The McGill Daily » News Karl Marx’s luscious beard since 1911 Sat, 28 Nov 2015 07:24:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 » News 32 32 Omar El-Sharawy wins VP Internal by-election Fri, 27 Nov 2015 23:21:37 +0000 Updated on November 27, 7:26 p.m.

Omar El-Sharawy was elected Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Internal today after a 24-hour voting period, Elections SSMU has announced. El-Sharawy’s term will begin in the Winter 2016 semester.

In an interview with The Daily prior to his election, El-Sharawy said that during his term, he intends to “ensure that events are not only successful, inclusive, fun, but also are accessible,” and that “inclusivity and social equity at events will be a main focus of mine.”

The by-election period also saw two joke campaigns from candidates Lou Bernardi and Jason Rutman, with Bernardi promising to resign immediately if elected, and Rutman citing having “watched all five seasons of Game of Thrones” among his qualifications.

This VP Internal by-election had a voter turnout of 8.7 per cent, even lower that the 16.7 per cent turnout in the first by-election last week, during which no candidate was elected.

The Daily endorsed El-Sharawy with reservations.

At 7:07 p.m., Elections SSMU sent an email stating that “there was an initial error in the calculation of the results by simplyvoting,” as it calculated the results using the Borda Count method, whereas the Electoral Bylaws mandate the use of an Instant Runoff method. Despite the error, El-Shawary still won the by-election with 55.48 per cent of student votes.

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Arts Undergraduate Society supports Divest McGill’s petition Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:07:20 +0000 Correction appended on November 23.

The Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council met on November 18 to discuss divestment from fossil fuels and possible renovations to the Arts Lounge.

Fossil fuel divestment

Arts Senator Erin Sobat and VP External Becky Goldberg brought forward a motion to support Divest McGill’s latest petition to the Board of Governors (BoG). The petition, calling for McGill to divest from fossil fuels, was submitted to the BoG’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) in February 2015.

According to the Divest McGill website, the group also submitted “a 150-page report outlining the long-term social and environmental harm that has come about as a result of the fossil fuel industry,” but has yet to receive a decision from CAMSR.

At the Faculty of Arts Committee meeting on November 24, representatives will be debating a motion that, if passed, would pledge the faculty’s support for Divest McGill’s petition. The motion brought forward by Sobat and Goldberg was to ensure support of AUS for the faculty meeting motion, and encourage the student representatives to the meeting to vote in favour of it.

“This investment practice not only contradicts McGill’s environmental policies, but it also undermines our values.”

“Individual action [against climate change] is great,” said U3 Environment student and Divest McGill member Andrew Stein, speaking in support of the motion at Council. “But what we really need to see is strong international action, in terms of policies, in terms of changing our energy economy […] and that’s something that takes place on a much larger scale than any one of us individually can speak to.”

“McGill University is […] committed to fighting climate change. However, that commitment is being undermined by it continuing [to] profit from the fossil fuel industry. Of our $1.3 billion endowment fund, somewhere between 5 and 8 per cent, in the range of $70 million, is invested in fossil fuel and [resource extraction] companies. This investment practice not only contradicts McGill’s environmental policies, but it also undermines our values,” Stein added.

After a very brief question period, the motion passed without opposition, with only a few councillors abstaining from the vote.

Arts Lounge renovations

President Jacob Greenspon led a brief discussion on potential renovations to the Arts Lounge.

“Already, many ideas have been put forward for doing something with the lounge,” Greenspon told Council.

“The Arts Lounge is not as great of a place as it could be, and there are a lot of really good ideas out there: putting water fountains in, painting the walls again, adding some more study-appropriate furniture.”

He explained that this year would be a good time to undertake renovations, as AUS currently has both faculty support for the idea and sufficient funds to carry it out.

“The most important thing is the real, demonstrated need for this,” he continued. “There was an article in the [McGill Tribune] a month or two ago about the lack of student space on campus […] and [some people using] the lounge don’t feel entirely satisfied by the lighting and the furniture. […] This is going to need a lot of student consultation.”

Other business

Council also voted to support motions approving departmental budgets for the 2015-16 financial year, creating a system whereby councillors and departmental associations will deliver regular reports of their activities, and increasing the fee for the McGill Summer Studies in Greece program from $2,900 to $3,050.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the motion to support Divest McGill’s petition mandated student representatives to vote in favour of the motion that will be brought up at the Arts Faculty Meeting. In fact, the motion simply encourages them to do so.

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SSMU to form ad-hoc electoral reform committee Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:05:57 +0000 The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met on November 19 and passed a motion to institutionalize support for Indigenous communities. Council also discussed and passed a motion to form an ad-hoc electoral reform committee in light of this fall’s contentious referendum and by-election period, and to form another ad-hoc committee to explore improvements to the SSMU health and dental plan.

Motion in support of Indigenous communities

Council discussed a motion regarding the institutionalization of support for Indigenous communities. Similar to a motion passed by Council last year, this motion mandates SSMU to adopt a traditional territory acknowledgement. This year’s motion specified that the acknowledgement is to be “stated at all major SSMU events and addresses made by Executives, including but not limited to SSMU Awards, town halls, Discover McGill, and General Assemblies.”

In an effort to improve support and visibility for Indigenous communities, the motion also allows for Indigenous students and groups who organize events to have access to free room bookings through the VP University Affairs, meaning these groups could bypass the restrictions on advance bookings that other student groups are subject to.

VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik, although in favour of the motion, expressed concern about the feasibility of promising room booking space in the SSMU building when there already isn’t enough bookable space for SSMU clubs and student groups. “In my opinion, it’s a bit of an issue that we keep spreading ourselves more and more thin,” she said.

However, President Kareem Ibrahim noted that similar privileges given to groups that hold events related to mental health have had a negligible impact on the operations of the building, and that the effect of privileges for Indigenous groups would likely be similar.

The motion was passed with three abstentions.

Ad-hoc electoral reform committee created

Council unanimously passed a motion to establish an ad-hoc committee on electoral reform in response to “the unprecedented degree of personal attacks during campaigning” and the “conduct of candidates and voters” throughout the Fall 2015 referendum and by-election period, during which one candidate resigned, citing threats to herself and her family.

