News  SSMU issues statement on James occupation

Letter neither condones nor condemns the occupiers

SSMU Legislative Council decided last Thursday to support a peaceful resolution to the student occupation of the James Administration building.

Council decided neither to condone nor to condemn the occupiers, seeking to avoid placing blame on the students.

At the start of the session, during the announcement period, Jade Calver, president of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), announced that Jamie Burnett would no longer represent the Faculty of Arts on SSMU Council. The AUS announced that a statement justifying the decision is forthcoming.

Burnett released a statement accusing Calver of being in violation of the AUS Constitution, as she made the announcement to Council without submitting a  motion for his removal.

The discussion about the James occupation began after members of the gallery and Engineering Senator Usman Bin Shahid urged SSMU to make an official statement.

Arts Senator Matt Crawford and Clubs and Services Representative Adam Winer were among the 23 students who entered the office of Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson last Tuesday.

Following calls for unity on campus from both councillors and students, Council decided to adopt a tone of cooperation in the letter.

Cameron Butler, a U3 Engineering student and member of the gallery, stated that he disagreed with the occupation, but also expressed that he wanted to avoid students blaming each other.

“It is counterproductive to condemn the occupiers. The SSMU needs to work at bringing together the student community – that is more productive than placing blame,” said Butler.

Emil Briones, Music senator, echoed Butler’s feelings and said that “focus should not be placed on making the student body more divided.”

“We have to steer away from labelling each other for doing things we believe in,” said Briones.

However, some students present in the gallery asked Council to condemn the actions of the occupiers following the writing of an open letter that had been signed by approximately 200 students at the time Council was held.

Brendan Steven, U2 Arts, asked Council to take a specific political stance on the actions of the occupiers.

“The SSMU has always been willing to endorse politically divisive issues – it would show a lack of courage if it failed to condemn the occupiers,” said Steven.

Zach Newburgh, former SSMU president, was also active in calling for condemnation of the occupiers.

“There is something wrong if we don’t come together in condemnation. This is not a divisive issue. The tactics are not appropriate. Members of this body that participated will have a hard time talking to the administration,” said Newburgh.

Following debate, councillors drafted a letter calling for a resolution of the occupation that “does not involve the use of force,” and expressing the “wish to see a constructive outcome to the current situation, one which expands the possibility for a more democratic University.”

Shortly after discussing the occupation, Council decided to propose a question for the winter referendum period to reform the Judicial Board (J-Board).

The question asks for a change in the SSMU Constitution to abolish the final authority the J-Board currently holds.

Newburgh and Steven, who have a pending J-Board case against Elections SSMU CEO Rebecca Tacoma, expressed their concern over decisions that could affect SSMU.

Newburgh stated that “lack of legal expertise” could lead to “ambiguity in the interpretation of the laws at hand.”

SSMU President Maggie Knight suggested that councillors vote in favour of the question on referendum, citing “no reason to doubt the competence of the SSMU legal counsel.”

Council also adopted a referendum question regarding the composition of the J-Board, which will propose adding two undergraduate students who are not in the Faculty of Law.

In addition, referendum questions will be brought forward regarding the CKUT fee becoming  non-opt-outable, as well as an increase to the fee for the SSMU Health Plan.