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SSMU talks equity on campus

Winter Referendum period postponed

Correction appended February 11, 2013.

The SSMU Legislative Council created a referendum question to create an opt-outable $0.50 Equity Fund fee and discussed the re-scheduling of the upcoming Winter Referendum at its meeting on Thursday.

Council began with a report from SSMU Equity Commissioners Justin Koh and Shaina Agbayani regarding the recent activities of the commission.

The SSMU Equity Committee is currently working with McGill’s Diversity and Equity Lab and its research on racial micro-aggression on campus.

Micro-aggression  is defined as subtle forms of intentional and unintentional racism, sexism, homophobia, and heterosexualism.

Led by two post-graduate students, this initiative seeks to quantify and qualify experiences of racial discrimination to better establish a foundation for projects to foster equity.

The Diversity and Equity Research Lab has conducted investigations with students identifying as visible minorities and First Nations, and found that within the research group, a majority of students of colour surveyed often felt uncomfortable on campus. Their research also found that a number of respondents described Concordia as a significantly less discriminatory environment.

Underrepresentation of Aboriginal and visible minority faculty members is an ongoing issue at the University. The researchers noted that this is especially alarming as professors and teaching assistants have been documented inaccurately portraying distinct cultures during classroom lectures.

Currently, the Diversity and Equity Research Lab seeks to conduct additional focus group studies for various campus demographics including religious minorities, queer and trans* students, graduate students, and faculty members. The presentation recommended that all campuses incorporate formal mechanisms to influence dialogue that address implicit biases.

Though SSMU’s Equity Commission is active, McGill does not have a universal equity policy and does not provide permanent financial support to any equity-related projects.

The motion to create a referendum question for an opt-outable Equity Fund was moved by Clubs and Services representative Zach Rosentzveig, Arts representative Colleen Morawetz, VP University Affairs Haley Dinel and Senate Caucus representative Max Zidel.

The motion passed by 22 for, 0 oppositions, and 5 abstentions.

Changes in electoral schedule

SSMU was forced to change its electoral schedule for the upcoming Winter Referendum period to better adapt to the current financial context of the University, according to SSMU President Josh Redel. The Council tabled motions regarding the increase or creation of ancillary fees for Student Services, Athletics, and the McGill Writing Centre.

“Since the fee questions were written, several big changes have occurred, and we want to make sure that we are making the best decision possible,” Redel told The Daily in an email.

The Motion Regarding Environment Fee Referendum Question, and the Motion Regarding Charity Fee Referendum Question both passed in the meeting. Redel explained that these questions were managed “directly and solely by students,” rather than by McGill, and so were not affected by the electoral timeline changes.

The Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) Fee Referendum Question motion was tabled as well. “The University is no longer able to match the dollar amount provided by students for the fund, so we are looking [into the] alternatives,” Redel said in Council.

Previously, the SPF charged a non-opt-outable fee of $0.50 per credit for all SSMU and Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) students, and this money was then matched by the university.

The SPF has funded 91 projects since its inception in 2010.

In a previous version of this article, the SSMU Equity Committee was incorrectly referred to as the SSMU Equity Commission. The Daily regrets the error.