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Carol Fraser

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Please note that Carol Fraser has been sanctioned for putting up unapproved campaign posters. 

I’m Carol Fraser, and I’m running for VP Clubs and Services because I’m passionate about student life and student-run initiatives. As VP I’d improve Midnight Kitchen’s new 302 space, foster the development of community-building clubs and services, continue sustainable renovations to Shatner and above all support the groups that make McGill more than just about academics. I’m friendly, organized and committed, qualities I’ve used this past year as MK’s volunteer co-coordinator, and as an active member of Mobilization McGill, at the forefront of student voice on campus. I will work collaboratively with my fellow students, especially transparently explaining policies and procedures.

Mahmoud Almasri

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 My name is Mahmoud Almasri, and it would be an honour to be your Medicine Senator. My aim is to establish two-way communication between Senate and our Faculty, while also building a platform upon which the different topics and decisions discussed at senate level are made accessible to the medical student body. In light of the new curriculum to be implemented, we need to have our best interests represented while securing the full support of the Senate so that our academic goals can be achieved. I am both willing and eager, and I hope to be your choice for Senator.

JoÃl Pedneault

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Hi, my name’s Joël. I’m originally from Ottawa and I’m a fourth-year Arts student. As current vice-secretary general of the Quebec Student Roundtable (a provincial student lobby group representing over 65 000 students, including SSMU) and as SSMU Councilor in 2009-10, I’ve developed the experience needed to work closely with student associations in other universities and coordinate a campaign for accessible education here at SSMU.

As VP External, I plan to work on a province-wide strategy to lower tuition fees for all students and increase access to financial aid.

 Vote for experience and vision, vote Joël for VP External!

Bonjour, je m’appelle Joël.

En tant que vice-secrétaire général actuel de la Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (un regroupement étudiant représentant plus de 65 000 étudiant-e-s, y compris le SSMU) et en tant qu’élu au conseil législatif du SSMU en 2009-10, j’ai acquis le savoir-faire qui me permettra de collaborer étroitement avec d’autres associations étudiantes tout en mobilisant la population étudiante de McGill pour le droit à l’éducation. En tant qu’externe, j’ai l’intention de contribuer à bâtir une stratégie pan-québécoise pour contrer la hausse actuelle des frais de scolarité et ce, pour les étudiants d’ici comme d’ailleurs.

Tom Zheng

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Please note that Tom Zheng has received a sanction for putting up unapproved posters.

As someone who truly wants to use this opportunity to make a difference, I speak to you from the heart. I don’t believe in the rumor that “there is less help available in university” nor am I content with the fact that “lower year students are distant from what the school has to offer” I dare to dream of a day when we are no longer frustrated with the limited number of academic advisers and students can truly find help whenever they need. I dare to act upon it, and I need your help. We can make it happen.

Raphael A Dumas

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Raphael Dumas is a U3 Civil Engineering student. His path through McGill has given him a taste of 4 faculties and 3 different programs. In none of them did he find a chance to get his hands dirty through Applied Student Research. His primary goal is to increase accessibility to projects so that Engineers and all undergrads can get credit for research that interests them. If you’ve read his recent letter in the Daily, he’s also big on integrity and consultation, so he is open to forwarding ideas engineering undergrads might have. He is also bilingual, see below.

Né d’une Française et un Sud-Africain à Kingston, Raphael Dumas est un étudiant en 4e année de génie civile. Son trajet lui a permis de prendre connaissance de 4 facultés et 3 programmes différents. Par contre, nul ne lui a donné la chance de recevoir crédit pour des projets de recherches personels. Il aimerait augmenter l’accessibilité à la création de ses projets pour les ingénieurs et tous les autres sous-grad. Le Fonds des Projets de Durabilité (SPF) est une bonne début, mais il veut faire continuer de promouvoir une culture de durabilité et de recherche étudiante appliquée sur le campus.

Lauren Hudak

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“My name is Lauren Hudak and I am running for VP University Affairs. As your VP, I will continue to push for greater student representation within athletics; for an improvement in student services, particularly within health services and student aid; and for more stimulating learning environments by lowering the student-to-faculty ratio. Given this position’s demanding nature, I will use my extensive SSMU experience as the former Speaker of Council and current Science Representative in order to efficiently work in an impartial manner, to effectively represent my constituents, and to embark on practical initiatives. Vote Lauren Hudak for VP University Affairs!”

