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SSMU Council passes motion of support for Fall reading week

On Nov. 5, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its fourth Council meeting of the year, with discussion on a proposed Fall reading week, SSMU representation at the provincial level, and reforming the executive positions within SSMU.

Fall reading week

The proposed Fall reading week was debated at council. According to Arts Senator Erin Sobat, the proposal received a large amount of positive feedback from students.

”[This project] was proposed to the university, [and when] Enrolment Services did a survey of students in April, it got over 5000 responses,” said Sobat.  “[This indicated…] that students were in favour of some sort of Fall reading break, and […] that, given some of the tradeoffs that would have to happen in terms of the academic calendar, the preferred model was to add two days to the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend to give the five day break”

Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Chloe Rourke noted that there has been some stagnation at the faculty level.

“There’s been a little bit of pushback from faculty members.” Rourke said. “Mostly […] some administrative concerns that we think can be resolved. Just some aversion to change, a little bit of concern over whether or not this is helpful for students, whether or not a majority of students were in favour of this.”

The motion of support for the proposed reading week passed with a majority.

New student federations

VP External Affairs, Emily Boytinck, presented her work on joining two proposed provincial student federations: The Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), and the Union Étudiant du Québec (UÉQ).  She began with an overview of the history of SSMU’s involvement in creating the new, Quebec-wide student bodies following their disaffiliation from the Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Quebec (FÉUQ) last spring.

“Spring was a time of really really great flux and change for the student movement because  FÉUQ, which was […] the major university federation, actually collapsed in on itself,” Boytinck said. “So that left around 20 student unions disaffiliated from any association. This […] April, we actually all met at SSMU and it was apparent at that meeting that there were two sort of different visions for how the student movement will go forward, and that is where UÉQ and the AVEQ formed and started on their separate paths.”

SSMU has not yet officially affiliated with either of the student federations.

“We did not give any money to any association,” said Boytinck.

According to Boytinck’s presentation, joining  AVEQ would require levying a fee of $3.50 per student per semester, while joining UÉQ would require $4.50 per student per semester.

Structure of SSMU

The meeting also drew discussion on a potential restructuring of SSMU executive positions aimed at decreasing stress.  As SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim stated, changes to portfolios have led to a problematic structure.

“Over the past decade, SSMU has seen enormous growth,” Ibrahim said. "Just the executives alone, there have been [positions] added, additions to our portfolios. Our roles have extended from not only political roles […] but also managerial roles; it’s made it to be quite unsustainable.”

Ibrahim brought forth a solution to alleviate some of the pressures associated with SSMU executive workloads.

“Something that we are proposing […] is the addition of a seventh executive,” Ibrahim said. “This year especially, the issue behind the workloads of each executive are amplified due to the resignation of our general manager, [and] the absence of our daycare director. In our contract it stipulates that we work 70-hour work weeks. It can often be 80.”

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