SSMU lost two senators at the beginning of winter term, with the resignation of Arts Senator Nick Wolf in early December and Medicine Senator Hana Thomas in early January. Both senators resigned because they will not be able to allocate time to their positions, as Wolf is leaving McGill and Thomas will start a more demanding segment of her program.
Wolf’s resignation caused some controversy when he voiced concerns over SSMU Council’s absence of long-term goals and the inefficiency of its meetings in his resignation email.
Wolf’s criticism, addressed to SSMU VP University Affairs Rebecca Dooley, came as a surprise to the executive. “He never participated or voiced any of these concerns. It is very much the senator’s responsibility to bring concerns to the table,” Dooley said.
In his criticism, Wolf singled out the manner in which SSMU handled the controversial Choose Life event “Echoes of the Holocaust” held in November. Debate surrounding the event culminated in the suspension of the club’s status by SSMU, after the club proceeded to hold the event in spite of an earlier Council censure of its contents.
“Instead of fighting for the rights of the minority, which in this case was the Choose Life group, they fought to suppress a perfectly valid viewpoint,” Wolf wrote. “[Student councillors] were mocked on the floor of Senate by the administration for limiting free speech at McGill, and they were entirely correct.”
What has brought attention to his resignation, however, has been the way in which Wolf has tried to bypass official procedure – which involves a faculty call-out for applications and a caucus selection. Rather, the former senator has irked some of SSMU by trying to find his own replacement.
Wolf expressed concern for a conservative minority whose voice he felt has been silenced by radical political agendas at SSMU or AUS. “I wanted to find someone to give a slightly more conservative voice on AUS Council…. The current Arts Senators represent the centre and the far left,” he said.
The former senator also viewed the event as an opportunity to confront students with the current challenges the Senate is facing. “I hope my resignation is a wake-up call to how Senate was being run. I know other Senators agree with my statements, although they won’t say so publicly,” Wolf said.
However, such an interested selection, Dooley said, is explicitly discouraged among SSMU members. According to SSMU bylaws, when a senator resigns from their position, the seat is reallocated to the largest faculties in SSMU. Following a public application call-out, applicants are reviewed and recommended by faculty associations, and selected by the Senate caucus.
Dooley also said that although she took his points to heart, she is not worried about the resignation’s publicity. “It might spark some debate, which I think is a healthy thing. We represent all students: students with mainstream and less mainstream views,” Dooley said.