The Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on February 20 to vote on a new mental health policy and electoral by-laws, and discuss the state of equity on Canadian campuses.
Council unanimously passed a motion to adopt the new mental health policy, created by an ad-hoc mental health committee that was formed at the beginning of this year.
Medicine representative David Benrimoh told The Daily that the policy was an important step forward. “It was very important to us that we had not just a philosophy and ideas, but a concrete set of steps that will lead to actual change […] it will serve as the foundation for a new mental health network.”
The policy will become the groundwork for a mental health network, comprised of existing student resources for mental health, and will focus on awareness, resources, advocacy, and solidarity.
The motion also included a coordinating five-year plan, which calls for the hiring of a SSMU mental health coordinator and the creation of a website, among other things.
After recent campus-wide debate over equity issues, Chelsea Barnett, one of three student SSMU Equity researchers, gave a presentation on the current findings of their review of the SSMU Equity institutions. The researchers compared SSMU to the student unions at six other universities across North America.
According to Barnett, “SSMU is doing a lot more than anyone else,” and SSMU Equity’s research discovered that “SSMU is the only school that we surveyed […] to have an equity policy of its own.”
She recommended to Council that, “An executive position be added that would oversee equity […] equity is on the forefront; it’s important for us.”
Ben Fung, Elections SSMU’s Chief Electoral Officer, came in to present a motion to amend several by-laws that apply to SSMU elections. The motion states that Elections SSMU created these changes based on research on 15 universities across Canada. Major changes included an updated campus publication definition, to encompass publications who publish more than four times a year, thus putting publications like the Bull and the Bear on par with The Daily and the McGill Tribune, and allowing them to make candidate endorsements.
A discussion was also sparked in Council regarding a specific by-law to ban slate candidacy. Slate candidacy is when multiple candidates run in multi-seat elections on a similar platform. Clubs and Services Representative Zachary Rosentzveig proposed an amendment to strike this by-law change from the motion. “Being able to be on a slate doesn’t favour any party over any other party, it simply allows candidates to work together to develop stronger possible proposals[...],” Rosentzveig said.
Fung insisted that, “The logistics of banning slate candidacy [are] much less [difficult] than the logistics of allowing slate candidacy [...] It’s much harder to allow slate candidacy than to ban slate candidacy.”
The amendment was opposed and the by-law motion passed.