Tonight’s Council will decide whether a SSMU nursery for children up to 18-months-old will take over the current McGill International Students’ Network, (MISN) lounge in the Brown Building.
The nursery would complement the already existing SSMU daycare by providing eight spots each year to children of McGill students and faculty too young to qualify for the service.
Although the room on the first floor is used for MISN activities, SSMU President Kay Turner acknowledged that the potential loss of the lounge would not restrict the service’s activities by shifting MISN to the fourth floor. She added that the nursery would have a fundamental effect on McGill parents.
“For the students who have young children, having a nursery could make a difference as to whether or not they can complete their education,” she said.
The nursery – the only one in Montreal to prioritize McGill students – would be financed by SSMU and government subsidies.
The provincial government approved the construction of the nursery in mid-August, on the condition that it would be located in the room currently occupied by MISN. The room was the only viable option that complied with governmental regulations concerning size, lighting, and evacuation protocol for nurseries.
Amy Vincent, SSMU’s daycare director, indicated that the nursery would meet an important demand for McGill students, especially undergraduates.
“On our waiting list of undergraduate students, all but one have children under 18-months-old,” Vincent said. “There has always been a need [for a nursery], but this is the first time we have been able to act on it.”
However, MISN President Charles Pontvianne was concerned that a move might hinder services provided to the 6,250 international students – comprising just under 17 per cent of the student population – at McGill.
Pontvianne was unsatisfied with SSMU’s offer of a space on the fourth floor of Shatner because it is far away from other services important to MISN such as International Student Services (ISS). He explained that MISN services rely on the large-sized lounge for the low-cost language classes and events.
“We would lose total visibility on campus. Very few students go to the fourth floor to see services. We need the lounge space,” said Ponvianne. “By depriving us of this space, SSMU is preventing us from fulfilling our mission.”
Turner however, saw the nursery as an opportunity for SSMU to be accountable to student needs.
“People are always saying that SSMU never follows up on its mandate,” Turner said. “[The nursery] is a great opportunity to follow up with something students have said they want.”
Khalil Guliwala, MISN VP Internal, explained that fewer people would be served in a space transfer.
“SSMU is disregarding a big minority of students in favour of a small group of students,” Guliwala said.
Samantha Cook, SSMU VP Clubs & Services, explained that the future of MISN had not been overlooked.
“We have saved them a room upstairs, the same size room as any other service gets,” she said.
Cook added that it was unclear why MISN has been privileged to occupy a space far larger than those allocated to other clubs and services for many years.
But Guliwala was annoyed that SSMU was asking for their cooperation while still not meeting their needs.
“SSMU asked us to send out an email on our listserv about the deregulation of tuition fees. They are asking us to help them while we are losing out on physical space,” he said.
Though no decision will be reached until tonight’s Council meeting, MISN is already unsatisfied with how the decision-making process has proceeded.
“There was no dialogue at all between us and SSMU or SSMU and the general population,” stated Pontvianne.