When Ivan Neilson was elected last year, the Tribune was confident that he would be a competent president. We thought his pragmatic nature would allow him to work effectively with the vice-presidents and build a good relationship with McGill’s administration. He has, for the most part, lived up to our expectations.
Neilson has done a good job balancing the two sides of the presidential portfolio. The president has responsibilities for both internal and external issues: he manages the executive while simultaneously representing SSMU at Senate and the Board of Governors, and, from time to time, in the media. Previous SSMU presidents have excelled at one half of the job while underperforming in the other. Neilson has, in contrast, struck a good balance.
However, we feel that Neilson could have worked to be a more visible public face of the organization. Previous presidents, such as Jake Itzkowitz and Adam Conter, have been more active in engaging with students at various campus events – something we feel Neilson would have been wise to attempt.
SSMU has had a fairly successful year overall, and while this year’s executive, as a whole, has been very strong, some of this success can be attributed to Neilson’s leadership. Despite clashing views on all sorts of topics, this year’s executive has functioned well as a team (at least publicly), and Neilson has done a commendable job leading a group of strong-willed VPs.
Many of Neilson’s biggest achievements were on relatively unglamorous issues that will benefit SSMU in the long run. For example, his efforts to reform committee structures and hold councillors responsible for attending Council meetings were significant accomplishments, and will have substantive, beneficial effects on the way the SSMU operates.
Finally, Neilson has been an excellent representative for students at Senate and on the Board of Governors. His personable nature has allowed him to work well with the administration while not backing down on important issues, such as tuition increases.
This year’s executive, led by Neilson, made substantive progress across the board. Hopefully, the incoming executive will be able to build on their accomplishments.