“Je m’appelle Lauren Hudak, et je suis candidate à la position de VP aux affaires universitaires. Je continuerais à encourager : une plus grande représentation étudiante au sein de McGill athlétiques, une amélioration des services offerts aux étudiants, particulièrement les services liés à l’assistance financière ; et en réduisant la proportion des étudiants face aux professeurs, créer un environnement d’apprentissage plus stimulant. Étant donné la nature du poste, j’utiliserais mon expérience de présidente du conseil à l’AÉUM, et de représentant de la faculté des Sciences, pour travailler de manière efficace, impartiale, en représentant les électeurs, pour m’engager dans des projets!”

SSMU to give opt-outable groups chance to speak out

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The Students’ Society is gearing up to help opt-outable groups and services to protect their revenues. SSMU Vice-President Clubs and Services Anushay Khan announced at SSMU Council this week that roundtable discussions with several such groups—which include several SSMU services, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group, and CKUT Radio—led Khan to offer them a chance to provide more information about themselves to students. The move comes in the wake of last semester’s controversy between Conservative McGill and QPIRG.

While SSMU has always offered postering space in the Shatner Building to these groups, Khan said, this year it intends to expand their ability to reach constituents. This includes more posters in Shatner, electronic signage, and, starting next year, a chance to offer short descriptions of what they do in the first edition of the SSMU listserv.

According to Khan, the issue is  SSMU’s responsibility. Even student groups unaffiliated with SSMU are working to benefit students, she said, and many provide services that SSMU cannot offer directly. Opt-outs therefore, can pose a financial strain for SSMU.

Moreover, Khan cited a motion regarding opt-outs passed at the October 2007 General Assembly. It called for SSMU to “take every reasonable action to reclaim and protect the sovereignty and independence of all campus student groups and activities” and attempt to “put an end to the online opt-out system recently created by the University such that campus groups shall be in charge of their own opt-out process.”

Khan said this may be controversial, but it provides a clear directive for her to act upon.  

“If any other student group came to me with a request, I would have to help them too,” she said, “with SSMU’s mandate and goals in mind and regardless of my personal opinion.”

The resolution opposes online opt-outs only. Khan called the opt-out system a good idea in and of itself. Due to its easy execution, she said, opting out often results from  misinformation.

Khan’s evidence for this is the growth of “shadow opt-outs,” whereby students opt out of all possible services rather than one or two explicitly political causes. These account for the majority of student opt-outs. The solution is to either  change the system, or to create a better forum for providing information—even if only one side of the opt-out debate ends up speaking.

Access to information was the subject of another new initiative announced at council this week: a new SSMU website, with an initial price tag of $31,000. The site has been in the process of a steady overhaul since a 2007-08 redesign that first changed the site from text-based HTML to a more user-friendly and frequently updated page.

Citing concerns that what was intended as a temporary fix is still fairly unusable,  SSMU VP Finance and Operations Nick Drew plans a redesign of the website to make it a one-stop shop that will be easier to navigate.

Drew justifies the website’s cost by pointing to Plank Multimedia, Inc., the company SSMU is hiring to redo the website. The Montreal-based organization has designed websites for clients like Michael Moore, the Bell Centre, and the Canadian Medical Association. Drew explains that companies with less expensive quotes could not do what he wanted—design a high-quality site on an open source platform that would minimize future update costs—and tended to refer him to Plank as a company that could offer the level of expertise necessary.

The website will also spell the end of SSMU’s short-lived Book Bazaar. Drew plans to save money by moving it completely online as of next year as part of a broad online marketplace. While this will overlap with existing services like McGill Classifieds and MUS Classy, Drew posited that this will be more advanced than such rivals and more trustworthy than sites like Craigslist and Kijiji.

“We’re looking to do something more dynamic,” he said, “with pictures and a more appealing look so students know exactly what they’re buying.”  

The site will also feature an “auto-expire” feature that removes items when they are no longer available, and will be limited to student buyers and sellers.

SSMU Report Card

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Zach Newburgh

President

 With student consultation as one of the main themes of the semester, President Zach Newburgh has thus far done an exemplary job representing the students at McGill.

Newburgh was an effective public face during the Arch Café saga and helped to mobilize students by speaking at the first café rally and standing up to the administration at numerous senate meetings. Out of this, he was able to help establish the student consultation group. However, only time will tell whether this will be an effective or useful committee.

