SSMU executive interviews

SSMUExec_Courtney_LACourtney Ayukawa, President

What have you done this summer?

I’ve been getting used to my role and the responsibilities and getting to know SSMU really well. I’ve also worked with our human resources advisor to draft and implement a Mental Health Policy for our permanent staff, which is really exciting.

[Furthermore,] the sustainability coordinator position was cut [last year]. Our policy really relies on this position, so in my mind this policy is out of date. I’ve initiated a research project on sustainability with our Political Attaché, Julien Benoît [….] He is making a “best practices” document and is looking into sustainability structures at other universities. I want there to be research done and a report made that recommends changes that can be made in the policy.

What concrete goals do you have?

I do hope for the University Building Fee to pass this year. Last year, I didn’t feel like students were able to make an informed decision because of the lack of a “yes” committee, the lack of a campaign and the lack of general awareness [raised] around this question. Now we are running it a second time. We’re going to be putting out information that is going to be quite neutral about the effects of having this fee and not having this fee. Hopefully with that, people will  [make] an informed decision.

When people get this information, if there is still backlash, I think it’s valid and people can feel unhappy that they need to pay more, since tuition and everything else is already so costly. But I think it’s important for people to realise that without this fee, SSMU’s financial situation is so unstable.

[As well,] SSMU is currently being audited [and] once our audited financial statements are complete, they get presented to the executives and that information is made public on the website—I think that is something that could be better publicized.

What obstacles do you foresee?

I really want [the sustainability policy] to be founded in intense surveying and consultation of all students on campus, not just small communities. Getting that feedback can sometimes be really challenging. Last year, Katie [Larson, former SSMU president] brought a motion to make an ad-hoc committee on sustainability, which I’d like to continue this year.

SSMUexec_david(?)_NEAL.onlineDaniel Chaim, VP Internal Affairs

What have you done this summer?

I was working on frosh and orientation week, and I used what I knew from having planned frosh in the past to start afresh and take notice of everything I needed to do for frosh this year. All in all, it was a good experience and I’ve learned a lot.

What concrete goals do you have?

My coordinators and I took it upon ourselves to collaborate with all the [faculty] froshes a lot more, to try to facilitate them talking to each other and working with each other.  It’s also really helped out smaller faculties, [such as] Music, which for the first time, are coming to beach day and the concert. Mac Campus is [also] going to be much more involved in frosh this year, they’re coming to beach day and the concert as well.

We also created a new task force—the community relations taskforce. We came up with a commitment to the Milton-Parc area and the community of Montreal. We met the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee (MPCC) and discussed how we could make the community more safe and liveable. We made a commitment to also supply street teams to the area, who tried to quiet noise, make sure people weren’t drinking in the streets, and diffuse situations that could be potentially harmful.

What obstacles do you foresee?

Without having a frosh budget from last year that was actually concrete, it was difficult for us to make a budget. I’m really hoping that there’s no deficit this year, but I think it’s really important to understand that when you run an event and you’re scheduled to break even, you’re never going to break even. You may make a bit of money and lose a bit of money, but it’s very naïve to think that you’re going to get exactly zero. We have been budgeting cautiously, and looking at last year’s expenses.

What other aspects of your portfolio are you working on?

McGill has created an app, which we hope to immigrate our SSMU calendar idea into. The event organizers from all the faculty associations have also offered their support in making one centralized app for all the events, especially with a singular ticket buying feature.  

We are raising the prices for Four Floors—I believe we’re going up to $20 from $15. There’s a massive demand for 4Floors tickets and the increased price will go towards increased security costs, maybe getting better entertainment [and]  hiring better sound equipment and lighting.

SSMUexec_stephan_LA.onlineStefan Fong, VP Clubs & Services

What have you done this summer?

[In] June I threw myself into my research project, which is phase one of the Club Hub.  I’ve been calling universities across Canada to chat about clubs and to see if there are any common issues that [SSMU deals] with and what solutions they have for those problems and […] if those solutions would work over here in our club structure.

I also went to the [Student Union Development Clinic] Summit, It was a gathering of executives across Canada to talk about voter turnout, sustainability […] and a lot of really cool things.