Arts Representative Adam Templer, one of the movers, said that the motion is also meant to address the aftermath of similarly controversial SSMU elections in the last few years, and make elections “more functional and sustainable” in general.

“I don’t think I’m alone when I say they’ve really been a mess lately,” Templer said.
The committee’s investigation into alternative electoral formats will include a review of internal regulations of the Presidential Portfolio – rewritten two years ago – as they pertain to SSMU elections.

“I don’t think I’m alone when I say [the elections have] really been a mess lately.”

Arts Senator Erin Sobat expressed skepticism, stating, “I’m very much in favour of this motion, I just want to point out that there were some similar issues around elections before those internal regulations were rewritten two summers ago,” Sobat said.

However, Bialik pointed out that the rewritten regulations included no guidelines for online campaigning, one of the major sources of contention in recent SSMU elections. “These are things that are entirely missing from our regulations right now,” she said.

The committee will include an equal number of SSMU councillors and members at large; meetings will be open to a gallery to allow for more student involvement in the process.

Health and dental committee

Council also unanimously passed a motion from the floor to establish an ad-hoc health and dental committee to look into ways that SSMU health insurance coverage could be improved.

According to Templer, one of the movers and co-chair of the new committee, the committee would look into addressing issues such as a lack of legal coverage and of off-campus mental health coverage, and the fact that only 80 per cent of birth control costs are covered by the current SSMU plan.

“This committee would look at utility of [changes to the plan], how much it would cost, and whether students would think it’s beneficial,” said Templer.

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Sexual assault policy town hall explores intersectionality Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:04:19 +0000 The student-run Sexual Assault Policy (SAP) Working Group held a town hall on November 19 to discuss the incorporation of intersectionality in the sexual assault policy it has been drafting since February 2014.

The SAP Working Group was created following backlash to the administration’s response to sexual assault allegations against three former R*dmen football players, an incident which became known to the McGill community in the fall of 2013.

This, however, was not what first sparked discussion on the need for a sexual assault policy at McGill. Speaking at the town hall, Safina Adatia, advocacy branch member at the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) and member of the SAP Working Group, said, “People have been discussing this issue for a very long time, obviously beyond when [the SAP Working Group was] formed.”

Adatia also explained that McGill does have a current Policy on Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law; however, a policy focusing specifically on sexual assault does not exist.

“As a largely white, able-bodied group, we felt that the policy would inherently reflect our lived experiences and hence centre around our identities.”

Around March 2015, it came to the SAP Working Group’s attention that the policy might not be intersectional enough. Speaking to this, Adatia said, “As a largely white, able-bodied group, we felt that the policy would inherently reflect our lived experiences and hence centre around our identities.”

According to the Facebook event description for the town hall, last spring the SAP Working Group “attempted to incorporate intersectionality into the policy proposal by consulting with different groups committed to anti-oppressive work. However, these groups were presented with a hefty document and short timelines, leading them to express that [the SAP Working Group was] not approaching instituting intersectionality in a genuine and accessible way.”

The town hall was part of a larger process of consultation that the SAP Working Group is undertaking in order to address these criticisms. The timeline for the proposal was pushed back, and the group committed to spending the Fall 2015 semester engaging with more anti-oppression groups and incorporating intersectionality into the policy.

For instance, the latest version of the policy proposal, dated June 9, includes a description of intersectionality, “an approach which recognizes that individuals may experience oppression differently due to their membership in different social groups.”

“One of the things that we felt was pretty important is [for] the list of ‘-isms’ [be] standardized or made consistent across the whole document.”

Additionally, the latest version includes the right of people who experienced sexual assault (PWESA) “to have access to resources tailored to their particular experiences and identities, including but not limited to resources specifically for people of colour, disabled people, queer people, and/or trans people who have experienced sexual assault.”

At the town hall, participants were divided into groups to discuss these changes more in depth. Following these group discussions, the participants reconvened to discuss their conclusions together.

Addressing the group, Angela Yu, a member of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Equity and Diversity Committee, brought up the fact that the policy lists various “-isms,” such as racism and sexism, at different points, but that the lists were not consistent.

“One of the things that we felt was pretty important is [for] the list of ‘-isms’ [be] standardized or made consistent across the whole document. So that way, it never seems like it’s jargon, but it’s actually very much what the whole document is centred around,” Yu said.

Talia Gruber, a member of the SAP Working Group, also brought up the fact that while the policy mentions Indigenous people several times, the word “colonialism” never makes an appearance.

Melis Çağan, a member of the QPIRG-McGill Board of Directors, suggested adding more information pertaining to access to resources for international students, or for those who might need access to resources in other languages.

Kai O’Doherty, a member of the QPIRG-McGill Board of Directors who has been involved with the SAP Working Group, told The Daily that the small size of the town hall discussion provided a feedback channel that was more extensive than would be a more crowded session.

“I think it would’ve been great to see more people, but I’m happy that the people who came, came. We had a substantive discussion.”

“I think it would’ve been great to see more people, but I’m happy that the people who came, came. We had a substantive discussion. I think when there are few people, it’s easier to have more in-depth discussion. […] I think it’ll prompt us to make sure that we really work with the feedback we got from other people, as well,” O’Doherty said.

Speaking to The Daily after the town hall, Yu said, “I was told that so far there hasn’t been very much [graduate] student participation on this project, and I think that partially is due to a disconnect between things at the graduate student level and what’s happening among undergraduates.”

“I think the fact that [the SAP Working Group was] able to put things to a stop to give more thought to intersectionality is very encouraging. […] Obviously, [it]seems like there’s still a lot of work and discussion that needs to happen. […] It seems to be so collaborative thus far, I think that’s really good,” Yu said.

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The McGill Bookstore reaches out to community for feedback Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:03:18 +0000 On November 4, the McGill Bookstore placed “mood boards” around campus: large, blank whiteboards on which students could write comments and feedback on the Bookstore, under prompts such as “My bookstore would be better if…” The boards were placed in the SSMU cafeteria, Leacock, Stewart Biology, the Redpath library, and the Macdonald Campus and McTavish bookstores.

