Meet your SSMU executives

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Katie Larson: President 


What have you accomplished this summer?

This summer really felt like it got going around the end of July. Transitioning into the role of a SSMU executive is not easy, and I think we all finally have the basics under our belts. In my portfolio, the main thing that got a lot of work done was the Constitutional review process, [which] started more than a year ago and is now almost complete. Additionally, there are a lot of new faces in our permanent staff, and learning about how to work to improve SSMU HR [human resources] has been interesting.

What challenges do you expect for the upcoming school year?

The lease for the University Centre has not been signed. I am hopeful that we are close, but that is still an ongoing priority. Another upcoming challenge will be the BoG [Board of Governors], and the CAMSR [Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility] committee terms of reference review. This will be a particular challenge because communicating [with students] will be difficult until the end of the process due to confidentiality.

What are your long-term goals this year?

Signing the lease for the Shatner Building in the interest of SSMU in the long term is a priority. Also continuing to work on interfaculty collaboration is a must, and establishing ways to increase this communication is key.

How would you describe your approach to interacting with upper-level administrators?

My approach to interacting with administrators is the same way I interact with any person. At the end of the day, in any business relationship it is important to act in good faith. I feel encouraged that our new deputy provost and principal are going to be a refreshing change to McGill’s often-criticized admin.

 

Brian Farnan: VP Internal BrianSSMU.AlexandraAllaire.online

What have you accomplished this summer?

Throughout the summer, we’ve essentially been working towards a much more integrated orientation week. Through May, we met as all the various coordinators from the faculties and [Macdonald] campus, [and] went on a retreat organized by SSMU and the Student Services First-Year Office. [We] essentially outlined the various issues that occurred last year and in years past, tried to identify those issues, find out solutions for those, and outline our goals, as well as the various initiatives that we wanted to undertake.

Some of the goals we came up with were [to create] a more integrated and inclusive orientation week. We’ve worked hard to develop innovative and inclusive programming. This  programming allows all ages the option to do ‘à la carte’ events and have a choice of what they participate in.

What challenges do you face as VP Internal this year?

I’d say there are two large challenges, the first of which is redefining how events are run and the various things that go into them. Part of my platform was to consult an appropriate equity and sustainability resource before any of my events, so that has happened with frosh.

Another challenge is bolstering SSMU’s communications. It’s a part of the portfolio that’s really been neglected for the past couple of years, and so I hope to improve that. We’ve implemented a new software called Soapbox. This allows students to rank various ideas, or submit questions or concerns and then rank them. It allows us to see which are the popular questions, concerns, or ideas, and then implement them. That’s going to be unveiling and launching in September.

What are your long-term goals this year?

Myself and some of the permanent staff who work with my portfolio have made it a goal to revamp the communications of the SSMU. We’ve worked over the summer on a communication guide as well as communications strategy, so fully completing that communications strategy, [and determining] where we see ourselves now and where we see ourselves going over the course of the year. It’s going to be a main priority for me to truly figure out our publications — having Old McGill returned to its former glory, having it restored and marketed properly and filled with the best content possible.

 

JoeySSMU.AlexandraAllaire.onlineJoey Shea: VP University Affairs

What have you accomplished this summer?

There have been a few projects I’ve been working on. One, in conjunction with Sam Gregory, is called IDEAS (the Institute for the Development of Entrepreneurship and Advancing Society). Students who have project ideas and are looking for a place to make it a reality can go and be connected to the wider Montreal community. We are looking at it being very interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. For example, an NGO wants to develop an app, so they would use engineering students to help develop the app. There would also be room for political science students to participate.

A few years ago, there were these things called Sustainability Fridays. People across the university would get together and talk about the research they’ve been doing about sustainability, and try to make connections across the university. Since Vision 2020 and everything last year they kind of fell by the wayside, but we’re interested in getting them started again. McGill’s Harrassment, Sexual Harassment, and Discrimination Policy is also under review.

What challenges do you predict for yourself in your position over the next year?

I think that all the issues that have come up with the libraries will be a challenge. Obviously, the library equipment fund is under my portfolio, and there have significant changes with that over the summer. We’ve been looking into ways for SSMU to help out, especially with the extended hours, possibly looking into how the Shatner Building can be used for study space. We will be holding a town hall where students can come and ask questions about what happened over the summer.

What are your long-term goals this year?

One of my long-term goals is to really start off those two very important relationships with the [new] principal and deputy provost on the best note that we can and build really strong foundations so that we can work together.

What changes will you be making to SSMU that will be different from last year?

One thing that I want to change this year is the way that the senate caucus is run. I really want to make those positions as effective as possible and give the most support for the senators and their personal projects by using the academic research position and the secretary general positions.

 

Sam Harris: VP External 

What have you accomplished this summer?

