a, Editorial, Opinion

SSMU Winter 2016 Special Referendum Endorsement

SSMU Membership Fee increase: "Yes" with reservations 

The Tribune endorses a “Yes” for this quesetion insofar as it will improve the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) financial sustainability and maintain its ability to provide services for students; however, the presentation of the motion is currently too ambiguous. If SSMU wants to convince students to vote “Yes,” the executives must distribute more information regarding the allocation of the proposed new funds.

More details must be provided over the remainder of the campaign period in order to ensure that students know what they will be paying for. At the moment, the most detailed expense  plan using the increased base fee are in a rudimentary chart. It is unclear what the scope of the categories is. For example, $5,000 for ‘Mental Health’ is certainly commendable, but it is unclear what this will pay for—there is a difference between building a ‘mental health space’ and providing happy lights.

Although a fully detailed report on the minutiae of how the additional fees will be spent is not essential at this moment—the fee increase will be a continuous portion of the SSMU budget to be allocated according to the priorities of each year’s executive—students cannot be expected to give SSMU a blank cheque.  Given how tumultuous this year has been, the numbers must demonstrate how this will be a sustainable increase rather than a reaction to the volatility, which many students currently believe it is. A degree of instability and change is to be expected year-to-year, but student trust in SSMU has been continually eroding. 

Voting “No,” however, is not going to help. Students should bear in mind that unless the referendum passes, President Kareem Ibrahim has said that SSMU “will need to make approximately $100,000 in cuts” to next year’s operating budget. The consequence would be reduced student staff positions, reduced salaries, and deterioration in service. A “No” vote would be of detriment to both students and the society; but before voting “Yes,” students require as much specificity as is possible. Once this is done, students must support the SSMU in its endeavours, despite the seemingly steep price tag. 


Restructuring Executive Portfolios: "Yes"

Adding another executive portfolio and restructuring executive portfolios is an essential change. SSMU executives regularly work up to 100 hours a week in order to fulfill the basic service requirements of their duties and the nature of the society has changed considerably since it was last restructured in the mid-2000s. As such, the Tribune therefore endorses a “Yes” vote

Streamlining executive portfolios will ensure that each executive can continue to work to improve the provision of services for students. It will also improve the efficiency of executive portfolios by eliminating wasteful overlap. The responsibilities of the executive have expanded greatly in the last few years. By reallocating responsibilities in a new position, the VP Finance, VP Operations, and VP Student Life, which would replace what is now the VP Clubs & Services position, will be able to work on campaign promises. 

Yet the referendum question does not explicitly address the issue of high turnover. While this year is an anomaly due to the contiguous resignations of the general manager, VP Internal, and Daycare director, turnover is a problem that each incoming executive needs to address. Any restructuring that does not take steps to address this issue is incomplete.

Moreover, the new position raises concern regarding the role of student support staff within SSMU. Students, particularly those who are unable to work in Quebec due to language barriers, will feel the potential impact of fe wer student jobs. At the moment, the impact of the new position on student employment is ambiguous. 

It is not uncommon for executive positions to be flexible and redefined. Though it has not happened for some time, the restructuring of executive portfolios is well past due. The referendum is, therefore, a necessary move forward for an unsustainable executive structure. 


Full Disclosure: The Tribune Publication Society holds an interest in the outcome of the SSMU membership fee increase, as it is an independent student group tenant in the Shatner University Centre.

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