Come 2016, the building currently occupied by the McGill Bookstore will house the Desautels Faculty of Management’s MBA program. The Bookstore has not yet found a new location, but has continued to expand its online marketing. Jason Kack, the general manager of the McGill Bookstore, dismissed rumours that the Bookstore will be permanently closing its physical location and moving all sales exclusively online.

“There is no thought of closing the physical location of the Bookstore. In fact, we are looking to expand it, and have multiple locations. If anything, it will grow,” said Kack in an interview with The Daily.

Seeking community feedback

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Kareem Ibrahim told The Daily that he is excited that the Bookstore is “reaching out to students,” considering McGill’s history of forgoing student consultation, such as in the 2010 closure of the Architecture Café.

“Consultation is also always something that groups struggle with. […] We’ve had SSMU struggle with it, and admin also does,” explained Ibrahim.

When asked about the success of the mood board initiative, Ibrahim noted that “the boards seem to be pretty full.”

“They are covered with feedback. I know it is obviously not the perfect form of consultation, that’s why there has to be multiple avenues. […] But I think it is good, just to start [getting] out the message to students that the bookstore wants to know what you want.”

“Consultation is also always something that groups struggle with. […] We’ve had SSMU struggle with it, and admin also does.”

Evan Vassallo, a U3 Software Engineering student, told The Daily that he thinks the mood boards are “a great way to get […] feedback from students, to get new ideas from students.”

“I feel the whiteboards really grab attention in a really busy university setting where people are moving around. […] It allows people to take ten seconds out of their day to think about how [McGill’s services] could be improved.”

When asked about his own ideas for improvements, Vassallo cited the Bookstore’s inefficient use of space, saying, “when I was in the space last [time], the upper levels seemed to be sparse. There wasn’t much there.”

Kack noted that due to limited real estate in Montreal and on campus, whatever space the Bookstore ends up relocating to will likely be smaller.

“This building is 40,000 square feet, [that kind of space] doesn’t exist anywhere else,” he commented. “So we’ll have to be much more efficient when it comes to what our product is, what we’re displaying, and the experience with the customer.”

Financial accessibility

According to Kack, the Bookstore began renting out textbooks in 2011 and selling online course packs in 2013. Kack explained to The Daily that the Bookstore’s push for online marketing is part of an attempt to make academic material more accessible for students.

“Now all of our course packs are available digitally, and are cheaper as a consequence,” said Kack.

“Something that is relatively new is the concept of book rentals,” he continued. “That’s been gaining a lot of momentum [… because] you’re getting the guaranteed buyback upfront.” However, the prices of used, rented, and digital textbooks are all contingent on the price of the newest print edition.

According to a 2013 report by the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO), from 2002 to 2012 the cost of buying textbooks increased by 82 per cent, while overall consumer prices grew by just 28 per cent. The exorbitant prices of textbooks make them inaccessible to many students with financial constraints.

“‘Let’s see, should we give our bookstore a really boring, generic name or use a slave owner’s name instead? Decisions, decisions…’”

In response, students have found ways to circumvent these extortionate prices, from scanning and illegally sharing PDFs between friends to torrenting textbooks. While some students do so as a matter of financial necessity, others refuse to pay on principle. Some have complained that professors may require their students to purchase the newest, priciest versions of textbooks, often authored by the professors themselves.

The GAO report noted that “used textbook prices are directly linked to new textbook prices in that retailers typically offer used books for about 75 per cent of the new, print price.”

“Similarly, digital textbooks and textbook rentals are generally offered at a discount based on the new, print price. Thus, while students may be able to find lower-priced options, increasing prices for new, print books will likely lead to similar price increases for other related course materials,” the report qualified.

“It needs to be understood [that] when it comes to textbooks, we do not determine the price. The price is set by the publisher,” Kack explained. “Being a self-funded part of McGill means that all of our operations, we pay McGill for. Everything down to getting the trash removed, […] we pay a fee back to McGill […] to pay for other programs, including student life and learning.”

Rebranding the Bookstore

In a post published on the McGill University Bookstore Facebook page on November 18, it was announced that the Bookstore will be changing its name in addition to changing its location.

“We also want our name to evoke our legacy and heritage, while describing a contemporary space where our community can find a variety of products and services,” the post stated.

“Le James” and “Magasin General Store” were the two options presented for rebranding, and students were encouraged to comment on the post with their preferred name.

“Let’s see, should we give our bookstore a really boring, generic name or use a slave owner’s name instead?”

Former student Guillaume Pilote commented on the post, “Let’s see, should we give our bookstore a really boring, generic name or use a slave owner’s name instead? Decisions, decisions…”

Kack admitted that there has been some initial resistance to the rebranding of the Bookstore.

“The idea of why we are looking to change the direction of the name and our brand, to some people it’s unthinkable. So we’re going to have to work with all of that,” said Kack. “But the way I see it, if people are emotional about it, it means they care. That to me is a victory far beyond any negative or positive feedback.”

Ibrahim says that the Bookstore is only one McGill institution that will be looking for student feedback in coming months. “We want people to know, number one, that the Bookstore wants to talk with them, but we also want to facilitate communication between students and other parts of campus that want to know what their thoughts are,” he said.

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Senate reviews whistleblowing policy Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:02:32 +0000 McGill’s Senate convened for its third meeting of the year on November 18 to discuss the financial state of the university and international tuition deregulation. It also approved revisions to the Policy on Safe Disclosure.

International tuition deregulation

Arts Senator Erin Sobat and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Chloe Rourke submitted a question regarding the conflict between the University’s continued push for international tuition deregulation in all programs and its professed commitment to financial accessibility for international students. Sobat expressed skepticism as to how the University could proceed with deregulation without making sacrifices either in terms of educational accessibility or revenue generation.

In response, Principal Suzanne Fortier argued that the two are not incompatible, noting that “the funding formula in Quebec is so complicated” that this might not be obvious at first glance. In regulated programs, international student tuition is redistributed among all Quebec universities; in contrast, deregulation would allow McGill to keep the entirety of its international tuition fees, a portion of which could then be used to enhance bursary programs, Fortier explained.

