Congress Weekly

MONEY, SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS AND STOPPING THE LNG (feat.Breb gang): Congress Weekly – November 6th 2020

Written by Bhromor Rahman
Edited by Anson Yeh

This week’s meeting was another long one and had to be extended beyond the 2 maximum hours. This was expected as AGEB, Brébeuf’s Congress counterpart, was invited to attend the meeting. Some of you may recognize these names; here are the AGEB members who were present: Lea Dakessian, Henri Cant, Penelope Fernandez, Mathis Bourassa and Molly Desjardins.

When having too much money is a problem…
The first item on the agenda was the continuing discussion about a student fee change. Emanuel is faced with a serious dilemma: Congress has too much money. How much? Well…

Even after expenses here and there, Congress is left with over 10,000$ of extra money just sitting there that it is desperately trying to spend. This leaves it with something like this:

However, members are divided as to how that money should be spent.

Tristan is still of the mind that a 5$ reduction to the 25$ student fee would be insignificant when weighted with the 3000$+ behemoth tuition. He emphasizes that there is still uncertainty regarding the pandemic and another emergency fund may be necessary. Since clubs are having trouble fundraising online, Tristan proposed to instead give the money back to students by increasing each club’s grant by 100$ and keep certain clubs on the verge of bankruptcy alive.

Being in charge of finances, Emanuel explained that he and the FPC were in a bind because it is not their mandate to invent new spending opportunities. Giving clubs grants could be a double-edged sword as unused money would be reabsorbed by Congress, thus only kicking the can down the road. 

Misha understood that a 5$ reduction is insignificant, but at this point, the priority is to balance the budget at all cost. Moreover, with the Winter semester likely online, more money would only compound on top of the already large pile of cash which would make getting rid of it even more difficult.

Thomas was curious as to how Congress would make this decision and whether a GA would be called to ask students their opinion or if Congress would only hold an internal vote. Misha doesn’t believe that a GA is necessary because the reduction won’t compromise any activities or Congress operations: ‘‘I agree it’s important to consult students, but I don’t think it’s important at this point.’’

Laurence proposed a compromise: if compiled purchases do not require the extra money, they will lower the fee, but if the money is needed, the status quo will remain in place.

With Congress hitting an impasse, Emmy asked Mathis, his Brébeuf counterpart, how they dealt with their surplus. Mathis revealed that Brébeuf created a perpetual scholarship fund for student implication. Half of the interest accrued from the money is reinvested into student life as well. According to Mathis, this is a simple and efficient way to give back to students.

Tristan agreed that more scholarships could be created and that the surplus could even fund projects like Les Impatients which he was initially opposed to due to the high cost. Trudy also added that Congress had wanted to start a scholarship for a long time.

Maria mentioned that her yearbook committee could use some money as well to print and distribute the yearbook which prompted marks of approval from her colleagues.

Congress members were curious about Brébeuf’s student fees:
-Brébeuf student fees: 38.50$ per semester
-Number of students at Brébeuf: approx.1700 (vs approx.2100 at Marianopolis)

Although, Misha remarked that there is a difference between using extra money for a scholarship fund like Brébeuf, and continuing to take in extra money for scholarships. In the latter case, that would not be using money for Student Life which is Congress’ mandate. Furthermore, Marianopolis already has the Millenium Foundation to fund scholarships.

Finally, Emanuel showcased how Congress loses money to inflation every year anyways, so it doesn’t make sense to keep the surplus, but he doesn’t want to move the money into more high risk funds.
On that note, the finance debate was put on pause with no clear decision by the conclusion of the meeting.

Movember budget
Allison has organized Movember collaborating with For The Boys Club, but lamented only 30$ being allocated which will be combined with the FTBC’s similarly small budget.

NB: The budget issue was due to the first years not having discussed their committee budgets with Emmy at the time which has now been resolved.

Trudy announced that the chill will be launched in time for kindness week. 250 students were randomly selected to check it out (125 first years and 125 second years). As of last week, the group is ready to receive students. There is a possibility that Congress members host an activity some time in the near future. Tristan also proposed that movie night be streamed on Teams (movie TBD). Regardless, Maria has made a post on FB to announce the Team

Chill intercollegiate party
Tristan has a new idea for an end of semester party: Create a huge online event with Zoom and invite friends. He is also looking into inviting comedians and artists. Since Zoom can now have up to 50 breakout rooms and people can move room to room, multiple CEGEPs can be invited to attend which would also help covering costs. 

Brébeuf mentioned that they were holding an Among Us tournament on the day of the meeting which could also be an idea for a chilling.

