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Up-and-Coming Initiatives Discussed at the Fall 2023 Consultative Forum

Executive board presents plans for 2023-2024 school year despite low attendance

The SSMU General Assembly (GA) for Fall 2023 took place on the evening of October 2. Attendees had the option to partake in the meeting in-person at the SSMU building or via Zoom, contributing to an estimated total of 25 attendees, excluding executive members and those who viewed the meeting’s livestream. This caused the meeting to become a Consultative Forum due to the failure to meet the quorum of 350 attendees required for a General Assembly meeting.

While this is not an unprecedented occurrence, with the Consultative Forums of Fall 2022 and Winter 2023 also seeing a turnout of less than 30 participants, a statement made by President Alexandre Ashkir underlined SSMU’s commitment to continue promoting their General Assembly meetings in hopes of making these meetings more interactive. 

The meeting began with the unanimous adoption of both the standing rules and the agenda. This was followed by a silent question period where all SSMU members in attendance had the floor to address questions or concerns to executives. The lack of attendance allowed for the meeting to quickly carry on to the following item on the agenda: executive reports.

Reports were given by all executive members in attendance; beginning with the VP Internal, followed by the VP External, VP Sustainability and Operations, VP University Affairs, VP Student Life, and concluding with the President. These reports consisted of general overviews of the respective duties of executives, the work they’ve accomplished since the previous school year, and their upcoming plans and ongoing projects for the year ahead and beyond. 

While each executive outlined their individual focuses, as a whole, the initiatives and projects discussed in these reports all target the enhancement of student life and engagement on campus and beyond. VP Internal Jon Barlas spoke of SSMU’s implementation of online feedback forms for on-campus events which, while only having begun this year, managed to receive participation from 10 per cent of the attendees of first-year orientation events put on by SSMU this fall. In his report, VP External Liam Gaither detailed promising news regarding accessibility to affordable student housing, stating that the city of Montreal recently approved a $6 million contribution to the construction of a new student housing building that will be available to McGill students, adding to SSMU’s outstanding $1.5 million investment. The building, located at the corner of Ontario and St-Laurent, is set to open in the fall of 2026. Other notable projects for the upcoming year include the launching of a new club portal as a central hub for information and applications of clubs and student societies set to take place next year, as well as the start up of a student volunteer program in association with SSMU’s daycare program, as was stated in VP Student Life Nadia Dakdouki’s report. 

The meeting concluded with a discussion portion wherein general members had the floor to provide suggestions and questions regarding the following topics: use and accessibility to campus space for students, climate crisis actions and updates, and food insecurity on campus and potential action towards it. 

The first topic was presented by the VP Student Life. Students addressed concerns regarding McGill’s booking system to reserve space on campus for club meetings, which they described as confusing and often frustrating. Dakdouki responded that while SSMU is not directly associated with the university’s system (and therefore cannot mediate communication between them and students), they are actively working on a guide that will outline the booking process in hopes to alleviate some of the confusion faced by student societies looking to host their meetings on campus. 

On the topic of the climate crisis, a general member suggested the collaboration of the many student societies at McGill geared toward climate action that could be facilitated by SSMU. The executive board replied that they would be open to suggestions on strategies to make this collaboration possible. 

The last topic of discussion on food insecurity included an update from the VP External on the status of the Let’s Eat McGill campaign. The campaign gained much attention over the last school year through social media publicity, calling on the university to better their meal plan for students. While progress has been made with the implementation of McGill’s All-You-Care-To-Eat Mandatory Meal Plan through Student Housing and Hospitality Services, Let’s Eat McGill still critiques this plan for being unaffordable to lower-income students, and continues to apply pressure to make on-campus food options more affordable overall. This discussion was concluded by encouraging members to keep an eye out for SNAC, a new program at McGill providing free weekly grocery boxes to students in need, as they are hoping to have their referendum passed to receive university funding at the Legislative Council meeting later this month.

The meeting was adjourned after just over an hour with a hopeful spirit for greater attendance for the next General Assembly meeting happening in the winter semester. With new initiatives and works-in-progress underway, SSMU is gearing up for an exciting school year ahead.