At the end of each semester, the Tribune assesses SSMU executives based on their progress, engagement at SSMU Council, and presence at public events. Overall, we have found this year’s executives generally uncommunicative with the media. Additionally, SSMU Council documents are not often made publicly available in a timely fashion. Since both communication with student media and online documentation are important methods that allow students to keep executives accountable, we urge executives to address these issues in the Winter semester.
Katie Larson – President
Larson’s tenure so far has met tangible milestones, such as passing the new constitution. We hope that her work on the lease negotiations—which have taken almost four years and a considerable toll on the SSMU budget—will translate into a fair lease for both SSMU and McGill.
Although Larson organized a well-executed GA in October, SSMU’s lack of initiative in promoting the event resulted in poor attendance. However, the success of quorum at the Special GA demonstrated that participation can be achieved when its importance is effectively communicated to students. We encourage Larson to use the strategies behind this success to seek greater student engagement next semester.
Sustainability is another important part of the president’s portfolio, and we hope Larson will find ways to continue sustainability work at SSMU, given that the position of sustainability co-ordinator was cut from the budget for this year.
Larson has acknowledged that her communication skills, especially through email, need improvement. We feel that increased communication will enable us to provide better reporting on issues important to students in the new year.
While we recognize that the job of SSMU President is often thankless, Larson has also rarely shown enthusiasm regarding her work at Council or other public events. At a university where student apathy is a recurring issue, it is important for the student president to take the lead in showing disengaged students why they should care.
Joey Shea – VP University Affairs
It has been a busy year for Shea’s portfolio, with mental health initiatives and the sexual harassment policy at the forefront of campus conversation. The administration’s recently announced plan to coordinate forums on sexual harassment and the role of a university presents an exciting opportunity to reform McGill’s policy and open a wider discussion at McGill. We look forward to her leadership in this area next semester.
Additionally, Shea has been active in discussions on mental health at different levels in the university.
Shea also successfully organized a town hall on libraries this semester and worked in partnership with the VP Internal Affairs to create an “appropriate costumes campaign” that prevented the use of blackface and other racist and culturally insensitive appropriations at SSMU events.
We applaud Shea for her willingness to facilitate communication when necessary.
Stefan Fong – VP Clubs & Services
Fong’s portfolio involves the highly administrative task of managing the SSMU Building with the General Manager, Pauline Gervais, as well as sitting in the Board of CKUT—McGill’s campus-community radio station—and the SSMU Daycare.
One successful initiative by Fong this semester was the implementation of a time period during which internal SSMU groups have priority over external groups in room booking. However, some club leaders have been concerned by an erratic communication system, with emails sent often too close to upcoming deadlines.
Next semester, we hope Fong will be able to put out the long-awaited guides on how to run a club and continue working towards his campaign promise of ensuring that clubs have easy access to financial and administrative information.
Tyler Hofmeister – VP Finance & Operations
Although Hofmeister ultimately succeeded in balancing the budget for this year, this resulted in the removal of two positions: the sustainability coordinator and the political attaché, two important positions in SSMU’s mandate.
Additionally, Hofmeister has been consistently reluctant to explain details of the budget. Communication with him is difficult, as he does not grant in-person interviews and is largely unresponsive via email. Lack of communication with student press appears to be indicative of larger issues of transparency. Councillors have complained publicly that he is disorganized. Looking forward, we hope to see Hofmeister make an effort to improve communication and promote transparency regarding his portfolio.
The Student-Run Café (SRC) is a major part of the VP Finance and Operations’ portfolio, and it appears to be well on track to open in January. After years of discussion, we’re excited to see this project materialize. However, questions have been raised regarding the transparency of the project, as students were not made aware of the project’s progress until three months before its implementation. Furthermore, the positions of SRC manager and head chef were already filled before the project was announced to students.
Brian Farnan – VP Internal Affairs
In terms of communication, Farnan succeeded at creating a Communications Guide and Strategy for SSMU, which has been followed by timely and regular listservs—a much-needed improvement from last year. Although the implementation of “Soapbox” in the SSMU website is promising, so far it has scarcely been advertised.
The 4Floors Halloween party was well-organized and did not run into major issues this year. We commend Farnan for his work with the equity commissioners to take active steps in promoting appropriate costumes and preventing situations like last year’s presence of blackface at the party.
A main component of Farnan’s portfolio involves the organization of frosh. Although this year’s frosh successfully provided more alcohol-free alternatives, the overall event saw a $21,000 loss in student funds due to avoidable budgeting issues. We urge Farnan to take advantage of the accounting department within SSMU when planning similar large-scale events next semester.
Sam Harris – VP External Affairs
The most contentious event in Quebec politics this semester is undoubtedly the proposed Quebec Charter of Values. While SSMU Council took a stance against this issue, we would have liked to see Harris use this bill to encourage attendance at the first General Assembly of the semester.
SSMU’s student federation TaCEQ has been interesting to watch this semester, particularly as REMDUS—a coalition of University of Sherbrooke students—is holding a referendum on whether they want to remain a member of the student federation. If this vote passes, this may be an important chance for SSMU to reconsider the benefits of being a part of this student association. We hope that Harris will spearhead a critical discussion of the implications of staying or leaving, and ensure that students know and understand what TaCEQ is, its financial cost for students, and its role in the province.
In terms of outreach to the wider community, Harris has continued ongoing events like Community Engagement Day and street teams during frosh to promote communication and awareness of the interconnectedness of the community. We look forward to seeing what new initiatives he can come up with in this aspect of the portfolio for next semester.