SSMU Council convened on Thursday evening for their third meeting of the academic year, and was the first session to implement a new style of debate. Under this parliamentary model, Council members argue clearly “for” or “against” the motion up for debate.
The longest debate arose out of a motion suggesting SSMU take a formal stance against the self-funding model of the MBA program. Supporters of the motion held that SSMU should uphold its commitment to fighting for accessibility in education. “This could be a testing balloon of a trend that could spread to other professional programs,” VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley said, voicing a common concern.
Councillors against the motion attempted to quell concerns over accessibility by assuring Council that students in the MBA program are unique, in that they have completed an average of eight years in the corporate world and are capable of paying higher tuition. SSMU VP Internal Alexandra Brown noted that funds from the switch would make more funding available to the undergraduate program. After a lengthy debate the motion failed.
Support for Green Initiative
The first section of the meeting held the attention of a large section of the audience anxious to support the proposed Sustainable Projects Fund. Jonathan Glencross, U3 Environment and Jim Nicell, Associate Vice-Principal (University Services), presented detailed plans for the fund in hopes of gaining the support of SSMU Council – in spite of the new $0.50 per credit, non-opt-outable fee that would be applied to every student for the next three years.
This proposed annual contribution from students would then be matched dollar-for-dollar by the university administration, to be implemented toward specifically large-scale developments to create long-term environmental, social, and cultural impact. The combined fund could reach $840,000 annually.
Nicell said that McGill is the largest real estate holder in Montreal (covering 780,000 square feet), so it is time for McGill to take this dramatic initiative and start implementing projects faster. “If we want to change the world, we have to start with our community and export it to the rest of the world,” he said.
Council and audience showed their full support for this project at every point of the presentation. Maggie Knight, a SSMU Environment Commissioner, commented on the benefits of this program to the existing SSMU Green Fund.
“There’s been a lot of excitement from the people I’ve been talking to. The Green Fund is a great start, but when we have to take funds away from it for larger projects, it makes it harder for regular students who just want to make their events a little greener,” Knight said.
Push for GA Participation
Council discussed the upcoming General Assembly (GA) meeting at multiple points during the night. Councillor Yaakov Stern highlighted the importance of persuading at least 100 students to attend the meeting in order to meet quorum, as one GA failed to meet quorum last year.
“The GA is an institution that took a long fight and a lot of mobilization on behalf of students to exist in the first place,” VP External Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan said.
Stern highlighted the more targeted promotional approach that has been implemented this year. As part of this plan, students can expect to see SSMU councillors performing skits around campus to bring attention to particular motions.
Testing the Waters
Looking towards next week’s GA, Council passed two non-binding plebiscites to be posed to the student body in efforts to gauge popular opinion. The first, presented by Dooley, asked, “Would you prefer that course materials be moved completely online?” With the large cost and environmental impact of printing course material, the University projects an online version will be cheaper and more readily accessible.
The second plebiscite questioned a move to shorten the add/drop period in order to allow for an earlier release of the exam schedule. Exactly how much time could be taken off of exam schedule planning is not yet confirmed, Dooley noted, as the idea was in the very early stages of consultation with the University.