The Legislative Council of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) convened for their bi-weekly council meeting on November 7, discussing Halloween costumes, the upcoming Special General Assembly (GA), and SSMU’s revised fall budget.
4Floors and SSMU’s anti-racist Costume Campaign
VP University Affairs Joey Shea and VP Internal Brian Farnan reported their satisfaction with the annual 4Floors Halloween event hosted by SSMU. This year, SSMU put together a Costume Campaign in an attempt to avoid last year’s incident, which saw photos of students wearing blackface at the party and sparked controversy on social media.
The Costume Campaign, inspired by the Costume Sensitivity Campaign at Ohio University, asked students to consider, among other things, whether their costumes “mock or condescend historically oppressed people and/or cultures.” However, the Campaign drew some ire when it was posted on Facebook, with some questioning whether it was appropriate to create a new campaign featuring students in blackface and other racist costumes, instead of using existing campaigns.
According to both Shea and Farnan, most students dressed in accordance with these guidelines, which also falls in line with SSMU’s Equity Policy. Anyone who was wearing a questionable costume was “taken into another room to discuss it,” Shea said.
There were a few costumes that fell into a grey area, the two said, including one attendee in particular who dressed up as a basketball player with an afro. Services representative Élie Lubendo commented, “That person came in with a purpose […] He was trying to challenge the rules.”
Motion for anti-oppression in Rez Project
Emily Yee Clare, former VP University Affairs in 2011-12, presented a motion for Council’s support of a proposal for funding from the Sustainability Project Fund (SPF). Her presentation described the project as an initiative that would “expand the scope of Rez Project to include training on issues of race, religion, and privilege.” Clare wants the project to “support first-year students and ensure that they have the mechanisms in place to access the support that they need.”
President Katie Larson expressed her delight that Clare was applying to the SPF for “something that is outside of environmental sustainability.”
The motion passed, with Council voting to endorse the proposal.
2013-14 revised budget released
VP Finances and Operations Tyler Hofmeister presented the revised SSMU fall budget for 2013-14. This year, a new Information Technology (IT) budget was split off, as a permanent staff position was added. In addition, according to the budget report, the department faces larger expenses due to outdated hardware.
Once again, SSMU faces a large budget deficit, a result of “the ongoing lease negotiations with the University and the foregone revenues from tenants in the SSMU building,” according to the report. To mitigate what the report called a “significant deficit,” cuts were made to executives’ personal budgets, General Administration, Building, IT, and Club budgets.
Last year, SSMU’s deficit totalled $274,751, due to higher expenses, lower revenues, and the uncertainty of lease negotiations with the University.
In addition, the professional fee for SSMU’s Legal Counsel has risen, largely due to lease negotiations with the administration and contributions to the current Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ) legal cases, among other things.
Council approved the budget, with 21 in favour and 8 abstentions.
Special General Assembly
After losing quorum at the annual Fall GA, SSMU decided to hold a Special GA on November 13 to appoint members to its Board of Directors, a process that cannot be accomplished by the Council. Larson asked councillors to report on their promotion efforts for the upcoming Special GA so that quorum could be reached; many reported using social media or word-of-mouth.
The speaker also reminded councillors that if the Board of Directors were not elected, SSMU would have difficulty renewing its liquor permits for Gerts.