I attended a lot of meetings of TaCEQ [Table de concertation étudiante du Québec], which is the students’ association that SSMU is a member of. We had some structural reform where there was a third executive position created. SSMU also took over TaCEQ’s accounting because there were issues where TaCEQ was not paying its taxes to Revenu Québec and was getting fines. That was kind of a mess, but we cleaned it all up and it’s going really well.

The one other area that I’ve been working on this summer is community relations in Milton Park. During frosh we’re doing street teams—pairs of McGill students who are identifiable giving out water, apples, and granola bars, and reminding groups of students to quiet down for the residents. I’ve also been meeting with Hélène Brisson, who’s the main contact with the Milton Parc Citizens’ Committee, and trying to figure out what are the best harm-reduction and noise-reduction strategies for the year ahead.

What are your long-term goals this year?

For external affairs, I want to strengthen relations between McGill and the wider community of Montreal and Quebec. One example of how that could be achieved is through the municipal elections coming up on Nov. 3. We’ve had two mayors resign within the last year­—one of which was arrested with 14 criminal charges—and I think there are a lot of municipal issues that are really interesting to students.

I also want to make TaCEQ more financially transparent. We’re going to present the TaCEQ budget at Council, and we’d also like the Secretary and Vice-Secretary Generals to present themselves to Council. It’s also been our position that we should translate both the website and the Règlements généreaux—basically the constitution.

Do you have any ideas for how to advance the community relations, which is part of the portfolio, especially after frosh?

One thing we’re planning on doing is for Community Engagement Day, which is being organized through SEDE (the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office). We’re hoping to have a big community barbecue and meet-and-greet, possibly on campus or somewhere where the students and residents can meet up, talk over barbecue, and possibly have a film screening.

 

Stefan Fong: VP Clubs and Services

What have you accomplished this summer?

One thing I did was change the advanced room booking system. In previous years you could only book within two weeks of your event. What I’ve decided to change this year is to have all the rooms be bookable six weeks in advance for the internal groups, and then have the special event rooms open three months in advance. Those rooms are only available two months in advance and the regular rooms four weeks in advance for external groups. So there’s a period where only the internal groups can book before it’s opened up to external groups.

What are your long-term goals this year?

I really want to have a better communications process with the services. Because of high exec turnover, a lot of information is lost throughout the years; so I want to work with the executives this year to create guides for the incoming executives next year.

The ISG (Independent Student Group) status isn’t terribly defined as of yet and hasn’t been granted in quite a while, but this year I’ve already received five applications for ISG status, which basically provides a lot of privileges. Right now the bylaws just say that I have to be satisfied that the group is beneficial to the student community, and bring it to council as a recommendation. That isn’t terribly legitimate compared to the clubs and services, which have to go through a rigorous process. I’m interested in providing the foundation for ISG status this year because I think there’s a lot of potential there for a lot of groups.

Do you have plans to change the way activities night is run?

Yes—we’re going to open up the Brown Building this year, which allows us to plan a route so that every group has equal exposure. The security issue at activities night is the capacity of the building itself, and the fact that people are walking in different directions in the same area. Opening up the Brown Building will allow us to have a route that is one-way the entire way, and for every space in the building to be visited equally. It reduces confusion and provides more flow for the event.

 

Tyker Hofmeister: VP Finance and Operations 

What have you accomplished this summer?

The most significant project that Jean Paul [Briggs, former vice president finance and operations] started and I hope to finish is a complete review of all of SSMU’s banking. This project has the potential to lower costs for upcoming years and to provide a higher level of service to all of the SSMU Clubs and Services who run bank accounts through the SSMU.

Another project I have begun is the compilation of a database including all of each faculty association’s significant purchases over the last year. The database currently includes the purchases for four student associations and is expected to be completed upon the end of September. The VP Finances and I will be meeting later in the year to discuss the patterns that arise within the data and whether or not having contracts with preferred suppliers is a suitable option for everyone. This system could drastically lower costs that each faculty pays on a recurring basis by levying the purchasing power of each student association jointly.

After speaking at length with other executives and the SSMU general manager, we have agreed that all of SSMU’s governance documents are to be reviewed over the coming year. This project will help ensure that the SSMU’s finances are responsibly managed in the future.

I also created a document that details all of the necessary work that needs to be completed if a Student Run Café is to open in the foreseeable future.

What challenges do you predict for yourself and for SSMU in the upcoming school year?

My challenge will be the coordination of the budget. I have already gone through previous years’ budgets, and the tools SSMU accounting department past executives have used. This is a tremendous effort, not just for my position but for many SSMU permanent staff members and for the SSMU Services. I have worked on a timeline for myself in order to manage my work done to complete this project. I am confident that I will complete a budget that demonstrates transparency for SSMU’s finances, while ensuring their responsible distribution, but I am well aware [that a] great effort will be needed to complete the budget revisions and creation by the time they are required.