Commentary  Tell SSMU what you want

In the past, McGill has seen many heated debates about the issues facing students and society. So far this year, campus has been quieter than it has been for the past few years. As a whole, last semester was marked by disappointingly low political participation among McGill students.

The SSMU General Assembly (GA) just met quorum, but the online ratification vote that followed did not. Moreover, not enough people voted in the fall elections for their results to be valid. These elections were all the more impressive because for the first time in McGill history, students had the chance to vote on University ancillary fees and choose whether they were willing to pay more for certain services. Despite this unique opportunity, there was little debate and anemic participation.

In a place like McGill, it can often be hard for the average student to get their voice heard and to feel that they can make a difference when it comes to what happens on campus. Taking part in the decision making of the SSMU is one important place for students to voice their opinions and affect change.

SSMU is your student union. It is there both to represent you and to provide services that give you a better university experience. However, it can only do these things effectively if people show up, have a healthy debate, and help set the priorities and policies of the organization.

This year’s SSMU executive is committed to working for students, and we take the mandates that we’ve been given seriously. One tangible example is the work we’ve done standing up for students who are also parents. In the Fall 2007 GA, SSMU was given a mandate to work on making the University a better place for student parents. SSMU got the message and looked for ways to make progress on the issue.

Next month, we expect to open a new nursery with spaces for eight children of undergraduate students. A group of students who cared about the issue proposed a GA motion, other students got behind it and made it policy, and now there’s a new service that will make a world of a difference for students in need of child care.

When we are given political mandates, like fighting tuition increases or supporting our teaching assistants, we speak out and make sure that students have their say. The more people who participate, the more representative our policies are, and the stronger we can make a stand.

This semester, take part and make sure your voice is heard. Everyone has an opinion on what they’d like to see done differently on campus. McGill is a better place when we students take ownership of our campus and work to change it. One important aspect of this is through taking part in setting the policies of your student union, SSMU. Engaging in SSMU’s decision making process is one of the few places your opinion counts and decisions made have to be implemented. We take representing students seriously, but in order to do that you need to tell us what you want.

Devin Alfaro is the SSMU VP External and a U3 Geography (Urban Systems) and Sociology student. Say what the SSMU exec can do for you at