On November 4, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council met to discuss the questions that will be asked during the Fall referendum period, which will take place between November 22 and 27.
Councillors also discussed and adopted a motion mandating Arts senators to pursue the approval of a fall reading break at Senate before the end of the 2015-16 academic year.
Fall reading break
Arts Senator Erin Sobat brought forward a motion regarding the endorsement of a fall reading break.
Sobat explained that this motion was building upon work done by previous student senators last year, which culminated in a survey conducted by McGill Enrollment Services in April. 5112 students responded to the survey, 71.5 per cent of whom were in favour of a reading break.
A proposal to add two days to the Thanksgiving weekend was brought to the Enrollment and Student Affairs Advisory Committee (ESAAC) on September 8. However, the proposal has not yet been approved.
At Council, Sobat said that there would have to be some trade-offs in terms of the calendar. “There would have to be exams on Saturdays during the December exam period. But that wouldn’t happen every year,” Sobat said.
The motion was passed with a single abstention. Sobat told The Daily that he expected this endorsement to strengthen the student senators’ case for a fall reading break.
“We heard some uncertainty from [professors on] whether or not students were in support of this, which was a bit surprising, considering we had a survey of over 5,000 respondents. So we just thought we’d really spell it out, in addition to everything else […] when we’re building our case,” Sobat said.
Amending the mandate of Arts Representatives to SSMU
The motion to amend the position of Arts Representative to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) via referendum proposes changes to the AUS Constitution that are expected to clarify the position’s mandate.
One of the core changes to the Constitution includes making Arts Representatives non-voting members of the Executive Committee. Despite becoming members of the committee, however, the Arts Representatives would not be allowed to attend meetings of the committee discussing confidential matters including, but not limited to, matters concerning human resources and legal issues.
Furthermore, according to the proposed changes, even if the Arts Representatives would be considered members of the Executive Committee, they would not be eligible for remuneration through the AUS Work Study Program.
“We’re not trying to change the role in any way. We just feel that it wasn’t exactly clear, when we started the position, what kind of role we were supposed to play.”
In addition, the changes would also require at least one Arts Representative be seated on the AUS Accountability Committee.
Arts Senator Alexander Kpeglo-Hennessy said, “You talk about taking on a more active role, as an Arts Rep, especially with serving as a check and balance of the AUS Executive Committee. There is an issue here though, that A, you can’t vote on anything and B, it’s very easy for four out of six executives to bar you from the meeting, just by saying it’s confidential.”
Speaking on behalf of the three Arts representatives, Arts Representative Lexi Michaud responded, “We do see it as sitting in on [the Executive Committee] to be aware of what’s going on, to make sure we have role in what’s going on. But the vote isn’t something that we feel Arts Reps should have.”
“We’re not trying to change the role in any way. We just feel that it wasn’t exactly clear, when we started the position, what kind of role we were supposed to play,” Michaud continued.
The motion was passed and the proposal will be brought up during the fall referendum period.
Reforming the VP Finance screening process
A motion to modify the AUS VP Finance screening process via referendum suggested three options, for the fall referendum period.
Presenting the motion to Council, President Jacob Greenspon said that the aim was “ensuring that future AUS VP Finances have some sort of baseline amount of accounting skills and other types of skills required for the position.”
Choosing from the three proposals, Council voted for the one involving a screening committee that would determine whether VP Finance candidates “hold sufficient qualifications for the duties and responsibilities required of the position, as determined by a two-thirds majority vote of a screening committee struck for these purposes.”
Speaking to The Daily, Greenspon said, “AUS finances in the past have been bad, but they also have been good. […] What we’ve found is that really when there’s someone in the position that has the proper skills and has the proper background […] the finances can be run very, very well by an Arts student.”
The other proposed referendum questions discussed at Council included a fee renewal question for the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society (AUTS), another one for the Arts Undergraduate Improvement Fund (AUIF), and a constitutional change that would synchronize AUS’s fiscal year with its operating year.
Each of these questions was approved.