The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council convened on Dec. 4 to pass several motions and discuss recent student activism that has been pressuring the administration into adopting the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) policy for Fall 2020 semester courses. The council also voted to approve a motion which will provide an explicit statement by SSMU on the society’s official stances on a range of political issues.
SSMU Music Senator Addy Parsons briefed the council on the Senate Steering Committee’s arguments against implementing the S/U policy this semester. Parsons highlighted the shortcomings of the administration’s proposed issues with reimplementing the S/U grading option policy, explaining that many students are struggling with their mental health and that this policy may ease some of the stress.
“It’s heartbreaking, the messages that students send [to us], and mental health is not something to take lightly,” Parsons said. “[It’s] not something that McGill Senate should be pushing aside over technicalities, and this is something that needed to be addressed last night [on Dec. 2], and it was to an extent, but […] to the members of the gallery I do encourage you to reach out to us [….] Reach out to your other Senators in your Faculty.”
Brooklyn Frizzle, Vice-President University Affairs, pointed to the inconsistencies in how the Steering Committee handles addresses points of student advocacy like the S/U option, especially in relation to the Steering Committee’s decisions on Dec. 2. The Senate rejected SSMU’s motion on the basis that the motion lacked sufficient procedural examination, while other motions were approved without the same kind of scrutiny from the Senate, which Frizzle argued is a product of McGill’s bias in governance.
“I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a quote unquote ‘democratic’ governing body that is as transparently corrupt as McGill’s university governance,” Frizzle said. “The fact that [the Steering Committee] chose to approve a motion it had not even seen while at the same time voting down our motion on the grounds of due diligence is, I think, incredibly telling.”
The council also voted on a motion by Frizzle which seeks to establish a clearer line of understanding between the SSMU Executive Committee and Legislative Council on the subject of releasing statements to the McGill community. The main goal of the motion is to clarify that it is the Legislative Council’s responsibility to approve of official statements released on behalf of SSMU. The results of the vote showed 23 in favor, six opposed, and four abstentions, and as such the motion was approved.
The council also discussed the motion regarding the Clarification of an International Political Position, proposing a new set of political endorsements and making it so any official political statements, petitions, or social media posts released on behalf of SSMU must first be approved by a Legislative Council resolution. Arts Councillor Paige Collins, was concerned that the motion included politically charged dimensions and language.
“It seems to me that all of the articles, or clauses, in the appendix are very political,” Collins said. “I do feel that grouping all these positions together into the one motion does a bit of a disservice to the nuances within at least a few of these positions.”
After making several amendments changing the motion’s wording, the council approved the motion with 18 councillors voting in favor, two councillors opposed, and three abstained.
“I’d like to ask how are we issuing a clause that says cultural diversity will be celebrated when the diversity of ideas, the identities of individuals, are practically going to be disregarded [….] or when certain statements may be divisive, as we’ve already acknowledged. How are we respecting cultural diversity? How are we celebrating the ideas of diversity in thought, diversity in people’s cultures, through what may be a divisive statement once published?” —SSMU Arts Senator Darshan Daryanani on the cultural diversity clause of the motion Regarding the Release of Statements and Official Communications.
Moment of the Meeting
Addy Parsons presented a student statement she had also shared at the Dec. 2 Senate Steering Committee meeting. The student’s heart-wrenching testimony echoed the many others Parsons received; students feel helpless as they are faced with both external and internal pressures to perform well academically in the midst of a global public health crisis.