Netflix and apple music subs
Netflix finally answered and it seems that they have no special prices for schools. However, since an account can have up to 5 IP addresses and you can reset the accounts, Tristan is looking to offer the service to students where they would pay 2$ and receive the account for the month. At the end of the month, the account could then be reset and if a student wishes to retain it, they would pay 2$ once again.
When it comes to the Apple Music subscription, still no news, but Mau has managed to get a hold of Spotify and cut a deal for a student discount with them.

Anne proposed to make a similar deal with Netflix, but to acquire a license to stream their movies. Zhaoran has been looking into this because movie streams have not been working on Facebook and the last one was cut after about 30 minutes.

There are two fairs planned in the next two weeks. First, the Job Fair is still scheduled for tomorrow, the 17th, at 7PM. It is highly recommended you attend the fair to find a job, as we recognize that most of you are unemployed and struggling to find a job. Next, there is the Volunteering Fair. It is one of Allison’s pet projects derived from the Job Fair. Pratham communicated with many organizations and got them on board with his idea. That fair will be the following week on the 24th at AP.

Sexual violence
Administration is going to hold its first sexual violence council meeting next week. Mau and Tristan will attend and discuss how to proceed. If anyone has ideas, discuss with them and they’ll bring it to admin’s attention. They are also working with admin and councillors to create a campaign video for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which is next week, 25th of November. Stories of victims of violence will be read in the video.

Brébeuf and Pratham have been in communication and exchanged documents about the anti-harassment campaign that is to be carried out in all CEGEPs. There are also plans to do a sexual violence prevention campaign in collaboration with clubs.

Pratham was curious as to how many schools will participate. Lea explained that so far, only private CEGEPs will be implicated because they have more stable student unions. Once the campaign kicks into gear, they will reach out to public ones as well. As English and French CEGEPs are involved, the campaign will effectively be bilingual. Everything will be on one website that will be accessible to everyone and different themes will be addressed.

With allegations having been made in Brébeuf, MWR inquired about the extent of the problem. Henri mentioned that he has received accusations, but those alone do not reveal the depth of the problem. Mau made a good point that the implications are also different at different levels: whether a teacher abusing a student or a student abusing another student. Molly has no additional details other than that there are accusations that have been made in Brébeuf. One measure that is going to be implemented immediately is mandatory workshop about sexual violence for everyone.

Lea concluded that while the campaign was initiated because of those initial allegations, it naturally shouldn’t require such to start one in other schools such as Marianopolis.

Thankfully, no allegations have been made as of now in Marianopolis, but it does not mean that no such incident has ever occurred; if you have been victim of abuse, sexual assault or rape from anyone, please reach out to Congress or counsellors because your voice matters.

MSU Bloc4wellbeing
Laurence wished to follow up on the survey results divulged last week.
The President chose to be iron-fisted and lay out a four point plan:
1) Mental health
2) Resources
3) Social activities
4) Effectively communicate with teachers

He also wishes to give students a chance to express how they’re feeling every week and track the state of mental health with weekly polls.

Maria raised some concerns about participation and anonymity, so she instead proposed to hold the polls on Instagram. Mau echoed this train of thought and proposed following mental health social media pages that ask how people are feeling on a regular basis. However, Congress had to accept that they would not be able to present the results to the admin (because testimonies are too unscientific and irrelevant for them), but Congress will use the results of the surveys for internal improvements.

Misha was slightly more skeptical and wondered how Congress will use the poll. How will Congress react to the results? She insisted that Congress doesn’t need more data, but rather should implement measures; focus on the students instead of trying to please the administration. Tristan was outraged that some students have been waiting for weeks for counsellors and agreed with Misha.

Thomas put it best: ‘‘In the eyes of Congress, the priority is for students to get the help they need no matter who gives it to them.’’

Misha was disgruntled that teachers might not be aware of how bad the mental health situation is with students and vowed to talk to them. As of now, teachers have declared that they’ll approach next semester like this one, but major adjustments are required. Misha was insistent upon tackling the root of the problem, which remains the heavy workload.

Molly explained that Marianopolis has had a relatively easy time; Brébeuf’s midterms were in person and, not surprisingly, COVID clusters formed. This was the consequence of Brébeuf putting its prestige as an institution over the safety of students. Teachers have also been giving more assignments, holding overtime classes (around 7-8PM!) and giving even more exams. She also thinks that they should talk about mental health with teachers.

