News  General Assembly struggles with quorum

The winter 2011 General Assembly (GA) hovered around quorum in the Adams Auditorium Thursday evening, but successfully bound SSMU to investigate the campus bike ban and approved an update to the society’s investment bylaws.

Jonathan Glencross, a student who has worked extensively on campus green projects, argued that the spirit of the bike motion should reflect a collaborative attitude with administrators. The motion ultimately passed with an amendment that charged SSMU to conduct meaningful consultation with the administration on whether biking is indeed a “valuable asset.”

The investments motion also passed with amendments to mention consultation with the Financial Ethics Review Committee (FERC) and SSMU Legislative Council.
Students debated a motion condemning the unilateral appointment of McKinsey and Co. consultants offering pro bono work to the university. Whereas clauses in the motion described past controversial recommendations McKinsey had made.

Brendan Steven, founder of the Prince Arthur Herald, agreed with the motion’s criticism of the unilateral decision-making process, but felt that “the guns here are targeted at the wrong thing” and that students “shouldn’t base a condemnation on consultation on three or four examples.”

Arts Senator Tyler Lawson noted the urgency of the motion in light of austerity measures McKinsey has recommended for other schools.

“McKinsey was directly involved in the independent review of higher education in England – they produced a report right before the government there introduced austerity measures and tripled tuition,” he said. “In the spirit of the GA, we have an opportunity now to take a strong stance as a group, as students, in the name of student power,” he said.

The motion passed, but without quorum – at which point the GA devolves into a “consultative forum.” Resolutions passed by this body are non-binding.

As a consultative forum, students also mandated SSMU to defend groups such as TVMcGill and the McGill First Aid Service that the administration asked to disassociate from the University. It proposes that SSMU bar the University from using the society clubs and services on any publication or promotional material if “the University is unwilling to negotiate.”

Speaker of Council Cathal Rooney-Cespedes explained that the resolution regarding SSMU improvement was struck from the agenda as it involved direct financial decision-making, an inappropriate topic for the GA. It will be pushed to the next Council agenda.

Executive Committee Report

The auditorium erupted with questions aimed at SSMU President Zach Newburgh’s own presidential portfolio after VP Clubs and Services, Anushay Khan, announced that she would be working with Newburgh and a third-party researcher to restructure her portfolio.

Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan, VP External in 2009-2010, asked Newburgh if he would be “clarifying the structure of his own portfolio,” and whether executives could hold part-time jobs, as Newburgh had claimed in a TVMcGill interview from the previous day.

Newburgh replied that he “would be more than happy to do so,” and further stated that each executive was working on individual job descriptions that will be approved at next legislative council.

Councillor Maggie Knight asked Newburgh to personally clarify why councillors had to refrain from discussing the incamera council session in which Newburgh revealed his involvement with startup networking website

Newburgh responded that the confidential session was technically a trial, and therefore only the accused is allowed to disclose information. Although some rules can be suspended regarding confidential sessions, those protecting “the rights of the accused” cannot be overturned.

Alex McKenzie, U1 Arts and Daily staffer, asked whether Newburgh, as the accused, would be releasing any information about what happened in council.

“The GA is not the time or place to deal with this particular matter … right now we need to move forward,” replied Newburgh.
Although he delivered his own report, VP University Affairs Joshua Abaki was notably absent for a portion of the Executive Committee’s report to the Assembly.