Medicine Senator David Benrimoh noted that studies have shown that an increase in tuition combined with an increase in bursary programs slightly improves accessibility for lower-class applicants, but reduces it for the middle class.

“We’ve been working very hard […] to establish special financing programs […] through philanthropic donors,” Provost Christopher Manfredi said in response. “That is a perennial problem, I understand that.”

Financial situation and budget

Reporting on the financial state of the university, Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa informed senators that the university’s financial deficit went up from $95 million to $98 million in the past year, and that its provincial operating grant decreased from $353 million in 2013-14 to $341 million in 2014-15.

The accumulated costs for the deferred maintenance of McGill’s building and IT infrastructure are estimated at $1.3 billion, Di Grappa said, and the bond McGill plans to issue to cover these costs risks lowering its credit rating. He also noted that enrolment has increased by 1.24 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

Arts Faculty Senator Derek Nystrom noted that student enrolment has been increasing even as the number of tenure-track faculty has remained “fairly static.” According to his calculations, between 2011 and 2014, student enrolment has increased at a rate of 32 students per faculty member, while the overall ratio is of 23 to 24 students per faculty member.

“We’re adding students at a much higher rate than we’re adding faculty members, which is bad news for all sorts of reasons,” said Nystrom.

Speaking to 2016-17 budget planning, Provost Christopher Manfredi said that the Quebec government is planning to shed an additional $200 million in education funding, despite the fact that “there was the news recently that the province [is] in a surplus situation.” According to Manfredi’s estimate, this cut will likely amount to a reduction of 2 to 2.5 per cent to McGill’s provincial operating grant.

Whistleblowing policy and student discipline

Senate approved revisions to the Policy on Safe Disclosure, which aims to protect people who disclose academic, financial, and research misconduct at McGill. The policy, which was reviewed by a working group struck for that purpose, now includes additional procedural guarantees for those accused of misconduct, as well as measures to increase the policy’s visibility, such as the addition of a statement of principles and of the word “whistleblowing” to the policy’s title.

“It’s an uneven playing field; the point of the statement of principles is to even out the playing field. To present it as if it’s already a level playing field [is misleading].”

University Libraries Senator Marc Richard expressed concern that the statement of principles did not commit to protecting the reputation of the accused respondents who are found innocent. Richard moved to amend the sentence reading “All reasonable steps shall be taken to protect the position, reputation, privacy and confidentiality of the ‘discloser’” to include the respondent as well.

Angela Campbell, Associate Provost (Policies, Procedures & Equity) spoke against the amendment, arguing that the policy has provisions to protect the respondent, but that this should not be included in the preamble, since the policy is meant first and foremost to protect the “discloser.”

Benrimoh concurred, saying, “It’s an uneven playing field; the point of the statement of principles is to even out the playing field. To present it as if it’s already a level playing field [is misleading].”

The amendment was defeated, and the revisions were passed as presented.

Presenting the 2014-15 annual report of the Committee on Student Discipline, Associate Dean of Students Glenn Zabowski noted that the year was the fourth in a row with a decline in the overall number of disciplinary cases, and the second consecutive year with a decline in cases of cheating. The total number of cases decreased from 276 in 2013-14 to 240.

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Support for women facing Islamophobia and racism Fri, 20 Nov 2015 03:41:53 +0000 Updated on November 21.

On November 20, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., a “safe discussion space” for Muslim women and allies was held in New Chancellor Day Hall. It was organized by Aishah Nofal and former Daily editor Humera Jabir, two Muslim women at the Faculty of Law.

The first hour of discussion was closed for Muslim and racialized women who feel targeted by the recent increase in racism and Islamophobia in the wake of the November 13 Paris terrorist attacks. The second hour was open to Muslim and racialized men and to other allies.

Nofal told The Daily that the first hour was closed to certain identities because “it’s important to create a space for all brown bodies, and women specifically […] because some of us don’t feel comfortable sharing in front of others.”

“Muslim women who, for instance, wear the hijab, they are perhaps the [most visible] targets right now,” Nofal said. However, Nofal noted that all racialized women who feel targeted were encouraged to attend the event.

“The victims of terrorism include Muslims, not just in France, but in Beirut, in Baghdad, in Nigeria.”

Last week alone, a Peterborough mosque was torched and a Muslim woman in Toronto was physically assaulted. In addition, there have been numerous other reports of threats and harassment targeting Muslim people.

Regarding the Islamophobic discourse surrounding the Paris attacks, Jabir said, “The victims in Paris were of all faiths, of all backgrounds. The victims of terrorism include Muslims, not just in France, but in Beirut, in Baghdad, in Nigeria.”

When asked how non-racialized people can be better allies during this time, Nofal cited the recent instance of a white British man coming to the aid of a woman in a hijab who was being verbally assaulted on the London Underground.

“I was a bit conflicted because it was a white man – and I’m thankful that he did step in – but it sort of perpetuates the ‘white saviour’ discourse,” said Nofal.

“Every person that you pass in the street, you have a chance to make them feel secure, a chance to make them feel welcome.”

“But I think it’s more important to recognize the good, because a lot of times […] women have a heightened sense of fear in those circumstances, and may not be able to stand up for themselves as much as they want, because the repercussions they might face are very real. It is a very real and tangible fear,” Nofal continued.

Jabir also talked about the importance of noticing acts of harassment, regardless of their magnitude.

“Few people will see someone verbally or physically assaulted and have the chance, perhaps, to intervene on that person’s behalf – but in general, what people experience is smaller aggressions, in terms of sideways glances, and comments,” Jabir said.

Jabir encouraged every person who felt threatened or allies “who want to come and just hear and try to understand” to attend the discussion.

“We have to remember that peace and security […] is something that we extend to others at every single moment of our day. Every person that you pass in the street, you have a chance to make them feel secure, a chance to make them feel welcome,” said Jabir.

