News  McGill withholds SSMU student fees

MoA negotiations continue

SSMU has yet to receive its student fees for this academic year, as negotiations surrounding the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with McGill continue almost five months after the former MoA’s expiry.

According to the previous MoA, McGill would advance SSMU its portion of student fees – calculated based on projected income from student fees to the University – on September 15. Any extra fees given to SSMU would be refunded to the University later in the year.

Since there is currently no active MoA, the University has no obligation to grant SSMU its fees by September 15, and is therefore withholding the funds until a new MoA is signed.

SSMU President Maggie Knight explained that McGill is open to giving SSMU its student fees in increments if MoA negotiations continue through November.

“Fortunately, SSMU is in a robust financial position, so, even though we don’t have our fees and we won’t be getting the interest we normally would, SSMU is doing fine,” she said.

The only outstanding item on the negotiating table is Appendix G of the MoA – a list of all of the clubs and services under the purveyance of SSMU.

The use of the McGill name by student groups has been a contentious issue, and it  appears that the majority of student groups will be facing name changes.

“We’re happy with the current state of negotiations, in which students will be able to use the McGill name within certain parameters, but, obviously, it presents a problem for existing groups, especially McGill Outdoors Club and McGill Nightline,” said Knight, highlighting the difficulty caused to McGill student groups with long histories.

“We understand the concerns of the University,” said Knight about matters regarding liability, fundraising issues, and blurred lines surrounding the ownership of these names.

“However, as we have seen recently from the principal, ‘We are all McGill.’ It’s unfortunate we haven’t been able to get the University to agree to grandfather the names of these longstanding clubs,” she added, referencing Principal Heather Munroe-Blum’s recent email to McGill staff and students regarding the University’s ongoing labour dispute with striking non-academic workers.

Knight said that SSMU has been working extensively to understand the rationale behind the requested name changes, but that the University’s stance on particular names has shifted throughout the negotiations. According to Knight, the word “club” seems sufficient in most cases to denote a student-run group that is unaffiliated with McGill, but “collective” is often problematic.

Julian Cooper, an executive member of the McGill Outdoors Club (MOC), said the group had known about the McGill name issue since the summer. “We were just wondering when they were going to come for us,” he said of McGill’s request to change the group’s name to McGill Student Outdoors Club (MSOC).

“We’re also involved with a lot of outside groups, so changing our name is a lot more than adding an ‘s’ to our acronym,” said Cooper.

The MOC, founded in 1936, is one of groups with whom SSMU consulted for new name proposals.

“Maggie [Knight] tried to explain the situation, but it still left us feeling dissatisfied because all of our proposals had been rejected [by the administration],” explained Cooper.

Inan-Ul Haq, another MOC executive, expressed concern about the degree of leverage that SSMU holds in negotiations with the University.  “I think their hands are tied in a lot of ways,” he added.

VP Clubs and Services Carol Fraser will be speaking with all of the affected clubs and services in the next several weeks.

After nearly two and a half years of negotiation on the issue, “finally, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’m just looking forward to getting to support clubs and services in the work they’re supposed to be doing,” she said.