McGill University students overwhelmingly voted in favour of the ratification of the board of directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).
In an online referendum held by the SSMU from Jan. 15-18, 84.5 per cent of students approved the slate as a whole.
This finally overturns the controversial vote at the SSMU’s fall general assembly, where the ratification of the nominees to the board of directors was conducted individually, rather than as a bloc, as is customary.
Noah Lew, whose bid for a renewal of his mandate was rejected at the assembly, claimed he was the victim of anti-Semitism. He had been targeted by Democratize SSMU, a pro-BDS student faction that was critical of the student union.
The bids of another incumbent and a newcomer, who both are known for expressing sympathy towards Israel, but are not Jewish, were also not ratified at the meeting.
Despite the overwhelming support for the ratification, only 18 per cent of the 21,443 eligible electors – undergraduates at McGill’s downtown campus, which the SSMU represents – cast ballots. All undergraduates can attend general assemblies, but only a little over 200 were at the one on Oct. 23, in which the disputed vote took place.
On Dec. 31, the SSMU judicial board issued a judgment stating that dividing the ratification of the nominees for the board of directors into separate votes was unconstitutional. It recommended that the slate be put before another assembly, or a referendum.
As required, its judgment was brought before, and ratified by, the SSMU board of directors on Jan. 14, thereby nullifying the general assembly vote. The board’s vote was five in favour, three abstentions, and three absences.
Jonathan Glustein, who challenged the constitutionality of the original vote, Maya Koparkar, who was accused of acting improperly at the general assembly, and Alexander Scheffel, one of the incumbents who was rejected at the assembly in October, abstained, and Lew was not present.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed satisfaction that the matter has been resolved.
“We are gratified that this egregious wrong perpetrated last October has finally been corrected, ” stated Quebec co-chair Rabbi Reuben Poupko. “It is unfortunate that three students and their supporters had to endure this injustice and profoundly disturbing that young people were subjected to such injustice. We are grateful to the student leaders who fought to right this wrong.”
“This takes us one step forward in dealing with the anti-Semitism that distorted the agenda of the SSMU and saw those of Jewish identity, or who affiliated with Jewish organizations, being prevented from participating in student affairs,” said Avi Benlolo, the president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The report on the investigation into the matter that was ordered by McGill principal Suzanne Fortier at the end of October has still not been made public.
Spencer Boudreau, a retired professor of education and former ombudsperson for students, was tasked with determining whether the facts “substantiate the allegations of anti-Semitism.” He was to report back to the administration by Dec. 15, and his findings, with recommendations, were to be made public.
McGill spokesperson Chris Chipello told The CJN on Jan. 10 that, “I understand it (the report’s release) will be in about three or four weeks.”