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SSMU Candidate Interviews



How will your past experience influence your approach to the presidential portfolio? I have always been looking at the basic student services that affect the majority of people. So in the Physics Society, I knew that the math department had a really functional help desk that lots of students use and I didn’t understand why physics didn’t have a similar service, so I just wanted to start something similar for the physics people, and I did. The next thing I did was organizing a career fair. Just the basic services that I would expect to see. That was a great experience where I learned a lot about leadership, motivating people, how to deal with administration and bureaucracy. What do you plan to do about the GA?I think that it is extremely important that [students] are discussing things like Israel and Palestine and I think it is important that they have a forum for discussion. However, I do not think that McGill University as a whole should be taking a stance on issues like these, and if that is what it comes down to it should not be with three per cent of the population. I really don’t think that it has a place in the GA. I would like to have [the GA] in the gym and I would increase attendance by physically going and speaking with the departments to tell them ‘Hey there is a general assembly coming up in a month.’ What issues would you seek to advance on BoG and how would you work with other board members to accomplish them? I would like to see a big increase in approaching other private and industrial sectors to give bursaries and scholarships to the students because they have a lot of money … there are private sectors and industries that are interested in this because if they are going to succeed they are going to need the best people working for them. I would also like to push for transparency. What has SSMU done right this year and what would you do differently? They realized that they had to shut down Haven Books, which was extremely good. I think that it’s good that they did the energy audits. They did do a really good job with Gert’s compared to previous years but I still think that it can be improved a lot. I also think that one of the main things they have not done is address basic student services that you would expect to find at a University. It also only costs pennies per semester to have a 24-hour library service. We are at one of the top universities in the world, many other universities already have this service. It is very successful and so why we don’t have it is an extremely good question, especially because it costs virtually nothing. They have not addressed basic things that affect everybody everyday. If you were a type of cocktail, what would you be? Wow, that’s a tough one…sex on the beach?



How will your past experience influence your approach to the presidential portfolio?Well, one of the things I try to market about myself is that I have a diverse set of experiences. I’ve worked for the Tribune for four years. Writing news stories requires that you have an objective, impartial point of view when you’re trying to cover something. As a SSMU President it’s really important to stimulate debate, to open up discussion, and to try and encourage others to have flexible mindsets. I’m also the president of the McGill Computer Taskforce – it’s a large student-run organization within the [Science Undergraduate Society.]

What would you do to change the General Assembly?I really want to change the GA. I’ve read the editorials by the Tribune and by the Daily, and there seems to be a consensus that the current GA model doesn’t work. I want to reform the GA so that instead of holding a GA once per semester, I want to only hold it when student debate and consultation is required. I want the GA to be televised – hopefully by TVMcGill, if their referendum question passes, and they gain access to more equipment – and made into a two-part process. First, students would debate and amend motions at a GA, then after the GA has been televised and students have had a chance to watch it, the entire student body would be able to vote on the motions online.

What would be your main concerns and areas of focus during the Memorandum of Agreement negotiations with the administration?Outside of securing an acceptable, student-friendly lease for the Shatner Building, I really want to look at the potentially restrictive language surrounding student-run initiatives. Haven Books is a perfect example – $200,000 of debt in three years – and that was largely the result of not being able to advertise on campus or on SSMU Listservs.

How much of a voice do you think the president can have on the Board of Governors, and what are your plans to advance student concerns there?For undergraduates, the president is the only student representative on the BoG, so it’s imperative that the president fights for his or her constituency’s interests. At the same time, there’s a possibility of being intimidated during his or her first time at the BoG, because there are a number of high-profile administrators and businessmen that sit on the BoG. And in order for a president in his or her twenties to be taken seriously, she needs to speak professionally and convey student interests without antagonizing the rest of the members of the BoG.

What cocktail would you be?A martini, because James Bond drinks those bad boys.



