The McGill Daily » News http://www.mcgilldaily.com On strike since 1911 Sat, 25 Apr 2015 23:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.4 Senators concerned about Student Services funding http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/senators-concerned-about-student-services-funding/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/senators-concerned-about-student-services-funding/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 19:32:43 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42133 Senate updated on research regulation review, expected $4 million budget surplus

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McGill’s Senate convened on April 22 for its penultimate meeting of the year, approving revisions to McGill’s mission statement and the creation of a faculty council in the Faculty of Medicine. Senate also discussed McGill’s budget orientations – in particular, the funding of Student Services – and received an update on the ongoing review of McGill’s research conduct regulation.

Budget surplus, Student Services funding

Provost Anthony Masi informed Senate that, despite an initial forecast of a $7 million deficit, the projected balance of the 2014-15 budget is a $4.3 million surplus. For the second year in a row, the government has provided unforeseen funds to the university following a revision of student enrolment numbers, resulting in a budget surplus despite severe cuts to the operating grant.

“Two years doesn’t make a trend – yet,” said Masi, also noting that additional expenditures during the month of April could reduce the surplus.

The 2015-16 budget, expected to be approved by the Board of Governors on April 28, forecasts an additional $11 million reduction in the operating budget, to be mitigated by the continuation of cost-cutting practices introduced in the past two years, such as the hiring freeze on administrative and support staff. International students in faculties with deregulated international tuition – Engineering, Law, Management, and Science – will also face a 5 per cent tuition increase.

The budget also includes a $4.75 million revenue increase from additional overhead charges imposed to the university’s “self-funding” units, including Student Services, which is mostly funded by student fees. According to Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, the changes will require Student Services to allocate $1.5 million of its accumulated $6 million surplus to new overhead charges.

“There’s no way we can commit to [maintaining current levels of service].”

Student Services also receives a yearly grant from the provincial government. Responding to a question from Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan, SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa, SSMU Arts and Science Senator and incoming VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke, and SSMU Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon, Dyens left open the possibility that this grant could begin to be partially distributed to other units instead, noting that 25 per cent of the $1.8 million grant is already being allocated to Athletics.

“The government grant we receive is meant to fund services to students, [which] include McGill Student Services, but also things such as the Dean of Students, Service Point, advising, the libraries, et cetera,” said Dyens. “If we face unsustainable cuts over the next few years, we may have to use part of that grant to ensure the viability of services to students. We would be able to do so only because Student Services has an accumulated budget surplus of more than $6 million – this is not a long-term solution.”

Student senators voiced concern about the long-term sustainability of the funding of Student Services, a unit already unable to meet student demand and reduce wait times.

“Student Services was previously planning to be using some of that surplus to be doing things like hiring new therapists, but now they are not able to […] meet the increase in demand because of these new overheads,” said Stewart-Kanigan.

Dyens noted that $3.5 million of the surplus was still available, but warned against creating “unreasonable expectations.”

“We could use the entire $6 million to […] bring wait time to zero this year; however, it would mean [that] next year, we’d be unable to do so, and we would create an unreasonable expectation on our services,” he said. “Even if we were to address these needs right now, the demand keeps increasing. […] It’s just not sustainable, we need to find solutions that are more creative.”

Asked by Ayukawa whether the University could commit to maintaining current levels of service after 2016, Dyens said, “There’s no way we can commit to this. What we can commit to is [to] try as hard as we can to do it.”

Mission statement

Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures & Equity) Lydia White presented for approval an updated mission statement and a statement of principles for McGill. Taking into consideration feedback from the discussion of the proposed changes at the February 18 Senate meeting, the Academic Policy Committee (APC) revised the proposed statement by removing “engaging the wider community” from the mission statement and revising the principles to be “academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity, and inclusiveness.”

Greenspon and Ayukawa raised concerns over the insufficient emphasis on teaching in the mission statement, and on students as recipients of education. “It’s emphasizing research a bit more than teaching,” said Ayukawa.

The new mission statement was approved, with one vote against.

Research conduct regulation review

Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations) Rosie Goldstein verbally updated Senate on the progress of the review of McGill’s Regulation on the Conduct of Research. A working group charged with making recommendations to this effect was struck last fall.

Although it recommended some changes to the regulation itself, the working group mostly made procedural recommendations to improve the implementation of existing rules. Among these were two items to be added to the standard research approval process: a statement that the researcher “has considered the consequences of the research,” and an indication whether the sponsor of the research “operates harmful applications into which research could foreseeably be incorporated,” with an explanation of the balance of benefits and harms of the research if necessary.

Goldstein said that she would conduct consultation among the vice-principals and the deans before bringing the report of the committee to Senate in the fall.

“My expectation was that the report would be made public [today],” said Stewart-Kanigan. “Members of the community haven’t been able to see any sign of the work we’ve done so far.”

Medicine faculty council

Senate approved the creation of a faculty council for the Faculty of Medicine, to be composed of representatives from faculty leadership, academic staff, and students.

“The Faculty of Medicine was perhaps unique in the university in not having a formal faculty council,” said Dean of Medicine David Eidelman.

The council will act as an advisory body to the dean, and will review its terms of reference within two years.

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Women’s Studies students end two-week strike http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/womens-studies-students-end-two-week-strike/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/womens-studies-students-end-two-week-strike/#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 01:39:17 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42117 Students use music as a less-confrontational disruption tactic

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Women’s Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies Student Association (WSSA) members voted at a General Assembly on April 14 to end their strike against austerity measures, which began on April 1. During the two weeks of strike, the WSSA strike committee disrupted classes offered by the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (IGSF), organized educational activities, and helped plan an anti-austerity community sit-in in front of the James Administration building on April 14.

“We’ve […] been hosting teach-ins and workshops during usual class time to give folks something else to go to, [as] a popular education tactic so that folks have the opportunity to come out and continue learning […] from one another, in a way that is much less hierarchical than class generally is,” explained Women’s Studies student and strike committee member Molly Swain.

Strike committee members employed a combination of soft pickets, hard pickets, and noise disruption to successfully cancel most classes scheduled during the two weeks. Although most students respected the strike mandate and did not attend class, tensions between picketers and strike-breaking students ran particularly high on certain occasions.

“We ask basically for the same respect from the folks who don’t necessarily agree with the strike.”

On one occasion, after a professor and around six students were prevented from accessing their classroom, the professor decided to move the class to an office instead of cancelling it. Picketers followed the students to the office and engaged in noise disruption, causing discomfort and fear among the students inside, according to reports.

“I was very scared, everyone in the room was very uncomfortable, very scared. […] They kept pounding on the door, they kept on making noise, and we couldn’t do anything,” said Blare Coughlin, one of the students who attended the class. “By enforcing the strike in such a loud, pressuring way […] it’s very alienating.”

Swain acknowledged that some of the tactics used contributed to tensions between students, but emphasized students’ responsibility to respect the strike mandate.

“Folks disagree on tactics; folks feel that if things get too confrontational, it can be uncomfortable for people,” said Swain. “We ask people to leave, and we always give them the opportunity to do so if they choose.”

“Should the strike get voted down, the strike committee is not going to […] keep picketing, out of respect for the decision of the collective body, and we ask basically for the same respect from the folks who don’t necessarily agree with the strike,” added Swain.

