After a sparsely-attended General Assembly (GA), the bi-weekly Legislative Council meeting of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) on October 10 saw a discussion on Midnight Kitchen’s existence referendum and on the GA’s low attendance. Principal Suzanne Fortier also visited SSMU Council – part of a recent trend of her talking to student groups on campus.
Midnight Kitchen’s existence referendum
Representatives of Midnight Kitchen – a non-profit student-run kitchen that provides free vegan meals for McGill students – came to the Council meeting to discuss their upcoming existence referendum and to request an increased fee levy, both of which are questions in the Fall Referendum period.
Midnight Kitchen is asking for an increase of $1 per undergraduate student in fees paid for the service. Currently, undergraduate students pay an opt-outable fee of $2.25, which comprises 99.3 per cent of Midnight Kitchen’s budget. This increase would go toward offering breakfast, having bigger serving sizes at lunch, and paying their workers a more reasonable wage.
According to information provided by Midnight Kitchen, the service currently serves lunch five days a week to around 250 students per day on a pay-what-you-can basis.
VP University Affairs Joey Shea, Arts Senator Claire Stewart-Kanigan, and Medicine Representative David Benrimoh all spoke on the importance of Midnight Kitchen, especially for lower income students.
“I personally know a lot of students who have survived for the past four years [at McGill] through the use of these services,” Shea stated in support of the increase.
Although he voted in favour of the existence referendum, Clubs and Services representative Élie Lubendo voted against the fee-levy motion. In an email to The Daily, Lubendo noted that there had been a communication mix-up regarding the proposal of the motion, but that he also disagreed with the fee increase.
“I voted ‘no’ because I did not think it was reasonable that students be charged more money, when currently 61 per cent of the budget of Midnight Kitchen is spent on their workers rather than on the services rendered to the students that pay for the service,” he stated. “Midnight Kitchen is a great service and they are definitely needed in this community – hence why I voted for the motion regarding their existence. However, I personally think that to fund the costs associated with their planned expansion, other means of revenue or cost-cutting techniques should be looked into.”
The motions for both the upcoming existence referendum and the fee levy passed.
General Assembly criticized for low attendance
Many councillors were displeased with the low attendance at SSMU’s annual Fall General Assembly (GA), questioning the steps that the executive council took to encourage students to attend the GA.
“All the [executives] have been here for three plus years, they’ve all been to [GAs],” Science Representative Sarah Southey said. “I don’t understand why things weren’t changed, because obviously they need changing.”
President Katie Larson defended her executive team, insisting instead that the executive “can’t [excessively advertise] something that people don’t want to go to.”
When asked on her personal opinion on the attendance at the GA, Larson expressed disappointment. “Obviously it was atrocious, it was terrible […] we had people coming in yesterday to walk in the room, check into quorum, get their free bagel, and leave.”
Second Council meeting held
A second Council meeting was also held on the same night to address the problems caused by the lack of quorum at the previous night’s GA. Since the body was only a Consultative Forum – where there were under 100 students present – neither the motion on the Constitution, nor the appointment of the Board of Directors, nor the approval of the auditing firm could be passed.
According to an e-mail from Larson, “The motion regarding the GA will be on the Referendum ballot this Fall as it was put through Council.”
In addition, Council considered holding a special General Assembly later in this semester in order to appoint members to the Board of Directors. “Council cannot appoint members to the Board of Directors since they legally need to be confirmed at a General Assembly or by the membership,” wrote Larson.