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Council heats up over space

SSMU councillors and students in the gallery went on the attack against the SSMU executive for failing to prioritizing student space during the question period at Thursday night’s Council meeting.

Kira Page, a member of GrassRoots Association for Student Power, expressed outrage with SSMU’s handling of the $19,800 they collected through an increase in the SSMU base fee approved last fall in a referendum, pointing to the SSMU executive’s lack of clarity on how student groups vying for the Caférama space could access the money.

“Why hasn’t Council made any statements [about the fee to students], considering you are here to support us and represent us?” Page asked.

Page reminded councillors that students voted to increase fees to improve student space, and pointed out that at the Fall General Assembly, students mandated SSMU to prioritize student-run initiatives in the Shatner building.

Councillors and gallery members demanded to know why the Space Fee Committee, chaired by SSMU Speaker Yahel Carmon, had failed to meet or consult students, as per its terms of existence.

“Why haven’t we – SSMU – [made] a more concerted effort to reach out to say [to student groups] ‘This is money is available’?” asked Trevor Chow-Fraser, U3 East Asian Studies.

SSMU President Jake Itzkowitz said such publicizing was not SSMU’s job, and that the fee increase referendum question did not specify that students should be consulted in the use of the money.

“The onus is on students to come forward and make that application [for the fee]…. It’s not the purview of the executive to seek out groups,” he said.

Itzkowitz stressed that the power to decide what enterprise takes over Shatner room 103 and how the fee money will be spent ultimately lies in the hands of Council, while Carmon explained that the committee’s timeline for consultation was unrealistic.

“The Space Committee’s a bit of a strange creature,” he said. “The mandates for a timeline weren’t realistic; it was conceived in paper versus in practice.”

SSMU Environment Commissioner Derina Man challenged Council on why it neglected to consult with student environment groups like Sustainable McGill and the Environment Residence Council about how to use the Caférama space.

“Why weren’t we consulted more, communicated with more when that space is so related to environmental sustainability?” she asked the Speaker.