Whereas, Women cover band

In an attempt to ease tensions and lighten the mood, striking students formed a cover band called Whereas, Women in order to enforce classroom disruptions by means of musical performance.

“We thought we might try a more fun and inclusive tactic,” Women’s Studies student Kelly Schieder told The Daily at the band’s debut performance, which took place in the IGSF building on the morning of April 10.

“It’s a way for noise disruption to happen and for us to fulfill our mandate in ways that are somewhat less confrontational,” added Swain.

The band, whose repertoire ranges from 90s hits to classic protest songs, also staged a show on April 13 to celebrate the last scheduled class of the year in the department. The class was cancelled with no issues, and the festive atmosphere elicited a positive response from the students who had come to attend the class.

“They took a different approach, and I’m really thankful for that,” said Coughlin.

Unaccommodating professors

The strike committee attempted to coordinate the enforcement of the WSSA strike mandate with IGSF faculty, as the WSSA had done during the 2012 student strikes. However, despite their stated opposition to austerity measures, the professors were largely unaccommodating this time around, with some indicating that they would call security on picketing students.

“We went into this having communicated with the IGSF […] beforehand, and their response to us was very similar to what we received in 2012, which was, basically, ‘We’ll do the best we can to support you, but we also need to make sure the profs are getting the support they need,’” explained Swain, who was in her first year at McGill during the 2012 student strikes.

“[In 2012], professors said that if we put up picket lines, they wouldn’t cross them, so we effectively cancelled class fairly easily. […] The reception from the professors [this time] was not as accommodating at all to the strike.”

In an interview with The Daily, IGSF Director Carrie Rentschler expressed opposition to austerity measures, but argued that the precarious nature of the IGSF instructors’ position made it difficult for them to support the striking students.

“I am anti-austerity. We have seen here at McGill a round of budget cuts in the millions […] – they are hampering our ability to provide the kinds of education that we want to provide here at the institute,” said Rentschler.

“None of us have the protection of a union. Our instructors work on contract basis, which means their positions are precarious – not because we make them precarious, but they are by nature precarious. So those instructors don’t have the kind of protections you would have if you were a union person going on strike.”

“This has given folks a little bit of taste of what this can look like, and they can take that and make it their own in the fall.”

On April 4, the strike committee published an open letter expressing its disappointment with the IGSF’s response to the WSSA strike.

“We understand that the IGSF is receiving threats that their professors […] could lose their jobs or not be paid if they attempt to accommodate or support striking students,” the letter reads.

“What we do not understand is why they have chosen to accept these conditions wholesale and have proceeded to repress our resistance to these same forces instead of working with us to challenge those above them in the university hierarchy, as we are putting ourselves at risk to do.”

With the strike now over, the strike committee will continue working with the IGSF to attempt to establish assessment procedures that do not penalize students who were involved in the strike.

“We’re going to be meeting with them to ensure that everybody in this situation comes out of it feeling like there’s no remaining hostility, and that students who have been involved in the strike feel like they’re protected moving forward in their degrees – and the profs also feel comfortable continuing to teach folks,” said Swain.

Both Coughlin and Swain also said that they look forward to the continuing mobilization in the fall.

“In the fall, we’ll be able to mobilize a lot more, because people won’t be scared about finals […] hanging over their heads – so I’m actually kind of hopeful for fall,” said Coughlin.

“This has been a learning process for the strike committee, but it has also been a learning process for Women’s Studies students as a whole,” noted Swain. “Mobilization is going to happen in a new way in the fall […] – this has given folks a little bit of taste of what this can look like, and they can take that and make it their own in the fall.”

—With files from Marina Cupido

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Long debates on climate change, military research policies at Council http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/long-debates-on-climate-change-military-research-policies-at-council/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/long-debates-on-climate-change-military-research-policies-at-council/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 23:59:21 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42113 Consultation results on policies show divide among faculties

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On April 9, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened for its final meeting of the year, which lasted eight hours, to debate proposed policies on for SSMU regarding climate change and harmful military research. The Climate Change Policy was ultimately referred to a committee for reworking, and the Policy for a Campus Free from Harmful Military Technology passed only partially.

Councillors also passed motions to stand in solidarity with teaching assistants in their ongoing negotiations with the administration, and to increase SSMU’s support of the Peer Support Network (PSN).

Harmful military technology

At this year’s Fall General Assembly (GA), students voted in favour of a motion calling on SSMU to “renew its stance of opposition to the development of harmful military technology on campus”; a policy to this effect was brought to Council for approval.

The document, moved by VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan, VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette, and Arts Representative Patrick Dunbar-Lavoie, noted that SSMU’s previous policy on the issue had expired in 2013, and that “McGill has remained non-transparent about the extent and nature of military funded research on campus.”

The proposed policy in its original form would have mandated SSMU to oppose the development of harmful military technology on campus, support campaigns with this goal, promote alternative student research opportunities, and lobby the administration for more transparency in the potential applications of research contracts.

It also called on the VP University Affairs to advocate for the delineation of “social responsibility” and of the criteria to be used to weigh the “potential benefits against the possibility of harmful applications’ to evaluate the permissibility of research contracts.”

The policy sparked a lengthy, and at times heated, debate among councillors.

Science Representative and incoming VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston expressed concern over the relatively small proportion of consulted McGill students who had expressed support for such a stance. Out of 200 students polled on the subject, only 27 per cent had responded favourably.

Arts and Science Senator and incoming VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke also voiced concerns based on the survey.

“I think there was a lot of backlash,” she said, speculating that much of students’ opposition to the policy was based on opposition to the activist group Demilitarize McGill. However, she said, most respondents had expressed a desire for greater transparency with regard to the technologies developed at McGill and their possible applications.

In response to Rourke’s concerns, Stewart-Kanigan said that Demilitarize McGill had not been consulted in the drafting of this policy, which, contrary to the concerns of some students, would not offer the controversial group unlimited support from SSMU.

Engineering Representative Anikke Rioux told Council that many students had expressed skepticism about the policy, arguing that many crucial innovations – such as nuclear technology and many advances in aviation – have their origins in military research. She also noted that these contracts bring money to the university at a time when provincial cuts to education are a major concern.

Stewart-Kanigan, meanwhile, defended the policy. “The term [‘harmful’ expresses] that we’d rather not be developing bombs, thermobaric explosives, missiles – those […] very specific things that are designed to inflict harm onto somebody else’s body.”

Medicine Senator David Benrimoh concurred, arguing that “it’s not necessarily about the technology itself, it’s about the provision of the contract.” Clearly, he said, SSMU’s policy would not end the development of such technologies altogether, nor would it bring Canada’s military to its knees – “but that’s not the point.”

“As a university,” said Benrimoh, “we should not be encouraging the military to think of us as a place where they can sink their research dollars for technologies that are [intended for combat].”

After nearly an hour of debate, a motion was brought forward to divide the question. The first ‘resolved’ clause, stating SSMU’s opposition to the development of harmful military technology on campus, passed by a close margin. The final three clauses passed easily, mandating SSMU to lobby in favour of increased transparency on this issue.

The portions requiring SSMU to support student initiatives against harmful technologies and to promote alternative research opportunities, however, were defeated.

The most controversial clauses were voted on by roll call.

