The Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS) has begun negotiations with the administration regarding its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), the document that defines the MCSS’s legal relationship with the University. The two parties met on January 7 to discuss the MOA, set to expire on May 31.
Last Tuesday, MCSS hosted an open meeting at the Ceilidh Pub in Mac campus’s Centennial Centre in order to discuss the proposed changes facing MCSS and the students they represent.
“Back in 2010 the MOA was not properly negotiated,” MCSS President Mathieu Rouleau said at the meeting. “McGill waited until they transferred the [executive], so the new [executive] came in a couple days later, and McGill said it ‘was already negotiated, you just have to sign it.’ So the document we’re dealing with currently has not been properly negotiated with the student society.”
Following rates negotiated in the 2010 MOA, MCSS was scheduled to pay $14 per square foot of space for the 2015-16 academic year, with a $1 per square foot increase per year. However, the administration’s current draft proposes a jump to $16 per square foot for 2015-16, and maintains the annual fee increase of $1 per year.
“We want to preserve what we have here, and meet our mandate to students.”
MCSS currently pays just under $50,000 annually to the administration for revenue-generating space – such as the kitchen, bookstore, and the campus bar – but the proposed changes will increase fees to over $75,000. McGill has justified these increases by stating that other campus student associations pay this rate, and that the change is adjusting for a lack of fee increases in the past.
“We are so different,” said VP Finance Valérie Toupin-Dubé during the meeting. “[It] is not possible to compare us to the other student societies.”
VP Communication and Student Life Jiawen Zhou highlighted that the distinct Mac environment is what makes the MCSS unique. “[Other] student associations have the same template, [but] it’s different here. [McGill] needs to take that into account. We want to preserve what we have here, and meet our mandate to students.”
MCSS executives who spoke at the meeting consider their responsibilities more extensive than those of other student societies at McGill. For example, they have been running the Mac campus bookstore since the 1990s, when McGill pulled out of the space, judging it unprofitable. MCSS bankrolls other campus initiatives as well, such as the peer helper program, staffing extra library hours during exams periods, and offering financial support to all Mac campus clubs.
The proposed budget increases would significantly disturb the current role of MCSS on campus, and would severely limit its ability to offer services to an expanding population of Mac students.
“We have very limited space for the capacity of students who are on this campus,” Rouleau told The Daily after the open meeting. “We want to be able to provide a space where they can come and feel comfortable and spend numerous hours here, while enjoying the landscape and the environment and everything on this campus.”
“[We] don’t want this campus to be considered a satellite campus,” he added.
In discussions with the MCSS executive, the administration has called the decision “standard” but has not expanded beyond that.
Students present at the meeting also questioned the decision to hike fees.
“Where [are] their standards coming from?” asked Samantha Guillemette, a U3 Life Sciences student.
Vilma Di Renzo-Campbell, Director and Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of the Associate Provost and the University’s representative in these negotiations, did not respond to The Daily’s requests for comment.
In addition to the fee increases, the administration has also proposed changes in nomenclature for all Mac clubs, requesting that “student” now be present in all titles. MCSS has interpreted this as a standardizing measure, and something that jeopardizes the clubs’ established legacies.
VP Internal Eric Brulé-Champagne said that MCSS will fight “to maintain the integrity of all of our clubs on campus.”
“[They] have had a rich past and have been established for a while. We want to make sure they can hold on to their name, and not have to conform to this liability clause.”
Brulé-Champagne continued, “Hopefully [we can] secure more student space [and] make sure the student space that we do have is sustainable in a way that our fees with […] McGill [aren’t] going to cause us to drown.”