President Muna Tojiboeva
Prior to her election as this year’s SSMU President, Muna Tojiboeva campaigned on a platform of increased transparency, accountability, and concrete action on behalf of student interests; however, she has failed to uphold these standards. Instead, her first semester as President has been defined by her inability to maintain a functioning executive team.
At SSMU Council on Oct. 19, five SSMU executives presented a motion of no confidence in the President. Over the course of the semester, Tojiboeva has failed to resolve these conflicts internally, allowing them to impede the productivity of other SSMU projects. Tensions within the executive have made it difficult for the Tojiboeva's collaboration on issues beyond her portfolio, such as mental health As President, the primary responsibility for resolving conflicts in her team falls on Tojiboeva.
To increase transparency, Tojiboeva released missing 2015, 2016, and 2017 SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) minutes; however, minutes from this year’s meetings are often late or missing. Tojiboeva also neglected to announce the SSMU General Assembly (GA) until the deadline to submit motions had already passed, thereby impeding student involvement and voting power.
Tojiboeva has expanded the number of committees that the President sits on, and created a stand-alone Francophone Affairs Committee, separating it from Community Engagement. However, most of her successes as President have involved building on existing projects, rather than launching her own initiatives.
In order to make the most of the remaining semester, it is essential that Tojiboeva takes the initiative on both reconciliation within the executive and regaining the trust of students. Tojiboeva is judged by whether she can lead a productive and cohesive executive team that is able to work together to improve student life. Until this is achieved, all executives’ progress in their respective portfolios will continue to suffer the consequences.
VP Student Life Jemark Earle
The Vice-President Student Life portfolio entails mental health programming, effectively communicating with SSMU clubs and services, and supporting and promoting students’ well-being. Earle has demonstrated enthusiasm and his ongoing efforts in first semester in the position are commendable, especially given his lack of relevant experience for the position prior to starting the role.
In light of the recent announcement to close the SSMU building for renovations starting in the Winter 2018 term, it is Earle’s duty to ensure a smooth transition for essential clubs, services, and independent student groups. Although out of Earle’s control, the building closure has gotten in the way of many of his previous plans. Communication is at the centre of this, and as such, Earle must continue to build on his internal communication with the dozens of groups that currently use the SSMU building.
At the start of Fall 2017, Earle organized a successful Activities Night with a record number of attendees, despite being short on volunteer staff. In Winter 2018, Earle will plan another Activities Night, as well as Mental Health Awareness Week.
After stepping up to become a member of SSMU’s BoD, he is currently working on an open forum to clear the air on tensions within the executive team and its relationship to the membership, as well as address what he describes as systemic deficiencies of the SSMU institution.
Ultimately, Earle has brought enthusiasm to the position, but going forward, the pressure will be high for him to continue to fulfill the responsibilities that fall under his role by communicating effectively with clubs and services, and organizing health-oriented activities to better support McGill students.
VP External Connor Spencer
The publishing of SSMU’s Our Turn Action Plan was one of VP External Connor Spencer’s greatest successes this semester. The plan compares different Canadian universities’ sexual violence policies, and provides a list of recommendations for what constitutes an effective sexual violence policy. Spencer also worked to publish a survey on the Unité de Travail pour l'Implantation de Logement Étudiant (UTILE), which seeks to provide financially accessible housing for students. In addition, Spencer organized and demonstrated with the McGill contingent at the Nov. 12 Large Demonstration Against Hate and Racism.
Although she failed to implement four student-led questions in the Fall Referendum due to procedural difficulties, she is currently working on addressing the issue of constitutional reform for Winter 2018. Additionally, she had planned for the Indigenous affairs aspect of her portfolio to be more visible on campus this semester, but in the meantime has laid groundwork to improve on this front in the Winter semester.
Spencer has experienced the most tangible successes in her portfolio of any member of the SSMU executive. To keep up the momentum next semester, she should emphasize the need for provincial representation for SSMU, with AVEQ or otherwise. Regardless, students’ concerns must be at the forefront of any affiliation campaign. In the winter, Spencer plans on bringing SSMU’s Gendered and Sexual Violence policy to fruition, with the support of a full-time position and a task force dedicated to combating rape culture at the faculty level.
VP Internal Maya Koparkar
VP Internal Maya Koparkar has led several new Students’ Society Programming Network (SSPN) initiatives, including the training of SSPN members in consent, active bystander, conflict resolution, and accessible and inclusive events training. Instead of 4Floors, the previous annual Halloween event under the VP Internal portfolio, Koparker organized a joint Halloween event with the Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS), hosted at Mac Campus. This event was extremely successful: Tickets sold out, and transportation to and from Mac Campus was efficient and well-organized. Furthermore, feedback from students who attended the event was positive, particularly in terms of students feeling safe.
This is the second year that First Year Council (FYC) has fallen under the VP Internal portfolio, meaning that there is a lack of institutional memory on this front. As VP Internal, Koparkar added sustainability, athletics, and off-campus representatives to the Council, positively increasing its representation. This fall, FYC elections were delayed until late in the semester, leaving only the Winter semester for members to have an impact. Koparkar is working to establish FYC election timelines, but, especially in light of its recent fee renewal, it is essential that she provides the necessary support for the FYC to take full advantage of its remaining semester, and establish concrete suggestions and institutional memory for following years’ VP Internals.
In terms of communications, the SSMU website redesign was finally launched; however, listserv readership has declined since last year. Finally, Koparkar has gone beyond her own portfolio this year to work with the VP External on projects such as the Our Turn strategy. These extra efforts are positive, as long as they do not distract her from fulfilling the responsibilities specific to the VP Internal portfolio.
VP University Affairs Isabelle Oke
VP University Affairs Isabelle Oke ran on a platform of campus outreach, student rights, and accessible services. The unavailability of other staff over the summer set her goals back, and she resolved to improve SSMU’s accountability and finish the tasks of her predecessor. Since then, she has gone about achieving both these goals effectively and efficiently. Her biggest accomplishments this year are the successful 2017 Know Your Rights campaign—which did not present more originality than previous campaigns—and her work with former VP finance Arisha Khan to assist foster care students. She intends to submit a plan making campus a more inclusive space for such students to the Sustainability Projects Fund early next semester.
Oke’s primary strategy in tackling her portfolio is to collaborate with others. Next semester, she aims to continue addressing two pressing concerns on campus, sexual violence and a Fall Reading Week, by holding consultations with students. She is also currently working with the VP External to survey students about potential reforms to SSMU. Additionally, she is continuing old projects, such as increasing the number of free course materials available for students, rather than abandoning them. At Senate, she uses her position to advance the projects of other student senators, such as plans to provide first-generation student care and implement the OneCard policy.
While it is difficult to measure Oke’s progress, given the lack of personal projects and slow timelines inherent to liaising with the university, her supportive, conciliatory role in student politics is important for SSMU’s functioning. With her mandate to represent student voices at the McGill Senate, one of Oke’s primary tasks is to encourage student voices to be heard, and she does so admirably.
Illustrations by Winnie Lin.
This article has been updated to better reflect Tojiboeva's relationship to the Student Life portfolio.