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SSMU BoD meeting dominated by discussions about McGill Palestine Solidarity Policy MRO

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD) convened on March 31 with all directors present except vice-president (VP) Student Affairs Claire Downie. Downie had submitted her notice of resignation to the SSMU leadership and campus media outlets earlier in the day, explaining that her resignation was due to the SSMU’s harmful work environment

SSMU president Darshan Daryanani presented a working document with a timeline of events, beginning March 21 with the adoption of the Palestine Solidarity Policy and ending with the March 29 meeting between himself, VP finance Eric Sader, VP student life Karla Heisele Cubilla, and Deputy Provost Fabrice Labeau. Daryanani clarified in an email to The McGill Tribune that the discussion with Labeau featured the Palestine Solidarity Policy, the notice of default, the MoA, and the MRO. The SSMU is still in its 30-day grace period regarding the notice of default and in the process of reviewing the remedies requested by McGill before taking any formal steps. 

Daryanani also thanked the Legislative Council for passing a motion regarding McGill’s MRO at its March 24 meeting and announced that the executive committee approved $5,000 on March 28 to retain legal counsel regarding the official notice of default. The SSMU leadership further expressed their intent to uphold student democracy, evidenced by two statements to the McGill community following the March 24 MRO email.

In the question period following Daryanani’s executive committee report and announcement, Director Yara Coussa asked Daryanani if there was a precedent for McGill using MRO communications to publicly pressure SSMU.

“Yes, the MRO has been used as a tool to inform SSMU,” Daryanani said. “[On November 28] 2019, [Labeau] came to Legislative Council and spoke publicly regarding a particular motion, [the Motion Regarding Free Trip Offers to Student Leaders], and once the motion was adopted by the Legislative Council, the deputy provost also sent an email to the student body.”

All of the Legislative Council motions on the agenda were promptly ratified with unanimous approval. The remainder of the Board’s public session was dominated by discussions about Coussa’s motion to publish the Legislative Council-mandated statement by April 5. In a lengthy debate period, directors and members of the gallery alike expressed concerns over the back-and-forth between the university and SSMU escalating into a costly legal feud. The motion was ultimately ratified after the addition of three amendments regarding a legal review of the statement before its publication. 

“As a director, I feel strongly about legal consultation on [SSMU’s statement in response to the MRO],” said Charlotte Gurung, a Council representative to the Board. “I do think the statement is great, but I think that we’re in a precarious situation with McGill, and just because they have made a public statement, and that is potentially a misstep for them, I don’t think we need to be justifying us making a public statement without legal consultation because that could just as well be a misstep for us.”

Moment of the meeting: During the question period, council representative Mary Zhang asked the Board if Downie’s resignation could have been prevented, and how they plan to mitigate the vacancy. Delouvrier responded that he was saddened to hear of Downie’s resignation, and that he would answer objectively by directly quoting Downie’s letter, in which she said the resignation was preventable. 

Soundbite: “I would encourage all directors to vote in favour of this statement pending the approval of legal, because I think that as directors we have a duty to SSMU and SSMU’s mission, and our long-term stability as a Society depends on our ability to carry out our mission. That’s not something we’ll be able to do if we are dependent on the university. It’s our duty as directors to approve this motion in order to send out a message that we are independent from the university, and we have agency, and that we take a stance against this form of pressure.”

—Director Coussa during the debate period on the ratification of the motion regarding the Legislative Council-mandated statement against the MRO.

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