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Since rumours of an amalgamation of Queer McGill and the Union for Gender Empowerment (UGE) have filled the SSMU building, Leon Mwotia's mailbox has been swamped with e-mails opposing the idea.
Mwotia, the Vice President of Student Clubs and Services at McGill, earlier in the semester proposed that Queer McGill, one of the SSMU's strongest services, "adopt" the UGE, the club formerly known as the Women's Union, as a sub-group. Contrary to popular assumption, the idea was proposed by Mwotia not out of interest in saving money or in clearing up an office for another group; Mwotia is concerned with the quality of the service offered by the UGE, which has recently experienced a reduction in its membership. Mwotia explained that a merger with Queer McGill might prove useful because "the organizational framework of the UGE is at present tenuous, while that of Queer McGill is far more stable."
Tara Kuhn, collective member of the UGE, admitted that the UGE lost a number of its executives who graduated last spring, yet feels that the SSMU is also to blame for the inadequacy of the group's ability to administer its service. "Ever since we changed our name and mandate," says Kuhn, "we have had to justify our actions to the SSMU. They've demonstrated a consistent lack of understanding of what we do." UGE's new mandate is explicitly focused on anti-oppressive, pro-transgender, pro-survivor, and pro-woman concerns. After the UGE changed, the club was relocated to a smaller office and its budget was unofficially cut in half, making it even harder for the club to meet the SSMU's standards. For members of the UGE, the suggestion of a merger has been received as an ultimate attack on the group and a testament to the fact that "SSMU doesn't recognize the importance of an organization that deals with gender issues."
When asked to comment on the idea of incorporating the UGE into Queer McGill, Floh Herra-Vega, Queer McGill administrator, said "I think it's a terrible idea. The UGE is just not a queer group. To turn the UGE into a sub-group of Queer McGill would alienate straight people." Both Kuhn and Herra-Vega voiced frustration over the SSMU's refusal to distinguish a gender group from a club concerned with sexuality, and both pointed out that the membership of the two groups does not necessarily overlap.
When the UGE called a meeting to discuss the matter last month, an overwhelming number of students attended and many volunteers have since filled the UGE's empty positions. Mwotia continues to stress that the idea conflating the two groups is "in no way a final decision - we are simply examining all our options." In fact, the recent outpouring of support for the UGE has forced the SSMU to put the idea on the back burner, if not dismiss it altogether, although no decisions have been finalized. In the meantime both Queer McGill and the UGE have been calling club meetings, expressing their concerns to SSMU, and working with the SSMU to keep the UGE alive and running as a strong student service. Although the future of the UGE as a service at McGill is still being negotiated, at this time it appears that the merger is no longer considered a realistic option.