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Highlights from the Apr. 11 SSMU Council

Library Improvement Fund
After meeting with student leaders, Library Improvement Fund (LIF) Coordinator Kira Gossack-Keenan outlined how the $630,000 fund will be allotted in a presentation to Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s Legislative Council.

“In terms of progress that we’ve done this year, we’ve been working on a variety of things to ultimately decide where we want this year’s funding to go,” Gossack-Keenan said.

The LIF is comprised of student fees, which are then matched by alumni donations.

“For the past fifteen years the LIF has invested in the most important library needs of the undergraduate student body,” according to SSMU’s website. “In the past we have contributed to extending opening hours, improving facilities and collections, supporting student learning and employment and a variety of special projects.”

This year, the $630,000 will be put towards student employment (around $85,000), exam time extended hours in anticipation of budget cuts by the provincial government (around $380,000), adding 52 new study seats in McLennan (around $125,000), buying new computers for Cyberthèque, installing the Adobe Suite on those computers (around $30,000), and buying cushions for the wooden chairs in Birks Reading Room (around $500).

Financial Ethics Research Committee (FERC) Report
Adam Winer, FERC Coordinator, presented a summary of his committee’s findings to Council on Thursday evening. As part of a five year plan to investigate investments, SSMU has graded its investments using a broad range of criteria that are new this year.

According to Winer, the committee highlighted certain investments as having crossed “red lines,” including companies whose business relates to the production of tobacco, gambling, pornography, tar sands companies, and companies doing business on Native lands without their consent, among others.

In the winter of 2012, the FERC drafted an Ethical Investment Plan (EIP) as a means to do substantive research into SSMU’s investment portfolio.

“It’s important for [SSMU] to [look into its investments] for two reasons: first, because SSMU has constitutional commitments to environmental sustainability and to social justice, and second, because some of those same commitments are a trend and made more specific in the Ethical Investment Plan that was passed last year,” Winer said.

Screening SSMU’s individual investments will involve grading them against both positive and negative criteria, such as a company’s community involvement or the presence of human rights violations.

“We, this summer, are going to submit a proposal to a hire a researcher who can help us figure out how to balance these different screens against each other, because it isn’t clear whether the positive or negative ones are supposed to have more weight, how that all plays out, et cetera.” Winer said.

Motion Regarding Accountable Leadership
Councilors also discussed a motion calling for the adoption of the Accountable Leadership Policy.

The policy would create an Accountability Committee, whose responsibilities would entail reviewing executive performance, investigating and informing the executives and councillors of any contravening actions, anonymously bringing forth complaints, and reporting to Council.

The motion passed unanimously.

“This [Accountability Committee] is kind of an initial step to address some problems that we’ve witnessed to a certain extent this year,” VP External Robin Reid-Fraser said. “But quite obviously, [with] a new committee, a new policy, I think that it can be changed. And once it’s actually put into practice, then it really should be doing the work of reflecting on how things are going and if there are things that do need to change.”

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