Updated on February 6.
On February 3, the results of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter 2016 special referendum were announced. The referendum question to increase the SSMU membership base fee by $5.50 failed with 49.7 per cent, a margin of 18 votes, while the question regarding the restructuring of the executive portfolios passed with 72.1 per cent of the votes.
In an interview with The Daily, Erin Sobat, a member of the “yes” committee for the fee increase, said that the results of the referendum question are “disappointing.”
“Those who voted “no” with [the information we communicated] – we obviously respect that and we are glad that they had the opportunity to look through it and make an informed decision,” Sobat said.
“What is disappointing is knowing that with a 16 per cent turnout, [there are a] number of students out there that simply did not hear about the campaign, did not care enough to vote, or did not feel that they had the information or knowledge to see it as important or relevant,” Sobat continued
Consequences of the “no” vote
SSMU VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston explained that the “no” vote will have immediate results. Houston said that he was in the middle of working on the February budget revision before the referendum, and that all relevant departments had already submitted their preliminary drafts.
However, Houston told The Daily that he did not start reviewing this draft, “because I knew that I needed to know whether or not [the] base fee passed to really make these decisions.”
“For this year, we will want to reduce spending, but [will] not necessarily need to cut things drastically, because we saved so much on salaries this year. For example, an already planned project of the VP University Affairs would not necessarily get cut, but if the VP University Affairs’ mental health budget has some extra money with no direct plan – [we’re] definitely trimming all that off now. Any unallocated money and budgets will get cut,” Houston said.
SSMU VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik explained to The Daily that the cuts would affect how much assistance her portfolio would be able to provide to help run student group events.
“In the context of my portfolio, the biggest issue that I have on the student group side of things is that we are wildly understaffed,” said Bialik. “A big part of the base fee increase [would have meant] being able to hire more staff – student support staff and eventually a full-time student group support staff.”
According to the results of the executive restructuring question, the VP Clubs & Services position will be converted into VP Student Life, and the VP Finance and Operations position will be divided in two. The restructuring will also re-allocate some of the responsibilities of current positions to accommodate for the seventh executive.
Bialik explained that the new VP Operations portfolio would require someone who is focused on planning for the “big picture, thinking long term, and coming up with a new vision for what we want our operations to be.”
“There are so many things that have a lot of potential in that portfolio, there’s a lot that can be done with Gerts, the Student Run Cafe […] and the [Shatner] building,” Bialik said. “We really need someone who is focused on consultation and figuring out what students want, and figuring out a long term plan for how to actualize that.”