The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Council convened on February 26 to adopt a set of standing rules for the upcoming Winter 2015 General Assembly (GA), and to discuss procedural changes for elections to the Board of Directors. Councillors also voted to support Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill’s proposed fee increase in the group’s 2015 referendum.
At its previous meeting on February 12, Council approved a motion to draft standing rules for the Winter 2015 GA, which will be held on March 15. At its most recent meeting, Council discussed the proposed rules, brought forward by SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa, VP Internal Daniel Chaim, and VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley.
The rules consisted of four key points: a default speaking time of one minute will be enforced, ‘friendly’ amendments will be incorporated to the relevant motion without a vote, the speaker will state all voting options and their outcomes prior to each vote, and all members waiting to enter the room will be given voting cards before any vote deemed “substantive” takes place.
The term “substantive” prompted considerable debate, with some councillors expressing concern over which motions it would cover. Various solutions to this ambiguity were proposed. Physical & Occupational Therapy Representative Yasmine Nadifi suggested that the term be defined, and VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan argued that because a primary concern of councillors and their constituents would be motions to postpone debate indefinitely, these should be explicitly included in the definition of “substantive.”
After a lengthy discussion, the rule in question was amended to “any motions deemed substantive by the chair.” The motion to approve the standing rules passed unanimously.
QPIRG-McGill fee referendum
After a substantial period of discussion, councillors voted unanimously in favour of a motion to support a “yes” vote in the QPIRG-McGill 2015 referendum. The referendum question, which passed successfully last week, proposed a $1.25 increase to QPIRG-McGill’s opt-outable $3.75 fee, bringing it to a total of $5.00 per student per term.
“I see this fee as important because it institutionalizes QPIRG funding and makes it a sustainable option, whereas we can’t rely on government grants, especially in a climate of austerity.”
Medicine Representative Joshua Chin expressed concern about the possible negative ramifications of this increase. “I’m wondering if by […] endorsing this fee increase, would that not de-incentivize QPIRG members from more proactive […] searching for [government] grants or fundraising?”
Arts Representative Lola Baraldi disagreed. “I see this fee as important because it institutionalizes QPIRG funding and makes it a sustainable option, whereas we can’t rely on government grants, especially in a climate of austerity.”
Stewart-Kanigan concurred, noting that the application process for such grants is complex and extremely time-consuming, and creates what she termed a “climate of uncertainty” within organizations seeking this type of funding. She spoke strongly in favour of the motion, calling QPIRG-McGill “an excellent resource on our campus.”
Cadence O’Neal, a QPIRG-McGill board member and a member of the “yes” committee for the fee, explained the reasoning behind this motion in a message to The Daily.
“QPIRG has been around since the 1980s, but has only had its fee increased once since then. […] Since [the fee] has been static for the most part, we’ve become unable to maintain our amazing programs,” said O’Neal. “We’ve also been unable to adequately improve the physical accessibility of our space and resources. With this fee increase, we’ll be able to ensure the sustainability of our existing programs, while also making QPIRG more active and accessible for McGill students.”
The fee referendum, which ran from February 26 to March 2, passed at both SSMU and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS).
Council also discussed a motion pledging SSMU’s support for the expansion of childcare services for the McGill community.
“This has been an ongoing challenge on the McGill campus,” said Stewart-Kanigan, who motivated the motion. “This is a stance that would not only be supportive of SSMU’s advocacy efforts […] but it would also be a stance in solidarity with those other groups on campus who are also pushing for more childcare possibilities.”
A motion regarding interim changes for the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) elections process was also approved. The motion temporarily modified SSMU’s bylaws to allow councillors to be elected to the BoD in April, to ensure that the positions are filled during the summer months.