SSMU BoD debates motions about campus safety app and trans students’ rights on campus

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU)’s Board of Directors (BoD) met via Zoom on Feb. 2 to vote on four motions, including two awaiting ratification that had previously been approved by SSMU’s Legislative Council.

Kerry Yang, SSMU vice-president (VP) University Affairs, presented the BoD with a motion regarding the creation of a  Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with HAVEN—a campus safety app—for a trial period until April 2023. In instances of sexual harassment or assault, the app provides users with a quick and accessible way to call for help. Pushing the emergency button once sends a customized text message to the user’s designated contacts, pressing it twice sends the same message as a voicemail, and pressing it three times calls either campus police or 911, depending on whether the user is located on or off campus. 

Some BoD members are concerned about the potential legal risks of HAVEN, specifically a breach of privacy laws, that SSMU could incur as a result of the app’s geo-tracking capabilities. Benson Wan, a Legislative Council Representative on the BoD, is apprehensive of the security and privacy risks students may face if they use the service.

“On the one hand, I think that this is conceptually a good application to offer to students for them to opt into,” Wan said. “However, I think there are some concerns with regard to the logistics of how this would be rolled out. I think there might be some security concerns, data concerns, et cetera. They are not very strong concerns, but I think they do exist.”

Other board members echoed Wan’s worries, including SSMU VP Student Life Hassanatou Koulibaly. She pointed out that SSMU may face legal repercussions should the Society choose to sign the MoA, which was also referred to as a “memorandum of understanding,” with HAVEN.

“I think that in introducing something to our student body we are inherently endorsing it, whether it is free or not,” Koulibaly said. “So there would be some liability that would come to [SSMU] from that.”

The motion was ultimately tabled until the next BoD meeting. 

The following item on the agenda was a motion to have McGill divest from companies complicit in the ongoing Uyghur genocide, which was adopted at the Jan. 19 Legislative Council meeting. After a brief discussion, the motion was unanimously ratified and adopted by the BoD. 

The final item on the agenda was a motion to support trans students’ rights on campus, in response to the controversial event titled “Sex vs. Gender (Identity) Debate” hosted by McGill’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP) on Jan. 10. The motion noted the transphobic nature of the debate and asserted that such an event endangers McGill’s transgender community by setting a precedent for the platforming of transphobic rhetoric at the university. 

SSMU VP External Val Masny explained what SSMU hopes to accomplish should the motion pass, noting that they “put forward this motion so that SSMU can adopt a future policy that will be comprehensive of the students’ needs and rights in terms of advocacy.”

The motion faced opposition from board members who expressed concern that SSMU could face accusations of defamation as a result of directly naming the event’s key speaker, a professor of human rights law at King’s College London

The motion was ratified, with five votes in favour and two votes against. 

Moment of the Meeting:

Legislative Council Representative Benson Wan, along with SSMU President Risann Wright and others, raised concern about supporting the motion on the rights of trans students, remarking that SSMU may not properly understand the potential legal ramifications of naming the debate’s speaker. Wan suggested that SSMU seek professional legal advice before adopting the motion.


“If we do implement HAVEN as an app, and students do like it […] but we decide it won’t be particularly useful for students and thus decide not to move forward with having HAVEN be part of campus, there might be some backlash [….] We need to make it very clear to students that it is a trial run and not something that is permanent.”

— SSMU VP University Affairs Kerry Yang on the HAVEN free trial

A previous version of this article stated that SSMU President Risann Wright was opposed to the motion in support of trans rights. In fact, Wright asked a question as to whether SSMU could face defamation for using someone’s name in the motion and, upon receiving an answer of no, proceeded to vote in favour of the motion. The Tribune regrets the error

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  1. Pingback: SSMU Legislative Council discusses student federations, upcoming referendum - The McGill Tribune

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