Newburgh has been a strong but tempered voice at council meetings. By abstaining on certain more controversial issues, he has done a good job serving the role of president as a moderate representative of the students without injecting any personal ideologies into voting. He has also shown himself to be extremely accessible to the press and to students, as he is often available to chat in his office and has also hosted numerous “Meet the SSMU President” lunches.

This Fall’s General Assembly was, yet again, a dismal failure, but this is not entirely Newburgh’s fault. Although SSMU can set up well-planned events, it is up to the students to engage in them (this was also an issue with this year’s less than successful HomeKoming). Newburgh has said that he wants serious GA reform and we think it’s about time that SSMU execs stop talking about creating committees to “review the GA’s effectiveness” and actually act on change. Throughout the rest of the academic year, Newburgh ought to push hard to abolish—or at least aggressively reform—the GA in favour of a more useful system for passing resolutions.

 

Joshua Abaki

VP University Affairs

Josh Abaki began his year by accomplishing something he promised during his campaign: extending the Redpath library’s hours. He has also been the most persistent student voice in senate regarding the Architecture Café. On this matter, he was the forceful advocate many students desired. Abaki has the important responsibility of representing SSMU on the new Student Consultation Group headed by Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson, which will hopefully provide a new method for students to participate in university decision-making.

We hope Abaki looks for avenues of cooperation and partnership rather than antagonism. Impressively, Abaki has successfully persuaded students to participate in various university committees, which has in the past been a huge challenge for this portfolio.

While Abaki suffered slightly from misinformation regarding proposed changes to the Athletics Board, his vigilance on the matter and his zeal for representing students’ interests were impressive. Looking forward to next semester, we hope Abaki does his best to express students’ interests to the administration regarding contact hours.

 

Myriam Zaidi

VP External

So far this year, Vice-President External Myriam Zaidi has been focused on two major projects: building up the Quebec Student Roundtable (QSR), and fighting tuition hikes. Zaidi has devoted significant time and effort to QSR, which is poised to be a successful alternative to the province’s other student lobbying groups such as FEUQ and ASSE. In particular, she’s taken an active role in the communications side of the organization, helping coordinate QSR’s campaign and promotion materials. Most important for McGill students, Zaidi is working to ensure that QSR’s communication strategy is accessible to both Francophone and Anglophone students in the province. Since September, Zaidi has also been actively working to prevent tuition increases and to mobilize McGill students around this cause. To do this, she relaunched Tuition Truth, SSMU’s anti-tuition truth campaign, including a revamped website. Zaidi is also organizing buses for student protesters to attend the Meeting of the Education Partners in Quebec City on December 6. While Zaidi has also been busy with the typical VP external task of “community building” with the Milton-Parc community, this will largely be a futile task as long as Frosh happens every September. Overall, Zaidi has played an important role in the growth of QSR and has taken practical steps towards organizing McGill students who oppose tuition increases. While the Tribune commends these efforts, we hope Zaidi will diversify her portfolio next semester as her predecessor Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan did, for example with Fill the Hill and the campaign to gain paid practicum for Education students.

 

Tom Fabian

VP Internal

Tom Fabian’s remake of the SSMU listserv has given people something to talk about this year. Is he refreshing SSMU’s announcements or is he getting in the way?  Is he funny or not?  The Tribune leaves this to its readers to decide.  If nothing else, he’s a risk-taker who’s not afraid to try new ideas on a traditionally apathetic student body.  Most importantly, he introduced HomeKoming, a new series of SSMU-sponsored events around October’s Homecoming football game.  It was a new and ambitious idea, but not a runaway success (despite offering a pancake kegger at Gert’s). Events often take a few years to become well-established, however. Don’t be surprised if it becomes a bigger event overtime.

Fabian also introduced the Get Ready website to hype SSMU events, which is a well-developed promotional tool. His edition of 4Floors was a huge success, and a winter semester sequel is in the works.  With Gert’s making plenty of money, the second annual Week 101 in January should do well. Fabian also plans to have a three-day music festival tentatively called SSMUthFest. The VP Internal has always been an event coordinator, and Tom Fabian is an excellent one. Whether you think he’s funny or not, he’s doing his job.

 

Anushay Irfan Khan

VP Clubs and Services

Anushay Khan has started the year off well for the most part. She has taken on some worthy new initiatives, such as  facilitating the establishment of the Plate Service, creating a rubric to help standardize office selection, adding sections on sustainability to club “how-to” documents, setting up the SSMU break-out room, and putting advanced room bookings online to help clubs get space in the Shatner Building more easily. She has also maintained her portfolio well, running a smooth Activities Night and otherwise supporting many of the services and clubs.