Maria added that there was a need for more external resources. Counselors are overwhelmed and not everyone can afford therapy in the private sector. For future reference, there is a list on the Marianopolis libguides under counselling services that you can access to book an appointment with a counsellor (WARNING: wait list). Libguides also offer external resources if any student is in need of any assistance.

Mau emphasized that tackling mental health is the top priority and that Congress must present the statistics to teachers. In essence, there needs to be a change in teacher-student relationship as well as student-student culture. We need to have honest discussions about high expectations (Med school or homelessness), ridiculous standards (53 R-Scores) and the pressure (crying after getting 95).

Thomas agreed, but that it takes time to work on such objectives; they needed to come up with a plan in the immediate.

However, there was concern among some in Congress about talking with teachers. It could be bad optics and some pointed out that it can be seen as Congress attempting to go behind the admin’s back. Nonetheless, all agreed that ‘‘Congress has to take a more hardline and impose its [pro-student stance] at some point,’’ as Tristan put it. All other members were in agreement that both Congress and the admin have to act eventually. Congress was generally uncomfortable talking about this ordeal, but Tristan decided to be vocal and told the truth as he saw it:

‘‘I don’t want something bad to happen for admin to get a wake up call. We cannot wait for that to happen; [Congress] needs to be the wake up call.’’
-Tristan Boucher

Trudy acquiesced that a lot of teachers feel the same way as students do; we are all in the same boat in many ways. She contended: ‘‘There is room for improvement, but the times are hard for everyone. In these difficult times, Congress can be the eyes and ears of the students.’’

Misha reminded everyone that there needs to be a balance; in the long run, the student union needs to have good relations with the admin in order to ensure it can function with continued stability. However, she also noted that it is obvious when admin is receptive and when it isn’t. And one thing is for sure: admin is not receptive to mental health concerns despite them insisting that it is a priority. They aren’t as pressed as Congress is to tackle this issue. Therefore, Congress believes that talking directly to teachers has more potential as they believe this is a moment when admin’s priorities are not aligned with students’ interests. Emanuel did not see any issues with reaching out to the teacher’s union because MSU and MCTU are both part of the Marianopolis community. 

Mau concluded that Congress needed to have an elaborate plan on the long run, but there is a disconnect between MCTU and MSU at the moment, so Congress should invite some teachers to their meetings. At least so they understand what Congress is and who does what.

GNL Gazoduc
Anne explained that relatively few students had an opportunity to testify at the public consultations (otherwise known as BAPE), so she has reached out to other CEGEPs to write an open letter to the government in a last-ditch effort to upend the project. Her plan is to quickly mobilize her forces before the summer. To that end, she has been in touch with the Green Team and the Law Society.

Henri revealed that Brébeuf is working on a similar project and using AGEB’s power to the fullest extent to exert maximum pressure on MPs to scrap the project.

MWR was curious about the Law Society’s role in the ordeal more specifically, so we sent a special investigative reporter to talk to Anne Lin Arghirescu, Coordinator of Internal Affairs and mastermind behind this effort as well as Zexi Li, VP of the Law Society and one of the most influential entrepreneurs in Montreal.

Excerpt of interview with Mr.Li:
Q: ‘‘What is your role in Ms.Arghirescu’s project to stop the GNL?’’
A: ‘‘It’s a partnership in the works, but [we are] glad to work with them!’’
Q: ‘‘Why oppose the GNL?’’
A: ‘‘The damages [to the environment] would be too immense. We support the transition to more sustainable resources such as solar energy. Actually, my MYLO team [is] planning to reach out to Elon Musk soon for a collaboration [to] mass market solar panels for homes and working on an affordable Tesla car lineup.’’
Q: ‘‘We are looking forward to that! Where would this prospective event take place?’’
A: ‘‘As usual, we will be holding it during one of our occasional dinners at the Ritz [Carlton hotel in Montreal].’’

Statement from Ms.Arghirescu:
‘‘Ella [Waxman] suggested [that] we invite students from [the] Law Society [to mobilize] more people in reading the documents and writing the letter. Members of the Law Society are not lawyers of course; it’s not about [dissecting a legal document]. It’s more about giving them an opportunity to develop the critical skills necessary to identify incoherences hidden in a governmental document. [However], it’s still an idea in progress.’’ -Anne Lin Arghirescu

Bhromor Rahman

Bhromor ''brosbrawls'' Rahman is a Paid Contributor at Anime News Network, Staff Writer at The Game Crater and the Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the Marianopolis News Blitz. Under his mandate, the newspaper saw the highest traffic in its history. His staunch anti-censorship and pro-free speech stance allowed for a wide rang of content. He is currently a 1L Law student at UOttawa Faculty of Law.

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