Content warning: sexual assault
On March 9, the Legislative Council of the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) gathered for a tense and protracted meeting, at which it was revealed that former President Ben Ger, who had resigned hours earlier, had reportedly committed gendered violence.
At Thursday’s meeting, Council also debated motions to, among other things, amend the Society’s internal regulations, and support floorfellows in their ongoing labour negotiations with the McGill administration.
Shortly before 2 p.m. on March 9, SSMU’s executive committee issued a statement to the effect that Ger had resigned for “personal reasons.” The statement thanked him “for his service to the Society,” citing some of his key initiatives from his time in office, and stated that he would “be dearly missed as a member of our team.”
At the start of that evening’s Legislative Council meeting, however, VP Student Life Elaine Patterson read an addendum to this earlier statement.
“The President recognized his own inadequacy in handling the David Aird case,” said Patterson, “and has failed his responsibility in upholding the safety of our members. […] Furthermore, it was requested that he not further be involved in his response to the demands made by the Community Disclosures Network and other groups. [Ger] was unsuccessful in upholding the standard and his continued presence on the executive was not conducive to the wellbeing of our campus or this community.”
Following this statement, Council discussed several motions before a question period began during which councillors and members of the gallery could voice inquiries and have them addressed. The first question asked was directed at Patterson: why had she stated that Ger had been unfit to handle the David Aird case?
“The President recognized his own inadequacy in handling the David Aird case, and has failed his responsibility in upholding the safety of our members.”
In response, Patterson explained that after the executive committee had released its first statement concerning Ger’s resignation, they had been made aware by one of their team – subsequently identified as VP University Affairs Erin Sobat – that allegations of “gendered violence” had been made against Ger.
“The executive recognizes,” said Patterson, “that somebody who has allegations of gendered violence against them is not equipped to handle the scenario that was brought forward about two weeks ago at this point, regarding David Aird and the reasons for his resignation.”
As the question period continued, Jennifer Yoon of the Bull & Bear repeatedly questioned the executive committee over the circumstances in which Ger’s gendered violence became known.
Patterson clarified that no one except Sobat had been aware of the allegations of violence until after the executive’s first statement regarding Ger’s resignation had been released.
Sobat himself, in response to further questioning from Yoon, explained that he had been made aware of the allegations by the Community Disclosure Network (CDN) roughly two weeks earlier, and that “the priority at the time was to make sure that the President took a step back from the response to [the David Aird case].”
“I regret not taking into consideration those allegations in the initial statement that was released today,” Sobat continued, visibly emotional. He added that he had also been influenced by serious concern for Ger’s mental health.
In response to a question from Environment Representative Tuviere Okome, Patterson further explained that the executive committee would be discussing the possibility of releasing a public statement clarifying the reason behind Ger’s resignation. At the time of publication, such a statement has not been released; however, a statement was sent out to campus media on March 10, formally stating the information revealed at Council the previous night.
Asked by Arts Representative Maria Thomas how the President’s responsibilities will be met in the coming weeks, Patterson responded that, for now, Ger’s duties will be delegated among the remaining five executives. Moreover, “the people elected to the VP External portfolio and the President’s portfolio [at the end of next week] will be offered a managerial contract. They won’t be considered an officer of the Society, but they would have a managerial position, […] starting their transition process early.”
Editor’s note: This article was initially published on March 11; however, it was soon brought to our attention that this version had been improperly fact-checked. As such, a shorter version of the piece has been republished here.