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Teachers and public sector workers continue their strike Wed, 18 Nov 2015 01:17:31 +0000

Updated on November 21.

On November 17, more than 600 teachers and public sector workers marched through downtown Montreal as part of their two-day strike announced on October 2.

The demonstrators at the march hailed from a variety of different sectors, represented provincially by the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ).

Demonstrators convened at Place du Canada at approximately 10:30 a.m.. From there, they marched east until McGill College, at which point they turned north. Once on Sherbrooke, the demonstrators marched west and eventually made their way back to Place du Canada.

The march was organized in part by the Front commun, a coalition of public sector unions. According to a Front commun security volunteer, the itinerary of the demonstration was given beforehand to the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), meaning that it was considered legal under municipal bylaw P-6.

Last week’s strike marked the end of a series of rotating strikes that started in the Laurentians on October 26. The Front commun was expected to hold three consecutive days of striking from December 1 to 3 across health and education sectors. However, it decided against these strike days on November 18.

“It’s clear that [education has] become a question of dollars and cents. […] That’s now the bottom line for all public services: health, education, welfare.”

Speaking to The Daily at the march, Sara Iatauro, an educational consultant at the English Montreal School Board, explained that her biggest concern is the decline in the quality of students’ education as a result of the provincial government’s proposed budget cuts. Students with learning disabilities will be those most severely affected, Iatauro said.

“[The government is] looking to take away codes. Basically, students, if they have special needs, they’re coded, and it gives them extra services in the classroom,” Iatauro said.

“For example, if you have a student who has ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] or ADD [attention deficit disorder], they need extra time, extra services, extra space, where they can get the attention they need, so they can be more successful. […] They need the resources that will help them, give them better strategies to learn,” Iatauro continued.

On November 6, public sector workers rejected the government’s latest contract offer, on the grounds that the improvements offered were negligible. Teachers have been without a new contract since April.

Paul Jones, who has been a teacher in Quebec for more than 40 years, attended the march and told The Daily that his classroom today is very different than it was when he started teaching.

“You can’t separate the teacher from the student. If our reality is worsening, then so is theirs.”

“When I was hired as a teacher, I had about 28 students in my classroom. I’m up to now 40. I started the semester with 45. That’s one concrete example of what the government’s idea is – that we can do more with less,” Jones said.

“It’s clear that [education has] become a question of dollars and cents. […] That’s now the bottom line for all public services: health, education, welfare. […] It’s all now based on this mantra, which is a bunch of bullshit […] that somehow ‘zero-deficit’ is a sacred goal that all society should meet,” Jones continued.

Jean-Michel Sotiron, a professor at John Abbott College, said that he was at the march for a “brighter future,” and argued that teachers’ working conditions directly inform the quality of education they can provide.

Sotiron explained, “The neoliberal government has been […] trying to undermine the public sector. […] I don’t think that’s the proper way of doing things. That will lead to more suffering, greater cleavages in society. […] Together we can build something better.”

“You can’t separate the teacher from the student. If our reality is worsening, then so is theirs,” Sotiron said.

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No SSMU VP Internal elected Tue, 17 Nov 2015 05:31:49 +0000 Alexei Simakov failed to win the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Internal by-election, Elections SSMU announced on November 15. Overall, 16.7 per cent of eligible voters turned out to vote in the by-election and the Fall Referendum.

VP Internal by-elections

Simakov, the sole candidate left running for the VP Internal position after his opponent Céleste Pagniello withdrew, was not elected, with 51.7 per cent of voters voting “no.”

Pagniello withdrew from the electoral race on November 11. In a statement made public by Elections SSMU, Pagniello said, “Due to personal attacks and threats directed towards my family, and myself, I have decided not to continue with my campaign to be VP Internal of SSMU. These messages have escalated far beyond the appropriate level of a student government campaign, and I have decided to end this campaign in order to protect myself and all parties involved.”

The nomination period for another VP Internal by-election began on November 16. Students who wish to run for the VP Internal position are expected to submit their nomination packages by 5 p.m. on November 20.

Referendum questions

The question to increase the opt-outable CKUT fee by $1.50 per student per semester failed, with 54.7 per cent of the voters voting “no.”

A similar question was put to referendum among Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) members in October. Although it was initially announced that the question had failed, the question passed with 51 per cent support after ineligible votes were discounted.

The referendum question regarding the creation of a Safety Network Fee passed, with 75.3 per cent of the voters voting “yes.” Accordingly, SSMU will create a single non-opt outable fee of $3.97 per undergraduate student, which will be collected starting in the Winter 2016 semester. A fee renewal motion will be brought back to the SSMU membership in Winter 2021.

Plebiscite questions

Two plebiscite questions were asked during the voting period. A plebiscite question is not binding in nature, but serves to gauge the interest of the student body toward a particular topic.

The first question asked, “Do you support the SSMU focusing more of its energy on developing projects to increase the financial accessibility of commodities, such as student housing and food cooperatives, for students?”

This question received a “yes” vote from 79 per cent of all voters.

The second question was in two parts. The first part asked if students would be willing to pay a small per-semester fee for the Old McGill Yearbook if all students would be eligible to receive a copy upon graduation with no additional fee.

The second part of the question asked whether students would want to make that fee opt-outable, with the understanding that those who opted out of the fee would not be able to receive a yearbook.

The first part of the question received a “yes” vote from 56.9 per cent of students, while 76.6 per cent voted “yes” for the second part.

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At the intersection of gender and Blackness in law Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:05:41 +0000 On November 11, the Black Law Students’ Association of McGill (BLSAM) held a panel discussion titled “Black Women and the Law: Reclaiming Spaces and Changing the Narrative of Black Female Success.” The goal of the discussion was to shed light on the barriers that Black women face in the legal world.

The panelists included McGill law students Lillian Boctor, Samanthea Samuels, Stéphanie Déborah Jules, and Alyssa Clutterbock, and Université de Montréal law student Médigne Gourdet. The student panelists talked about their personal experiences and critical analyses regarding the intersection of Blackness and gender in the field of law.

Also present was Rachel Zellars, PhD candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education, whose research focuses on critical race theory.

