On November 9, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held the Fall 2015 General Assembly (GA). The GA failed to meet the required quorum of 100 students, despite SSMU having arranged the event in the SSMU ballroom to accommodate around 200 students.
There were no motions on the agenda, however, President Kareem Ibrahim brought up a discussion item regarding the restructuring of SSMU executive portfolios.
Discussion on SSMU restructuring
According to Ibrahim, SSMU is in dire need of restructuring. Ibrahim explained that over the past decade, SSMU’s activities have expanded exponentially, making the tasks of SSMU executives increasingly demanding. The exceptional circumstances caused by the resignation of SSMU General Manager Jennifer Varkonyi and VP Internal Lola Baraldi have only compounded the strain.
For instance, the VP External portfolio was recently expanded to include the promotion of a policy on accessible education and another policy on climate change. Additionally, the VP University Affairs portfolio was expanded to include advocacy for mental health on campus.
“Not this year, but every year, what we see is executive burnout. […] Our contract actually stipulates seventy hours a week. I’ll leave it to you to decide, but on top of a part-time course load, that’s probably not the healthiest. We have dialogues about mental health […] in the workplace and in our activities. […] It seems that it’s dissonant for the executives to be asked to work seventy hours a week.”
“Not this year, but every year, what we see is executive burnout.”
Ibrahim explained that there are multiple restructuring proposals on the table, which include adding a seventh SSMU executive position and/or creating Associate VP positions.
Ibrahim asked the participants of the GA to voice their opinions multiple times, however, the participants remained mostly silent.
Arts Representative Becky Goldberg asked about the financial feasibility of creating a seventh full-time executive position, considering SSMU’s ongoing financial difficulties.
In response, VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston said that it would be possible, though it would be “a question of priorities.”
“A lot of different things would need to be considered. In terms of how it would affect current executive salaries, it’s unlikely that the executive salaries would be affected, because they already make, to be honest, about $5 to $6 an hour, if you divide the actual work they do by their salaries,” Houston said.
“I’m not confident saying that we could pay a […] seventh full-time executive the salary we pay the executives now, without significant cuts that would affect other services,” Houston continued.
The five SSMU executives also made presentations about what their jobs really entail and their progress in the year so far.
Houston explained that most of his time is spent figuring out SSMU’s budget, the audited financial statements of which were supposed to be approved at the GA. The budget was presented, but as the GA did not meet quorum, the budget will be brought back for approval in Winter 2016.
According to the financial statements, SSMU ran a surplus of approximately $214,000 in the 2014-15 academic year. However, after accounting for expenditures in restricted budgets, SSMU actually ran a deficit of about $50,000.
“We just have no way of predicting what clubs are going to spend over the year, so we don’t budget for it.”
Notably, the SSMU Services budget ran a surplus of $242,951 and the Clubs budget ran a deficit of $100,988. Regarding this, Houston said, “We just have no way of predicting what clubs are going to spend over the year, so we don’t budget for it. At the end of the year, we add up their expenses and revenues, and then we account for it in SSMU’s budget.”
Houston also reported on 4Floors, SSMU’s annual Halloween party held in the Shatner building, which was under-attended this year. While the numbers are not yet finalized, Houston believes that SSMU lost between $2,000 to $4,000 on the event.
VP External Emily Boytinck, who took over the planning duties of 4Floors in the absence of a VP Internal, explained to The Daily that ticket sales were moved online this year, “but we realized that the line itself was a major form of promotion.”
VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke announced that SSMU would be hiring its first ever Indigenous Affairs coordinator, “who will hopefully be spearheading [SSMU’s] reconciliation campaign in March.”
“And as well, [they’ll] be institutionalizing some Indigenous solidarity initiatives and the traditional territory acknowledgement.”
Boytinck talked about the two new provincial student federations that are currently being created in Quebec. She said that she would be consulting both SSMU Council and the student body in deciding between the Association pour la voix étudiante au Québec (AVEQ) and the Union étudiante du Québec (UEQ).
Speaking on the importance of provincial student federations, Boytinck said, “My job description […] says: ‘Lobby the government.’ That is extremely hard to do as a single individual and so it’s really really helpful to join up with other student unions.”