On October 10, SSMU reconvened for the third Legislative Council of the year. On the agenda were a number of notable motions and presentations, bringing in both motions that had been announced in previous meetings, as well as new ones. Of particular note were motions regarding a moratorium on auxiliary fees, a response to Bill 21, and a new athletics fee. Due to the sheer number of new motions, as well as the significant time spent on debate, the council was an exceptionally long and heated session.
Kat O’Donnell presented research on the University’s tenure processes. Given that the tenure process is quite central to how McGill functions, the presentation put significant emphasis on how tenure worked and possible areas that it can be improved, as well as specific methods through which students could get involved in the process. (Currently, there is no student involvement.) Some of these include prioritizing teaching out of the three criteria of the tenure process (teaching is currently ranked second to research). Additionally, the issue of equity in the tenure process was brought up, with O’Donnell pointing out that “right now, women, racialized professors, Indigenous professors, [and] professors with disabilities are underrepresented amongst tenure and tenure track positions,” meaning that “relative to their population in society […] we’re below the percentage we would expect to see.” In addition to this, there were concerns regarding disciplinary records, as they are “currently not included in the tenure dossier, [as] the professor producing their own tenure dossier has no reason to include those.”
A Debate on the Motion for a Moratorium on McGill Fees
Following the presentation, councillors debated the Motion Regarding Policy on Moratorium on McGill Fees Until Fossil Fuel Divestment, which was announced at the last council meeting. Proving to be a significant point of debate, questions arose as to whether the motion constituted an effective solution, or if it was a proper way of addressing the issue of McGill’s divestment from fossil fuels.
Arts Councillor Adin Chan asked “if this might antagonize the relationship [of the SSMU] with the administration,” to which VP University Affairs Madeline Wilson responded, “the short answer is: it absolutely will.” She then elaborated on the already complex relationship between the administration and SSMU, and spoke to the fact that so far no other options have proven to have any effect. During debate, the proxy for Senator Lametti, Sebastien Duckett, brought up that student senators had recently decided to vote against this motion, arguing it only served to take away student voices from the current process of having a say over what fees and funding-based changes take place. He also argued that the University may increase international student tuition as a means of raising funds for projects if referendums are not available.
In response, however, VP External Adam Gwiazda-Amsel pointed out that McGill has already made it clear that they plan on raising international student tuition, and that there is Quebec legislation that requires student consultation. Additionally, a significant discussion took place regarding the merits of divestment as a whole, with some arguing that it would instead be better to attempt to use the stakes McGill has in fossil fuel corporations to pressure these companies at stakeholder meetings, and become so-called “activist shareholders.” Amongst others, environment representative Michael Rhamey pointed out the issue with attempting to push divestment of fossil fuels from within fossil fuel corporations. Ultimately, the motion passed by a wide margin, with more than 20 councillors voting in favour of it.
Motion on the Athletics Facility Improvement Fee Referendum Question
Following the passing of this motion, councillors discussed the Motion Regarding Creation of an Athletics Facility Improvement Fee Referendum Question. While this represented a new auxiliary fee, and thus would be directly affected by the prior motion, there was significant desire to bring it up for debate anyways, and to vote on it as well. SSMU President Bryan Buraga began by motioning to object to the question, under the grounds that it would go against the motion that had just been passed. However, that was not the end of the issue, as councillors made attempts to bring it up for debate, eventually succeeding by appealing the decision of the chair.
Once in debate, questions included asking whether it would be “possible to change the name of the motion” so that it would not be considered a new fee, whether councillors could vote on it despite it going against the previous motion, and whether the Board of Governors could change their agenda to vote on the Moratorium motion after the athletics fee. In the end, a major portion of the debate focused on whether this would violate the prior motion as well as the spirit of the motion. After the motion was voted on, it did not end up passing.
A number of other important motions were presented this council, including the Motion Regarding Condemnation of Judicial Challenge of Human Rights Tribunal Ruling Regarding First Nations Children, as well as the Motion Regarding Condemnation of Bill 21, both of which passed with relatively little debate.
Other motions debated included a Motion Regarding Creation of the Gerts Reopening Fund and Fee, which failed, a Motion Regarding Increase and Nature of SSMU Equity Fee Referendum Question which was approved, a Motion Regarding Creation of SSMU Student Academic Support Services and Fee Levy, and finally a Motion Regarding Changes to the Health and Dental Review Committee Terms of Reference which also passed. The motion to open Gerts in Winter 2020 with a one-time fee levy of $7.50 proved to be controversial, with nine councillors voting in favour of opening the bar, ten voting against, and four abstaining. (The motion mentions how the bar “would operate at a significant financial loss if it were re-opened during the Winter 2020 Semester.”)
Due to the significant time constraints, the rest of the motions and reports which did not require immediate approval were pushed back to the next meeting.
Finally, regarding announcements, it was noted that the Fall SSMU General Assembly will be taking place October 28 at New Residence Ballroom.