I’ve been training my staff which has been really fun. This year we have not one but two Activities Night coordinators. It’s too much of a job for one person to deal with so I had to hire somebody else so that we could have more coverage, more planning, a smoother event. They’re now more responsible for Rez Activities Night, as well.

What concrete goals do you have?

It’s the 50th year of the [Shatner] building. I’m working on a full building renovation plan for the next 10 years. It depends on how and when we get the money to pay for it. We had a lot of projects that were pending because the lease had been pending and without an actual lease its very hard to plan ahead. Now that we have a lease we can start doing that. We’ve struck a subcommittee of our building committee to discuss the future of the Shatner Building and what we want to do with it.

What obstacles do you foresee?

[The co-curriculum record] is the university’s attempt to recognize extracurriculars on campus for students and translate that into [an] actual non-academic transcript. You would be able to print it out as a transcript that has the official McGill signature […] to show to your employers. I definitely think that would be insanely valuable for students.

The problem is that there are a lot of legal considerations, so the university has purchased an off-the-shelf called myInvolvement. It is by a company called Collegiate Link, which has issues with data storage. We also have issues with administration not being separated between McGill and SSMU, so if we put all of our information there then [McGill] has access to all of our groups and their finances, and [SSMU] has access to all of [McGill’s] groups and finances. So there are a lot of legal jurisdictional issues that need to be worked out.

SSMUexec_amina_LA_onlineAmina Moustaqim-Barrette, VP External Affairs

What have you done this summer?

The summer has been great. After training, it was a bit of a learning curve, just getting used to the office and all that. I think we have all hit our strides now, and it has been really good. I have been preparing for September—a lot of event planning, a lot of meeting with other student unions, trying to figure out now that we are independent, how lobbying is going to look like. So it has been a lot of travelling around, meeting other people, and having that conversation, making those connections.

For community events, I have been planning Community Engagement Day (CED) events and I have been working with [VP Internal Daniel Chaim] a lot to make Frosh as community-friendly as possible. I have been meeting with the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee [MPCC ….] We have fostered a really good relationship over the summer [….] We are going to have street teams this year, which will hopefully work out well.

I have [also] been planning a lot of campaign events, we are having a couple of big events in September for Divest McGill [….] Usually there is an annual campaign where all the student associations get together behind one cause and campaign around it, and I think the talk has been that the annual campaign this year is going to be around climate change.

It has been a lot of communicating with different organizations and getting that all together [….] It has been a lot of stuff, a lot more than I thought it would be […] but it’s been good.

What obstacles do you foresee?

I think it will get really busy, and I guess, with my position, the nature of my job is being prepared for whatever happens. If the government throws out a policy that is not good for students, then [my job] is reactive. I see that being challenging. It is an interesting balance between being reactive and proactive. In the past, [the portfolio] has been especially reactive […] but I really want to foster this culture of politics and political awareness at McGill, and I want to really be proactive in that.

Last year, SSMU voted to disassociate from Table de Concertation Étudiants du Québec (TaCEQ). Can you tell us a little about that process, and how you have been involved in consolidating SSMU’s voice after that?

It all happened really quickly. This summer I have been working really hard on assessing what the situation is now, and what I have been doing is writing a report on our current situation so that in September, we can move forward with something. I have been meeting with different student federations, going to the Fédération Étudiants  Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) conferences, meeting with Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSE) executives […] talking to them about their affiliations, how they like it, and what they do not like about it.

Basically I am putting this in one report for council […] and I will have a better idea, or at least get a suggestion of what SSMU should do, or what is inadvisable and advisable. I definitely want to have some kind of consultative process in which I sit down with students and ask them what they see SSMU’s affiliations with different federations to be, because I think students do have opinions on CFS, FEUQ, [and  other student federations].

SSMUExec.claire_online_LAClaire Stewart-Kanigan

What have you done this summer?

The first annual cross campus mental health week is being planned [….I] consulted with the student groups who made the original plan [to change the week to November] and we decided together to enhance cross-campus collaboration.

There’s [also] been a lot of work done on the sexual assault policy. Myself and the working group that developed the policy proposal last winter have been meeting regularly throughout the summer time to develop a draft of the policy.

What concrete goals do you have?

