Alexei Simakov is a U4 International Development Studies student running uncontested for the position of Vice-President (VP) Internal of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU).
Equity, inclusivity, and accessibility
With regards to overseeing and implementing equity and inclusivity at SSMU related events, Simakov believes that current efforts by SSMU and related organizations are effective.
“We definitely have a lot of equity […] as it currently stands,” he said. “We have in place a lot of individual organizations that focus on that: We have the equity commissioner [… and] we have student services. I think in terms of creating infrastructure, I feel more or less comfortable that most of it is in place, and the gaps that I'm sure are there aren't very prevalent.”
Simakov stated that his approach to overseeing equity would be to identify specific concerns, when they are raised.
“I don't see a lot of conversational concern from students,” he said. “If this is risen, we have to address this absolutely [….] I get a lot of concerns being raised on the [Facebook page….] The concern is: What will you do to raise equity and accessibility? Ok, well where do you identify the problems that we need to increase accessibility for? That's a conversation we need to have first. We keep talking about it without understanding what we're trying to fix.”
The Old McGill Yearbook
One of Simakov’s platform planks is to decrease the cost of producing the Old McGill Yearbook. During the 2014-2015 school year, the yearbook had a deficit of $8,468.
“If we create a situation where more students are buying [the yearbook], it allows us to lower costs,” he said. “The best way that’s being discussed is that we have a fee in place […] My campaign promise is to have a referendum [about this] this Winter [….] The advantages of [a fee] is that […] we can predict how much money we’re getting [….] Also, instead of collecting the money at the end of the year, SSMU will have it at the start.”
The creation of a yearbook fee where students would not be able to receive a yearbook if they opted out, is being raised in a plebiscite during the ongoing Fall 2015 referendum period. Simakov explained that his plan was to make yearbook to available to students who had opted out.
“I don't think it's realistic that if a student opts out in first year, that means they're no longer allowed to have a yearbook by the time they graduate in four years,” he said. “I feel our accounting capabilities are enough to work within that range of having students who are going to opt-out.”
Although not explicitly outlined in the VP Internal portfolio, Simakov seeks to enact electoral reform if elected.
“There's no consistently enforced rules [about campaigning], they are by design arbitrary,” he said. “What I envision is a system [that …] sets out very clear guidelines of what [candidates] can and cannot do without having a [… Chief Electoral Officer] that can arbitrarily […] enforce [rules] of the campaign.”
Simakov would also encourage the formation of slates, where certain candidates can campaign together based on shared ideologies, policy ideas, and goals.
“Another conversation I want to have is about slate campaigning,” he said. “We're clearly not having a surplus of too much people running […] some of the concerns are ‘Oh, what happens if we get like Ottawa, for example, [and have] two parties that are fighting each other, [so] no one else can get in and vote?’ I’d rather have those two parties fighting against each other than no one engaging. It has to be done intelligently [….] If we make slates it’s much easier to understand [candidates’] messages and I think avoids personal attacks [on candidates] because it's more of a slate.”
Another aspect of the VP Internal portfolio is overseeing the Francophone Affairs commission.
“In terms of promoting bilingualism, I think my position is somewhat similar to the conversation we had about equity and accessibility,” he said. “There's a lot of talk about ‘What can we do?’ But not a lot of talk on what we're doing it about. Are French students feeling uncomfortable on campus? [….] I haven’t really seen that sentiment [….] If they exist, I definitely want them to reach out to me […] because we can't address these issues until they're raised.”
Simokov explained that he did not believe that additional initiatives were necessary for this issue.
“I don't think it's responsible for us to be overly proactive and putting in initiatives to solve problems that don't exist right now,” he said. “We need to be listening to identify the problems before we act on [them ….] We already have a lot of initiatives to promote French, all the SSMU materials are written in French. Some of the concerns [that] were [raised] at the [General Assembly] (GA), if we were to get some translators there, we could have a half French-half English GA. The reality is that McGill is a fundamentally English speaking school and students come here from France, from Quebec to study and live in English. Any other language here, if you have friends in that language, you can speak it with them.”
The Tribune's endorsement for the VP Internal position will be published on Friday evening