The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its Fall 2022 Referendum from Nov. 14 to Nov. 18. The two questions on the online ballot were whether McGill’s undergraduate student body was still in favour of funding the Daily Publications Society (DPS) and the Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF). Both motions passed, safeguarding the DPS and SPF’s current operations until the next referendum in five years.
The DPS is responsible for the publication of the independent student newspapers The McGill Daily and Le Délit, the latter being the only francophone paper on campus. The DPS is entirely funded by student fees, and its existence is dictated by a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with McGill. In order to renew its MoA with the DPS, which expires in 2023, the administration requires that a referendum be conducted to prove continued financial support from students.
The SPF, created in 2010, is used to fund sustainability-related projects at the university. It is jointly subsidized by McGill and students, with the school matching what students pay. The SPF student fee is outlined in the MoA between SSMU and the administration.
Noème Fages is the chief elections officer of Elections SSMU, the organization that runs the Society’s referenda. In a statement to The McGill Tribune, Fages described the newly tweaked schedule that was implemented this past election, which was intended to increase discussion and, ultimately, voter turnout among students.
“For this Fall Referendum, we chose to have overlapping campaign and polling periods to maximize student engagement with the referendum and make sure all students know about the referendum and its implications,” Fages wrote.
Last week, 22.6 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots—the highest turnout achieved in a fall referendum since 2018, which had seven questions compared to this most recent election’s two.
Still, only about 5,000 students out of 23,542 eligible voters cast their ballots. Elliott Kalt, U1 Science, told the Tribune why he ended up not voting.
“I think most students tend to ignore SSMU emails because they send so many of them,” Kalt said. “I really believe that the newspaper[s] should be funded, however I understand that a lot of students might not have the financial ability to [continue paying the DPS fee], so it’s a very hard topic to vote on.”
On the ballot this fall was SPF’s mandatory fee of $0.55 per academic credit, up to 15 credits, which subsidizes the program. The Fund’s Governance Council (GC) distributes its million-dollar annual budget to students, faculty, and staff whose sustainability projects are approved. Shona Watt, a sustainability manager at the McGill Office of Sustainability (MOOS), was excited to see continued support for the SPF from students.
“[The Fund] is a resource for all McGill community members to launch or grow a sustainability initiative on campus [and] spark positive change in their own learning and work environment,” Watt said. “We are thrilled by the level of enthusiasm reflected in the results of the SSMU referendum.”
Ryan Stainsby, U0 Arts, ultimately voted “Yes” on financing the SPF for the remainder of his time at McGill.
“[The SPF] funds projects that work on making our campus more sustainable, more environmentally friendly [….] I think that’s really phenomenal,” Stainsby said. “I still understand if someone voted no for monetary reasons [….] Every dollar counts, you know.”
Voters also decided to uphold the DPS’s $6, non-opt-outable fee, which has been charged to all undergraduates once per term since 2010 and is responsible for their nearly $300,000 budget.
Throughout the campaign and polling periods, both DPS papers stressed the importance of their continued existence, releasing editorials chronicling the publications’ work, tabling around campus, and posting testimonials from alumni on social media to encourage students to vote. The editorial boards of both publications thanked students for their support over Instagram after the referendum results were published.
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