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Referendum Endorsements

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Constitutional amendments – YES/NO

Updated March 16, 2016.

YES – The first part of the question proposes one substantial change to the SSMU Constitution, which would allow SSMU executives not to be SSMU members during their term if they were members when they were elected. Graduating students, and students who will be taking a gap year, would thus be eligible to run for SSMU executive positions. Although there is a symbolic distancing associated with non-students leading a student union, the practical benefits of the change with relation to executives’ mental health – as well as the availability of the positions to students who cannot have part-time status, and to graduating students, who currently re-apply to McGill if elected – outweigh this cost. As such, The Daily supports this change. However, we deplore the widespread mischaracterization of these constitutional changes by executives and councillors as largely inconsequential, and would have liked to see a justification for this change in the “whereas” clauses of the motion.

The rest of the amendment implements maintenance changes to the Constitution, such as grammatical changes and the removal of outdated information. The amendments reflect the restructuring of the SSMU executive portfolios that recently took place, and include the important addition of an acknowledgement of McGill’s location on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory to the constitution. As these changes are required to accurately reflect SSMU as an organization, The Daily endorses a “yes” vote on this part.

NO – The second part of the question suggests the creation of a steering committee, whose composition is not specified, to reject motions it deems “external and divisive” from SSMU General Assemblies (GAs). The GA could still discuss a rejected motion if it votes by two-thirds to disregard the committee’s decision, but the motion would also require a two-thirds vote to pass, as opposed to the simple majority normally required.

This amendment is a slap in the face for student democracy. With “divisive” defined as anything that “one could reasonably expect significant opposition to,” the GA steering committee would be tasked with maintaining the status quo. The Daily rejects this attempt at creating a watchdog for student activism. Some of the most noteworthy successes of student activism, such as divestment from South African Apartheid, were divisive and overcame “significant opposition.” Coming on the heels of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) motion at this year’s Winter GA, this amendment mirrors the language of divisiveness that was used extensively by the “no” campaign, the mainstream media, and even Principal Suzanne Fortier to shut down a movement that challenges the oppressive status quo and has significant support on campus.

This amendment is also clearly underprepared, as there are serious logistical gaps – for example, it proposes no procedures for motions brought from the floor and does not specify how motions in question are ratified online. The Daily supports student democracy, activism, and challenges to the status quo; as such, we endorse a “no” vote on this reactionary proposal.

AVEQ affiliation referendum – YES

This motion concerns SSMU’s proposed affiliation to the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), a new provincial student federation, at the cost of $3.50 per student per semester, adjusted yearly to reflect the Consumer Price Index. Membership in a student federation would greatly amplify SSMU’s ability to mobilize and lobby the provincial and federal governments to defend student interests. With a lower membership cost than other associations and simple disaffiliation procedures, and having so far shown itself to be sensitive to the needs of anglophone and international students, AVEQ is a good fit for SSMU. The Daily endorses a “yes” vote on this motion.

Creation of a Club Fund Fee – YES

This opt-outable fee of $2.75 per semester per student would be used to solidify and increase the Club Fund, which is currently an allocation of up to $50,000 per year from the SSMU operating budget. The number of SSMU clubs has more than doubled since 2005; at its current size, the Club Fund is insufficient to meet the needs of the more than 240 clubs, which requested over $117,000 in funding in Fall 2015. Further, due to budgetary constraints amplified by the failed SSMU membership fee increase, the existing Club Fund is likely to be reduced without this fee. SSMU clubs are an integral part of student life on campus that SSMU is mandated to support. As such, The Daily endorses a “yes” vote.

Creation of a Mental Health Fee – YES

With one of five McGill students using mental health services each year, mental health is a major concern requiring immediate action on the part of McGill University. The Student Experience Survey conducted in 2014-15 indicated that SSMU members want more resources for mental health advocacy and programming, but budgetary constraints will likely decrease funding of SSMU’s mental health initiatives without this fee. The motion proposes the creation of an opt-outable fee of $0.40 per student per semester to fund such initiatives, projects, and events. Recognizing that SSMU is necessarily picking up the slack on mental health with insufficient support from the administration, The Daily endorses a “yes” vote on this motion.

Increasing the SSMU Health Plan Fee – YES

The SSMU Health Plan is an opt-outable insurance plan that automatically enrolls Quebec and out-of-province students at a current cost of $120 per year. Despite wide acceptance of the fact that mental health is part of the full definition of health and wellbeing, the plan does not currently provide coverage for psychology and psychotherapy services. This motion would add a $25 fee to the plan to provide such coverage. While more must be done to improve the long wait times and insufficient resourcing of the McGill Mental Health Service, access to external mental health resources in the meantime is important for students who need timely care. The Daily endorses a “yes” vote for this question.

Renewal of the SSMU Access Bursary Fee – YES

The SSMU Access Bursary Fund has been funded by an opt-outable student fee since 1999, and funds bursaries to undergraduate students in financial need. At a rate of $8.50 per full-time student and $4.25 per part-time student per semester, the fee is matched dollar for dollar by a contribution from the University and alumni. Given SSMU’s mandate to support accessible education and the importance of this fee to students, The Daily endorses a “yes” vote for this question.

Renewal of the SSMU Equity Fee – YES

The SSMU constitution emphasizes a commitment to social justice and to programs devoted to promoting the wellbeing of historically marginalized groups. This questions asks to renew the $0.50 opt-outable Equity Fee, which provides about $10,000 of funding each semester to the Equity Fund for initiatives, research, and policies that improve the representation or experiences of marginalized peoples. There is always a need for equity-related projects on campus, and the demand for such funding far exceeds availability. Recognizing the importance of funding for such projects, The Daily endorses a “yes” vote.

TVM fee increase and renewal – YES/YES

This two-part question concerns the renewal of Student Television at McGill (TVM)’s opt-outable fee of $1.50 per full-time student and $0.90 per part-time student per semester, and the increase of those fees by $0.75. As McGill’s only student media outlet that exclusively focuses on film and television production, TVM serves a unique purpose at a university with no journalism or media production programs. TVM has recently expanded its services to include live-streaming and workshops, justifying a fee increase. As fellow student press, the Daily emphasizes the importance of TVM and endorses a “yes” vote for both of these questions.