Climate change policy

Following extensive consultation and research, Moustaqim-Barrette brought forward a climate policy for SSMU, along with Stewart-Kanigan and Dunbar-Lavoie, in accordance with another motion passed at the Fall 2014 GA.

The proposal outlined the stances SSMU would take with respect to different climate issues (the Society would, for example, be mandated to oppose the extraction of fossil fuels), the prioritization of funding for broader climate justice projects, and the diverse tactics that would be used in pursuit of climate justice.

According to Moustaqim-Barrette, the policy was developed through months of consultation with experienced activists and specialists in a variety of domains pertaining to climate justice advocacy.

Houston took issue, however, with the lack of broad consultation with students from the Faculties of Science and Engineering. While the climate change policy in its original form was supported by 55 per cent of the 200 students surveyed and more than 60 per cent of respondents in each of the Arts, Arts & Science, Medicine, and Science faculties, it had the support of only 23 per cent of respondents from Engineering.

The Engineering Representatives themselves, Rioux and Scott Conrad, expressed vehement opposition to the policy as it stood, arguing instead for a reworking of the proposal over the summer. Rourke and Houston agreed, taking the position that, while elements of the policy were valuable, it should appeal to students across all faculties.

Medicine Representative Joshua Chin, along with a number of other councillors, objected to the fact that, while labelled a “climate change” policy, much of the document dealt with climate justice. “[At the Fall GA] we voted on a motion regarding climate change, and in that motion there was not one single mention of climate justice. How come this policy, which comes from that GA motion, mentions climate change only [briefly], whereas climate justice is [referred to] throughout the rest of the motion,” said Chin.

Stewart-Kanigan defended the relevance of climate justice. “The elements of climate justice that are outlined in this policy are very specific to allying ourselves with Indigenous communities who face extraction on their territories without their consent, [or] who face oil spills in their area.”

She continued, “If you […] want to take the ‘justice’ part out of it, you’re really [saying, for example, that] it would be a bad idea to have a fundraiser for an Indigenous community who’s getting a mine put on their territory that they don’t want. […] These are people you’re talking about.”

After much discussion, Houston moved to refer the proposal to a committee, which would revise the motion to make it appealing to a broader base of students before bringing it back to Council in the fall. The committee would consist of Moustaqim-Barrette and any other interested parties, and would be formed as soon as possible.

This passed by a wide margin.

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Teaching assistant strike kicks off exam season http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/teaching-assistant-strike-kicks-off-exam-season/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/teaching-assistant-strike-kicks-off-exam-season/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:38:33 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42107 AGSEM members hold day-long soft picket to raise visibility

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McGill students’ exam season started off with picket lines held by teaching assistants (TAs) who, frustrated by their collective agreement negotiations with the administration, voted last week to go on a one-day strike. The TAs picketed outside the Arthur Currie Gym, the main site of examinations at the university, calling on the administration to provide more TA hours and to index TA funding to student enrollment.

The strike started at 7 a.m. and ended around 7 p.m.. Organized by AGSEM, the union that represents TAs and invigilators, the picket was divided into shifts of fifty to sixty people, with each shift lasting around four hours.

Because the union voted to hold a ‘soft’ picket, no one was prevented from from entering or leaving the gym – most invigilators chose to continue with their work, though some did join the picket line as an act of solidarity for their fellow employees.

“Our purpose was really not to disrupt exams. Our purpose was to stand and to make a point, and to get visibility for these issues that we want to talk about,” said AGSEM Invigilator Grievance Officer Jamie Burnett.

“It is just to say, ‘look, we are here’ – it’s not that it’s just for people [directly] bargaining with you, it’s the whole TA union who cares about the outcome of this. We support our bargaining team.”

Physics PhD student and TA Michael Stroebe, who was part of the picket line, told The Daily that visible support for the bargaining committee was one of the main goals of the strike. “It is just to say, ‘look, we are here’ – it’s not that it’s just for people [directly] bargaining with you, it’s the whole TA union who cares about the outcome of this. We support our bargaining team.”

In an email to The Daily, McGill Director of Labour and Employee Relations Robert Comeau was appreciative that the strike did not disrupt finals. “The union has a legal right to exercise this way of expressing their concerns, and we think they handled their strike with the upmost [sic] respect for the rights of our students, who were in exams, and we thank them for it.”

Although some undergraduates had expressed concerns about the potential impact of the strike on their exams, AGSEM TA Bargaining Chair Giulia Alberini told The Daily that students had been largely supportive.

“We were worried that maybe undergrads, being nervous for their exams, [would] not [be] too happy with us being there, but they actually have been very supportive. People have been asking for the stickers to put on their exams, and the day has been very cheerful and joyful.”

According to Burnett, the organizers of the strike were in communication with McGill security and representatives from Labour and Employee Relations to make sure that exams could still go smoothly during the picket.

TAs seek better compensation, student ratios

One of AGSEM’s main bargaining demands is a wage increase of 5 per cent per year. According to AGSEM, McGill TAs are are poorly paid compared to those at their peer institutions across Canada, such as the University of Toronto and York University. TAs at both institutions were on strike for the month of March over funding and working conditions.

According to the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, the minimum funding that graduate students receive has not increased since 2008 and is well below the poverty line for a single adult in Toronto.

“Compared to other universities all over Canada, [McGill has] relatively badly paid TAships,” said Stroebe. “We want to make sure that there’s some leverage, because McGill always wants to compare themselves, not only in Canada, but worldwide.”

“It’s difficult to bargain at McGill, the administration has not always made it clear that they care a lot about student concerns, about worker concerns, so it’s difficult. But we have a lot of support, so I think we can move forward.”

However, McGill’s TAs are better paid than those at other universities in Quebec, which, according to Comeau, is the most relevant comparison.

“We would note that McGill TAs are the best paid TAs in Quebec, and we don’t think the reference market is Toronto,” he said.

AGSEM is also asking the University to include a limit on student-to-TA ratios in the agreement in order to prevent them from increasing further. According to Burnett, this is important for TAs’ working conditions, as well as for the quality of education for undergraduates. “We want to make sure that we have enough time to do our job properly, and that’s something that undergrads care about as much as we do.”

According to Comeau, two conciliatory dates have been set to continue negotiations, although a specific timeline was not given.

Speaking to the nature of negotiations with the University, Burnett said, “It’s difficult to bargain at McGill, the administration has not always made it clear that they care a lot about student concerns, about worker concerns, so it’s difficult. But we have a lot of support, so I think we can move forward.”

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Discovering Islam at McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/discovering-islam-at-mcgill/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/discovering-islam-at-mcgill/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 17:48:25 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42076 McGill students invited to experience and exchange ideas about Islam

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On the afternoon of March 27, the Muslim Students Association of McGill (MSA) hosted an event titled “Discover Islam” to allow people to experience cultural, spiritual, and educational aspects of Islam.

The two-hour event consisted of activities, panels, and discussions exploring Islam. The activities and panels introducing Islam, led by students and volunteers, featured games as well as opportunities for cultural exchange, such as trying on a hijab or a henna tattoo. On the other side of the room, discussions over tea were led by Muslim guest speakers who explored topics such as community and family.

Ahmer Wali, president of MSA, told The Daily that the intentions of the event were multifaceted. “It’s to let people know about Islam – for those who do know and for those who don’t know, it’s a good reminder, it lets people interact with Muslims, and to learn more,” Wali said.

