Not even a motion for “no-pants Fridays” attracted enough students to Tuesday’s SSMU General Assembly (GA) for it to be treated as more than a “consultative session.”
Because the GA failed to reach qualified quorum – 397 or two per-cent of the total number of undergraduate students – motions passed must be ratified in an online 48-hour referendum active until Friday at 5 p.m.
According to Kay Turner, the SSMU general manager counted a total of 250 students come in and out of Three Bares Park, where the assembly was held, but the maximum present at one time was only 110.
Although the first motion, calling upon SSMU to offer logistical support to the Association of McGill Undergraduate Students Employees (AMUSE), passed swiftly, disagreement persisted over two motions that asked SSMU to condemn military recruitment and research into thermobaric weapons at McGill.
The motions’ author Cleve Higgins, U3 Sociology and International Development Studies, explained that scientific research at McGill has often received military funding exempt from ethical considerations.
“Some policies to regulate weapons research were developed [at McGill], but they don’t allow for transparency, and are without ethical considerations,” Higgins said.
He faced strong opposition from Adam Cytrynbaum, U3 Engineering, who claimed that military-funded research can be used for peaceful and even beneficial civilian purposes.
“Military research is done to better the people of Canada and the United States,” Cytrynbaum said. “Research is independent of what it is used for.”
After considerable debate, the motion on military research was divided into two questions: one asked SSMU to oppose McGill’s involvement in thermobaric weapons development, while the other called for implementation of transparency policies and ethical evaluations of research done in cooperation with the military.
Both motions passed, although the former received only a small margin of assenting votes.
Military recruitment was an equally contentious issue.
Michael Puempel, U1 Management, argued that since the government subsidizes certain costs at public universities, such as McGill, it has the right to place military recruiters on campuses.
“The government…offsets some of the tuition students have to pay,” Puempel said. He added that while most recruits did not serve in combative roles in the military, they are provided with legitimate careers.
Higgins, however, argued a precedent has been set by similar movements in dozens of university and CEGEP campuses across the province.
“We have seen a reduced military presence on campuses,” he said.
Even after an amendment cut down the motion to just opposing military presence in Shatner, it was passed with a slim margin. It was followed by a quick approval of a motion asking SSMU to petition the McGill administration for a catered open-bar party at Principal Heather Monroe-Blum’s home.
But quorum was lost in the midst of the fifth motion, despite SSMU executives’ efforts to persuade students to stay at Three Bares Park and call friends to the GA. Students were unable to complete a debate on whether SSMU councillors should refer to McGill administrators by Star Wars names.
Turner said any motions left unaddressed at this GA will be carried over and discussed at next semester’s GA.
To vote in the online referendum, go to ovs.ssmu.mcgill.ca.