On November 8, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) met for their bi-weekly Legislative Council, during which a number of motions were debated, including the creation of a Quebec Studies Student’s Association (QSSA), the amendment of the Fine Arts Council by-laws, and the motion to endorse a “yes” vote in the Daily Publications Society’s (DPS) existence referendum.
Formation of the QSSA
New business began with the proposal to form a Quebec Studies Student’s Association, moved by VP Internal Rebecca Scarra and President Eric Partridge. The Quebec Studies program is a small department in the Arts faculty, which is currently struggling due to low enrollment that threatens to shut down the program. This point was raised by VP Academic Madeleine Wilson. “The Quebec Studies program is […] being terminated […] because of low enrollment, the faculty is trying to cut the program. I realise that the association being established is trying to prevent that, but realistically, the only thing that will prevent that is getting enrollment numbers up. […] Does the proposed QSSA have any concrete plans as to how this association is actually going to increase enrollment?”
Scarra replied that her conversation with the person who proposed this motion hadn’t included a concrete plan of action. “However,” she added, “I do know that they’re hoping that by having this association, it’ll increase visibility in the AUS and get more people to enroll. They would also like to do collaborative events with other departments in order to raise awareness about this minor and this program, in order to hopefully increase enrollment.”
“The Quebec Studies program is […] being terminated […] because of low enrollment, the faculty is trying to cut the program. I realise that the association being established is trying to prevent that, but realistically, the only thing that will prevent that is getting enrollment numbers up.”
Given that, as the AUS constitution and the motion itself state, “Each Department and Interdisciplinary Program in the Faculty of arts shall be entitled to a Departmental Association,” there was no debate and the motion passed unanimously.
Amendment of the Fine Arts Council (FAC) bylaws
The subsequent motions, regarding the ratification of committee roles and minor amendments to the wording of the fee increase questions for the Fall 2017 referendum, both passed without debate. These were followed by a motion to amend the FAC bylaws, which was the most extensively debated motion of the evening. The Fine Arts Council, as described by Classics Students’ Association (CSA) VP External David Epstein, is “a wide-ranging funding source, […] funding theatre, literature, visual arts, and dance, for groups as well as individual artists.”
The FAC is mandated to consider and review all applicants who seek funding, and this year has seen a record number of new applicants. To accommodate these new demands, the FAC’s motion proposed that the “affiliate” clause of their by-laws be eliminated, in order to widen the scope of applicants the FAC is able to consider for funding. The “affiliate” clause of the by-laws mandates that the FAC give a designated amount of their funding to specific Arts faculty groups every year – Epstein argued that some of these groups are now defunct, and in order to avoid the unnecessary designation of funds to groups that no longer require them, the “affiliate” clause must be terminated altogether.
Debate on this motion saw many parties voice concerns over the unilateral termination of the “affiliate” clause, given that many of the affiliate groups still require funding. Some councillors raised the question of why the entire clause would be terminated when defunct groups could simply be struck from the by-laws. Epstein clarified that the amendment was not intended to target or marginalise specific organisations, and that the by-laws would be rewritten to create clearer funding guidelines which make up for the current, “hastily” and “poorly written” bylaws, as he described them.
As the night of the council meeting was also the deadline to send out funding to these groups, Epstein encouraged the motion to be passed that night itself. However, debate did carry on for a period of time during which department representatives brought up issues of transparency in the amendment process, the lack of clarity regarding the requirements for each affiliate group in the funding process, and the discrepancy between the small number of defunct groups and the large-scale impact of the amendment.
Partridge proposed two amendments to this motion. The first, would, among other things require all FAC funding to be ratified by AUS legislative council. The second proposes that the striking of affiliate clauses be delayed until February 1, 2018, so that only the second semester allocation would be impacted. This, Partridge argued, would allow for affiliate groups forewarning regarding cuts to their funding. Both of Partridge’s amendments passed.
Given the second amendment regarding a delayed striking of the affiliate class, Department of English Students’ Association (DESA) VP External Thomas Macdonald motioned to table the motion til the next AUS Legislative Council meeting in two weeks. This motion failed. After further debate, the original motion passed with Partridge’s amendments.
Endorsement of a “yes” vote in the DPS Existence Referendum
Macdonald then brought forward a motion for AUS to endorse a “yes” vote in the DPS existence referendum. The DPS is the publication service which publishes both the McGill Daily and Le Delit, and is undergoing an existence referendum from November 13-16. This referendum takes place every 5 years, as part of the process of renegotiation of a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with SSMU. This year, for the first time in decades, SSMU chose not to endorse a “yes” vote. Macdonald argued that an endorsement by AUS could fill the gap that SSMU left in not endorsing the DPS. “The DPS, McGill Daily and Le Délit privilege marginalised voices and stories, and freedom of press is […] the cornerstone of a robust and egalitarian politic, so I think we should all vote yes.”
A representative from the German Students’ Association requested a brief point of information regarding what a loss of the existence referendum would actually mean for the DPS, to which Macdonald clarified that the DPS would no longer be able to negotiate an MoA with SSMU and would thus completely cease to exist.
During debate, Partridge clarified for the record that the reason for his no vote is that endorsements by the AUS are unprecedented during referendum periods. The question of making the fee opt-outable was also mentioned. Some departmental representatives encouraged a yes vote to this motion, for reasons including the fact that Le Delit is the only Francophone publication on campus, and that the press has a right to continue regardless of political stance. A representative of the PSSA said, “I think that it’s very clear that if the DPS is not renewed, it will end the Daily and Le Délit, we shouldn’t kid ourselves about that […] they will not have the funds to continue to operate. […] I personally don’t agree with the political stance of the Daily, but I firmly believe in their right to exist. I don’t necessarily see this as a referendum on the political stance of the Daily, it’s about voices on campus.”
“I think that it’s very clear that if the DPS is not renewed, it will end the Daily and Le Délit, we shouldn’t kid ourselves about that.”
Partridge requested that the vote be recorded; the motion to endorse the “yes” vote in the DPS existence referendum passed with 33 in favour.