Arts and Science students push for independence

Hubie Yu, who has only recently stepped down the Bachelor of Arts and Science Integrative Council (BASiC), explained that the biggest challenge throughout her two years of serving as president was the struggle for independence for her department.

BASiC, which represents the 600 or so Bachelor of Arts and Science (BA&Sc) students at McGill, is technically a department, but, as Yu explains, it is generally regarded by students to be more of a faculty.

“I think people in general identify pretty strongly with Arts and Science,” Yu said. “That’s the interesting part, the struggle between the department and the faculty. If someone asks what your major is, I usually say Arts and Science, but it’s really not a major.”

Yu, herself a History major and double Psychology and Environment minor, said she does not usually refer to these titles, because then people “would assume she was in the faculty of Arts.”

One of the biggest accomplishments for BASiC, according to Yu, was getting a seat on SSMU at the end of this year. BASiC is in the process of elections, and with two candidates running for the position, they will likely have an Arts and Science representative on SSMU Council by next academic year.

“I think it’s a really good first step – I think it was interesting seeing the school recognize us as a separate entity, with the student body giving us our own seat,” she said. “We’re all pretty excited to be represented on a different level by ourselves, because usually we have to go through [Arts Undergraduate Society] AUS or [Science Undergraduate Society] SUS, and the problem is that they don’t necessarily know what we go through.”

“We’re hoping that it will bring more independence on our part,” she added.

On top of getting a seat on SSMU Council, Yu was asked by SSMU President Maggie Knight – who is an Arts and Science student herself – to sit at the Presidents’ roundtable this year, with presidents from other faculties around McGill.

“That was actually surprisingly very helpful,” she explained. “I wasn’t sure that we would fit in, because we’re not technically a faculty, but it was very helpful.” She referred to small faculties such as the Music Undergraduate Student Association (MUSA) as being particularly supportive.

Other successes this year have included the implementation of a new frosh scavenger hunt, run exclusively by BASiC at the beginning of the academic year, and the launch of a new buddy program for Arts and Science students. BASiC is also responsible for putting on two conferences a year – Ampersand and the National Integrative Research Conference (NIRC), both of which went very well according to Yu.

For Yu, another key challenge for BASiC this year was reaching out to students. “Some of the events had pretty low turnout, because it’s hard because we don’t have our own classes. There isn’t a specific class dedicated to arts and science students, so it’s always very difficult.”

BASiC is working to change this. In the past, McGill had a class dedicated to Arts and Science students, and this fall it is being brought back.

Going into the future, Yu hopes to see more independence for Arts and Science students from AUS and SUS.

“We have tried looking into separating from them, it is something we would like to do ideally. It would be nice to bring the community together,” she said. “Right now, we’re at the stage where we’re trying to figure out whether students are okay with giving up some of the resources [provided by AUS and SUS], but having more of their money go back to BASiC. So we’re actually doing a question right now in our elections… about whether students support the idea of increased autonomy or independence from AUS or SUS.”