News  Council: nursery in Shatner, Tribune wings not clipped

SSMU Council met Thursday with a loaded agenda that included the vote to convert the McGill International Student Network’s (MISN) lounge into a nursery serving student parents.

While Council overwhelmingly approved the motion – which will offer eight spots to children under 18 months – some councillors criticized the lack of communication between SSMU and MISN leading up to the decision.

“While it’s unfortunate that there couldn’t be more consultation, the unfortunate thing is that we don’t set the time table,” said SSMU VP External Devin Alfaro.

SSMU did not inform MISN of the plan until August 19, despite receiving notification of the provincial government’s approval in a letter dated August 8. When SSMU applied for the nursery, they intended to use the MISN lounge and got the go-ahead because that space fulfills criteria on evacuation and natural light.

According to the proposal submitted to Council, the nursery would open by January 5, 2009.

Amy Vincent, SSMU Daycare Manager, said that seeking a space other than the MISN lounge on campus would be too expensive.

“There’s no other space on the McGill campus that would be affordable,” Vincent said.

SSMU President Kay Turner noted that approving the nursery would fulfill SSMU’s mandate to support student parents.

Currently 12 children under 18-months are on the waiting list for SSMU Daycare, which cannot accommodate babies.

But MISN President Charles Pontvianne argued that SSMU’s mandate makes it equally responsible to student parents as to the 6,250 international students at McGill.

“You say that you need…to fulfill your mandate, but representing the largest minority at McGill is also part of [it].” Pontvianne said during Council.

MISN claimed that moving their service to Shatner room 416 would greatly restrict service due to decreased visibility.

“This isn’t just about physical space, it’s about that particular physical space,” said MISN VP External Sean Cai.

Arts councillor Hanchu Chen proposed a resolution to prioritize MISN in room-booking this year, which was handed off to the SSMU Clubs and Services Committee for deliberation.

“I just want to make sure that they have proper space,” Chen said.

Despite Council’s decision, McGill could reverse the vote based on the University’s designation of the lounge as a space for international students, in concert with a Coca-Cola sponsorship agreement. Seeing this, SSMU VP Internal Julia Webster disagreed with the room-booking proposal.

“I think it sets a dangerous precedent,” she said. “There is a chance that McGill would not allow us to have this nursery…then MISN could stay in the lounge and have preferential booking in Shatner.”

Later that evening, SSMU Council unanimously approved a motion to postpone The McGill Tribune’s independence from January 2010 to September 2010.

At the end of last semester, Council members drafted a motion to release The Tribune – which passed overwhelmingly – without conferring with the newspaper’s editorial staff beforehand.

Webster was concerned the original deadline did not leave enough time to research an appropriate student fee for the service and develop a new memorandum of agreement with the University under the current plan to release The Tribune from “the mothership SSMU.”

Nadya Wilkinson, SSMU VP University Affairs, also presented a report on McGill’s new guidelines prohibiting student travel to countries under travel advisories at the meeting.

Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson is drafting a policy that would prohibit students participating in “any University-related activities, be they curricular or co-curricular” to travel to countries or regions bearing a Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade travel warning to avoid non-essential travel. The policy will restrict students travelling for research purposes.

Among Wilkinson’s concerns was that the new policy would not treat undergraduates fairly.

“My worry is that this is going to give a lot more freedom to graduate students, since graduate research is much more respected,” said Wilkinson. ”It definitely affects the attractiveness of McGill [to potential students].”

SSMU Council meets bi-monthly on Thursday evenings and is open to undergraduates.