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According the Vice-President (VP) Internal portfolio, the role of the VP Internal is to act as the chief programming and communications officer for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). This person promotes student interests at the executive level, engages students in various ways, including through the hosting of events, and is the primary point of contact between students and SSMU. The Tribune endorses a “No” vote for Alexei Simakov’s candidacy for the Vice-President (VP) Internal position because of a clear disregard for its core tenets.
Simakov’s desire to promote change within SSMU and speak on behalf of students whose voices aren’t heard—evidenced by his tenacious campaigning for a position within the SSMU executive—is laudable. A large portion of the student body is dissatisfied with SSMU as an institution. However, his continued efforts to join the SSMU executive team in any capacity show that his intentions do not lie in fulfilling the duties of the VP Internal as laid out by the executive contract. Instead, his platform features a preponderant focus on issues outside of the scope of the VP Internal position, such as reforming SSMU’s electoral system and the promotion of free speech on campus.
Reforming SSMU elections is necessary to improve the democratic process and representing the best interests of all students; however, successfully enacting change would require a large amount of time and coordinated efforts which are not the priority of the VP Internal. Working on electoral reform as VP Internal would detract from his ability to perform the duties which are mandated within his contract.
If elected, Simakov intends to limit his focus on event planning, favouring the delegation of these responsibilities to event coordinators. The VP Internal is responsible for planning events such as Orientation Week and 4Floors. While these events have already occurred this school year, he has not demonstrated that he will lay the groundwork for the next VP Internal during his extremely short term in office.
Simakov has stated that he doesn’t believe that listservs, one of the main responsibilities of the VP Internal, and the primary communication method of SSMU, are effective at engaging students; however, his suggestions for how SSMU can communicate important information to the general student body who remain disengaged with campus politics are lacking.
The VP Internal also has the responsibility of coordinating the meetings of the Commission des Affaires Francophones, which serves an important role in promoting the use of French language on campus. Simakov has justified a lack of attention to this aspect of the portfolio by citing the fact that no one has raised the relative invisibility of Francophone affairs as an issue to him directly. This mindset ignores the responsibility that he would hold as VP Internal to oversee this issue and determine how the visibility of French on campus could be improved.
Delegating tasks will not meet the needs of the portfolio. Student staff who are not executives are restricted to a certain amount of hours, and hiring more staff is an arduous process. Simakov has stated that the current efforts by SSMU to oversee and implement equity and inclusivity are sufficient without articulating how he envisions his own role within that process. In short, Simakov will have to fulfill aspects of the VP Internal position that he is currently assuming he will be able to delegate.
The only pillar of his platform that directly touches on the position’s responsibilities—reforming the funding structure of the Old McGill Yearbook—is largely borrowed from the plebiscite question in the Fall 2015 referendum period. During our interview with Simakov he was unaware that his plan and the plan proposed in the plebiscite had an opt-outable fee, one feature he said differentiated his plan from the plebiscite.
At the end of the day students are voting for the next VP Internal. With this position comes certain duties; shirking these core responsibilities under the guise of limiting micromanagement, and instead favouring other projects, defeats the purpose of filling the position.