed at the GA will be eligible for online ratification for a full seven days. Elections SSMU will post online ballots for each motion along with recordings of relevant GA discussions “after a short delay,” according to the SSMU’s website.

SSMU President Josh Redel told The Daily, “I think a lot of people were concerned about getting quorum at all given that we have online ratification.”

Quorum – defined as 100 students with a maximum of half from any given faculty or school – was reached for the first two motions.

The motions regarding the installation of a bouldering wall and regarding changing the name of the SSMU Breakout room to the “Madeleine Parent room” were passed with quorum and are thus binding. They will move to online ratification.

The GA lost quorum right before voting on the motion regarding ethical investments at McGill. A consultative forum was subsequently formed, in which procedure ran as normal but votes were not binding. SSMU Legislative Council will vote on the motions that passed during the consultative forum.

The motion regarding ethical investments called upon SSMU to oppose the development of Canadian tar sands by “[lobbying] McGill University to divest from companies engaged in the Tar Sands as well as other companies that have impacts on their social, political, economic, and environmental surroundings.”

The motion passed as a consultative body.

The next motion advocated the renewal of support for accessible education, particularly in the form of universally accessible postsecondary education.

The motion – moved by three SSMU executives and one councillor – also extended the student movement in Quebec by resolving that “the SSMU specifically oppose any tuition hike proposed by the Quebec government that targets out-of-province or international students.”

The motion passed as a consultative body with 52 votes in favour and 14 opposed, and will thus move to a vote by the SSMU Legislative Council.

One of the most hotly contested motions regarded Canada’s military involvement in Iran and McGill’s involvement in the war industry through weapons research.

The motion resolved that “the SSMU firmly oppose Canadian aggression toward Iran and oppose any military action that may be taken by Canada alone or in concert with other countries.”

Several students expressed the concern that SSMU did not have the mandate to take a position on such a politically divisive issue. Others argued that an official stance would not have any impact on the real issues.

Student Lily Schwarzbaum disagreed with these concerns, saying, “[The GA] is not just a discussion that we have where everything stays the same. Bodies like this are the kind of grassroots initiatives that result in larger movements.”

The motion finally passed as a consultative body with 32 votes in favour and 14 opposed.

The GA ended with a student-initiated motion from the floor, which proposed that SSMU actively oppose Plan Nord – the provincial government’s economic development strategy – and take an official stance of solidarity with the affected indigenous people.

The motion passed as a consultative body with 44 in favour and zero against.

 


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