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SSMU Council discusses student health, education summit

Meeting held in Carrefour Sherbrooke as part of the Roaming Council initiatives

The bi-weekly SSMU Legislative Council met at the Carrefour Sherbrooke residence on Thursday, as part of SSMU’s “Roaming Council” initiative. The meeting, which was joined by a handful of first-year students sitting in the gallery, opened with guest speakers regarding the accessibility of health services to non-undergraduate members of the university, as well as the recent progress of the Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ), which will represent SSMU at the provincial higher education summit on February 25.

Clinic thinking about cutting services
The current policy regarding the accessibility of health services was introduced by Director of Student Health Services, Dr. Pierre-Paul Tellier. McGill’s clinic is open to paid members of the university, and to the spouses of students, most of whom are in graduate studies. Out-of-province residents are charged to open patient files with local physicians, or cannot find physicians due to Quebec’s shortage of family doctors.

Student Health is the only service at McGill outside of the Office of Students with Disabilities that is accessible to individuals who do not pay student fees. However, according to Tellier, the clinic is unable to accommodate all the needs of students.

“The clinic is kind of a little overwhelmed,” he said.

A significant surplus generated by the clinic’s lab means that the clinic is safe for now from the adverse effects of university-wide budget cuts, but Tellier said Health Services is starting to examine options.

Tellier continued that one way to alleviate the pressure could be to cut services provided to the spouses of the graduate community. Commenting on the administration’s lack of interest in the matter, Tellier said “Bottom line, we’re not there to make McGill’s life easier… we’re there to serve the students, and if [McGill] wants something from us, they should pay us, which they’re clearly not intending to do.”

The details of possible service cuts have not been finalized, and discussions will continue among students.

TaCEQ updates on the summit
Followed by Tellier’s presentation, the Secretary-General of TaCEQ, Paul-Émile Auger, advised the councillors on the recent status of its series of roundtable discussions with the PQ government.

In the last two weeks, TaCEQ met with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and other student federations, to discuss the cuts of approximately $24 million to research and general funding, Auger said in French.

TaCEQ will also lobby to secure a reinvestment from the government, and to fight the recently announced indexation of 2 to 3 per cent, according to Auger.

The councillors were also introduced to two TaCEQ McGill delegate candidates, Alexandra Landry-Gravel and Patrick Martin-Ménard. The delegates will be voted into their positions by a motion in the next council meeting.

Sustainability fund seeks flexibility
After discussions with the series of presentations, Council returned to vote on the motion regarding the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) fee referendum question. The amended motion incorporated flexibility to help the SPF deal with the uncertain financial situation of across-the-board budget cuts.

The question now asks for “up to 50 cents per credit per student per semester…as matched in equal amount by McGill University (exact fee to be determined by July 1, 2013, at the latest).”

VP Clubs & Services Allison Cooper explained that the SPF’s collaborative structure was unique, and that if the fund lost the commitment of McGill’s matching, they would have to re-examine the structure of the fund itself.

SSMU President Josh Redel explained that it was still unsure how much the University could commit to the SPF at this time. “[In the] budgeting process, they haven’t worked to the level [of the SPF] yet … the end of April is when they will hit the level of budgeting for the SPF.”

Council picked up where they left off on an old motion regarding Greener McGill, which put forth an action plan for the Divest McGill campaign.

Political Campaigns Coordinator Chris Bangs explained that SSMU would lobby McGill to divest from companies involved in the tar sands, or working on Native land without consent, and the financial institutions that supported them.

Bangs acknowledged that it was “difficult if not impossible to find financial institutions that adhere completely” to these demands of environmentally friendly investments. The campaigning would allow for a more flexible framework in divestment.

The motion regarding Greener McGill passed with sixteen votes for and six abstentions. Engineering Representative Farzan Subhani – who had previously been vocal in Council about his concern for the impact on engineering students – and Clubs & Services Representative Geneva Nam both voted against the motion.