Commentary | Students can opt out of SSMU


Recently, McGill has been rocked by controversy after controversy. From the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to electing a new student body president, it seems that nothing can get done without large swaths of people priming themselves for war and charging head first for the causes they truly believe in. While there is usually nothing wrong with that – debating and discussing important issues is the hallmark of any vibrant community – some argue that things have gone too far.

The truth is that a sizable minority, perhaps even a majority, of people are dissatisfied with SSMU. Some people think that SSMU is being held hostage by political activists. A different group of people claim that SSMU has not done enough to foster safe debate on campus and create the safe spaces that have come to characterize many parts of McGill. Still, others want nothing to do with SSMU anymore, either since they see the organization as incompetent or since they want to focus on learning and not politics.

Whether or not any of these criticisms are valid is not for me to say. However, students around campus seem to be operating on the assumption that membership in SSMU is compulsory. That is false. Every student has the right to choose whether or not they wish to be members of SSMU. It is true that, by default, every undergraduate student is a member of the organization. But according to Article 26 of the Act Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Students’ Associations, any student can notify SSMU in writing that they wish to no longer be represented by the association. And then, like magic, you would no longer be a member of SSMU.

This does not mean that cancelling your SSMU membership is a good idea. First off, you will still need to pay the SSMU fees, and you will not have a say in SSMU elections, referenda, et cetera. But if you feel strongly enough then cancelling your membership can send a strong message – either that you disagree with SSMU’s policies, the way SSMU operates, or that you doubt that the association is legitimately representing student interests. Regardless of your motives, you have the right to opt out of SSMU at any time.

—Robin Morgan, Law student