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AUS endorses sexual assault policy

Arts Senators to attend Arts and Science assemblies for better representation

Updated March 17, 2015 with comments from former VP Finance Li Xue.

Last Wednesday, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council opened its bi-weekly meeting with a moment of silence for former VP Internal Roma Nadeem, who passed away recently.

President Ava Liu also announced that the VP Finance Li Xue had effectively resigned, as she has not been working since February 26. Liu mentioned that other members of Council have stepped up to fill the void left by the absence of a VP Finance, but made no mention of a concrete reason for the resignation.

In a letter to AUS councillors, Xue outlined the reasons for her resignation. “The work dynamic that I experienced within the AUS and the decreasing meaningfulness of the work I found myself having to do was very alienating. In the end, I could no longer justify such a large time and energy commitment to something that made me unhappy.”

The letter also noted that Xue had made logistical arrangements for the allocation of her portfolio, and asked Council to revisit similar concerns about AUS’s work dynamic raised by former VP Internal Leila Alfaro when she resigned in September.

Sexual assault policy

Council discussed at length the endorsement of the sexual assault policy currently being drafted by the Sexual Assault Policy Working Group. AUS Equity Commissioner Isabel Lee said, “Although there is currently a sexual harassment policy [at McGill], this policy is quite weak. […] It is a purely bureaucratic approach.”

“We want to show that McGill University acknowledges that sexual assault is a unique kind of violence,” she continued.

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan described to Council some of the main points of the proposed policy.

“What we’ve seen on campus is that the University’s attention to sexual assault comes in waves with the latest media scandal and disappears,” she said.

According to Stewart-Kanigan, the policy aims to institutionalize proactive measures. Another objective of the policy is to be of service to everybody, including McGill students, members of faculty, and people outside the McGill community who have been assaulted by a McGill student.

For example, the policy might provide resources for a student to transfer residences or drop a class, providing “immediate interim safety measures,” Stewart-Kanigan explained.

Women-only gym hours

Council also discussed the recent controversy surrounding a proposal to have women-only hours implemented at the McGill fitness centre.

A Women’s and Sexual Diversity Studies Student Association (WSSA) representative expressed concern over the potential gender policing that could fall under the policy of women-only hours, and asked “if there’s a way that we can put policies for folks who identify as women.” Arts Representative to SSMU Eddie Lin responded that he supported SSMU’s “definition of ‘female’ [as] anyone who identifies as female.”

Lee also commented on the proposal. “It’s kind of sad, because it feels like a very huge compromise to say that there’s only one hour a day when you can feel safe going to the gym,” said Lee. Nevertheless, Lee supported the women-only hours.

Financial Management Committee Representative Rona Hunter voiced support for the women-only hours. “I have no religious needs to exercise on my own, but I would definitely utilize women-only hours in the gym,” said Hunter.

Representation in the Arts and Science assembly

Council passed a motion that “strongly recommends that the Arts Senator[s] attend bi-weekly Arts and Science assemblies for the 2015-16 academic year on a rotational basis with the Science Senator.”

As a result of the allocation process for Senate seats, Arts and Science only receives a seat during years in which other faculties leave an extra seat vacant; this past year, since all seats were filled, there was no Arts and Science representative at Senate.

The motion is meant to help increase communication between Arts and Science students and their representatives, making sure Senators are able to bring as many of the students’ concerns to Senate as possible.

Other motions passed

Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas Director Paul Yachnin addressed Council about a motion to support the proposed Masters program in Public Life of Arts and Ideas.

According to Yachnin, the new program would be a two-year research degree which “brings together the humanities with Arts management and cultural policy.” The motion passed with two abstentions.

The AUS Equity Committee presented a motion to amend equity policy bylaws. Per the motion, the term “officer,” which is currently used to refer to those on the AUS Equity Committee, is to be replaced by “commissioner.”

Lee said that the term “officer” “has a connotation of enforcement and authority.” Council voted to pass the motion.

Council also approved the Arts Student Employment Fund summer allocations, endorsed the formation of a “yes” committee to advocate for the Arts Internship Office fee referendum, and approved the imposition of a fee to help pay for the Panama Field Studies Semester program.