The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council opened its bi-weekly meeting last Thursday with a series of motions from the recent Fall General Assembly (GA) earlier this semester, before moving to a heated debate over the motion to officially endorse the Radio CKUT 90.3 FM fee increase referendum.
VP Clubs & Services Allison Cooper stated that the intention of such an endorsement would be to “lend legitimacy” to CKUT.
After intense debate, the motion barely failed, with 11 in favour and 11 opposed.
Since 1988, CKUT’s fee for full-time undergraduate students has remained unchanged at $4, despite inflation and rising costs. With this referendum question, CKUT seeks to increase its opt-out-able fee by $1 for all full-time undergraduate students.
“The fact that they haven’t increased their fee in so long means that their ability to provide that resource to students is compromised,” said VP External Robin Reid-Fraser.
In the past, SSMU has officially endorsed attempts to increase financial support for CKUT. In the Winter 2012 semester, the SSMU Executive Committee endorsed a referendum question to make the CKUT fee un-opt-out-able. The question failed to pass online ratification.
VP Internal Michael Szpejda pointed out the failure of the referendum last winter as a sign that SSMU should be cautious in endorsing a fee increase associated with the same student group.
The biggest concern surrounded whether it was in SSMU’s mandate to take on divisive referenda where “clearly, some students feel one way, and some students feel the other way,” said Szpejda.
Arts representative to SSMU Nicole Georges commented that the goal was not to question the legitimacy of CKUT as an independent student group, but rather to determine whether SSMU has the mandate to officially endorse a particular side on a clearly two-sided issue.
“I know from the people I’ve spoken to in my constituency […] it feels as though it alienates people who don’t necessarily have the same opinion,” Georges said.
Szpejda echoed Georges’ concern over the possibility of unequal representation.
“I’m just curious how SSMU intends to represent all of the students at McGill University,” Szpejda said. “If we’re leaning one way, that means we’re not representing all of our constituents.”
Thursday’s Council meeting also discussed the motions that failed to reach quorum at SSMU’s recent GA.
Described as “Old Business” on the meeting’s official agenda, the councillors opened the floor to debate on the motions regarding renewing support for accessible education, ethical investments at McGill, opposition to Canadian military involvement in Iran, and Plan Nord.
Reid-Fraser, who recommended that Council pass the motion regarding accessible education, said, “SSMU should be working to make sure that this type of education that we are fortunate enough to receive should be accessible to as many people who wish to access it, regardless of financial state.”
After amending the “resolved” clause to modify education from being a “human right” to a “right,” Council passed the motion with 24 in favour, zero opposed, and four abstentions.
Council also narrowly passed the motion regarding ethical investments at McGill, with nine in favour, seven opposed, and eight abstentions.
Georges addressed the issue of transparency in accessing McGill’s financial documents and asked Council to table the motion indefinitely.
“There is not enough information for the McGill students to understand the financial impact…of getting rid of investment relationships and funding…We know the environmental impacts but we don’t know how it pertains to McGill financially,” she added.
The motions regarding opposition to Canadian military involvement in Iran and regarding Plan Nord were tabled indefinitely with a simple majority until further notice.