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SSMU executive candidates debate safety and accessibility

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) hosted the 2021-2022 SSMU Executive Candidates’ Debate virtually on March 15. After presenting their platforms, the candidates answered questions from current SSMU executives, the SSMUnion, and attendees. Four of the six executive positions, Vice-President (VP) Student Life, VP Finance, VP Internal, and VP External, are uncontested. Three candidates are running for SSMU President, and two candidates are competing for VP University Affairs. Safety, accessibility, and inclusivity were among the major themes that emerged from the candidates’ discussion.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, presidential candidate Mark Morrison, U2 Science, was unable to participate in the debate against opponents Jake Reed, U2 Engineering, and Darshan Daryanani, U3 Arts. The majority of the questions directed at Daryanani inquired about how his platform differs from current President Jemark Earle’s five-year plan. Daryanani stated that he intends to continue the work done by previous SSMU executives.

“I have acknowledged the tremendous labor that past and current executives have put in,” Daryanani said. “In no way am I trying to take credit for the work of these hard-working individuals. In fact, I am looking for their trust and support to continue to provide the long-term support that the Society needs.”

Reed shared their ideas on expanding the president portfolio’s advocacy role.

“Being able to plan on a long-term basis heavily plays into the advocacy portfolio,” Reed said. “I hope to work closely with the VP External to implement specific changes, such as the expansion of an external affairs and advocacy database, [and expand] roles in the portfolio that have to do with advocacy both in the External portfolio and the president’s outward-facing portfolio.”

With the university administration’s recent announcement of a return to in-person activities for the Fall 2021 semester, many candidates shared their plans for a smooth transition back to campus. Claire Downie, U3 Arts and VP University Affairs candidate, highlighted how she will ensure that McGill upholds COVID-19 safety protocols. 

“I would love to add a component of ‘Know Your COVID Rights and Responsibilities’ into the existing Know Your Rights Campaign that the [University Affairs] portfolio does every fall,” Downie said. “You have the right to an environment where your professors are wearing masks. You have a right to be in a room that is a safe size [….] I do not feel there is room for compromise on this.”

VP University Affairs candidate Neel Soman, U3 Arts, shared Downie’s concerns regarding the return to campus and emphasized the importance of having a system for reporting unsafe behaviour or conditions.

“My number one priority on this front is to make a very clear document that is accessible to everyone with lists of what the regulations are, how we can change them, and who [students] can talk to,” Soman said.

VP Internal candidate Sarah Paulin, U1 Arts, talked about using social media and linktree to share SSMU information and rebrand the Society as a place of inclusivity and transparency. Paulin, along with VP External candidate Sacha Delouvrier, U2 Arts, and VP Finance candidate Éric Sader, U3 Arts, stressed the importance of prioritizing francophone affairs. If elected, Delouvrier and Sader look to translate both the finance and external portfolios to ensure French alternatives of documentation.

VP Student Life candidate Karla Heisele Cubille, U2 Arts, closed the evening detailing her ideas for improved mental health services, alternative and accessible child care services for student parents, and the establishment of certifiable workshops to enhance student resumes. 

“From my personal experience, I know the people that go to [existing] workshops don’t pay attention because there is not much interaction,” Cubille said. “I really wanted to have this platform so everyone can access these workshops and actually use them [for] their future development.”

SSMU constituents are able to cast their votes for the 2021-2022 executive election and the Winter Referendum between March 16-19 at this link.


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