Representation versus reality

Samuels and Jules discussed the current media representation of Black women in the field of law, analysing three characters from popular TV shows: Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in Scandal, Viola Davis as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away With Murder, and Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson in Suits.

“It’s important […] to use that media presence to actually talk about, ‘okay, this is TV. In reality, what’s happening?’”

Samuels and Jules acknowledged that such increased media presence of Black women in law is a positive change. Nevertheless, they said that the characters still enforce stereotypes, pointing to the hypersexualization of Olivia Pope and “angry Black woman” moments of Annalise Keating. While Samuels and Jules praised Jessica Pearson as a strong, self-determined individual they lamented the fact that she remains a supporting character in the show.

This discussion of Black female characters in TV served as a launching pad for the real focus of the evening: the reality of Black women in the field of law. According to Jules, “It’s important […] to use that media presence to actually talk about, ‘okay, this is TV. In reality, what’s happening?’”

“We’re not seeing those roles in real life,” Samuels said.

The panel presented statistics on the underrepresentation of Black people, and specifically Black women, in the legal world. For example, as of March 2013, only 286 of the 24,450 practicing lawyers and 72 of the 1,245 active law students in Quebec were Black.

“For a Black woman, law is far too often a barrier or a bludgeon, rather than any sort of bridge to justice.”

Clutterbuck approached this underrepresentation from a more personal angle, being one of two Black women in her class and the only Black woman in her law firm.

Gendered violence against Black women

Boctor addressed state violence against Black women. “For a Black woman, law is far too often a barrier or a bludgeon, rather than any sort of bridge to justice,” Boctor explained, focusing on a number of injustices faced by Black women, citing examples of sexual assault by police.

Zellars talked about how Black women are characterized in legal circumstances, where they are portrayed as “self-deprecating agents, things to be shamed, exposed, and ultimately disbelieved in their allegations of sexual violence.”

Blackness in law school and professional life

For Clutterbuck, the most difficult part about going through law school was attempting “to reconcile the fact that I have to write an exam […] using concepts that were once used to oppress my ancestors.”
Gourdet described an interview where she was rejected and was told that she did not look like “the image of our cabinet.” She also explained the difficulties that Black women face in having few role models in the legal profession, and in coming to terms with the fact that hard work alone is not enough to succeed.

“It’s really easy for the status quo to keep producing predictable results, which is that every year, the overwhelming majority of future lawyers are white, from upper middle-class backgrounds.”

The panelists emphasized the importance of unapologetically claiming space as Black women pursuing careers in law and moving forward.

“It’s really easy for the status quo to keep producing predictable results, which is that every year, the overwhelming majority of future lawyers are white, from upper middle-class backgrounds. […] In the spirit of wanting a bench across the country that is representative of the population, we need to continue to fight,” Clutterbuck said.

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Climate change activists give Trudeau a warm welcome Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:04:33 +0000 Thirty-four McGill students and alumni gathered on November 5 to travel to Ottawa in order to participate in the Climate Welcome event. The group joined more than seventy other activists who occupied the gates of 24 Sussex, the residence of Canada’s newly appointed prime minister, Justin Trudeau.

The Climate Welcome was planned by groups throughout Canada, but was supported primarily by, the Council of Canadians, and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. In an interview with The Daily, Kristen Perry, a U4 Environment student and Divest McGill organizer, explained that the demonstrators’ “main demand for real climate action was to freeze tar sands expansion and to start the transition to a just and renewable energy economy.”

Transportation from Montreal to Ottawa was organized by Divest McGill, a campus environmental justice group, bringing students and members of the community to Trudeau’s residence. The McGill participants returned to Montreal on November 6 and November 7, even though the sit-in lasted until November 8.

“Immediately after [the federal elections] we wanted to welcome whoever was coming into office with a Climate Welcome, showing them that the climate movement is big and growing.”

Each day, the demonstrators delivered different sets of ‘gifts’ to Trudeau, in an effort to demand that he take real action on climate change. On the first day, Trudeau was given scientific studies, economic reports, and Indigenous treaties, all of which indicated that the tar sands need to remain underground.

In the following days, the gifts were expanded to include over one million messages from Canadians against tar sands expansion and pipelines, as well as water samples from various communities across the country. On the last day, the demonstrators delivered five solar panels.

Jed Lenestky, a U1 Environment student and Divest McGill organizer, told The Daily, “The only presents that were accepted were on the first day.” The messages, however, were both emailed to the Prime Minister and sent by mail on a USB stick.

Perry expressed that throughout the election period the demonstators’ “goal was to make climate change more of an issue in the election campaign.”

“[Trudeau is] planning to go to the international climate talks [in Paris] without any target essentially. He’s using [former Prime Minister] Stephen Harper’s target, which is completely inadequate.”

“Immediately after [the federal elections] we wanted to welcome whoever was coming into office with a Climate Welcome, showing them that the climate movement is big and growing,” Perry said. “We wanted to be there to show [Trudeau] that we would support him in taking climate action.”

Perry continued, “[Trudeau is] planning to go to the international climate talks [in Paris] without any target essentially. He’s using [former Prime Minister] Stephen Harper’s target, which is completely inadequate. He said he needs to consult with the provinces which, of course, is a good thing. […] But right now he doesn’t have a target. […] We’re trying to push him, but also support him because he has the potential, I think, to be a leader in climate change action.”

The first day of action

Speaking to The Daily, Andrew Stein, a U3 Environment student and Divest McGill organizer, summarized the action on November 5, the main day on which McGill participants were active.

“We marched down to 24 Sussex. Upon arriving, we split into two groups. Half of us [held a sit-in] in front of 24 Sussex, [and] half of us [held a sit-in] in front of Rideau Cottage. We voiced our demands to the Prime Minister’s office and then we converged on Rideau Hall when the executive assistant to the Prime Minister was sent down to speak with us,” Stein said.

According to Stein, demonstrators then proceeded to escalate their tactics.

“We blocked […] Sussex Drive, at which point we were informed by the police that we were trespassing and officially risking arrest. However, they were on marching orders not to arrest anyone for this kind of basic civil disobedience. […] We stayed in the street for a while, sang some songs, did some chants, demonstrated our presence, and then we took off and called it a day.”

