Last week, at the last bi-weekly council meetings for the Fall semester, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) discussed austerity issues.
Provost Anthony Masi attended the council meeting as well to answer questions from the councillors.
Additionally a motion, regarding the instatement of North American Studies Student Association (NASSA) motion, was passed unanimously. The motion formalized the creation of the association.
Provost Masi talks academics and finances
Councillors asked questions regarding the funding and financing of various operations and programs at McGill.
“It’s very difficult to fund things that are usually funded off of soft funds; because that means making another choice to cut something else,” Masi said, regarding the funding of Indigenous Access McGill, a resource centre in the School of Social Work for First Nations and Inuit Students, in response to a question raised by Arts Senator Claire Stewart-Kanigan.
Classics Students Association (CSA) Representative Sebastian Alexander Grant asked, “How is the budget working in regards to research for the Arts Faculty, and how do we make sure that research remains an important part of Arts?”
Masi replied that universities like McGill do not support research directly, but make sure their professors are eligible for applying for and receiving grants.
“The grant budget is actually separate from the university’s operating budget. So the operating budget allows us to hire professors, allows us to educate students. It allows us to put professors in a position to be able to apply for grants to support their research. [...] The big ticket items have to be won by professors,” Masi explained.
AUS to increase student participation in Arts staff reorganization
Philosophy Students’ Association VP External Agatha Slupek and McGill Industrial Relations Association (MIRA) Representative Matthew Crawford-Appignanesi presented a motion for AUS to oppose the displacement of support staff in the Faculty of Arts.
The original motion asked for the AUS to take action before December 14, and at the beginning of Winter semester, to inform AUS members about the issue, and to draft a letter opposing the reorganizations.
“Although we have made conversation in the AUS council about the PPP [People, Processes and Partnerships] and restructuring efforts, there hasn’t been, I think, a unified positive response from the students, staff, or faculty, with respect to the proposed changes made to the Faculty of Arts,” Slupek said to the council.
One concern regarding the motion was voiced by Arts Representative to SSMU Ben Reedijk, who said, “Whenever you are opposing change, I think you are either implicitly supporting the status quo, or proposing another alternative. [...] Is the idea that we are happier with the status quo?”
“A primary concern raised [...] is that this is symptomatic of the larger climate of austerity that’s being implemented on Arts programs and the university as a whole. [The motion is] definitely not to support the status quo, but it’s definitely to oppose the infringement of the rights guaranteed by collective agreements,” Slupek responded.
Crawford-Appignanesi cited labour and legal issues as his main concerns about the currently proposed reorganization plans. In addition, he also said that the potential benefits of the plans were not worthwhile.
AUS President Justin Fletcher said that he could not support the motion as it was and voiced his concern about “making a statement opposing the restructuring when we have been so involved since the beginning.”
The original motion failed to pass, however Crawford-Appignanesi drafted a new motion, which would later be passed, during the Council meeting which asked the AUS to hold a Town Hall in January about the reorganization, rather than outright opposing it.
AUSec to respond to SSMU’s abolition of the sustainability coordinator position
Additionally at the meeting, representatives of the AUS Environmental Council (AUSec) informed the Council of the abolition of the Students Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) sustainability coordinator position, a development blamed on its budget balancing.
“The spirit of the motion is that, we are making a statement that we are disappointed that this position has been eliminated,” AUSec representative Courtney Quinn said to the Council.
General consensus among the councillors was to refrain from commenting on SSMU’s budgetary decisions.
Reedijk stated that the sustainability coordinator was not cut on the whims of the executive members, and that they agonized over this decision.
Crawford-Appignanesi said that the Council should take these sentiments into consideration; however that they should urge SSMU to calculate priorities.
AUS approved the motion with two votes against and six abstentions. AUSec stated that they will convey the Council’s sentiments to SSMU.