News | SSMU talks sustainability at second meeting

Bike gates, finances also dicussed

After a relatively quiet first meeting, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its second Legislative Council meeting of the year on September 26, discussing sustainability, finances, and bike gates.

Sustainability at McGill

The meeting opened with a presentation by Arts and Science representative Courtney Ayukawa and recent McGill graduate Lily Schwarzbaum on the ongoing ECOLE (Education Community Living Environment) project, of which the two are coordinators.

According to its website, ECOLE is an ongoing project that aims to create a sustainable living house in the Milton-Parc community. Organizers want ECOLE to be a hub for McGill’s current sustainability community and a model for sustainable living. The project also tries to break down barriers between various environmentally-minded groups on campus.

ECOLE has been in the works for the past couple of years, and is supported by SSMU, Student Housing and Hospitality Services, and the McGill Office of Sustainability. The project will launch for its pilot year in September 2014.

Ayukawa and Schwarzbaum explained that the project was focused on three aspects: living, learning, and community. 8 to  12 students will be living in the ECOLE house, working towards material and social sustainability. Each of these students will also be expected to do an independent research project on the topic. Ayukawa and Schwarzbaum told Council that ECOLE will serve as a much-needed physical space for both sustainability communities in McGill and Milton-Parc.

Applications for ECOLE’s pilot year will be sent out this winter, and despite concerns raised by some councillors, Schwarzbaum insisted that living space in the house will not be exclusive to environment students.

“We really want to approach sustainability from a holistic sense […] so we’d love to see both the diversity of student applicants in terms of their department [of] study but also in the research projects that they’re involved in,” said Schwarzbaum.

Students will not be paid to live in the house, but their rent will be subsidized, and they will receive academic credit for the independent study as well.

SSMU’s finances

Also present at the meeting was a representative from Richter, an accounting firm that has audited SSMU financial reports for the past eight years.

“We gave a clean opinion,” the Richter representative told the Council.

The Richter representative also laid out SSMU’s 2012-13 revenue at $7.7 million, of which $3.1 million came from student fees. SSMU’s expenditure for the same year was calculated at $7 million, resulting in a surplus. However, the Richter representative told Council that the surplus will only account for deficits in previous years.

Gert’s significant jump in revenues over the past year was also of significant interest. “Gert’s revenues went up by almost $300,000 which means students are drinking more,” joked the Richter representative. These revenues will likely be used to cover expenses from recent renovations to the student pub.

Milton bike gates

In one of the motions put on the floor, the Council addressed the issue of the Milton bike gates – a topic that provoked both outrage and bemusement from McGill students earlier this year.

Many of the councillors expressed their frustration with the gates. According to  VP University Affairs Joey Shea, the gates were constructed without informing the Office for Students with Disabilities.

“Basically there are two [options]: you can either bike through the gates, which means they don’t do anything, or bike right up to the gates, get off your bike and get right back on,” said Arts Undergraduate Society President Justin Fletcher, who is filling in an empty AUS representative spot at Council. “These gates do not solve the problem.”

The motion against the Milton bike gates passed unanimously.