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Fall 2014 SSMU Executive midterm reviews

a/News/SSMU by
 
 
Stefan Fong

 
Kathleen Bradley

 
Claire Stewart-Kanigan

 
Courtney Ayukawa

 
J. Daniel Chaim

 
Amina Moustaqim-Barrette

This week, the McGill Tribune conducted midterm reviews of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) executives.
Click on the portraits to learn more.
 

VP Clubs and Services, Stefan Fong
 
 
Coming into the position with a year’s worth of experience, there were high expectations for Stefan Fong, vice-president clubs and services, to build upon his past endeavours.
Fong has been more proactive in pursuing long-term goals. He has completed the research stage of the Club Hub, and hopes to have it implemented by the end of his term. Fong has also started a pilot testing of myInvolvement, which has become available to 25 clubs. In addition, Fong has begun to lay the groundwork for the 10-Year Development Plan for SSMU, as well as the reorganizing of the fourth floor of the SSMU building.
Last year, Fong faced criticism for being unresponsive, particularly in regards to responding to emails, and failing to be proactive when working with clubs. However, Fong appears to have addressed these issues, responding to emails more readily and increasing his cooperation with clubs. Club workshops, for example, saw the participation of over 160 clubs.

VP Finance and Operations, Kathleen Bradley

 
 
Despite overseeing the passing of the SSMU Building Fee as the referendum's campaign manager, Bradley has faced many challenges with the SSMU budget. The student-run café (SRC), the Nest accumulated a $76,282 deficit this year, which Bradley attributed to startup costs and a discrepancy between what students want in terms of locally sourced ingredients and affordable food. As the Nest is first and foremost a student-run café, it is important for Bradley to continue consultation about how the Nest can be well-received by students, especially in light of its deficit and recent complaints by students about expensive food on campus. As the original intention for the Nest was for it to break even as an operation, it is concerning to see it struggle financially.
Bradley also presented the 2014-2015 global budget at a recent Council meeting and with student media outlets on campus, which was an effective way of communicating and clarifying aspects of the budget. She also worked with a graphic designer to present the budget in an accessible manner.
Bradley recently raised important concerns about the fee consolidation that McGill proposed, advocating for students in her insistence that the consolidation would not be transparent for students.

VP University Affairs, Claire Stewart-Kanigan

 
 
With the first ever Mental Health Week wrapping up last week, Stewart-Kanigan has shown initiative for mental health and other portfolios under the VP University Affairs. Even after Mental Health Week ended, she has proven to continue prioritizing mental health, as she is now working on development of a Mental Health Facebook page and listserv.
Stewart-Kanigan also led SSMU’s collaboration with the #ConsentMcGill campaign, with a panel held by the SSMU Equity Commissioner during that week. Beyond that, she has also continued work on the sexual assault policy, which has undergone continuous review by a working group and has been publicized to the student body through an open forum and website.
As an active advocate for students, Stewart-Kanigan has called for more student representation and engagement at the annual joint board-senate meeting earlier this month, and asking councillors to reach out to their constituents prior to the Town Hall on the library master plan. Furthermore, she conducted consultation for the library improvement fund, which is also a key part of her portfolio.

President, Courtney Ayukawa

 
 
Ayukawa has presided over many accomplishments and drawbacks in her first term. Most notably, the Fall 2014 General Assembly (GA) saw participation of over 800 members of SSMU­­—attributed in part to the controversial motion on solidarity with Palestine. We hope that Ayukawa and the executive team can find a way to continue to engage with the student body and encourage attendance in the Winter 2015 GA.
Her enthusiasm for sustainability has translated into many efforts to bolster the green aspect of the president’s portfolio through environment commissioners and long-term studies. This supplements the aspect of her portfolio weakened last year when its mandated coordinator was cut due to budgetary issues.
Ayukawa has fielded a number of unforeseen circumstances this year, including two Judicial Board (J-Board) cases, and a provincial case questioning the validity of the election of her as president, which has since been dropped. With the first J-Board case resolved and the court case dropped, we hope that Ayukawa can continue her job more smoothly in the next term, including overseeing the hiring of a new general manager for SSMU.

VP Internal Affairs, J. Daniel Chaim

 
 
This year, Chaim led the planning and development of a frosh that saw a $3,600 deficit in its over $200,000 in operations, compared to last year’s deficit of $21,000, which was a significant improvement in budgeting. With the recent Students’ Society Programming Network (SSPN) event, Chaim also appears to be expanding the events planning section of his portfolio in a positive way.
4Floors, the SSMU Halloween party, also ran a $5,281 deficit due to unforeseen security costs due to construction around McTavish extending into November. As 4Floors ticket prices were increased this year, and because the construction has been ongoing since the summer, this deficit was another example of unsuccessful budget planning, and it is imperative that the SSMU executives work to take a more proactive approach to anticipate and consider all expenses, particularly amidst student criticisms of SSMU’s money management.
Another initiative Chaim has taken is for the consideration of a publications fee for the Old McGill yearbook, which has seen drastically declining sales in past years. The fee would help fund the distribution of the yearbook to all students. Although this may standardize the distribution of a university keepsake, students have been wary of extraneous fees recently, and this may be another addition to the tensions between students and SSMU.
Chaim should also continuously seek the methods for feedback and concerns of the undergraduate student body as it falls under his communication portfolio. When SSMU-student relations are tenuous, the VP Internal should prioritize methods of communication not just through listservs and mass distribution of information, but through two-way conversations and debates. The recent motion approved by the legislative council to establish an Ad-Hoc Student Engagement Committee will hopefully aid Chaim to these ends.

VP External Affairs, Amina Moustaqim-Barrette

 
 
Following SSMU’s withdrawal from the Table de Concertation Etudiante du Québec (TaCEQ), Moustaqim-Barrette has attempted to create working relationships with student unions at Concordia, Université Laval, Université de Montréal as well as student federations such as the Fédération Etudiante Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Etudiante (ASSÉ). However, no official consultation with the student body has taken place and no formal action has been initiated beyond regular meetings with representatives from other student bodies and federations, a troubling concern in the light of a renewed round of budget cuts by the provincial government.
Additionally, it is difficult to hold her accountable for her efforts because no reports have been produced for the student body that detail her work. While we applaud Moustaqim-Barrette for her lobbying initiatives, these efforts have largely not been publicized or communicated properly to the student body.
With regards to community affairs, she has maintained a positive relationship with the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Community and assisted the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office during Community Engagement Day.
In the coming semester, we would like to see Moustaqim-Barrette take further measures to consult the student body to learn what students want from their student union in regards to external actions.

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