At the same time, Khan has made some decisions that call her priorities into question. Particularly, she spent significant time defending QPIRG during the opt-out period, a strange decision considering that QPIRG is not under SSMU, and thus does not fall under her purview, except for “maintaining relations.”  Moreover, she adopted some unprofessional rhetoric in her responses to those encouraging the opt-outs like the Swiss Club.  She also wrote “FML” as her entire report about opt-outs, and told councillors that a General Assembly motion about club sovereignty discouraged them from advocating opt-outs.  

Still, Khan has shown admirable devotions to students’ causes. Next semester, we would like to see her take up the mantle on clubs being allowed to use the McGill name again.  She spent a lot of time on this at the beginning of the year, but has not reported on it since it went unresolved in September. This is something important to all clubs, and a worthy priority for her to renew.

We recognize that this involves negotiating with an often stubborn administration, and that she does not have as much interface with administrators as the president or VP university affairs. Therefore, working with these members of her executive should be a priority and Khan should focus on regular reports to council.

 

Nick Drew

VP Finance and Operations

Nick Drew has done an impressive job managing the finance and operations portfolio this semester, especially with his effective promotion of Gert’s. Drew has built on the work of his predecessor, Jose Diaz, and turned the bar into a popular campus hangout space with revenues to match. We hope the bar will perform just as well next semester.

SSMU’s decision to shut Haven Books, its financial sinkhole of a bookstore, at the end of last year has made Drew’s job much easier than for previous VP FOPs, though SSMU will continue to pay rent on the space into the winter semester. Drew’s replacement for Haven, an initiative called the Book Bazaar, was held at the beginning of the semester in the Shatner Building with modest success. The business model may need some tweaking, but we’re excited to see it improve next semester.

Due to a budget shortfall this semester, Drew has temporarily cut the funds allocated to bringing a speaker or musician to campus in the spring. Though we understand the decision, the Tribune hopes he will be able to reinstate the funds next semester. Last year’s Girl Talk concert and Salman Rushdie address were both extremely popular with students, and we’d love to see a similar event this spring.

 

SSMU Legislative Council

Grading any large public body—whether it’s Parliament or the Students’ Society Council—is something of an exercise in futility. Like Parliament, SSMU Council possesses a number of bright, articulate members as well as more obnoxious, less informed councillors. On the whole, however, this year’s council has been fairly competent, with many members speaking up during debate. This year’s executive has been less vocal than their predecessors, and councillors have stepped up their participation accordingly.

That council spends too much time debating trivial issues is a perennial complaint, and this year’s council has been no exception. Debates about procedural issues, such as changing certain aspects of Robert’s Rules of Order, have taken up too much time this semester, as well as motions to provide pizza, coffee, and tea to councillors.

Council has been noticeably divided between the left and right of the political spectrum this year, but councillors have kept their debates impressively civil, as Spencer Burger and Maggie Knight—who frequently but respectfully disagree—noted last week. This is a welcome change from previous years, when councillors had been known to storm out of the Lev Bukhman Room when motions failed to go their way.

Plate Club becomes SSMU Plate Service

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After three successful years of serving McGill students, the Plate Club has become a thing of the past. Students will no longer be able to go to the Plate Club to borrow dishware for lunch or events. Luckily for students the Plate Service will be filling that void.

In an effort to expand the Plate Club’s influence, the Students’ Society has adopted it, transforming the former club into an official service of the SSMU. The Plate Club was started in 2008 by Tim Dowling in order to cut down the amount of unsustainable plateware used by students and promote an overall greener campus.

The Plate Service plans to continue operations as usual, but will now have a larger budget that will allow for the purchasing of more inventory and, in turn, the lending of more sustainable dishware.

“It doesn’t change our mandate, which was always to help everyone at McGill,” said Jenny Lu, the Plate Service events co-ordinator. “For us, becoming a service doesn’t change our purpose or what we want to do—it just gives us better resources to do it.”

Lu explained that SSMU approached the Plate Club last spring with an interest in converting the organization into an official service.

“[During the elections], a lot of [candidates] mentioned the Plate Club and a lot of them wanted to expand the Plate Club and do all sorts of stuff to be more sustainable,” she said. “But they never actually talked to us, none of us knew about it.”

