On September 26, SSMU Legislative Council convened for their second session of the Fall semester. As council took place the day before the Climate Strike, the largest segment of discussion was that of the strike. Several other important discussions took place throughout the meeting, as well as two different presentations from the McGill administration.
On behalf of the administration, Christopher Buddle, the Dean of Students, gave a presentation discussing the Policy on Involuntary Student Leave. Krista Houser also spoke, on behalf of the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF). Buddle’s presentation on the policy fielded a significant number of questions, notably regarding the student status of those who will fall under the policy, as well as concerns over whether there would be student representation on the case management team. Facing widespread student pushback, Dean Buddle suspended the policy shortly afterwards, and will be reworking it throughout the year. Following Buddle’s presentation, Houser provided an overview of SPF and its efforts on campus, pointing to initiatives such as Refill McGill as examples of successes in sustainability on campus.
Strong sustainability discussion
With regards to sustainability, SSMU President Bryan Buraga presented a report on changes underway on campus. He pointed to a number of sustainability changes being implemented, namely that Midnight Kitchen would be helping in the future with supplying vegan food for council meetings, rather than ordering delivery pizza. Buraga also noted that the SSMU Fall Semester General Assembly had been set for October 28 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and will take place at New Residence Hall. In closing, he announced that renovations in the Shatner University Center would hopefully be finished by December 2019, and noted the possibility of an opening in January 2020 – 22 months after the building’s initial closure. In addition to the report, Buraga gave notice for a motion to be presented next council meeting – the Motion Regarding Policy on Moratorium on McGill Fees Until Fossil Fuel Divestment. In a speech laying out the plans for the motion, Buraga spoke to the urgency of McGill’s action in divestment. “Councillors, it’s time to act, and the message is clear: our students are demanding strong, principled, and decisive action on climate justice,” Buraga said.
Buraga continued, “McGill University seems to only care about two things: donations, and its reputation, […] we must demonstrate our resolve in the face of continued inaction on fossil fuel divestment by McGill University.”
During the announcements period, several bulletins were put forth by members of council regarding the climate strike. Councillor Beatrice Courchesne-Mackie, representing the Faculty of Law, reported the Faculty’s successful GA, as well as the Dean’s decision to cancel classes. Members from the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) also brought up the Faculty’s GA that not only met quorum, but passed a climate strike motion by unanimous vote, which was also approved in the online segment of voting with a nearly 40 per cent voter turnout. One of the Councillors representing the Faculty of Management spoke to the Management Undergraduate Society’s (MUS) Board of Governors’ actions in formally and unanimously endorsing the strike. Councillors Andrew Dixon and Mariam Morgan, representing the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, both announced successful votes regarding the strike.
Finally, during the question period, a student from the Faculty of Science – attending the Council as a member-at-large – asked the science representatives to clarify the SUS stance on the strikes. In response, a member of the Faculty clarified that while they were unable to hold a GA on time, they were able to release a statement on the SUS Facebook page that endorses the strike. Additionally, the member acknowledged that labs can be difficult to postpone, but noted that some classes, such as Organic Chemistry I, were able to make an alternative lab day to accommodate students who were striking. Furthermore, another member of the Faculty clarified that SUS had emailed a significant number of professors in the Faculty of Science to either cancel classes, or at least not make anything due, on the day of the strike. They noted that many professors had responded, and that many science classes were in fact cancelled, although there was unfortunately not an explicit strike vote.
Finally, the Motion Regarding Support of Climate Justice Actions at McGill was presented by VP External Adam Gwiazda-Amsel, which mandates SSMU to recognize the climate emergency and take steps to both pressure both the Quebec and Canadian governments and the McGill administration to divest from fossil fuels, as well as support efforts to advocate for climate action. In the succinct words of Gwiazda-Amsel, “we’re all going to die in 12 years if we don’t do anything, [and] strikes are a really good way to impose economic pressure on both institutions and governments who are directly responsible for climate change.”
Indigenous Equity Fund and Fee
There was also an important motion brought written by SSMU Indigenous Affairs Commissioner Tomas Jirousek – the Motion Regarding Creation of Indigenous Equity Fund and Fee. The fund and associated fee, which seeks to bring to referendum a fee levy to support Indigenous student activism, points to the lack of resources available to efforts such as the Change the Name campaign – which had to draw from the First People’s House primarily – an organization whose budget has already been cut, per Jirousek.
Jirousek spoke to the urgent need for a dedicated fee levy to take the strain off such organizations, as well as the need for the administration to support Indigenous students. All councillors present voted in favour of the motion, except for Management Councillor Jonathan Gurvey.
Further announcements included applications for a member-at-large on the Accountability Committee (applications are available at SSMU Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org), as well as VP Finance Samuel Haward’s announcement regarding the club workshops that took place on September 14 and 15. Haward expressed his desire to make it clear that any club who missed the workshop, but gave notice that they would be unable to make it, would not be sanctioned, and that the claim published in The McGill Tribune that they would be sanctioned was not factual.