SSMU general manager position in transition after Pauline Gervais’ retirement

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At the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Council meeting on Jan. 15, SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa announced that SSMU General Manager Pauline Gervais, who has worked at SSMU since 2004, has retired. The new general manager will take over the position in early February. More details about the new general manager will be released during the next Council meeting on Jan. 29.

Although Gervais’ last day as general manager was Jan. 4, Gervais will work part-time to finish any final work.

“She is coming two days in a week and she stopped working on any new projects,” Ayukawa explained. “[Gervais signs] the cheques that are needed and [handles] the general work that [is] needed for the day-to-day functioning of SSMU.”

According to Ayukawa, the hiring process of the new general manager is almost completed, which Gervais stated was a collaborative one.

“The first interviews were done by the president and the human resources advisor.” Gervais said. “I did the final interviews with the president [….] We together made the decision.”

Ayukawa stated that she believes that it is going to be a challenging time for SSMU without the lengthy experience of Gervais, who had worked for 11 years in the position,

“[Gervais] knows SSMU, SSMU’s relationship with McGill, and SSMU’s relationship with the City of Montreal like the back of her hand,” Ayukawa said. “It’s been very easy working with her in the last few months. For example, if I [wanted] to install a new elevator in SSMU, she would know exactly the roadblocks for that […] exactly whom to talk to with the university […] how much money it would even cost [….] So when the new general manager comes in without having any knowledge or previous experience, it’s going to be tough.”

Gervais’ retirement also led to the creation of the new position of SSMU building director, which will separate building management issues from general management. The position was created after Gervais announced her retirement at the end of last semester.

“Dealing with the building issues and all the governance, corporate stuff, human resources, finances, and staff management­—when you have the building [added onto] that, it was very heavy load [of work] to the point that I didn’t have enough time to put on governance and to the things that you’d expect the general manager to do,” Gervais explained. “By creating a building director position, removing the building from the general manager [position], my successor will not have to deal, on a daily basis, with the building issues.”

Gervais said the transient nature of her working relationships with SSMU executives was a draining.

“Every year, I have to rebuild the trust between the executives and the general manager,” she said. “Once they get used to [knowing] me, and we have established some sort of a trustworthy relationship, they are gone. I have to start that over, over, and over again. That’s what I’m most tired of.”

Gervais said that she has worked hard to bring financial stability to SSMU and restructuring human resources. The most remarkable of all, according to Gervais, is the SSMU Daycare.

“The SSMU Daycare used to be a department under SSMU, but [it was also] its own corporation,” she recalled. “A company can’t be run under another company. So I told them to set up their own account, their own cheque book, and [to] become independent from SSMU. I’ve also represented the Daycare and applied for government subsidy [….] It took a long time and we got the subsidy at last. It’s $7 per day now. I’m so happy.”

Upon her retirement, Gervais expects SSMU to further evolve in a positive way.

“I’ve brought SSMU to this level, and now, you need someone different that’s going to bring SSMU from this current level to a higher level,” she said. “With the desire, with the passion, with everything that I’ve had so many years, you need some new blood. [There will be] new ideas, new ways of doing things [.…] It’s good evolution.”