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Students' Society of McGill University
Students' Society of McGill University logo.png

Established: 1902
Location: Montreal, Quebec Canada

The Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) is the accredited representative of the undergraduate student body at the downtown campus of McGill University.





SSMU Council is the legislative governing body of the Society. It is composed of elected representatives from all undergraduate student faculty associations, as well as from the First Year Committee of Council, athletics, residences, and three clubs and services representatives and three from the eleven student senators. The SSMU Council is empowered to make all decisions on behalf of the Society and also ratifies the actions of the executive committee. Its meetings are held on alternating Thursdays in the Lev Bukhman Council Room in the Shatner building, at 6pm from September to April.


The SSMU Executive is elected by every undergraduate student at the Downtown Campus of McGill University in an election held every year around March or early April. The Executive is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the Society in between meetings of the Legislative Council. In the past, the President of the Society sat on the University Board of Governors alongside a separately elected Board of Governors Representative, but the President's seat was eliminated following a Board restructuring. SSMU has maintained that, under the Accreditation Act, it has the right to appoint its representatives, and has lobbied to restore the President's seat.


The First Year Council (FYC) is a committee founded by SSMU to represent the views of students in their first year of undergraduate studies at McGill. FYC is composed of a team of 6 executives, faculty council representatives, and a representative from the Inter Residence Council; all of whom are in their first year. The executive council sits on various other bodies within the SSMU and McGill University to ensure that the unique views of first year students are voiced. These include the SSMU Legislative Council, McGill Student's Athletics Committee, McGill Academic Roundtable, and the First Year Experience Workgroup. FYC also takes the initiative to involve first year students in McGill's rich campus life, provides information to first year students about various SSMU and McGill issues and events and facilitates SSMU's communication with first year students.


The society was a founding member of the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations which represented them federally until November 3rd 2005 when SSMU Council voted unanimously to withdraw their membership in CASA, citing CASA's inability to reform, and the absence of CASA from the nation-wide 2005 campaign for a $4.9 Billion Dedicated Transfer for Post Secondary Education. Provincally SSMU is not a member of any association or formal group. In a referendum vote ending November 8th, 2006, the membership of SSMU voted to end its membership in La Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (la FEUQ).

In November 2006, just over one year after leaving CASA, SSMU Council voted to take out prospective membership in the Canadian Federation of Students. After a full year of prospective membership, when a referendum on joining was meant to occur, other member locals of the Canadian Federation of Students voted against extending SSMU's prospective membership.


SSMU funds a variety of cultural, ethnic, academic, and social clubs and services. Some important services include the Black Students' Network, Queer McGill, McGill First Aid, McGill Nightline, DriveSafe, Midnight Kitchen. SSMU also oversees approximately 200 clubs.

It is the publisher of the McGill Tribune weekly newspaper, and also supports TVMcGill. In addition, SSMU funds Elections McGill, the independent body that runs SSMU Executive and Student Senator elections. Elections McGill was one of the first Campus election organisations in Canada to use an online voting system.

SSMU also operates the William Shatner University Centre. The Shatner building includes offices, a ballroom, some restaurants, and Gert's, a bar administered by the SSMU which remains popular with students but in the past consistently failed to turn a profit.


SSMU was predated by the Alma Mater Society, which was in 1902-1903. The Society, however, had little responsibility and resources. SSMU was founded in 1908 by the McGill Debating Union. It was recognized as students' official representative body in the following year.

McGill University began its existence with the Faculty of Medicine in 1829 and the Faculty of Arts in 1843. However, not until the beginning of the 1900s was there an association on campus to provide representation and social events for students. Before this time there were no dances, no debating societies, and no government lobbying organizations. The demands for such an organization began to increase with the growth of student-led activities at the turn of the century.

In 1902-1903, the Alma Mater Society was born. Although it promoted activities and some publications, the Society had little responsibility and even less money. It was in 1908 that the Students' Society of McGill University was born. The following year, it was recognized as the single representative body for students at McGill.

The Society was first established in order to coordinate the undergraduate activities of the university. In the words of John T. Hackett, the first President of the Students' Society: "Like most new forms of Government its 'raison d'être' was found in abuses. The students had been brought into disrepute with the public. Their failure to meet their creditors in undergraduate enterprises, and their apparent acquiescence in the charges of vandalism which were periodically brought against them, rendered absolute the necessity of reform." The solution was the Students' Society and its executive body, the Students' Executive Council.

Although McGill University began to admit its first female students in 1884, women were not members of the SSMU until 1931. They had a parallel organization called the Women's Union. In 1965, SSMU had its' first female president; Sharon Sholzberg.

Following the founding congress of UGEQ in November 1964, the SSMU executive voted to leave the Canadian Union of Students and join UGEQ in late 1965. Two referendums to join UGEQ were defeated over the 1965-66 university year. In early 1967, SSMU finally joined UGEQ in a successful referendum. The move was deemed controversial among some English Canadians who saw UGEQ as a radical, separatist student union. The 1966-67 CUS President, Doug Ward, encouraged McGill students to join UGEQ since CUS no longer had any other members in Quebec.

The SSMU grew and evolved after its inception. Its role expanded to include several clubs, to offer services, and to care for the University Centre (consisting at the time of a pub and a cafeteria). As enrollment increased throughout the century, so did students' demands. The association took steps to ensure its effectiveness. This included enlarging its Executive Council and creating new positions for students. As social issues on campus became more important and more complex, the SSMU demanded the right to represent students to the university administration. After many student protests, it finally got the opportunity to do so in 1968, by obtaining seats on the Board of Governors and the Senate.


2006 Blood Drive Controversy

On 2 November 2006, SSMU decided to not allow blood drives to be held on their property due to the belief that Héma-Québec's lifetime ban against donations from men who have had sex with other men is in violation of the Student Society's constitution [1]. In the Winter 2007 referendum period, students voted on whether or not to uphold the ban on blood drives. However, before the results could be announced, the Judicial Board (the appellate body of SSMU) issued an injunction sealing the results until they could rule on the constitutionality of the question being asked. The Judicial Board subsequently ruled that blood drives were unconstitutional, nullifying the results of the unsealed referendum. The unsealed referendum revealed more than two-thirds of students supported holding blood drives in the student building.

Choose Life club exclusion

The Students' Society Legislative Council narrowly passed a two-thirds secret ballot motion 16-7 in November 2009, setting a precedent and suspending the club status of controversial SSMU club Choose Life. The motion was the second of two Choose Life-related motions put forward that evening, the first of which, had it not failed, would have revoked Choose Life's club status entirely.[1][2]

See also

External links



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