News  The Daily’s GA Recommendations

The General Assembly will take place Wednesday, February 10 at 5pm in the Shatner cafeteria.

Tar sands – YES
This motion calls on SSMU to investigate all investments in excess of $15,000 for ties with the tar sands industrial development. It calls on all such investments to be screened by the Financial Ethics Review Committee (FERC) in accordance with the review process outlined in SSMU’s bylaws.

The devastating environmental and social effects caused by the tar sands are too great to list here. Given that SSMU retains bonds of worth $32,000 in a company that owns and refines 98,000 acres of tar sands in Fort McMurray, it is imperative that SSMU investigate all its current and future investments for ties to this kind of extraction.

FERC has failed to meet this year, and it is time that this group take the job of upholding SSMU’s financial ethics seriously. However, we would recommend lowering the $15,000 threshold so that investments of smaller amounts would also be subject to ethics review.

Discriminatory Groups – NO
This motion argues that because Choose Life has used coercion and discrimination to prevent access to factual information regarding safe, free, and legal abortions, SSMU should ban any pro-life group or other group that violates the health of any person or engages in acts of discrimination.

Choose Life has engaged in some reprehensible practices since its inception, but this motion makes the faulty leap of logic that all pro-life groups are the same. A pro-life group could exist on campus that respects students’ safety and provides beneficial medical services, like support for pregnant women.

The poor wording of the motion could also be interpreted to condemn any group that might support the pro-life stance – for religious, political, or personal reasons. Everyone has the right to their personal beliefs, and as long as they express them in a constructive manner, SSMU should facilitate the discussion.

Restoration of $5 Bill ATM Machines on Campus – YES
This motion calls for SSMU to negotiate with the University for the return of $5 bills in ATM machines on campus – a practice which ended in September.

This motion will not only help vendors – who will find it easier to make change – but students and student-run food services like Architecture Café. Having $20 is great, but not if you can’t use it.

Self-Funded Tuition Model – YES
This motion calls on SSMU to lobby against the self-funded model proposed by Desautels Faculty of Management for its MBA program, and urge the University create a formal policy against this type of funding.

The Daily supports this motion because education isn’t just a good for individuals; it’s a good for all of society. High tuition fees discourage people from working for the public interest in non-profits. Quebec may be in the midst of a funding shortage for post-secondary education, but we should look for provincial alternatives rather than immediately jack up the price of utition.

Many MBA students may be fine with the tuition hike, but this could be an indication of more changes. At the University of Toronto, an MBA tuition hike was quickly followed by an increase in law tuition; we would hate to see that happen at McGill. This matter affects undergraduate and graduate students alike; SSMU must lobby against self-funded tuition.

The Defense of Human Rights, Social Justice, and Environmental Protection– YES
This motion calls on SSMU to start using FERC to investigate McGill’s investments in companies that violate human rights – specifically those involved in Burma and the Occupied Territories – and if this fails, to create a new Corporate Social Committee (CSR) that will solicit freedom of information requests.

The Daily supports the spirit of this motion, though we’re uncertain of whether it appoints appropriate tasks to the right groups. McGill should not invest money that students pay through tuition in companies involved in activities that violate human rights – and investment in Burma and the Occupied Territories should be condemned.

Neither FERC nor any other SSMU body will have the power to change McGill’s investment policy, but SSMU should try all means to make McGill’s investments more transparent. A possible amendment to the motion might mandate SSMU’s representatives to the Senate – SSMU president and VP (University Affairs) – and the Board of Governors to make sure both bodies investigate the matter.

SSMU for Free Quality Accessible Education – YES
This motion calls on SSMU to unite with students from across Canada and Quebec to demand free, quality education, the reduction and eventual elimination of tuition, and greater support for students in financial need. It also calls on SSMU to lobby for better working conditions for students on campus.

We support this motion in hopes that it will allow SSMU to work more closely with student unions like AMUSE or AGSEM and throw their weight behind them during collective bargaining. Working conditions on campus must be improved: student researchers do not receive standardized salaries, while bookstore employees need to formalize their relationship with their employers. Worse, McGill has shown itself to be a union-buster: when teaching assistants held a strike in 2008, McGill fired them from non-teaching assistant jobs.

SSMU must also lobby for greater financial aid and bursaries provided by the University, and work with the student movement to achieve the ideal of free education, accessible to all. Quebec tuition fees will continue to rise until 2012, so now is the time to act.

Ancillary Fees – YES
This motion calls for greater controls on the increase in ancillary fees, which go toward things like the athletics improvement fund and copyright charges. The provincial government imposed a cap on any increases, limiting it to $15 per semester. This cap is due to end in summer 2011. Students already pay high ancillary fees – $1,500 a year for out of province students. The motion demands that the maximum amount be maintained or lowered.

Ancillary fee increases have been used by university administrations as a way to overcome the opposition to tuition increases by charging additional fees. SSMU should do everything possible to ensure that McGill does not use the expiration as a back door to increased tuition, especially given the University’s dismissive attitude toward provincial financial restrictions.