On Wednesday, October 19, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) convened for their legislative council meeting, where they discussed endorsing the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), the cancelling of an upcoming “Prof Talk,” and committee reports.
Since May 2015, AMUSE has been engaged in negotiations with the administration over its collective agreement. AMUSE argues that its current agreement fails to provide its members — many of whom are in need of financial aid to fund their education — with a living wage, adequate job security, or the employment benefits they deserve. As such, they have outlined a series of bargaining priorities, which include “respect for casual workers, including hiring priority for jobs you’ve already done,” “accurate job descriptions,” “seniority and benefits for casual workers,” improvements to the Work Study program, and a $15 minimum wage.
A motion had been brought to Council to endorse these goals and mandate AUS to “publish a statement in support of these priorities on its website, listserv, and social media channels.”
AMUSE President Claire Michela motivated the motion and took questions from the room, reminding councilors that the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) had endorsed these priorities the previous week, on October 13.
Kat Sviknushin, AUS VP Social, spoke in favour of the motion and the values it represented. “I […] want to speak in support of this motion, mostly because I feel that it underlines one of the things that the AUS is always trying to achieve, which is student employment, […] but I also think this motion serves as a reminder to ourselves when we’re discussing […] paying people that we’re funding a livable wage, and using our bargaining power with people like the Dean to […] continue increasing stipends to […] a livable wage. As someone who employs twelve Frosh [Coordinators], this is something I’m very sensitive towards.”
“I […] want to speak in support of this motion, mostly because I feel that it underlines one of the things that the AUS is always trying to achieve, which is student employment […].”
No one expressed opposition to the motion, and it passed with only two abstentions.
“Prof Talk” controversy
During his report, AUS VP Academic Erik Partridge announced that an upcoming “Prof Talk” had been cancelled due to a room booking problem. World Islamic and Middle East Studies Student Association VP External and former editor at The Daily Niyousha Bastani responded to Partridge, calling this statement “disingenuous,” and stating that as she understood it, there had been other reasons behind the cancellation. Partridge responded that the room booking problem had been the “main reason.” He did not, however, mention any other reasons.
In her report, AUS VP Internal Kira Smith also told Council that the “Prof Talk” in question had been cancelled because of a room booking problem.
Arts Representative Igor Sadikov, another former editor at The Daily, took issue with this assessment, arguing that Partridge and Smith had presented the situation in a “misleading” way, and that if the talk had been cancelled for confidential reasons, this fact should be stated publicly. Smith then denied that her statement had been misleading, repeating that the talk had been cancelled because of a problem with finding a room.
Niyousha Bastani responded to Partridge, calling this statement “disingenuous,” and stating that as she understood it, there had been other reasons behind the cancellation.
Though these disagreements occurred in the context of Partridge and Smith’s executive reports, neither written report mentions the “Prof Talk” cancellation or the rationale behind it.
In a statement to The Daily after the meeting, AUS Equity Commissioners Jad El Tal and Leah Damo explained the context of the controversy.
“Last weekend, a student in Arts approached us and told us about their concern with the upcoming Prof Talk,” Damo and Tal wrote. “They informed us that the invited professor was accused of having sexual relations with students, but this was never formally published. As Equity Commissioners, it is under our mandate to monitor on-going discussions/events, with an emphasis on promoting anti-oppression and pro-survivor values. This is why we forwarded the student’s concern to […] VP Academic Partridge. As for the actual reason behind the cancellation, we do not know whether or not the talk was cancelled due to the allegation or room booking, since the final decision is not under our mandate.”
“[The student] informed us that the invited professor was accused of having sexual relations with students, but this was never formally published. As Equity Commissioners, it is under our mandate to monitor on-going discussions/events, with an emphasis on promoting anti-oppression and pro-survivor values.”
Asked to clarify his statement at the meeting, Partridge made the following statement to The Daily by email: “I regret that I was not more clear at AUS Council and that my answer was equivocal. The logistical issues were the most proximate cause of the cancellation. That said, a cancellation was on the horizon with regards to other issues that I did not feel at liberty to discuss publicly.”