The Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) hosted Principal Suzanne Fortier as a guest speaker at its council meeting on Jan. 14. Fortier expressed her satisfaction with McGill’s prestige as a university and spoke to the role of teamwork and collaboration in continuing to improve McGill.
“A great university is something we build together,” Fortier said. “Our responsibility is to continue in adding to a very strong foundation [….] We do that by looking critically at ourselves [and] looking at where we can improve.”
AUS councillors and gallery members asked Fortier several questions, many of which were about the regulation of SNAX, a student-run snack shop regulated by the AUS that sells out of Leacock. As it stands, the AUS Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with McGill University does not permit SNAX to sell sandwiches and “prepared foods” to students. Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon compared SNAX with other on-campus food distributors such as Premiere Moisson.
“You mentioned the positive fair trade characteristics of Premiere Moisson […] but AUS SNAX also sells fair trade products,” Greenspon argued. “Why does it seem that McGill would […] support some fair trade initiatives but not others, particularly when the latter, SNAX, offers financially accessible items to students?”
In response to this question, Deputy Provost (Student Life & Engagement) Ollivier Dyens suggested that SNAX enter into a business contract with McGill, just as Premiere Moisson has. As Dyens explained, McGill’s hesitation with SNAX lies in issues of liability and student safety.
“There’s an issue of liability [and] responsibility,” Dyens said. “As you know we’re very very conscious about food safety. If somebody gets sick while going to SNAX, people aren’t going to go after SNAX or AUS, they’re going to go after McGill […] and it’s going to have ramifications for the university.”
Several representatives from SNAX were present at the council meeting, prepared to address the university’s concerns about liability.
“[SNAX is] taking quite a few steps at this time to ensure that we aren’t a liability,” explained Emma Meldrum, assistant manager at SNAX. “We’re getting our employees health certified, we have forms from the government that say that we are safe, we had a safe health inspection last semester, and all of our suppliers are certified as well with the government of Quebec. And furthermore, we are insured under the AUS.”
AUS Council reaches decision regarding VP Internal responsibilities
Since the announcement of leave of absence of former AUS VP Internal Roma Nadeem due to physical illness at the beginning of the year, the AUS council has been forced to reach a decision regarding how to cover the administrative duties of this role. At Wednesday’s meeting, AUS President Ava Liu announced her decision to leave the position open while hiring someone outside the AUS executive to fill the new role of Internal Administrator.
The council floor was then opened up to discussion for whether or not to appoint a member of council to the position of VP Internal, and if so, whom.
“We’ll be hiring someone who is a student at McGill, probably in the Faculty of Arts, to work directly under my supervision,” Liu explained. “This person would just come in for a few hours a week to do room bookings and liquor permits.”
Liu continued to explain that this administrative position would be working few enough hours that the AUS would have room in its budget to pay him or her a stipend.
The AUS council ultimately decided that no motion was needed to finalize this decision, as a replacement will not be selected for the VP Internal position, through other means were needed to fulfil the administrative duties.
“The other tasks in Roma’s portfolio that pertain to representation will be filled by the other members of the Executive,” Liu detailed.
AUS Council discusses potential draft for new Memorandum of Agreement
AUS VP Academic, Erin Sobat, presented to Council a draft of a new Memorandum of Agreement (MoA)—a legal document that outlines AUS’s relationship and obligations to McGill University as an accredited student association. Last renewed in 2010, the document is renewed every five years.
In describing the new MoA, Sobat also outlined the association fees that McGill owes the AUS, which students pay the university along with their tuition. These fees help cover the operating expenses of the AUS and fund services and activities provided to students, such as Bar des Arts and the AUS Essay Centre.
The updated MoA proposes a significant increase in the annual administrative fee schedule, which McGill charges to collect AUS association fees. The current proposed association fee schedule incurs increases in the amount of money McGill receives from the AUS.
“We don’t have any rent fees [from] McGill for our space, but we do have administrative fees,” Sobat explained. “So it’s not that those aren’t numbers that we can’t afford, but [McGill is] definitely looking to us as a source of revenue.”
The updated MoA does not make any major changes regarding SNAX, although the snack shop will incur rent increases for its real estate.
“[Rent] was going up a dollar per year, so really what we expected was for it to keep going up a dollar per year,” Sobat noted. “It’s a pretty high rate of inflation, but […] if you want to think about McGill as a real estate market, it is at a premium, and SNAX can afford it.”
The current terms for SNAX in the MoA, which restrict the store from selling “any kind of processed or prepared food, such as sandwiches,” have not changed in the updated MoA.