The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council saw discussion on austerity and changes to tuition rates with Principal Suzanne Fortier at its first meeting of the Winter semester on January 14. Council also approved changes to bylaws regulating the SSMU Nominating Committee, and President Courtney Ayukawa announced the hiring of a new General Manager.
Nominating Committee less “executive-heavy”
Ayukawa brought to Council a set of changes to bylaws regulating the Nominating Committee, which oversees the hiring of Elections SSMU staff and Judicial Board justices. The changes were originally intended to be part of a bigger set of changes to presidential portfolio regulations, the drafting of which has not yet been completed.
The motion will change the structure of the nominating committee to consist of four councillors and four members-at-large, compared to the previous composition, which had six executives and three councillors. It will also be chaired by the General Manager, a permanent, non-student position, instead of the President.
VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan said that the changes were meant to increase the objectivity of the committee. “We were looking to shift away from this extremely executive-heavy nominating committee, since these positions are supposed to be very distanced from SSMU, given that they [involve] elections and Judicial Board justices.”
Winter GA pushed back one month
Ayukawa announced in her report that the Winter 2015 General Assembly (GA) will be held in March, the week following reading week, as opposed to the originally scheduled date of February 11.
This, she said, is intended to put the GA during the SSMU Winter referendum and election campaign period – which runs from March 9 to 20 – when students are more passionate about SSMU, and to allow more time for SSMU to find a space to accommodate a large turnout of students.
“I have heard that there is likely going to be another very controversial motion coming to the GA,” said Ayukawa. A Palestine solidarity motion was responsible for most of the turnout to the Fall 2014 GA, which saw 800 students attending.
The date for the Winter GA will be announced at the next Council meeting.
Ayukawa also informed Council that a new General Manager has been hired and will begin work in February.
VP Clubs & Services Stefan Fong notified councillors that the SSMU building, along with other buildings on campus, is facing a mouse outbreak, noting that it was “not surprising” due to the amount of construction that has been taking place outside the SSMU building and throughout campus.
Principal talks austerity, tuition
Fielding questions from councillors, Fortier reiterated her position that she does not oppose the government’s austerity measures. She said that she is in favour of capping the ‘clawback’ of international student tuition by the government in times such as these, when government contribution to the university is lower.
One councillor voiced concerns that with the proposed deregulation of out-of-province and international tuition, McGill might become a university for the financial elite, to which Fortier responded that the administration will do its best to keep McGill a university where admission is based solely on academic achievement.
Citing the high success rates of the Arts Internship Program, Fortier said that she is making the funding of student internship opportunities a priority, and that certain donors may create endowed funds to support these opportunities for students.
A common concern with some at SSMU has been with the legitimacy of McGill’s supposed dedication to community engagement. In response, Fortier listed instances of community learning in curriculums and student-led initiatives as examples of this dedication manifesting in real life, adding that that her main concern is being able to better communicate these initiatives to local community leaders.