“We’re living in times where there is a lot of information, but extremely little knowledge.”

He also emphasized that the event was open to non-Muslims. “Perhaps they want to know, but do not know as much about Islam,” he stated. He continued, “we divided the groups accordingly, some of the basic info that most Muslims would have, and then some more in depth topics.”

Razia Hamidi, a community outreach worker, spoke at the event and discussed the topic of an Islamic community as well as what role practicing Muslims must play in today’s society.

“Community in Islam is not founded in race, gender, nationality, locality, occupation, kinship, or special interest,” Hamidi said. “The principles of Islam are about forbidding the evil and enjoining good, so you do that through political activism, through community engagement, civic engagement, constantly.”

She emphasized that community involvement is an important part of Islam. “In order to be a practicing Muslim, and to fundamentally practice Islam as it was meant to be, it’s not just practicing in your homes, rather something that you do outside, and engage and help better your presence in either in Canada, Montreal, on a micro level,” Hamidi said.

Shakib Ahsan, a PhD graduate in education at McGill, clarified the concept of jihad. Although the word can have many meanings, it is often translated as “holy war,” and is understood as a violent act by the public.

“I am happy that there is so much genuine interest about Islam, and people turned up to learn.”

“The misconception about jihad still exists today after 15, 20 years. So I think a lot of these are same old things that are being repeated probably because the media hasn’t done well in teaching the public or they’ve just twisted it to an extent where […] these things are still in the public perception, very blurred,” Ahsan told The Daily.

Seif Zeineldin, a speaker, stressed the importance of directly engaging with the Muslim population in order to have a clear understanding of the religion.

“We’re living in times where there is a lot of information, but extremely little knowledge. And it is much better actually to get the knowledge from someone who already studied this tradition and spent some time studying this tradition [rather] than going around and googling.”

“That’s what this event is all about. Making people question what is portrayed in the media and get a real taste of Islam,” Hamidi said.

After completing the activities, U1 Political Science student Didier Chen noted that he “realized that [he] didn’t know a lot about Islam.”

Lina, a U3 Arts student, told The Daily that she learned a lot at the event. “I am enjoying having conversations with strangers about things that I am not educated in. […] It’s fantastic, this is one of the best events I’ve seen in SSMU. I’m really happy I walked in here,” Lina said.

Wali said that he felt the event was a success. “I am happy that there is so much genuine interest about Islam, and people turned up to learn.”

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The realities of post-traumatic stress disorder http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/the-realities-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/the-realities-of-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 16:19:06 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42079 Bridge the Gap seeks to provide broader understanding of mental health

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On March 24, the Bridge the Gap speaker series held an event focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Bridge the Gap is a mental health speaker series meant to foster better understanding and awareness of mental health-related topics. The speakers are selected so that an event begins with a more scientific discussion of mental health, which is followed by a speaker presenting their personal experience with the topic. Bridge the Gap is an initiative of jack.org, a network that aims to remove the stigma surrounding mental health through education.

Jorge Armony, a researcher at the Douglas Institute and associate professor of psychology at McGill, explained that PTSD is a mental illness that follows direct exposure to a traumatic event. Traumatic events may include different types of threats, sexual violence, or a serious injury, among many other things.

“My experience with post-traumatic stress disorder – I compare it to waves that are rolling in consistently, and I’m constantly trying to get on shore. I would constantly have these triggers which would be another wave coming and coming.”

Armony described three general categories of PTSD symptoms. The first type involves reliving the event, possibly through nightmares or flashbacks. The second type involves avoiding situations that create reminders of the event. The third includes negative associations and changes, such as avoiding loved ones.

Armony noted that a person may not necessarily experience all four types of symptoms.

Caitlin Kelley, the student speaker at the event, shared her personal experience with PTSD. She started experiencing PTSD a couple of years ago following an incident of sexual assault.

“My experience with post-traumatic stress disorder – I compare it to waves that are rolling in consistently, and I’m constantly trying to get on shore,” said Kelley. “I would constantly have these triggers which would be another wave coming and coming.”

She explained that part of the difficulty in trying to recover from PTSD is the stigma and shame that surrounds mental health, and emphasized the importance of destigmatizing mental illnesses by creating more awareness of them.

Armony also touched upon the impact of stigma when discussing treatment for mental illness. He explained that individuals who have experienced traumatic events like natural disasters are much more likely to recover than a man who has experienced a sexual assault. This is because for the first incident there is more likely to be a sense of community and sharing of experiences while the latter would most likely be hidden due to stigma.

“I think it’s super important to have education-based events, because it helps inform people […] a lot of people don’t know how to approach the topic. Having things like this helps open the conversation about mental health.”

“Strength lies in the ability to love yourself unconditionally,” said Kelley.

Illustrating PTSD in more scientific terms, Armony explained that within the brain, the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain, is very active. The prefrontal cortex the area associated with control – including emotional control – is less active. This means that someone with PTSD will feel their emotions more deeply, but possess less of a capacity to deal with these emotions.

Regarding risk factors, studies have shown that individuals with a smaller hippocampal volume are more likely to get PTSD. The hippocampus is a major component of the brain that is associated with memory and is very susceptible to stress – when an individual reaches high levels of stress, it actually kills cells in that area.

After the talk, student audience member Loa Gordon spoke positively about the event. “It’s really nice that you get the perspective of an expert in the field […] and also a personal story.”

One of the audience members asked what a good response would be to a friend who suffers from PTSD. Kelley said that responses would vary depending on the individual, but that one of the more important things is to say that you’ll be there to support them.

“I think it’s super important to have education-based events, because it helps inform people […] a lot of people don’t know how to approach the topic,” said Laura Herbert, the president of McGill’s Chapter of jack.org. “Having things like this helps open the conversation about mental health.”

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Women fight back against austerity http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/hundreds-of-women-fight-back-against-austerity/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/hundreds-of-women-fight-back-against-austerity/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:35:20 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42062 Police violently disperse "non-mixte" protest

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Correction appended April 9.

At 9 p.m. on April 7, over 200 people gathered at Norman Bethune Square to protest provincial austerity measures. The event, organized by the anonymous collective Hyènes en Jupons (Hyenas in Petticoats), was a feminist protest, open only to trans people and those who self-identify as women.

A McGill Women’s Studies minor student who participated in the demonstration explained her view on this decision.

“I think that so long as [a closed demonstration] is done […] so that gender policing doesn’t become a thing – because that would be violent and problematic in its own way – I think that it’s really important and valuable for non-dudes to have spaces to do activism,” she said. “Not only are activists claiming the streets, but women are claiming activist space in the streets.”

A student from Cégep de Saint-Laurent, who wished to remain anonymous, expressed a different opinion, emphasizing the importance of large turnout at demonstrations.

“There are some who think that it’s because white, heterosexual guys can’t really understand the struggle of women […] which isn’t false, but the more [people] we are, the more we’ll make ourselves heard.”

Setting out on Guy and turning west onto Sherbrooke, the demonstration was soon met with a police cordon, ultimately forcing it back down to De Maisonneuve. During the hour that followed, police restricted the crowd to the Concordia area, blocking its passage further east.

