On Feb. 5, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) will be hosting its Winter semester General Assembly (GA). Five motions are scheduled for voting by all SSMU members. The GA needs 100 people present to reach quorum and pass binding resolutions.
Motion Regarding the Guarantee of Freedom of Dress in the SSMU Building
This motion seeks to remove limitations on dress within the SSMU Building and its facilities, limited only by instances where another student’s right to safe space is infringed upon, as determined by the Equity Policy.
“We learned that there [is] no place in the SSMU bylaws that guaranteed freedom of dress,” Morgan Grobin, a U2 Engineering student who started the petition for this motion, said. “Having the opportunity to express oneself through choice of clothing is an extremely important part of individual development.”
According to Joey Shea, SSMU Vice-President University Affairs, the motion is a response to a previous incident involving lab coats worn by members of the Plumbers’ Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO), an engineering student group. Members of the group wear lab coats that sometimes displays drawings that are considered offensive by students. The lab coats are currently banned from the SSMU building.
“There was an equity complaint last year against the PPO Coats; they just have [inappropriate] things drawn on them,” Shea said. “There’s a complaint saying they’re racist and sexist. So the decision of last year’s exec was to ban them.”
The motion also seeks to remove all current bans on any student groups’ choice of dress, including the ban on the PPO.
Motion Regarding Inclusion of Academic Assessment Rights on Course Outlines
This motion seeks to ensure that all professors and faculties adhere to the University Student Assessment Policy, which has been occasionally ignored according to some students.
Some of the rights within the Academic Assessment Policy include the right to submit work in English or French, and the inability for any final exam to account for more than 75 per cent of a course grade.
In order to enforce the policy, the motion urges the university to make these rights more accessible to students.
“The SSMU support[s] the inclusion of an abbreviated outline of student academic rights […] of the University Student Assessment Policy on course outlines,” the motion reads.
Although academic matters are typically dealt with at McGill’s Senate, Shea said she wanted the motion to go through the GA because of the broader basis for student consultation.
“I think the power coming from a GA motion will sort of propel [the motion] and really give us that much more legitimacy in terms of lobbying McGill,” Shea said.
Motion Regarding Sustainability at the SSMU
In Fall 2013, the SSMU removed its mandated Sustainability Coordinator position, which previously oversaw sustainability projects for the society. Instead, Council established an ad-hoc committee on Sustainability.
This GA motion attempts to ensure that a mandate be presented by the Executive to the SSMU’s legislative Council on the future of sustainability by the end of Winter 2014.
According to Shea, a mover of the motion, since the ad-hoc committee has yet to show signs of progress, the motion is intended to reinforce the significance of sustainability at SSMU.
“Not a lot of people ended up showing up at those committee meetings, so this [is] just to further solidify the need for sustainability at SSMU,” Shea said.
Motion Regarding the Timely Distribution of Course Information
In an effort to allow students to properly plan out their semester prior to registering for a class, this motion advocates that online material, such as course syllabi, are available to students prior to the first day of classes either by a university-wide academic policy or by professors.
“Students not currently registered in a class have no consistent way to access this information, as they cannot view online course material for a course they have not yet registered for,” the motion reads.
According to Shea, who developed this motion within the Senate caucus, the SSMU Office of University Affairs will have to negotiate with the McGill administration to see these changes made. Shea said she hopes to see required readings and textbooks, evaluation dates, and course descriptions online before the semester begins. Shea wants to pass this motion within the GA in order to emphasize it’s gravity.
“There will be a lot of debate [and] visioning within the subcommittee of senate caucus, how we’re actually going to implement this,” Shea explained. “Are we going to ask for syllabi to be available one week in advance, before add-drop, two weeks in advance? [.…] Those details are still left to be sorted out.”
Motion Regarding the TPP and CETA
This motion aims to address two trade agreements currently under negotiation by the Canadian government: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a Canadian-European Union free trade agreement (CETA).
According to the motion, the trade agreements will allow for increased patents for medications, which could potentially increase the cost of drugs in Canada.
“The health and/or financial security of students would be negatively affected by an increase in drug costs due to direct increase to the inability of healthcare plans to cover new drugs to cost, or to increased insurance premiums,” the motion reads.
The motion, initiated by Medicine representative David Benrimoh, asks SSMU to take a formal stance against the trade agreements.
If passed, the SSMU will write a letter to the federal government to express their disapproval of the provisions and lack of public consultation.