In order to expand the Plate Club into a service, SSMU Vice-President Clubs and Services, Anushay Khan, worked with the organization to formally establish it as both a part of SSMU and a fully accounatble entity.

“The difference between a club and a service essentially is that a service is actually a department of SSMU, financially, in terms of our organization and our structure, so becoming a service is not a small change,” she said. “You need to learn a lot about SSMU before being able to function efficiently.”

Despite talk of expansion, however, the Plate Service has maintained that they ultimately want to dissolve as a lunch service and exist solely for events.

“We in the Plate Club feel that ideally the club should not exist for lunch service,” said Christian Scott, the Plate Service’s lunch co-ordinator. “Ideally SSMU and the food vendors, and McGill in general, should find a way, maybe through more sustainability-focused contracts, to totally eliminate plastic, paper, and Styrofoam containers.”

Khan echoed this sentiment and said that this is also what SSMU has in mind for the service.

“Our vision for the Plate Service on the whole is to not even have a Plate Service,” she said. “But to make it so intuitive for everyone to pick up a plate and use it instead of using Styrofoam or plastic because we’re trying to get rid of [those types of plates] as a whole.”

Plate Service members seem to agree that the best way to reach these goals is to include an obligation to use sustainable plates in the future negotiation of leases with vendors.

“We really want to get involved with SSMU this year,” Lu said. “Especially because the contracts with the vendors are expiring this year, so we really want to get them to negotiate a no-Styrofoam [agreement].”

Khan said there will be increased consideration of sustainability in the upcoming negotiations with tenants of the Shatner Building.

Along with other green services around campus, such as Midnight Kitchen and Organic Campus, the Plate Service hopes to make sustainable living an intuitive choice for all students at McGill.

“The whole thing about sustainability is a trend, but at the same time it should become a way of life, versus a fad,” Khan said. “I think [we need] this lifestyle change, which is important. If we don’t act, no one will.”

SSMU may facilitate ablutions

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When McGill Muslim students perform the ablution ritual, in which they wash their feet and hands multiple times before daily prayers, it can lead to wet countertops in Shatner bathrooms. To avoid the inconvenience and to ease the the ritual’s practice, the Students’ Society is attempting to take initiatives towards installing ablution-friendly facilities.

In 2005, Muslim students lost their prayer space in Peterson Hall and are currently forced to pray in the Muslim Student Association office in the Shatner Building.  

“No one really brought it up as a serious issue,” said Anushay Khan, SSMU vice-president clubs and services. “But there were complaints from people at Gert’s and many other services in the ground floor [of the Shatner building], because there often is a lot of water spillage.”  

Many Muslim countries have public washrooms with special facilities for ablution. Although the same expectations do not exist at McGill, SSMU is still taking steps to facilitate the ritual.   

“Being Muslim, I figured I can best understand the issue myself, so I did a bit of research and there are many universities in North America that have installed things like this,” Khan said. “I felt that it was something that Muslim students needed [and] considering that their space had been taken away in the past they were already in an unfair situation.”

After research on the issue, Khan decided a sink that allows its users to sit down was found to be a suitable solution. She contacted the McGill administration, since SSMU was unable to undertake the project alone.

“It is something that the university should have provided as part of a culture of sensitivity, so we are definitely trying to push for the university to pay for at least a portion of it,” Khan said. “But I really don’t think that this is something the university is interested in doing.”

Even though improved washroom facilities would be beneficial for the Muslim community at McGill, Muslim Students’ Association VP External Aya Salah explained that the issue is secondary to their prayer space problem.

“It’s not really a priority right now with us,” Salah said. “The fact that it’s wet, that’s something we can control.”  

Prayer space on the other hand has been a constant issue for the MSA. Their biggest concern is to acquire a room other than their office where prayer, which Muslims must perform five times a day, can take place.   

“We pray in the MSA office, [which] is not meant as a prayer space,” Salah said. “But there is nowhere else on campus.”

Unfortunately, Khan explained that space in the Shatner building is extremely limited, and increasing the prayer space would be a difficult task.

“Right now the space that we give them is small,” Khan said. “I understand that, but at the same time many other services don’t have space, and every Friday we always give them the ballroom.”

The only action that SSMU can take right now, according to Khan, is to assist the MSA with the complaint they have filed under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms against McGill for taking away their prayer space.

Erin Hale, a U3 philosophy student and former McGill Daily editor, had been concerneds, but was relieved to find that it was not their biggest concern.   

“I guess I’m happy it’s a non-issue,” she said.

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