How will your past experience influence your approach to the presidential portfolio?I have served as the speaker of Council both for SSMU and for EUS, so I have a great knowledge of the various faculty associations that exist on campus. I am also currently the president of Hillel Montreal, and I was the president of one of the largest North American youth movements and then the chair of an international youth movement that held conferences focussing on leadership development and social justice all across the world.

How would you address the issues surrounding the General Assembly?It’s silly for us to pretend that the GA is a democratic forum if you cannot fit five per cent of your student society in the room. There was a great idea to provide an opportunity to debate questions, and to release video and sound clips from that particular debate online. And to have the vote online so students can hear about both the pros and cons of a particular resolution as well as the opportunity to engage in direct democracy.

What would be the main things you push for in the MoA renegotiations?Some very important things should be fought for in the MoA agreement, such as the right to use the McGill logo and the name. [Also important are the] continued use of phone lines, emails, and website domains, as well as ensuring that the Students’ Society is able to operate independently and successfully.

What do you think you could practically accomplish on the Board of Governors, and how would you work with other members of the board to advance student concerns?It’s extremely important that we represent the interests of our students and as president I will certainly represent interests that are important to our students. I’ve indicated in my platform that something I’m interested in doing is increasing accessibility – providing an opportunity for students to be represented fairly and adequately.

What has SSMU done right this year and what would you look to do differently?I think that SSMU has done a great job at revitalizing Gert’s, making it a student bar that is held in high regard by many of our students which is something that has not been in recent history. As president I would be implementing a vision, helping our team be successful. My vision is that we build community together, and we can do so by empowering student
athletes. Athletics is something apolitical everyone can rally around and celebrate the McGill name. Let’s create a student society that we are proud of and this is one of the opportunities in which we could bring people together.

If you were a mixed drink, what would you be?I would be a Jäger Bomb: something that is both tasty and delicious and gets you drunk real fast.



How will your past experience with SSMU influence your approach to the presidential portfolio?One of the things that the president needs to do is to always have a really strong institutional memory. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to have been previously directly involved in order to president, but I think you have to have strong sense of SSMU, its history and how it functions, as well as McGill and how it functions. My experience has been firmly planted in all aspects of both SSMU and McGill. I think the relationships I’ve built with the administration, with other councillors, and with people on campus will help me to pursue the best interests of students.

What do you intend to do about General Assemblies?I think it’s an incredibly important institution, and I’m not ready to give up on it yet. I also recognize that, as the president, I’m not the only person with the answers about what GA reform would look like. There are so many options for what we could do to make the GA a better system.

What would be your main priorities in the Memorandum of Agreement negotiations with McGill?One of the biggest things is that the MoA and the lease are tied together. I’d like to see them separate. However, I don’t know if that will be possible. I haven’t been in our previous discussions about the MoA with the administration. What I’d like to see is more security from the administration [with respect to the Shatner Building], whether that’s a longer lease or taking over the utilities. I think the administration needs to give up more security so that we feel comfortable putting more money into it so that the building is best functioning for students.

As the only undergraduate voice on the Board of Governors, how would you work with other members to advance student concerns?I think my experience on Senate has given me a lot of [experience working with administrators]. I have no problem standing strong on student concerns. But I also know how important it is to be collaborative, to be respectful, to recognize that fundamentally we both want student life on McGill’s campus to be as strong as possible. Sometimes we just have different ideas about what that means.

What has SSMU done right this year, and what would you do differently?This year, the executive has been exceptionally strong. I’m impressed with them on a constant basis. I think Council has been weak this year. I’m still thinking about how I would try to stimulate more discussion and make it more accessible to non-councillors. I really think it’s been a strong year for SSMU and I’m looking forward to building off of it.

If you were a mixed drink, what type would you be?I think I would probably be a brown cow, because milk’s really good for you. You really could probably have it any time of day and be just fine.

Correction: Zach Newburgh was originally quoted as saying he was the AUS speaker of council. In fact, he is the EUS speaker of council.

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