News  Socialist Fightback expresses confidence in student solidarity for free education

Motion for Free Education passes despite low turnout at SSMU Winter 2018 GA

On Monday March 26, the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its Winter General Assembly (GA). The GA allows students to voice their concerns and ask their questions to SSMU’s executive council and to those who have proposed motions on various issues involving the student body.

In November 2017 the minimum number of voting members required to be present at the GA for motions to implemented, or quorum, was increased to from 100 to 350 people through a motion to SSMU’s Board of Directors (BoD). The reason for the increase was supposedly “to prevent any vocal minority from unilaterally controlling and undermining democracy in GA votes in the future,” as explained by the McGill Tribune. Others have voiced concerns that the increase in quorum is unrealistic and would make the point of GAs irrelevant.If quorum is not reached, the motions move to SSMU’s Legislative Council, where 30 representatives from faculties vote on them

This term’s GA failed to meet quorum with only 65 people present. The meeting focused on the “Motion to Organize the Fight for Free Education and Cancellation of Student Debt” proposed by McGill’s Socialist Fightback, and on the “2018-2019 Executive Goals” of the newly elected SSMU representatives.

This term’s GA failed to meet quorum with only 65 people present.

The Free Education motion calls for the SSMU to build and support the ongoing campaign for free education and the cancellation of student debt under the responsibility of the Office of the Vice-President Student Affairs and support aone day student strike in the upcoming Fall 2018 term. This motion was proposed due to the frustration of students regarding increasing educational costs and the commitment of SSMU to work in conjunction with student movements in Quebec and across Canada.

The clause concerning free education was explained by Socialist Fightback to apply to Canadian students at the moment, as this effort is more attainable at the onset. Nevertheless, they believe in the solidarity of students in a collective effort to achieve free education beyond the borders of Canada.

The motion triggered debate.Andrew Figueiredo,student at McGill, and small group of students,argued against the motion. Figueiredo asked Socialist Fightback if they had spoken to government officials or if the strike and the motion as a whole which he called a “pipe dream” was proposed “out of the blue.” This question was repeatedly asked by these students in conjunction with questions as to why Socialist Fightback had not aimed their efforts at electing someone in the government to support the Free Education motion.

Socialist Fightback responded by saying that the best way to fight and sustain rights was through “mass action,” citing the 2012 student strikes as an example.The massive protests fought against the increase of tuition fees in the province were successful, showing that the government responded to “pressure,” not to their own accord according to club representatives. .

Other students asked if there was a firm fiscal policy in mind in order to organize funding for free education, to which a student said that provincial and national budget concerns are outside the scope of SSMU pointing that the motion was specifically aimed at showing solidarity in the fight for free education. The same group of students claimed it was not very difficult to apply for financial aid and other means to cover tuition.

Socialist Fightback responded by saying that the best way to fight and sustain rights was through “mass action,” citing the 2012 student strikes as an example.

A representative from Socialist Fightback responded to these comments claiming that having to go through a “means test”, which is a way of checking that a person qualifies for financial aid,was a degrading experience. He stated that he would love to discuss plans with the government if given the opportunity.

In response to comments made that the strike would disrupt class time and cause problems, the representative stated that the “whole point of a strike is that it is disruptive.”
When voted on, the Free Education motion passed by a two-thirds majority: it will be presented at the next legislative council meeting on Thursday, March 29.

A representative from Socialist Fightback responded to these comments claiming that having to go through a “means test”, which is a way of checking that a person qualifies for financial aid,was a degrading experience.

Next, newly elected SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer presented the “2018-2019 SSMU Executive Goals” which included objectives to improve communications and partnerships with faculties, increase the transparency and accessibility of SSMU, and increase its social media presence. Mansdoerfer also explained his hopes to address equity concerns within SSMU by working with Equity Commissioners as the council for 2018-2019 is “predominantly white and male,” and enhance the interpersonal dynamics within the executive council.

This motion passed unanimously.

The 2017-2018 SSMU Executives also presented their annual reports regarding their accomplishments and what they hoped to pass on to the next executive members.

VP External Connor Spencer explained her role in supervising the campaign coordinator and her support for the SSMU campaigns McGill Against Austerity, Divest McGill, and Demilitarize McGill. Spencer has also dedicated much of her personal efforts towards improving sexual violence policies at McGill through attending discussions revolving around Bill 151, a sexual assault policy, passed by Quebec in December of 2017.

VP Finance Esteban Herpin also announced the movement of many clubs to a new building on 3501 Peel St. following the closure of the University Centre in March. A student asked Herpin about the reasons for which a building inaccessible to disabled students was bought without student consultation. Herpin, who took the position two months ago, responded that the decision was already proposed when he was consulted and that there are efforts being made to increase its accessibility.