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Senate hopefuls, referendum committee leaders go on defensive

Undergrads to vote on online opt-out autonomy, club support, and Daily Publications Society

Senate candidates and referendum “Yes” committee members pled their cases at debates Thursday night, where students grilled their peers on why they should support autonomy of online opt-out services, a more club-friendly SSMU, and the Daily Publications Society.

Trevor Chow-Fraser spoke on behalf of the Yes Committee for the autonomous opt-out question, which asks if students support SSMU groups and independent student organizations to administer their own accessible online opt-out system.

“Minerva’s minimalist interface presents each fee as little more than an alpha-numeric code with an attached dollar amount, similar to the way students are often treated,” Chow-Fraser said.

Currently, the opt-out option is on Minerva, and critics say it does not offer proper context about the groups affected.

According to Chow-Fraser, the system creates opportunities for decontextualized smear campaigns against the groups, as well as huge amounts of instability in funding.

“These small organizations run with the tightest budgets on campus. When they don’t know if they can pay their staff or rent, projects are going to live and die from semester to semester,” he said.

The debate for the Clubs and Services referendum, which calls for SSMU to declare its support for the student groups, provoked interest within the audience.

Joshua Stark of the question’s Yes Committee, noted this year’s budget cuts were a detriment to the viability of clubs and services. He pointed to SSMU’s decision to buy Haven Books as a threat to student groups.

“[SSMU shouldn’t] buy businesses that are going to cost a huge amount of money without consulting students,” Stark said.

An audience member pointed to SSMU’s VP Clubs & Services position as a demonstration of the Society’s commitment.

The question asking students to reaffirm their five-dollar fee to the Daily Publications Society (DPS) initially met a quiet audience, but shortly attracted interest.

Several students asked Yes Committee members Sarah Colgrove and Max Reed why the Daily Publications Society (DPS), which publishes The Daily and Le Delit, must go to referendum, and if the papers could seek alternative funding sources.

Colgrove said that the administration is mandating the referendum as a prerequisite to the DPS’s Memorandum of Agreement with McGill.

She emphasized the historical significance of the Daily, which has been publishing for 97 years.

“The papers are constantly morphing to reflect the students interests of the time,” Colgrove said.

The DPS provides the only independent press and the only francophone paper on campus. Reed emphasized the openness of the Daily; it prints every letter it receives and allows anyone who has written six articles voting power on the editorial board.

The senator debates were less animated. Of the acclaimed Senate positions – those in the Faculties of Management, Law, and Music – only Faizel Gulamhussein, the Law Senator, was present. He delivered a brief bilingual speech that stated the need for Law students to reclaim their library.

The four candidates running for three Arts Senator positions – Zach Honoroff, Will Johnston, Kevin Markl, and Ivan Neilson – were present.

All share inexperience in experience working with McGill administrators, but had concrete ideas to improve student life.

Neither candidate running for the Medicine Senator position attended.

Of the four candidates running for three slots as Science Senator – Safia Chatur, Andrew Ling, Ryan Luther, and Matthew McIntosh – only Ling was present. His speech, partly in French, focused on greater accessibility of student services to francophones and on the need for a more long-term career oriented Career and Placement Centre.