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(L-A Benoit / The McGill Tribune)

SSMU Election 2017: President

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The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President is the spokesperson of the Society, enforces its constitution and internal regulations, and manages relations between SSMU and McGill. The president is also responsible for coordinating the SSMU executive team.

The three candidates are Lukas Shannon, Helen Ogundeji, and Muna Tojiboeva. At the press conference on March 6 and the debate on March 9, candidates were able to elaborate on their platforms.

At the press conference, Shannon explained how he would create a dialogue committee to promote constructive conversations regarding contentious issues on campus.

Ogundeji described her idea to create an ad-hoc subcommittee that would explore the creation of a code of conduct for student executives.

Tojiboeva spoke on how she will reform the relationship between the Board of Directors (BoD) and the J-Board.

“Most of the petitions [for hearings] are directly against SSMU executives […] and the executives in question do sit on the [BoD],” Tojiboeva said. “In my experience, [executives have] always found a way to slow down the process [….] What I really want to do is to make sure that the SSMU [J-Board] can be called an independent body.”

At the debate, the candidates were asked questions submitted by the outgoing executive, with Chief Electoral Officer Alexander Nehrbass acting as moderator. Ben Ger, who resigned earlier that same day, asked how each candidate would balance support and accountability in their role as leader of the executive team.

Ogundeji reiterated her plan to implement an executive code of conduct, which she said will hold the executives accountable to a specific standard. Shannon stated that he believes there is no conflict between support and accountability.

Tojiboeva answered that she would ensure that minutes from the BoD meetings were posted on the SSMU website.

The second question from Ger asked what the candidates believed to be SSMU’s priorities in terms of advocacy at the level of McGill administration, specifically on the Board of Governors (BoG). The SSMU President is the only undergraduate representative on the BoG.

Tojiboeva responded that she would advocate for an increase of mental health services on campus and, as the only undergraduate representative, would seek feedback from other undergraduates when deciding which other issues to advocate for at that level. Ogundeji said that greater change would be possible if more students had a voice on the BoG and intends to increase representation. Shannon agreed with Ogundeji, adding that he would seek to strengthen his connection with non-student members of the BoG.

In response to a question from the live stream, the candidates elaborated on their ideas for Francophone affairs, which technically falls under the VP External portfolio. Ogundeji proposed the creation of a buddy system between students who are from Montreal and those who are new to the city.

Tojiboeva suggested the creation of a week focused on Francophones. She also proposed the creation of a mentoring system that would support students who are transitioning from a French education system into the English system at McGill.

A member of the audience asked how the candidates would support racialized students on campus. Ogundeji elaborated on her platform, stating that she would seek to create a program with the VP Student Life and the Mental Health Subcommittee that would support such groups.

“I have experience working on equitable governance reform committee, working with committee members to create equity seats on council and to create racialized seats and black student seats, given the colonial and slave-owning history of McGill,” Ogundeji said.

Tojiboeva explained that her proposed changes to the J-Board would help SSMU to better reflect the needs of marginalized students. Shannon stated that he would seek to expands platforms that marginalized students can speak from.

The debate portion of the event focused on the distribution of mental health resources. Students currently pay over $100 per semester to Student Services, which funds services such as the McGill Counselling and Mental Health Services. SSMU’s budget currently subsidizes the Peer Support Centre, Nightline, and SACOMSS.  

Tojiboeva claimed that the 2016-2017 SSMU budget did not allocate any funds to mental health services. After a question from Ogundeji, Tojiboeva clarified that she would use the surplus that SSMU is projected to run this year to streamline the existing system.

“[I would] make sure the system that already exists becomes more effective, [instead of creating] new things because would take more money than that to create a functioning system,” Tojiboeva stated.

A previous version of this article misspelled Helen Ogundeji's name. The Tribune regrets this error. 

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