The Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) held a General Assembly (GA) on Wednesday, where it passed motions pertaining to increasing student fees. The GA also tabled a motion to endorse AGSEM: McGill’s Teaching Union’s union drive to the next SUS General Council (GC) meeting. With around fifty members in attendance, the GA did not meet quorum, which would have required 100 attendees; consequently, the GA results will only be used as consultation and the motions will be brought to the next GC meeting for approval.
This GA was only the third one held since SUS was first organized in the early 1980s – the first occurred in March 2012, and there was no GA held last academic year.
Increase to base fee, introduction of student space improvement fee
The first motion proposed an increase of the non-opt-outable SUS base fee to be brought to the Fall 2014 referendum period. The increase, to be adjusted for inflation each year, would be from $7.50 to $12.50 per semester for full-time Bachelor of Science (BSc) students, from $3.75 to $6.25 per semester for part-time BSc students and full-time Bachelor of Arts & Science (BA&Sc) students, and from $1.88 to $3.13 per semester for part-time BA&Sc students.
The fee, which has not been increased since 2003, is used to support the Special Projects Fund and to equalize funds between the 19 departments that belong to the SUS.
The second motion was to include a question in the Fall 2014 referendum on the introduction of a new Student Space Improvement fee levy. The fee would amount to $7.00 per semester for full-time BSc students, $3.50 per semester for part-time BSc students and full-time BA&Sc students, and $1.75 for part-time BA&Sc students.
The fee would be put toward the renovation of the basement of the Burnside building, and also be available for the use of individual departments to renovate their respective student spaces.
McGill Biology Student Union (MBSU) VP External Areeb Butt told The Daily that the fee would be useful for department projects, such as a recent one to get 500 new lockers in the Stewart Biology building. “If we had that […] fund allocated for amelioration of such spaces, we really wouldn’t have had to break the bank so much.”
“The installation of such a fund would be amazing,” continued Butt.
Although McGill is in the midst of severe budget cuts, SUS VP External Emily Boytinck did not attribute the proposed fee levy entirely to the University’s financial situation.
“Burnside basement has not been renovated in decades. So to say [the fee levy] is directly related to austerity is definitely a long shot. But […] I’m sure McGill is not prioritizing renovations within its budget right now, and that is sort of left to the students.”
AGSEM union drive endorsement
A motion to endorse the AGSEM union drive, which seeks to unionize undergraduate teaching assistants (TAs) and graders, was tabled until the next GC meeting. The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) have all endorsed the drive in the last month.
According to Society of Undergraduate Mathematics Students (SUMS) VP Academic Olivier Melançon, who moved the motion from the floor, the union drive is particularly relevant to Science students. “In the Faculty of Science, there are few teaching support workers who are unionized at the moment, whereas AGSEM has unionized a lot of workers in other faculties,” Melançon told The Daily in French.
“[Unionization] has had results [for others]: salary increases, the possibility to have legal support in case of problems with the departments,” he continued. “Having a union would allow workers to focus on their studies without being afraid that their rights as workers will be violated.”
The motion was ultimately tabled until the next GC meeting to allow a representative from AGSEM to be present to answer questions, and so that students could have a better understanding of the campaign.
“People in the room seemed to want to have the debate, and I think that everyone understood that ultimately it’s up to the workers themselves to decide if they want to unionize,” said Melançon.
“I definitely have to do a lot more research into what AGSEM is presenting,” said Butt. “At the GC I will have a much better idea.”
Although the GA didn’t meet quorum, SUS President Shannon Herrick viewed it as a success.
“We weren’t expecting to make quorum, just hopeful to,” said Herrick. “I think it was good, and we had a lot of meaningful debate, and I’m excited to revisit these motions at the GC.”
—With files from Jill Bachelder and Igor Sadikov