SSMU History

SSMU History


In 2008-2009, the SSMU celebrated its 100th anniversary. The following year, the SSMU Executive commissioned “100 Years of SSMU”.
Below is the condensed version of how your student union came to be what it is today:


The Alma Mater Society is created. It officially becomes the representative body for students at McGill in 1908.


Women become members of the SSMU for the first time. Previously, they had a parallel organization called the Women’s Union.


The SSMU becomes involved with social issues of the era, including war efforts, conscription, the international exchange of Russian students, the contraceptive pill, and government funding for education.


Thousands of students attend Activities Night to learn about, and join, some of SSMU’s 150 clubs. Activities Night, host to over 2,500 students each term, now showcases more than 250 clubs, services, and publications.


Demonstrations against the U.S. Amchitka nuclear bomb test and the war in Indochina are held. The SSMU Executive Council votes to support the abolition of all student fees.


Sharon Sholzberg, the first female president of the SSMU, takes office.

After student protests demand the right of student representation to the university administration, the SSMU obtains seats on McGill’s Board of Governors and the Senate.


The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is created. However, the SSMU never joins CFS, due to the unique contexts of being in Quebec. Instead, SSMU joins the regional branch of the CFS 
(CFS-Q) which would allow for greater impact at the provincial level.


A SSMU referendum seeks to change the official name “University Centre” to the “William Shatner University Centre”. Although a majority of students support the idea, the University rejects the results because of toponymy regulations. Nevertheless, ever since it has been referred to as the Shatner Building.


SSMU President Duncan Reid initiates the McGill Undergraduate Student Fund to address the urgent financial concerns caused by government cuts in post-secondary education. Improvements overseen by this fund include increased library hours and physical improvements to libraries; SSMU’s Campus Life Fund (over $35,000 annually), which allows students to apply for events that enrich campus life; and renovations to the Shatner Building. In 2004, this fee was cut in half.


The University Centre building closes its doors for renovations in early 2018, which means the rearrangement of all student groups around campus and the closure of the student-run Gerts’ Bar for the entirety of the closure. In 2020, the building renovations were completed, but the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed the reopening of the building until further notice.


The National Federation of Canadian University Students (NFCUS) is created to promote a greater cooperation among student government bodies and to supervise the progress of each body in promoting student interests.


The SSMU continues to grow and evolve after its inception. Its role expands to include clubs, services, events, and caring for the University Centre (consisting at the time of a pub and cafeteria). The Executive Council is enlarged.


The SSMU presents a brief, and encloses a check of $25,000, as a donation for the New McGill Student Union Building Endowment Fund, indicating the students’ strong desire for a new building. They successfully convince McGill’s Board of Governors of the need for a building devoted to student services and activities.


The SSMU and other student associations meet with Maurice Duplessis (Premier of Quebec) to discuss the needs of students. Their recommendations include statutory provincial grants to universities, as well as scholarships and bursaries. Their input helps reshape the financial aid program for post-secondary education.

October 15th, 1965

The Premier of Quebec, Jean Lesage, officially opens the University Centre. Although owned by McGill University, it is now operated by students, for students.


UGEQ is replaced by the Association Nationale des Étudiantes et Étudiants du Québec (ANEEQ).


The Fédération Étudiante Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) is created in the ballroom of the University Centre. However, due to policy issues, the SSMU withdraws and rejoins multiple times over the next two decades. Despite the rocky past, SSMU and la FEUQ have continued to work together on various projects affecting students in the province.


The SSMU does not agree with CFS’s approach to student representation, preferring a more pragmatic approach, and becomes a founding member of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).


The SSMU helps to create the Quebec Student Roundtable (Table de concertation étudiante du Québec, or TaCEQ).

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