“We blocked […] Sussex Drive, at which point we were informed by the police that we were trespassing and officially risking arrest.”

Perry added, “After we were out there sitting for about two hours on the road itself, we got the news that the police actually weren’t going to arrest us as long as we sat there, and the Prime Minister wasn’t going to come down for the day. So we decided at that point [that] we’d de-escalate for the day and come back with even more people the next day.”

On why he chose to attend, Lenetsky replied, “I think climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world.”

“[Trudeau] made this promise of real change and I wanted to help hold him to that. […] Every day we were there, the next day we came out with twice as many people. […] Every day we’re growing, this issue isn’t going to go away. […] We’re not going to go away and we’re going to keep fighting until we get what we want,” Lenetsky concluded.

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Unofficial “No” campaign comes under fire Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:04:05 +0000 On November 11, Céleste Pagniello’s withdrawal from the race for the position of Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP Internal left Alexei Simakov as the sole candidate running for the position. The same day, two students set up a Facebook event titled “Vote(z) NO in the VP Internal by-elections.”

Ben van der Ger, a U2 Environment and Economics student and one of the two official organizers of the event, told The Daily that the event is “definitely not [an] ‘anyone but Simakov’ [movement]. The point is that the student body doesn’t need to accept a candidate that is less than what they feel is the best, and less than what they feel properly represents them.”

Evan Berry, a U3 Geography student and the other co-organizer of the event, added, “We think it’s necessary to empower the student body to vote ‘no’ if they didn’t know that was an option for them.”

The event description cites Simakov’s “inability to understand the demands of the VP Internal portfolio” as a main reason for opposing his election. Van der Ger added that Simakov’s self-professed inexperience with social equity and unwillingness to take up the responsibility makes him unfit for the role.

“The reason why we’re doing this is because we care about our campus, and we care about student politics.”

Berry and van der Ger have come under scrutiny for being roommates with SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim. When asked about a possible conflict of interest, Berry responded that they “have been transparent about the fact that we are [Ibrahim’s] roommates.” He added, “We are running this campaign without an association with [Ibrahim].”

“This is not coming from roommates of [Ibrahim], this is coming from constituents of SSMU who do not feel adequately represented by Alexei Simakov,” Berry continued. “The reason why we’re doing this is because we care about our campus, and we care about student politics.”

Berry and van der Ger have repeatedly denounced the personal attacks that are rife in current and past SSMU election campaigns. They told The Daily that they have tried to run a transparent mobilization free from “dirty tactics,” going so far as to publicly condemn as well as personally speak with members of the page who they felt were making ad hominem attacks on Simakov.

In a statement posted on Reddit on November 11, Simakov denounced the hypocrisy of the “No” event’s effort to steer away from personal attacks. “I find it interesting that the exact same people who last year were rabidly attacking me on everything from my financial status to my ethnicity all of a sudden feel that it’s now unacceptable to discuss the integrity of candidates running for positions of leadership,” said Simakov in the statement.

“SSMU elections should not be a shitty episode of Jerry Springer.”

Simakov further expressed suspicion at the motives of the organizers, saying, “I’m starting to believe that [their] only desire is to just use authority, not to accomplish anything, but as an end in itself.”
“SSMU elections should not be a shitty episode of Jerry Springer,” Berry told The Daily. “The last three years have been loaded with shady campaign tactics, with personal attacks – not just by the candidates, but by their supporters, who should know better – and have become a personal mudslinging battle that benefits no one.”

“We also need to remember that as much as we disagree with his politics and his platform and his qualifications for the role, [Simakov also] deserves respect, personal space, and high levels of mental health,” said Berry.

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Post-grads to support Student Refugee Program fee Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:02:46 +0000 The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) met on November 11, passing motions to allow for the resignation of the Internal Affairs Officer Sahil Kumar, to strike a bylaw allowing for Chief Justice special appointments, and to support a fee levy increase for World University Service of Canada (WUSC) McGill.

Principal Suzanne Fortier, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, and Trenholme Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook were also present at Council, talking to the councillors about issues ranging from the drafting of the Sexual Assault Policy to the renovation of the McLennan-Redpath library complex.

Changes on Council

Sahil Kumar resigned his position as Internal Affairs Officer of PGSS in a motion passed by the council. Kumar took a leave of absence from October 5 to November 2, and his resignation will come into effect December 2. Kumar did not disclose the reasons for his resignation.

The Council then approved dates for a by-election to fill the vacant position. The nomination period began on November 9 and will end on 22, with campaigning occurring from November 23 to 29, and the voting period spanning from November 30 to December 6.

Council also ratified the appointment of a new Speaker, Logan Smith. Smith will replace Nida Nizam, who has occupied the position since 2012.

Motion of support for WUSC levy

Council heard from Sujay Neupane, a member of WUSC McGill. Neupane spoke in support of a consumer price index (CPI) adjustment to the WUSC levy to sponsor the group’s Student Refugee Program (SRP), which works to sponsor students from refugee camps pursuing their undergraduate degree at McGill.

The SRP started at McGill in 1986 with a referendum that passed a levy of $1 per academic year. However, since 1986, the fee levy has not been adjusted according to CPI. To adjust for the error, the fee would need to be increased to $1.92 retroactively.

“Because there was no local committee at McGill in the nineties, all this money was being accumulated, and with the present levy […] we’re able to sponsor two students every year right now,” Neupane said.

“The accumulated money is running out and a dollar levy is only enough to sponsor one student.”

“Next year we’re going to sponsor four more students, for a total of six, and McGill is paying for the four students […] for [that] one year. But after that, for 2017, again we’re going to go back to sponsoring two students. But we can no longer do that as of 2018, because the accumulated money is running out and a dollar levy is only enough to sponsor one student,” he added.

The adjusted fee constitutes a 92 per cent increase, and the University has asked WUSC to call a referendum on the matter.