The annual Dean of Students Forum on Safer Space discussed in the Media Relations Office (MRO) has been replaced by a week-long Consent Campaign planned for October. Multiple student groups, such as the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students’ Society (SACOMSS) and SSMU […] Rez Life, and Healthy McGill, are currently involved in planning the week under the leadership of the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) [….] The SARC has consistently focused on actively including students in developing her projects, and with such strong multi-level campus collaboration, I am confident it will be a strong first year for the campaign.

What obstacles do you foresee?

The next step is taking the [sexual assault] policy [draft] that we have and meeting with the Dean of Students to get his feedback [and then] take that back to the working group. I anticipate that that kind of cycle is going to go on for a while. It’s going to depend on the level of resistance that we encounter from higher-ups. One of the largest arguments that we run into is the fact that there is already a sexual harassment policy, so why do we need a sexual assault policy [….] There are a lot of things that are lacking in the harassment policy that warrant an additional policy.

What new initiatives have you taken on as VP UA?

The working group of the Subcommittee for the Equity for First Peoples last year that I was a part of [and I are] developing a traditional territory acknowledgment policy that we’re hoping to see adopted by the university. Many peer institutions in Canada have similar policies and practices whereby the traditional territory of the land on which the university is situated is announced or acknowledged at the beginning of many major presentations or major events.

I’ve [also] been co-planning […with] the Indigenous education coordinator […] a panel for Indigenous Awareness Week discussing community accountability within Indigenous studies programs.

kathleen.jshen.onlineKathleen Bradley, VP Finance & Operations

What have you done this summer?

Right now I am working on a couple of bylaw revisions to restructure the [club] funding structure for funding committee, which was something I was intending to work on for my platform. So we are looking at working on an advanced schedule semesterly for funding. Applications for theWinter semester would be reviewed in the Fall, for example, and then have instalment funding, so groups would get a percentage of their funding approved at the beginning of the semester and they’d get the remainder once they’ve submitted their receipts, because right now there’s no accountability for funding, so we’re often overfunding groups and not sure where the money’s going.

I’ve also been doing a lot of hiring, just finalizing the Financial Ethics Research Committee (FERC) hiring positions, so I’m working on an Ethical Purchasing Policy this year, which will largely be the role of the ethical purchasing commissioner position.

I’ve also been helping the mini-courses personnel; they’re getting ready for the registration starting in September, so I’ve been working on room bookings, budget stuff, getting their promotional material organized for frosh, and just making sure they have the necessary resources they need.

Lots of people just email me because they have no idea how student accounts and student billing works at McGill, so I’m sort of their main touch point with Student Accounts and navigating Minerva if they can’t get in touch with someone at student accounts. I also [receive] a lot of questions about ASEQ, the health and dental plan, from incoming students and their parents, so lots of answering emails and problem solving.

What obstacles do you foresee?

[The budget limitation from the lack of the building fee] hasn’t been hard for me because I don’t really use the budget, I make the budget [….] It hasn’t really affected my budget revision—having or not having a lot of money doesn’t really affect that process, it’s just what you can do with that money.

[The reduced building hours are] already operating. We’re currently working with similar building hours for September but if the building fee question doesn’t pass there will be no access to the building past 5 or 7 p.m. on weekdays or [at all] on weekends, which is really limiting to a lot of our clubs and services, as a lot of them need the space in the evening and weekend hours.

What concrete goals do you have?

Our divestment has pretty much reached the maximum as what we can primarily divest from, so my platform was to switch to the financial ethics research commissioner’s portfolio, [and] to focus more on the ethical purchasing of SSMU, which is an equal part of the FERC. In previous years it was more focused on divestment, but as I said we’ve reached the limit for how much we can divest without eliminating the purpose of the investment portfolio, which is ultimately to generate interest for SSMU’s operating budget. We’ve currently divested from all primary activities related to tar sands and environmental humanitarian concerns, and there is not a very good reason to divest from secondary resources, because that is pretty much the entire investment portfolio. Once the [commissioner] position is filled, we’ll be working on an ethical purchasing policy and strategy for SSMU to be selecting ethical suppliers and purchasers we can use for major things like napkins, coffee cups, t-shirts, things  that we use on a year-to-year basis, to ensure that we are a leader in ethical purchasing.

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