SSMU President Maggie Knight reported at Legislative Council last Thursday that former president Zach Newburgh has requested a membership list of all SSMU members. The list would provide Newburgh with the names, physical addresses, and occupations of every individual who pays dues to SSMU.
The request is covered under the Quebec Companies Act, which gives all members of companies – SSMU is technically a corporation – the right to request a list of all members.
“The member in question was interested in obtaining information that was more than the names, as in the report that I’m able to access, that has all names, emails et cetera, of all student members, which this member is obviously aware of since he had access to this list last year,” said Knight to councillors.
Knight explained that SSMU would only be providing what is legally binding. “However, I did clarify that we have no legal obligation to provide anymore than names, addresses and occupations,” she added.
When asked by Knight for his specific purpose in obtaining the list, Newburgh refused to give a response. “I asked him to tell me and he told me it wasn’t relevant,” Knight told The Daily.
According to Knight, the information released can be used for purposes such as knowing who SSMU members are and calling meetings of all members. Newburgh has assured SSMU that he will use the information for purposes as outlined by law.
Knight maintained that SSMU “reserve[s] the right to take any necessary legal action to prevent any unauthorized distribution of the list…as we would with any person who wanted the list.”
Councillors expressed concern about the privacy of their constituents, and repeatedly asked about options for dissuading Newburgh’s request.
“Is there any way to convince the member who asked for the list to get just the names, and not other personal information, and tell him this is done in the interest of the entire 20,000 students of McGill?” Clubs and Services Representative Sahil Chaini asked Council.
“People have been very concerned about privacy…however, my understanding is that privacy concerns [are] not usually considered to be a justifiable reason for withholding access to that list under the [Quebec] Companies Act,” Knight explained to The Daily.
When speaking to Council, Knight referenced a series of emails between herself and Newburgh, but told The Daily that she is unable to release them due to issues of confidentiality. Newburgh did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Motions pass to support campus workers
Also debated was official support for the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), which is in the process of collective bargaining with the McGill administration. The resolution passed by Council seeks to support AGSEM in the process of obtaining their bargaining priorities. These priorities include, but are not limited to, lowering the student-to-TA ratio, obtaining training provided by the University for first-time TAs, and ensuring that course supervisors and TAs meet regularly.
Jonathan Mooney, a member of AGSEM’s bargaining committee, believes that supporting AGSEM is in the best interest of SSMU members.
“So many of our key demands have to do with improving the quality of education at McGill and the student body is a huge stakeholder in this process,” Mooney said.
“My understanding is that some TA hours have been cut due to budget cuts…so that has obviously reduced the amount of time TAs have to support students. More TA hours hypothetically means more support for students especially around exam prep,” he continued.
“I have been in classes where the TA has maxed out their allowable hours by early November and they are not there to help with exams,” Knight said to The Daily.
The motion in support of AGSEM coincided with a vote to support workers’ struggles. The motion was referred to Council after passing in consultative forum when the General Assembly lost quorum last week.
The resolution, which will expire in one year, urges SSMU executives and councillors to support unions that are in negotiations with the McGill administration.
“What was lacking before [the current strike of McGill non-academic workers] was that it took a long time for people to actually know what was going on, so next time there is a collective bargaining, in that period then people can become aware of what is going now…it will create a more conscious student body,” said Arts Representative Micha Stettin, one of the authors of the original motion.