A few stand-offs occurred during this time, and a number of protestors were physically assaulted by police as they hurried to surround the group. One woman was knocked roughly to the ground by a running police officer, breaking her glasses.

Despite the heavy police presence, the mood of the demonstration was lively. Protesters chanted feminist slogans: “Crions! Plus fort! Sinon les femmes on nous ignore!” (“Shout! Louder! Otherwise we women are ignored!”) and “À qui la rue? Aux femmes la rue!” (“Whose streets? Women’s streets!”).

Several protesters noted that women are particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of austerity measures. Others cited Quebec Minister of Health Gaétan Barrette’s controversial Bill 20, which many doctors and health professionals worry will limit the number of abortions Quebec doctors would be able to perform, as one reason for the demonstration.

Another anonymous protester said, “Austerity affects […] marginalized groups in particular, including trans women, who are certainly one of the most marginalized groups, and who austerity stigmatizes further.”

A contingent from the Muslim Jewish Feminist Alliance at Concordia was also present.

“We are marching because the neoliberal agenda is definitely discriminating against women, and women of Muslim […] and Jewish cultural background in Western societies are struggling to uphold their views and their values, and it’s to denounce this oppression that we’re here tonight,” explained a member of the group. “As a visible minority, as women, we have to denounce [austerity].”

At roughly 10 p.m., riot police began to surround the demonstration, and it was declared illegal. They then proceeded to disperse the gathering, firing stun grenades at the margins of the crowd and using tear gas to clear the Concordia area. By 10:30 p.m., the demonstration had scattered and the riot police had left the scene.

One woman described her experience to The Daily. “I was on the sidewalk, and someone knocked into me with a riot shield […] at a certain point I [was thrown] down,” she said. “One of the police officers, I didn’t see who, grabbed me by my scarf [from behind] and pulled me. I’m not sure how I got out of that situation.”

A U1 McGill student also described scenes of brutality, saying the behaviour of police was “unnecessarily violent.”

“At the very beginning, for some reason, they started running towards us, and just pushed this girl who fell on her head, and literally, she was just standing there. She wasn’t doing anything,” said the student.

The McGill Women’s Studies student said, “I think it’s the most aggressive [police repression] I have seen yet. […] The ratio of police to protesters was exorbitantly different than it has been at other [demonstrations]. [That reflects] the way a women, trans, or femme demo is viewed.”

A previous version of this article stated that the march was open only to those who self-identify as women. In fact, the march was also open to all trans people, not just those who self-identify as women. The Daily regrets the error.

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Teaching assistants to strike on first day of exams http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/teaching-assistants-to-strike-on-first-day-of-exams/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/teaching-assistants-to-strike-on-first-day-of-exams/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:15:57 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42056 BRIEF

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McGill’s teaching assistants (TAs) will be on strike on April 16, the first day of final exams, to put pressure on the University and express their disappointment with the lack of progress in negotiations, ongoing since the TAs’ collective agreement expired in June 2014. A vote to that effect passed at the April 7 General Assembly (GA) of AGSEM, their union, by a margin of 129 to 68.

Although the organizational details of the strike were left to the discretion of a newly formed strike committee, the GA did vote to hold a ‘soft’ picket line, meaning that individuals will be discouraged, but not prevented, from crossing it. Invigilators, also unionized under AGSEM as a separate bargaining unit, have the legal right to refuse to cross a picket line preventing access to an examination location.

“It was great to see this many people out, and have an actual debate with so much of the membership about what McGill has offered and how we respond,” said AGSEM Mobilization Committee Chair Mona Luxion, speaking as an AGSEM member. “I think it’s going to take a lot more than this to get major concessions from McGill, but […] I really see this as the first step in an ongoing process.”

The TAs’ current bargaining priorities are a wage increase and the codification of a limit on TA-to-student ratios. McGill countered the TAs’ demand for a 5 per cent yearly wage increase with an offer of an increase equal to that of the Quebec public service workers, with a one-year lag. As the public service workers’ agreement is currently in negotiations, the amount is as of yet undefined.

According to AGSEM TA Bargaining Committee Chair Giulia Alberini, the administration has staunchly refused to compromise on the TA-to-student ratios, as well as on the TAs’ other demands, such as a new harassment-related grievance resolution policy. The last two bargaining sessions were held in the presence of a mediating conciliator, and at least one more session is planned in the coming days.

“What I think is absolutely clear from this meeting is that the membership is really disappointed in what McGill has offered,” said Luxion. “I think that a visible action, especially one that is a strike and does have a real disruptive effect on McGill and in TAs’ lives, is going to start a lot of conversations […] and I think this is the perfect time to do it – while we’re talking about austerity across the province.”

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Tens of thousands against austerity on the streets of Montreal http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/tens-of-thousands-against-austerity-on-the-streets-of-montreal/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/tens-of-thousands-against-austerity-on-the-streets-of-montreal/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 18:27:37 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42043 130,000 students on strike as protest continues late into the night

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Over 30,000 people gathered at Square Victoria on April 2 to demonstrate against the Quebec government’s austerity measures, totalling over $7 billion in cuts to healthcare, education, and other public services. Over 130,000 university and CEGEP students – including McGill’s Faculty of Law and three departmental associations – were on strike for the day of the demonstration, organized by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ).

Gathering at Square Victoria at 1 p.m., protesters marched in the streets of downtown Montreal – including Sherbrooke, Robert-Bourassa (formerly University), and St. Denis – for over two hours, before finally arriving to Place Émilie-Gamelin, near the Berri-UQAM metro station, around 3:30 p.m.. The demonstrators did not give the itinerary of their march to the police, making it illegal under municipal bylaw P-6, and many Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) were present throughout.

Protesters expressed their discontent with the government’s austerity measures with picket signs and banners. Marching in the streets, they chanted slogans in French such as “Un peuple uni jamais ne sera vaincu!” (“The people united will never be defeated!”) and “À qui la rue? À nous la rue!” (“Who owns the street? We own the street!”).

“Instead of hitting the big people, they’re hitting the little people.”

Connor Spencer, a U1 German Studies and History student at McGill, told The Daily that she attended the demonstration because of the far-reaching effects of austerity. “All of the things I feel very strongly about, specifically public services, public benefits, and the things that the government should be supporting, are being attacked in order to conquer the provincial debt,” she said.

She continued, “Instead of hitting the big people, they’re hitting the little people, just people further down, so I’m trying to protest that.”

Although the demonstration consisted mostly of students, unions and community organizations were also represented at the protest. A contingent was also present representing the provincial political party Québec solidaire.

After the demonstration officially ended, some demonstrators remained on the streets until late into the evening; a second night demonstration had been planned for 8 p.m.. At around 6 p.m., protesters and police clashed near Berri-UQAM, at which point police ordered protesters to disperse and began spraying the crowd with tear gas.

Also in attendance were representatives of the Immigrant Workers Centre and the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP), a group that fights human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of Asian bodies.

Sarah Mah, a member of AWCEP, explained that the effects of austerity are not felt equally by different groups. “Austerity measures will adversely affect not only everybody, but disproportionately women – disproportionately women of colour and poor women.”

Mah added, “Austerity measures and the cuts to health services, and most recently, Bill 20, will definitely negatively affect access to [healthcare] for women, and disproportionately for women of colour.”

