On October 24, SSMU held its fourth Legislative Council, shortly after a Montreal health inspector found a number of health code violations at a club samosa sale just a few days prior. Undoubtedly, the so-called “samosa-gate” was a major focus of consideration.
However, it was far from the only important discussion that took place during the council session. There were a number of motions brought forth, hard-hitting questions asked, presentations made, and important governance changes discussed.
Three presentations took place at this Council meeting. Firstly, the Student Rights Commissioner, Adrienne Tessier, reported on their portfolio. In this presentation, Tessier noted some key findings, primarily regarding what could be done to get councillors and senators more involved in informing students of their rights. One method Tessier noted was the use of classroom announcements as a way of getting more students involved, interested, or aware of their rights as students.
The second presentation came from the president of Drivesafe, Charles Choi, who discussed a motion that would be presented later in council to implement carbon-offsetting funding. (The motion was later approved by Council.) In addition, Choi mentioned a number of planned or ongoing changes to Drivesafe, such as going fully electric by 2030 and expanding service to the Greater Montreal Area and Macdonald campus.
Professor Gregory Matthew Mikkelson, the president-elect of the McGill Association of University Teachers, also presented on University Senate governance reform. He then introduced a motion primarily focused on the appointment of deans, in order for all members of the McGill Community Council to be in unanimous support and thus have a better bargaining capability with the McGill administration. The vote passed unanimously.
In addition, there were a number of important motions presented, such as a Motion Regarding the Creation of an Affordable Student Housing Committee, a Motion Regarding the Adoption of an Events Management Policy, and a Motion Regarding Amendments to the Internal Regulations Regarding of Elections and Referenda.
Especially important was the Comprehensive Governance Review Committee Report, which prompted a significant amount of debate. Specifically, councillors debated the proposed removal of a number of seats from Council, such as that of the Arts and Science representative, two undergraduate Senate representatives, the residences representative, and the environment representative. There was also a proposal to add three non-voting members to Council: one of the equity commissioners, a member of the Indigenous affairs committee, and a member of MacDonald Campus Student Society. Another important proposed change was to allow students to bring motions to legislative council to be debated and voted on by councillors.
Question period largely dealt with concerns regarding the sale of samosas on campus, with councillors asking what could be done in the future, as well as what should be done at the moment in response to the situation. The fine in question ranges from $2,250 to $54,000, which SSMU has stated they will cover in full. President Buraga then announced that “SSMU has taken steps to prevent future samosa sales for the time being, until we’re able to put a process in place to ensure that we are able to follow these health and safety codes, while also maintaining financial accessibility for clubs and services who do wish to have samosa sales and other food sales on campus.” There was also discussion as to whether this plan could be done with the cooperation of other student groups such as AUS or SUS, in order to prevent similar situations from arising there. (It is worth noting that a councillor ordered a box of samosas at the meeting as a show of solidarity with Pushap, the restaurant that usually provides the samosas to student clubs.)
In addition to this, a number of councillors asked questions regarding Indigenous student concerns about VP Internal Sanchi Bhalla. She referred to her later report which contained a statement on the issue, which is available online. (There will be a separate article discussing this issue in depth soon.)
Finally, a number of announcements were made. First of all, VP External Adam Gwiazda-Amsel stated that many unions on campus will be – or currently are – going into bargaining or conciliation, and asked that the SSMU show solidarity with them. In addition, he noted that the Association for Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) is looking to unionize non-unionized members of the academic staff such as undergraduate TAs.
VP Internal Bhalla also noted the upcoming Halloween party on October 31, and encouraged everyone to purchase tickets. Councillor Platt made a note of a number of upcoming musical performance by Schulich School of Music students, such as a jazz chamber concert on October 28, and encouraged all to attend. It was also announced that the AUS Grad Fair will be held on November 6 at New Residence Hall, and the SUS Grad Fair will take place on November 5 at the same location. Finally, it was noted that the SSMU General Assembly will take place on October 28 at New Residence Hall at 6 p.m.