According to Neupane, should the levy cease to exist, and should there be no committee in the future, “this program might just end. [….] We want to make a statement to McGill admin [… that] ‘Look, PGSS supports us.’”

Council voted to support the motion, as WUSC McGill is still negotiating terms with the University.

Sexual Assault Policy

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier was also present at Council, speaking with cautious optimism about the future of research funding under the new federal Liberal government, and stressing the importance of “curiosity-driven research and purpose-driven research.”

During the question period, Fortier addressed queries regarding allegations of intimate relationships between professors and research assistants.

“We have to […] be careful in respecting [professors’] private lives,” stated Fortier. She noted, “We must also ensure that people have higher standards of professional conduct.”
Fortier stated that dealing with such issues “is not taking a position on morality but on professionalism.”

“We have to […] be careful in respecting [professors’] private lives.”

Ollivier Dyens, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), told Council that Dean of Students André Costopoulos was working with the student-run Sexual Assault Policy Working Group (SAPWG) to create a policy, which would include student-professor relationships.

Dyens emphasized the importance of “giving to students the quick access to talk about these things,” and making it easy for students to come forward with an allegation of assault without fear of jeopardizing their academic standing or opportunities.

Renovation of McLennan-‌Redpath library complex

Additionally, Council heard from Trenholme Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook about the proposed renovation of the McLennan-Redpath library complex.

Cook spoke about a day-long survey conducted in November 2014, which found that “one out of every five students was in one of our libraries during this eight to ten hour period, and [… they] were there to work.” According to Cook, the vast majority of students used libraries for solo or group studying, while only a small fraction accessed physical texts.

The renovation plan proposes to build a three-story robotic storage facility underneath Lower Field, which would house McGill’s large collection of rare and special texts.

“What this does is allow us to free up those spaces that are currently occupied by stacks into […] totally flexible user spaces,” Cook told Council.

The project, called “Fiat Lux” (Latin for “let there be light”), will integrate a large glass-enclosed seating area along the McLennan-Redpath Terrace, preserving the stone walls of the original building.

The project will also renovate the facade of the library facing McTavish and provide a corridor within the renovated library for students to pass through from McTavish to Redpath Terrace.

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Luis Solano speaks at McGill Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:00:36 +0000 On November 12, the McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America (MICLA) hosted an event with Guatemalan journalist Luis Solano. The talk centred around the criminalization of land defenders in Guatemala, the role of the Canadian mining industry in the destruction of the land, the violation of human rights, and the persecution of environmental activists.

Sharing the stage with Solano were Pearl Eliadis, a human rights lawyer and member of the McGill Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism; Aniseto López, a Guatemalan activist; and Jennifer Moore, coordinator of the Latin America Program for MiningWatch Canada.

MICLA, in partnership with MiningWatch Canada, the Committee for Human Rights in Latin America, Voices-Voix, and many other organizations, held the event in the auditorium of the Otto Maass Chemistry building, where over 200 students and community members gathered.

Solano’s talk focused on the damage perpetrated by the Vancouver-based company Tahoe Resources Inc., and the complicity of the Canadian government, transnational corporations, and military contractors in the crisis taking place in southeastern Guatemala.

Solano said, “The Tahoe Resources project is not only a mining project but a part of a greater economic model in Guatemala, […] repeating a pattern found across the world.”

“The Tahoe Resources project is not only a mining project but a part of a greater economic model in Guatemala, […] repeating a pattern found across the world.”

Tahoe Resources Inc. acquired significant land concessions in Guatemala in 2010, when it bought the Escobal silver deposit from Goldcorp Inc., another Vancouver-based company. Solano said that the Escobal project was then undertaken without the consultation and consent of the local communities. In fact, according to Solano, many locals were unaware of the project or the nature thereof until a few years after its construction.

Since 2010, resistance and opposition to the development and the continued operation of the mine have been met with repression, criminalization, and militarization, despite the peaceful nature of the protests.

“They detained people illegally. They get the public ministry support to authorize these arrests, they create these lists of ‘troublemakers’ that they give to the military to arrest them,” said Solano. “It sows terror among people.”

To draw parallels between Guatemala and Canada with regards to governmental action against activism, Eliadis brought up the role of Canada’s anti-terrorism act Bill C-51, which can potentially criminalize environmental and Indigenous activism. As such, said Eliadis, mining companies can destroy the land and perpetrate gross violations of human rights with impunity.

“They get the public ministry support to authorize these arrests, they create these lists of ‘troublemakers’ that they give to the military to arrest them.”

According to the speakers, land defenders in Guatemala are criminalized and labelled as terrorists, and have been targeted by security contractors hired by Tahoe Resources Inc. and the Guatemalan military forces.

However, according to Solano, the problem is “not just military, it’s much more complex; it’s a spiderweb of counterinsurgency.”

Aidan Gilchrist-Blackwood, a U2 Political Science and History student and member of MICLA who attended the event, said in an interview with The Daily, “The criminalization of land defenders is an important human rights issue, but it gets very little coverage in the Canadian media. […] It’s having a major impact on Indigenous peoples both in Canada and around the world.”

Addressing students about the importance of collective action, Eliadis said, “We must assure that there is no impunity, that’s where you all come in.”

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SSMU VP Internal by-election debate held Wed, 11 Nov 2015 23:38:05 +0000 On November 11, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held the candidate debate for the VP Internal by-elections.

Following Céleste Pagniello’s withdrawal of her candidacy “due to personal attacks and threats directed towards [her] family, and [herself],” former presidential candidate Alexei Simakov is the only candidate remaining in the electoral race.

As part of the structure of the debate, SSMU executives, students from the audience, and online viewers asked various questions to Simakov, which ranged from concerns about a lack of focus on the Events portfolio of the VP Internal position, to Simakov’s views on equity and accessibility.

Speaking at the debate, Simakov highlighted the fact that he wanted to add a diversity of opinions to SSMU Council and to show that SSMU could have a “moderate candidate.” Simakov also mentioned that he would be mainly concerned with the administrative aspects of the position, which he believes corresponds to 90 per cent of what SSMU executives actually do.

The quotes in the live-blog may not be verbatim.

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