Florence Tétreault, a Literature and Art History student at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), noted the importance of the strike in communicating student views to the government. “That’s the only thing we can do, I think. I don’t know how I could be active in protest in another way,” Tétreault told The Daily.

Speaking to McGill students’ participation in the demonstration, Spencer said that she saw it as a necessary “symbol of solidarity.”

“It shows that we are aware, we don’t live in this ‘anglo bubble,’ we know what’s going in Quebec, we know that it affects us, and that we care and we’re showing solidarity with [the] province even though we come from all over.”

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McGill Women’s Studies, Law students vote to strike http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/mcgill-womens-studies-law-students-vote-to-strike/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/04/mcgill-womens-studies-law-students-vote-to-strike/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 22:34:36 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=42031 BRIEF

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The Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student Association (WSSA) voted at a General Assembly (GA) on Tuesday to strike against austerity measures from April 1 to April 7. Additionally, in an online strike referendum held from March 30 to April 1, the Law Students’ Association (LSA) chose to hold a one-day strike on April 2.

A total of four McGill student associations will thus be on strike on April 2 in conjunction with the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ)’s mass protest against austerity, joining over 100,000 students province-wide. The Association des étudiant(e)s en langue et littérature françaises inscrit(e)s aux études supérieures (ADELFIES) will also be on strike for the day, and the Association générale des étudiantes et étudiants de langue et littérature françaises (AGELF), striking since Monday, will remain on strike until April 3.

LSA’s one-day strike passed by a vote of 310 to 197, with a turnout of 76.6 per cent. The strike vote at the WSSA GA passed by a vote of 39 to 9. The motion included a provision to hold another GA on April 7 to consider the renewal of the strike.

“I think it’s really important that we’re actually coming together as a collective and engaging with the topics that we address theoretically [in our courses], and doing something about it, and doing grassroots organizing,” U3 Women’s Studies and Political Science student Sula Greene told The Daily, “especially in an institution that we all criticize in classrooms and find super oppressive.”

The Department of English Student Association (DESA) also held a GA on Tuesday, but it failed to reach quorum for a strike motion. The GA voted to instead hold a strike vote by secret ballot on Wednesday, but this also failed to reach quorum. Although 57 per cent of those voting voted for a strike, the turnout was only 14.4 per cent, while 20 per cent, or 205 students, was required.

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Council demands reopening of women-only hours negotiations http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/council-demands-reopening-of-women-only-hours-negotiations/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/council-demands-reopening-of-women-only-hours-negotiations/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:42:28 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41741 Equity, accessible education also discussed at six-hour meeting

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The Legislative Council of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) convened on March 26 for a meeting that lasted more than six hours. Some of the issues addressed included ongoing research into McGill’s equitable hiring practices, SSMU’s stance on the debate over women-only gym hours, anti-austerity mobilization, and opposition to the development of harmful military technology. Council also discussed the results of the recent online referendum on sustainability, and the motion on accessible education that failed to pass at the last General Assembly (GA) due to lack of quorum.

Equitable hiring

Carolin Huang, one of McGill’s researchers on equitable hiring, gave a short and in-depth presentation of both SSMU’s and McGill’s hiring practices, which revealed that minorities are troublingly underrepresented, particularly in certain faculties. McGill adopted an equity policy in 2007, Huang explained, but its implementation has so far been “limited in practice.”

“We overviewed the ways in which employment equity is legislated […] and we came up with recommendations and concerns,” said Huang, explaining that the researchers had heard “many concerns raised by students and faculty around feelings of un-belonging and discrimination on campus.”

When asked by Engineering Representative Anikke Rioux what the practical purpose of this report would be, Huang explained that it should provide an impetus for student advocacy.

“A large problem is that McGill’s administration doesn’t see [employment equity] as a big issue,” she said, “so a lot of people we’ve talked to see students having a huge role in advocating [for this] and putting that public pressure on the administration.”

Women-only gym hours

Also on the table was a motion brought forward by VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan concerning the recent proposal to institute women-only hours at the university fitness centre. The motion asked McGill to reopen negotiations on this highly contentious issue, and work toward a compromise.

Arts and Science Senator Chloe Rourke expressed repeated concern that the portion recommending a compromise would alienate the hundreds of students who had strongly opposed the idea of women-only hours. Her concern was echoed by Rioux and a number of other councillors. Eventually, a motion to divide the question passed, and each part was voted on separately. The first clause for re-opening negotiations passed almost unanimously, while the second clause on working toward a compromise passed with four for, three against, and eight abstentions.

Accessible education

At the recent SSMU GA, a motion was brought forward calling on SSMU to support the financial accessibility of education and oppose tuition deregulation. After considerable debate, the majority of students present voted to adopt it; because quorum had been lost, however, the motion was brought to Council for approval.

Stewart-Kanigan spoke strongly in favour, as did VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette, arguing that commitment to financial accessibility is particularly important in light of recent austerity measures from the provincial government.

Rioux and VP Internal Daniel Chaim, meanwhile, expressed opposition on the grounds that this motion opposed deregulation without offering tangible solutions, and its wording could be considered ambiguous.

Medicine Senator David Benrimoh advocated leaving the question to a referendum, given its potentially controversial implications. This proposal passed by a significant margin, and a slightly simplified version of the motion will be voted on by SSMU members through an online referendum.

Policies on harmful military research and climate change

In accordance with a motion passed at the Fall 2014 GA, Stewart-Kanigan proposed a policy concerning harmful military research on campus.

“SSMU has had many policies in the past supporting transparency in McGill’s development of harmful military technologies on campus,” she said.

“This is essentially a renewal of past policies we’ve had, while adding an additional dimension of mandating the VP [University Affairs] to work with the university to support research initiatives outside of those tied to harmful military technologies, through seeking to incorporate the needs of students.”

The policy will come before Council for approval at a later date.

As a result of another motion from the Fall GA, Moustaqim-Barrette notified councillors that she had developed a climate change policy for SSMU. This motion, which mandates SSMU to advocate for climate justice and support student-run campaigns with this goal, will also be voted on at a later date.

Other business

Moustaqim-Barrette brought forward a motion mandating SSMU to send out a special listserv to all its members to explain the impact of provincial austerity measures on McGill and the wider community.

Having spearheaded the creation of an anti-austerity mobilization committee within SSMU, she expressed concern at the fact that many McGill students remain relatively uninformed about these policies and their problematic social consequences. The motion passed by a relatively close margin, despite strong opposition from Rioux and Chaim.

Also discussed were the results of a recent referendum on sustainability, during which the majority of undergraduates expressed support for the hiring of a full-time Sustainability Coordinator for SSMU.

Councillors debated the relative merits of hiring a coordinator and creating a new executive position of VP Sustainability. In support of the latter, some argued that an elected executive would be more in touch with the needs and ideas of students. No decision was reached, although according to a straw poll taken at the end of the discussion, the majority of councillors supported the idea of a full-time coordinator.

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SSMU launches survey on quality of life at McGill http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-launches-survey-on-quality-of-life-at-mcgill/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-launches-survey-on-quality-of-life-at-mcgill/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:26:10 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41735 BRIEF

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On March 23, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) launched a comprehensive online survey intended to gather data from students about their experiences at McGill. Topics include academics, mental health, social life, student societies, and student priorities.

