News  Finance portfolio restructured as Silverstein bails

SSMU Council’s last gathering of the semester tackles a jampacked agenda and votes on 10 motions

Council debated two motions Thursday that divvy up the work of the VP Finance and Operations, as there will be no replacement when current VP Finance Tobias Silverstein resigns on January 2.

“We’re in a bit of a constitutional hole,” SSMU President Kay Turner said, describing the motion. She acknowledged that while the motion would be a quick fix, it could be amended in the future if Council found it unsatisfactory.

The two motions divide up the portfolio of the VP Finance between the Executive, and creates an oversight Finance Committee. councillors Staz Moroz and Ryan Tomicic agreed this was the best option, because an election would be impractical this late in the year given the portfolio’s steep learning curve and the proximity to the election for next year’s executive.

However, Alexandre Shee, VP External for the Law Students Association, strongly disagreed with the motion due to the precedent it would set. He criticized Council’s second motion to create a Finance and Operations Review Committee that would oversee the “distribution of responsibilities” in the executive’s handling of finance responsibilities. He argued the committee’s composition – four councillors and three external members – did not adequately represent student interest.

Clubs and Services rep Alexandra Brown disagreed with Shee. “If everybody really wanted to be involved in McGill, they could. To say we’re going to have a huge sweep of people involved in this porfolio is idealistic,” she said. Both motions passed.

Ballot box rights

After several out-of-province students complained about trying to register to vote in the federal election, SSMU decided to send a listserv Friday that explained students’ voting rights in the December 8 provincial election.

Devin Alfaro VP External explained that while in most provinces, voters must simply show proof of residence, Quebec requires that a voter’s “domicile” – or legal place of residence– be in province. An individual can establish their domicile if they have resided in Quebec for six months.

“A number of students have tried to register and heard ‘No, no, no, you’re not a resident’. [But] students can vote where they are residing for the purpose of study,” Alfaro explained. “If students want to vote here and consider themselves residents, they certainly have the right to vote, and that’s not being respected.”

Choose Life crosses the line?

SSMU’s Student Equity Committee received several complaints after Choose Life’s first event on Tuesday where McGill Security stopped protesting students. The SSMU-approved interim club set up at the crossroads with a display on fetal development and asked students when they thought a fetus became human.

VP University Affairs Nadya Wilkinson noted that if the group violates Equity policy, they could be penalized, though a committee ruling has not happened yet.

“We can shut down funding, or ask for a person to be suspended from the group,” she said. “We’re not sure at what level the [Equity Committee’s ruling] would have to be brought back to Council. But we know there would be an unwillingness to take steps that would seem controversial without taking them to Council.”

Café Suprême

The lease for Café Suprême – which will replace Caferama on the first floor of Shatner – has yet to be signed. Silverstein didn’t expect that the lease would be signed by January 2 as proposed, although Turner said they are currently working with a lawyer.

Shee again voiced comments criticizing the amount of time and money being wasted on the process.

Investment goes blue?

The economic downturn overshadowed Silverstein’s report of the SSMU investment committee, in which he encouraged SSMU to buy blue chip stocks while prices were down. Some councillors were wary of investing in American stocks given the falling value of the dollar, and supported exploring Canadian blue chip companies.

Salvaging Pound

A motion to censure Dick Pound’s infamous sauvage comment, brought forward by Alfaro and Wilkinson, failed in a nine-to-nine secret vote. Councillors debated whether the motion would violate SSMU’s by-laws, which mandate neutrality on divisive issues.

“[Pound] is a representative of a university, and we don’t want a representative who can’t hold his tongue. His comments have brought a lot of attention to McGill that he hasn’t addressed at all,” said Alfaro, explaining the motion. “I think it would be a cop out if we said we condemn what he did and don’t stand publicly behind the position.”

However, James Desjardins, U1 Law, said he was against the motion because Pound has been been such a champion of student rights in the past.

“By alienating the strongest student advocate for student rights and initiatives in the administration, you’re bringing greater harm on the student body, including the [affected] minority,” Desjardins said.

A second motion asking for an open forum with Pound to “critically discuss McGill University’s attitudes toward Aboriginal peoples” did pass, in spite a criticism from SSMU VP Clubs and Services Samantha Cook that it was “too weak.”

Amnesty for Queen’s Muslim students

Council unanimously approved an open letter to Queen’s University calling for its administration to take a greater role in addressing anti-Islamic crimes against the University’s Muslim students.

Lisa Greenspoon, U3 Law, commented on the September events at Queen’s.

“These are not isolated incidents….Space has been broken into and vandalized; ‘Muslim students should die’ has been written on posters; there are incidents of female, hijab-wearing students sexually harassed on campus; and an attempt [has been made] to break into [Muslim student space] with a chainsaw,” said Greenspoon. She added Queen’s Muslim Students Association (QMSA) felt their administration’s response was too “generic.”