On Thursday, September 26, SSMU executives and a handful of SSMU members gathered for the Fall 2022 semester’s General Assembly (GA). With just over 20 attendees present on Zoom – including the Parliamentarian and Speaker of Council who do not count towards quorum – the group fell significantly short of the 350 members required to meet quorum, so the meeting was deemed a consultative forum rather than a GA. Although regular GAs are scheduled once per semester, they seldom meet quorum: the Fall 2019 GA had just 44 attendees, and although the Winter 2021 GA initially met quorum, the number of attendees dwindled throughout the meeting, eventually losing quorum. The only items on the agenda were the SSMU executive reports; this made for a brief meeting, a little under an hour and a half long.
According to the Board of Directors Report presented by SSMU President Risann Wright, the Board has ratified five motions since the Winter 2022 assembly: the Motion regarding Accessible Libraries, Amendments to the Internal Regulations of Finance, Adoption of a Media and Transparency Plan, Amendments to Internal Regulations of Student Groups, and the SSMU Operation Budget 2022-2023. The Board also approved spending up to $65,000 on reusable menstrual products to be included in SSMU’s monthly menstrual pick-up. Wright also encouraged SSMU members to apply for a position on the Board as a member-at-large: “It is so important for us to have directors on the Board of Directors who are representative of the student body and who are members at large.”
Following Wright’s presentation was Cat Williams’ report on the VP Internal Affairs portfolio. Because social media falls under their portfolio, Williams spent the summer updating SSMU’s branding by revitalizing its social media accounts, including the External Affairs and University Affairs accounts. Williams also reported that new Internal Affairs employees have been hired, including a new translation manager position intended to help SSMU satisfy the language requirements of Bill 96. According to Williams, this year’s social events – such as SSMU’s alternative dry Frosh and the SSMU back to school party – have been successful so far.
Next, Wright took the floor again to present her report as president. She explained that the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Working Group and Plan are under way: the working group has established its terms of reference (i.e. an outline of the group’s working arrangements), and an initial structure for the plan has been outlined. Wright said that once seats on the EDI Working Group are filled, work on the plan and EDI consultations will begin.
VP External Affairs Val Mansy began their presentation with an introduction of the staff under their portfolio; the position of political campaigns coordinator is currently unfilled, so Mansy encouraged interested members to apply. They continued the presentation with a brief overview of their goals for the year and what they have already accomplished – notably, the External Affairs team is aiming to make sidewalks near McGill more accessible in the winter, and will support the Kanien’kehà:ka Kahnistensera as they advocate for an investigation into potential unmarked graves near the Royal Victoria Hospital. Mansy encouraged students with feedback or ideas to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, noting that it is possible to add new mandates to the portfolio if students feel that it would be appropriate.
During his report, VP Finance Marco Pizarro said that a revised budget for the Society will be ready by the end of October, based on the work he has done with SSMU’s accounting team since being elected. He also noted that this year, the Finance staff are working on a legal protection plan which students will vote on during the Winter 2023 referendum. Additionally, Pizarro said that he is looking into changing banks – SSMU currently banks with RBC, from which students have advocated for divestment.
VP University Affairs Kerry Yang presented after Pizarro; Yang briefly explained the responsibilities within the University Affairs portfolio. As part of his advocacy work, Yang has been researching service animal policies; unlike other universities, McGill lacks a service animal policy, so he has been working on potential policies that could be adopted at McGill. Additionally, the University Affairs team has been working to solve equity complaints within SSMU, review the Involvement Restrictions Policy, and expand the distribution of menstrual health products.
Finally, VP Student Life Hassanatou Koulibaly presented her report. Koulibaly explained that this year’s Activities Night – the first one held in-person since the start of the pandemic – was “relatively successful,” despite having been moved indoors although the event was originally planned to be held on the lower field of campus. Koulibaly has also been working on a number of initiatives to make SSMU more accessible to students and clubs: for example, SSMU has partnered with Incredible Features to develop an app that will “facilitate the relationship that SSMU has with its student groups.” Koulibaly has also been helping to revitalize clubs which became inactive during remote learning, and has been updating student groups on their status within SSMU – per Koulibaly, previous communication issues prevented clubs from being notified of when they achieved interim status or full status. As part of the mental health responsibilities within the Student Life portfolio, Koulibaly has continued work on the Wellness World Portal, “a survey-based platform that will be able to direct you to your specific needs,” she explained.
Because students did not submit any items to the agenda, there is little consequence to the failure to meet quorum. Had a resolution been passed without meeting quorum, it would not have been binding and would be added to the agenda of the next GA or the next meeting of Legislative Council, at the discretion of the speaker. The Winter 2023 GA is scheduled for Monday, January 16; before then, students have the opportunity to participate in governance via SSMU’s biweekly Legislative Council meetings, the next one taking place on November 3 at 6:00 p.m.