SSMU Update on COVID-19 Response and Existing Resources

SSMU Update on COVID-19 Response and Existing Resources

Dear SSMU Members,

We hope this update finds you and your loved ones safe, supported, and well. We recognize that this message is overdue, but we wanted to ensure that we had received as much information as possible from McGill before communicating with our membership, particularly since we know you are all receiving a high volume of emails right now with updates regarding COVID-19. This email will contain links to relevant information, academic and material resources, support for existing advocacy initiatives, and contact information for responsible parties at both the SSMU and McGill levels.

General Information

We’d like to begin by recognizing that, in stressful and rapidly-evolving situations such as the one we all find ourselves in now, the spread of misinformation is greatly intensified. As such, please find below a list of up-to-date medical and logistical information regarding COVID-19. If your working and living conditions enable you to do so, please practice safe social distancing and proper hygiene, and stay home (except to take a walk, get groceries, head to the pharmacy, or seek essential medical care), even if you feel perfectly healthy. These measures will save lives, particularly those of more vulnerable populations such as the elderly and immunocompromised.

Montreal Public Health Website | Quebec COVID-19 Website | Canada COVID-19 Website

(CW: Mentions of xenophobia)

Furthermore, we would like to call attention to and unequivocally condemn the systemically underreported rise in xenophobia, anti-Asian violence and racism, and ecofascism that has accompanied the global spread of COVID-19. Under no circumstances will these sentiments be tolerated by members of the McGill community, and we encourage you to further educate yourself by reading the statement put out by the Pan-Asian Collective at McGill.

Material Resources

In response to COVID-19, a number of student initiatives have been founded to ensure that all members of our community have access to the necessary resources. If you are in need of material aid, whether it be prescription pick-up or grocery delivery because you are currently quarantined, self-isolating, and/or experiencing financial instability, please reach out to MTL Students for COVID-19 Response and Relief and fill out their intake form here. If you are able, they are also accepting financial assistance. A regularly updated mutual aid resource list can be found here.

Academic Resources

If you have questions about your courses’ assessment structures, or fear that your student rights are being violated, please fill out this COVID-19 Academic Accommodations Peer Support form. Student organizers are also in the process of creating a centralized and public Google Drive account for the compilation of recent directives from faculties, departments, and individual instructors.

Mental Health Resources

It is also extremely important to recognize the compounded effects of rapidly developing circumstances and subsequent changes in provincial and institutional protocols on wellness and mental health. As such, the SSMU has introduced to all undergraduate students the new keep.meSAFE online mental health service that is now available at no cost at this time. For information regarding access to keep.meSAFE, please refer to our earlier communication on the matter. The World Health Organization has also released a guide on coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak, which you can consult here. Further tips for managing anxiety during the pandemic can also be found here. Head & Hands has also put together a fund for (QT) (BIPOC) youth-led, community-building digital projects; the application can be found here.

The following community resources are also available:

  • Suicide Action Montreal: 1-866 -277-3553
  • Ligne Parents: 1-800-361-5085
  • National Eating Disorder Information Centre: 1-866-633-4220
  • Tel-Aide: 514-935-1101
  • West Island Crisis Center: 514-684-6160
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
  • Écoute Entraide: 514-278-2130
University Advocacy

Since late January, McGill University has communicated updates regarding the impact of COVID-19 to the University community via mass emails, social media updates, and a dedicated webpage. While these updates are appreciated, many questions remain unanswered. Moreover, as of now, students remain completely excluded from the decision-making process that has, and will, directly impact the lives of every student at this University. In response to this troubling omission and the incomplete information being provided by the University, a group of student and staff organizers have put together an open letter to the Administration. This letter includes a number of student requests in response to COVID-19, including partial tuition reimbursement, no evictions from student residences, clarity around the new S/U course guidelines, stipulations around the delivery of online education, and detailed information regarding access to healthcare and services such as the Office for Students with Disabilities. As the University continues to provide information, the letter is updated accordingly. The SSMU fully supports the contents of the open letter and we are pushing for the University to adopt these initiatives. We encourage you to sign on if you are interested. Additionally, if you are a student in the Faculty of Law, consider signing onto this student petition for a universal pass.

Until such time as students are more proactively included in McGill’s decision-making process, members of the SSMU Executive are currently in communication with individual members of the Administration to ensure that student needs are being met. If you wish to contact McGill with questions or grievances regarding their general response to COVID-19, please email COVID-19.info@mcgill.ca. For academic issues, we’d also recommend reaching out to your Faculty Dean or Program Chair.

If you are a student worker and you feel your labour rights are being violated, you are strongly encouraged to reach out to your local union steward with these concerns:

If you are not unionized, you can unfortunately not initiate a formal grievance with the University. However, you are encouraged to speak to your Supervisor about your concerns and/or reach out to the SSMU Vice-President (University Affairs) at ua@ssmu.ca and the SSMU President at president@ssmu.ca to have your concerns brought up directly with the University Administration.

If you would like to be involved in COVID-19-related mutual aid or advocacy, please email student.coronavirus.relief@gmail.com.

SSMU Updates and Contact Information

With regards to SSMU’s operations in light of COVID-19, we ask that Clubs and Services follow provincial protocols and practice social distancing. Event declarations, insurance, and guest speaker forms, amongst others, have been closed in order to reinforce the government’s ban on gatherings greater than two people. We’ve also sent out a communication to Clubs with suggestions of what you can do during this time.

The Accounting Department and the Vice-President (Finance) are working hard to continue offering essential services. If you are having difficulty with reimbursements, contracts, payments, etc., please contact us at finance@ssmu.ca. Due to the large volume of requests, please understand that there may be a longer than usual delay in response. We thank you for your patience.

SSMU Clubs who are experiencing financial losses due to the cancellation of events or other programming may apply for SSMU Funding to mitigate the impact on their future operations. The deadline for Winter 2020 Funding Applications remains as April 1st, but applications will continue to be accepted on a case-by-case basis following this date.

Questions about Orientation Week 2020 and other early fall programming, partial reimbursements for staff and participants of Faculty Olympics 2020, operations of the Environment Committee or the First Year Council, and Life After Your Degree (LifeAYD) can be directed to internal@ssmu.ca.

The SSMU office and other satellite locations will be closed for the immediate future in compliance with orders from the Quebec government. SSMU executives and employees are working from home during this time and are accessible by email.

The majority of SSMU Services have either elected to cease operations for the remainder of the year, or have moved their activities online in a limited capacity. Please consult their respective social media accounts and websites for more information regarding the status of their operations. For questions or concerns, please contact the Vice-President (Student Life) at studentlife@ssmu.ca.

If you have any questions not addressed here, or are not sure where to direct your concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to president@ssmu.ca. Our hearts go out to you, and all those affected, during this incredibly difficult and uncertain time.

Stay safe, everyone.

Bryan Buraga / President | president@ssmu.ca
Madeline Wilson / Vice-President (University Affairs) | ua@ssmu.ca
Adam Gwiazda-Amsel / Vice-President (External Affairs) | external@ssmu.ca
Sanchi Bhalla / Vice-President (Internal) | internal@ssmu.ca
Sam Haward / Vice-President (Finance) | finance@ssmu.ca
Billy Kawasaki / Vice-President (Student Life) | studentlife@ssmu.ca

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