SSMU VP Clubs & Services Stefan Fong told The Daily, “One of SSMU’s main criticisms is that [it] doesn’t listen, and [it] isn’t relevant […] we want to combat that and address that.”

The survey is also meant to provide the administration with clear numbers and trends regarding student discontent, and provide stronger supporting arguments for SSMU when pushing for student initiatives and defending community concerns.

“There are some hard truths that will come out of the survey, clear trends are already emerging,” Fong added.

“There are some hard truths that will come out of the survey, clear trends are already emerging.” 

The survey, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete, is incentivized: the first 500 users to complete the survey were awarded a coupon for a free slice of pizza from Pizza Navona. In addition to this, Fong testified that increased student participation would “unlock prizes,” hinting that once the threshold of 1,000 surveys has been met, more prizes will become available. Additionally, all who complete the survey will be entered in a raffle for prizes that are unknown as of print.

Inspiration for the survey was taken from similar projects on other Canadian campuses, according to Fong. He cited a survey done at the University of British Columbia (UBC) that found that students in the faculty of science were the only ones consistently dissatisfied with student services, leading UBC to restructure science advising.

“We’re not afraid of getting shit on, ourselves,” Fong told The Daily. “That’s what we want to know – what people have to say.”

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Unsuccessful VP Internal candidate seeks election invalidation http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/unsuccessful-vp-internal-candidate-seeks-election-invalidation/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/unsuccessful-vp-internal-candidate-seeks-election-invalidation/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:24:50 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41706 Johanna Nikoletos appeals Elections SSMU’s decision to J-Board

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On March 27, unsuccessful Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Internal candidate Johanna Nikoletos submitted a petition to the SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) against Elections SSMU, claiming that it failed to “uphold the electoral bylaws and ensure a fair election,” according to an email from Nikoletos.

The petition was filed the day after Elections SSMU Chief Electoral Officer Rachelle Bastarache announced that an electoral review committee had met to discuss allegations of infractions committed by VP Internal-elect Lola Baraldi. The committee “found that there was insufficient grounds to invalidate the election,” Bastarache wrote in her email to the press.

In a report sent by email to the student body on March 27, Bastarache informed students that while the election had not been invalidated, Baraldi’s campaign expenses would not be reimbursed, and that the email constituted a public censure.

Nikoletos will be appealing the decision of Elections SSMU to J-Board. “We will be asking the Judicial Board to either invalidate the election and call for a re-vote, or to disqualify Lola entirely for the extent of her actions,” Nikoletos told The Daily in an email.

“I am filing this petition to fight for my right to a fair elections process in this endeavour,” she wrote.

“I am filing this petition to fight for my right to a fair elections process in this endeavour.”

The alleged infractions that Nikoletos highlighted centre around events that occurred at New Residence Hall. On March 14, Baraldi was at Lou Lou’s, a cafe located in the lobby of New Residence, helping her friend Louise Smith, who works there. Nikoletos noted that a campaign poster of Baraldi’s had been set out on the counter, and alleged that this was an infraction of campaigning guidelines, which forbid campaigning within cafeterias.

In its report, Elections SSMU stated that it did not consider the New Residence cafe to be a cafeteria.

In an email to The Daily, Baraldi said that the poster was placed on the counter of the kiosk by an employee, and that she took it down as soon as she noticed it.

In addition, Nikoletos claimed that the fact that Baraldi was seen giving out free food would constitute an infraction, especially since she was in the presence of one of her campaign posters. She also asserted that the fact that Smith was reportedly campaigning for Baraldi, telling people who came up to her kiosk to vote for Lola, is also not allowed by the electoral bylaws because Smith is not a SSMU member, nor a member of Baraldi’s campaign team.

Baraldi noted that she did give out several free cookies, but only “when instructed to by the worker, and with no reference or correlations to me or my campaign.” Baraldi also claimed that she did not know that Smith had been telling students to vote for Baraldi, and asked Smith to stop as soon as she became aware.

According to the report released by Elections SSMU, Baraldi was indeed in violation of article 3.3 of the regulations for campaigning in residences (incorrectly identified in the report as a bylaw) by allowing her poster to be on the counter for around three hours. Smith was also in violation of article 14.5 of By-law Book I by placing the poster there. According to the report, “testimony reveals that around 12 p.m., Lola overheard Louise telling people to vote for her and intervened directly, and at this time she also took the poster down.”

The committee also concluded that Baraldi was not promoting her campaign in giving away the “one or two” food items that she did.

Nikoletos further alleged that New Residence floor fellows “were using their influence and access to first-year students in order to garner votes for Baraldi.”

Baraldi denied that she was actively campaigning in the New Residence lobby or using floor fellows to campaign for her, saying that while two floor fellows were on her campaign team, they did not campaign in residence.

The report from Elections SSMU contained no reference to the claim that Baraldi had had floor fellows campaigning for her in New Residence Hall.

“I am fully confident that it was a clean campaign and the allegations held against me more than anything result from a frustration with the close margin of votes,” said Baraldi.

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SSMU executive year-end review http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-executive-year-end-review/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/ssmu-executive-year-end-review/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:20:07 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41981 The Daily looks back at the performance of the 2014-15 councillors

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This year’s executive, currently entering the final days of its time leading the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), has demonstrated leadership in areas such as austerity mobilization and support for student-run services, often going above and beyond to advocate for the University to make student voices a priority when making decisions in these areas.

SSMU made a big effort at its general assembly, which was much more organized that the Fall GA, revised the Equity policy in response to issues raised by students, and hosted many teaching events and forums, thus showing an increased push for student consultation this year. However, there definitely remains room for SSMU to improve in this area. Overall, despite bumps along the way, this was a much better year for SSMU compared to previous years.

Click on a position to see its end-year review.


President — Courtney Ayukawa

For many students, the SSMU General Assembly (GA) is the most visible part of the President’s portfolio. Similar to last semester, the Winter 2015 GA was one of the central events of Ayukawa’s term. Indeed, it was very well-organized compared to the fall — while also the site of multiple controversial motions and with an initial turnout of over 500 students, it did not see the same time and security delays present at the Fall GA, and went much more smoothly. However, like the Fall GA, attendance dropped significantly after the first motion on Palestine solidarity, and quorum was lost for the last motion.

Ayukawa was also behind a number of small sustainability initiatives this year, including the introduction of a SSMU composting program and the broadening of the Green Events Coordinator and Green Buildings Coordinator job descriptions. Ayukawa also plans to do interviews with the incoming SSMU executive for the 2014-15 Sustainability Assessment, which will take place in May.

Additionally, Ayukawa has shown initiative in her negotiations with the administration, as she made an attempt to open Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) negotiations with the University one year early. This attempt, however, was unsuccessful due to a lack of cooperation from the administration. She has also been one of the less vocal members of the student Senate caucus this semester. While the bulk of the Presidential portfolio concerns Human Resources and is thus oftentimes less visible, it is important for the head of a student society such as SSMU to have a visible leadership presence, which has ultimately been inconsistent throughout Ayukawa’s term.


VP External — Amina Moustaqim-Barrette

As the member of the executive charged with representing SSMU’s interests outside of McGill, VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette has motivated a variety of initiatives this year. Aided by her previous involvement with Divest McGill, Moustaqim-Barrette helped organize SSMU’s involvement with the People’s Climate March, and also initiated SSMU’s affiliation with anti-pipeline group Étudiant(e)s contre les oléoducs (ÉCO), which now represents over 100,000 students across Quebec.

While environmental initiatives at SSMU have quieted down this semester, anti-austerity organizing has picked up. Initiatives such as the recent anti-austerity activities night, actions of the mobilization committee, and the hiring of a mobilization officer are commendable attempts to increase engagement with ongoing issues in Montreal and Quebec. However, the mobilization of McGill students has not been particularly successful — this lack of student interest in the VP External portfolio was highlighted by the fact that no one ran for the position in the first round of SSMU executive elections last week. Although two candidates are now running in by-elections, dwindling student engagement in external issues is a problem that both the current and future VP External should seek to improve.

One of Moustaqim-Barrette’s recent projects has been to explore the possibility of starting a new student federation. In light of SSMU’s disaffiliation from the Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ) last year, and the possible dissolution of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), this move to maintain and improve McGill’s connection with other Quebec universities is a necessary step forward.


VP Finance and Operations — Kathleen Bradley

Kathleen Bradley has done well as this year’s SSMU VP Finance and Operations. She succeeded in bringing a more clearly presented budget to Council. A huge change from last year was Bradley’s outreach to the media concerning this year’s budget: when the budget first came out at the beginning of the year, Bradley sat down with campus media and explained it to them in full, demonstrating a clear dedication to transparency and willingness to communicate with students. However, further initiatives to increase the visibility of SSMU’s budget among the student body as a whole, and to make students more aware of where their fees are going, would have been beneficial.

Bradley told The Daily she was glad to help SSMU break even on its budget and see sales rise at student-run cafe The Nest. She said that the continued expansion of student-run operations is one thing she hopes will be continued by next year’s executive as well. At SSMU Council meetings, Bradley has asserted that she expects the Nest to break even next year.

Bradley has done a great deal of work this year to promote student-run operations beyond the explicit demands of her portfolio, and we commend Bradley on her involvement with the Food Coalition and for leading SSMU in its support of student-run services, which have been under constant attack from the administration this year. A minor criticism of Bradley, however, is that throughout the year she has been reluctant to give as much time to campus media inquiries as compared to other members of this year’s executive and past holders of Bradley’s current position.


VP Clubs & Services — Stefan Fong

During his second year as VP Clubs & Services, Stefan Fong has endeavoured to make clubs more accessible to students and to increase student consultation. Fong told The Daily that he hopes that the Club Hub, a club management portal Fong has been developing since his first year in office, will finally be implemented under next year’s VP Clubs & Services, as the research and consultative phases have been completed.

In working toward achieving the Club Hub, Fong obtained constitutions from clubs that he identified as being active this year, thereby updating the list of functioning clubs. Additionally, Fong told The Daily that he wants to see the development of a co-curricular activities record, wherein participation in SSMU clubs would be recorded on a student’s transcript. While this is a worthwhile endeavor, it is still in developmental phases and is unlikely to be implemented this year.

Fong also showed initiative by rewriting the bylaw book for clubs and services. Overall, Fong has been an active member of Council, taking one of the executive positions often perceived as more mundane and very much making it his own. However, Fong has also faced criticism from various clubs and services for failing to consult with them before SSMU imposed clubs regulations. While this is a near-inevitable side effect of improving the organization of the Clubs & Services portfolio, the future VP Clubs & Services should seek to maintain and improve SSMU’s relationship with its clubs to help facilitate future cooperation.


VP Internal — Daniel Chaim

Daniel Chaim has prided himself on amassing larger amounts of revenue than last year’s executive in every social event that he has run as VP Internal, including 4Floors. Although some of the events still ran a deficit, Frosh almost broke even, missing the mark by a margin of only 0.35 per cent.

He also assisted in the restructuring of the Students’ Society Programming Network (SSPN), which increased overall volunteer involvement by delegating more responsibilities to volunteers and giving them more experience with event planning. Chaim noted that he had worked closely with SSPN this year and said that the committee played an integral role in the running of SSMU’s social events.

Chaim has not had many visible accomplishments this year outside of the standard organizing of these events; his proposed publications fee, for example, has as of yet failed to materialize. He has done little to go beyond the minimum requirements mandated by his portfolio; for example, he has failed to use the listserv as a tool to promote political engagement. This lack of drive to do more than the basic requirements of his portfolio was the most concerning aspect of Chaim’s performance this year.


VP University Affairs — Claire Stewart-Kanigan

Claire Stewart-Kanigan has been exceptionally active in student advocacy as VP University Affairs in many ways. On the policy front, she has been heavily involved in the continued development of a sexual assault policy for McGill, has helped update SSMU’s Equity Policy to allow for consultation with relevant student groups, and has worked on formalizing SSMU’s stance in opposition to harmful military research on campus. Stewart-Kanigan has also been central to the successful launch of SSMU’s mental health department.

Stewart-Kanigan has continued work on decolonization by seeking to bring a territory acknowledgement to Senate by the end of the year. Student researchers under her portfolio have also been very active, notably investigating equitable hiring practices at McGill. At Senate, Stewart-Kanigan has continued to provide a strong presence, and has acted as an effective leader for the SSMU Senate caucus.

Student consultation and collaboration have been a priority for Stewart-Kanigan. She has held forums and informational sessions, and has been receptive to concerns brought forward by students such as the women-only gym hours. Overall, Stewart-Kanigan has fulfilled her mandate exceptionally well, and has had a lasting impact on the university.


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Quebec students on strike: a timeline http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/quebec-students-on-strike-a-timeline/ http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2015/03/quebec-students-on-strike-a-timeline/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:17:12 +0000 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/?p=41825 Looking back at a first week of mobilization

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Escalating the pressure against the provincial Liberal government‘s austerity measures and cuts to education, healthcare, and public services, nearly 50,000 students across Quebec, including McGill‘s French Language and Literature students, were on strike last week. Many of them will be on strike until at least April 2, and some have already renewed strike mandates that extend even further. Students and supporters have participated in daily protest actions, some of which were met with heavy police repression — especially in Montreal and in Quebec City.


March 21

Braving the snowy weather, Montreal students kick off the strike with a 5,000-strong demonstration.

March 23

At Université Laval, anti-strike students hoping to access their first classes of the week call the police, who arrive on the scene but do not attempt to break the picket lines.

A demonstration in Montreal sees police involvement, and ends in several injuries and 24 arrests.

March 24

Le Devoir reports that, in an unprecedented move, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) has moved to expel nine students who have participated in strikes and demonstrations over the past two years, prompting a solidarity petition from the student body and an outraged letter from the professors‘ union.

In the early afternoon, police violently attack a demonstration of about 200 in downtown Montreal.

A night demonstration in Montreal against austerity and for accessible education draws thousands of people, and continues for over two hours despite clashes with police.

In Quebec City, police swiftly and brutally repress a protest of about 500, making 274 arrests. Two people are bitten by police dogs.

March 26

Demonstrators gather by the Parliament building in Quebec City to protest the presentation of the Liberal government‘s budget. Riot police are deployed, and one demonstrator is shot in the face point-blank with a tear gas grenade.

March 27

Thousands of Montrealers take to the streets once more for a night protest. Demonstrators march for over an hour, but are dispersed with sound grenades, and at least 81 people receive fines.

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