The McGill Tribune Editorial Board reviews the 2015-2016 SSMU executive on its performance. Although these blurbs intend to review the executives' entire term not all information received regarding each executive was published due to space constraints in the paper.
The Tribune reached out to all SSMU councillors for anonymous feedback on the executives and received four responses from 30 councillors. Councillors were asked to give a score from 1-10 about how they perceive the executives have performed. The Editorial Board also gave each executive a score from 1-10 based on how we felt the executives performed. The grades are an average of the feedback from councillors and the Editorial Board's assessment of how each of the executives performed. The grades were converted from a percentage into a letter grade based on the McGill grading system. Under this grading scale a "C" is a passing grade that meets expectations, a "B" exceeds expectations, and an "A" refers to an outstanding performance.
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As President of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), Kareem Ibrahim has made great strides in behind-the-scenes work which assured that SSMU could function successfully, cohesively, and inclusively. He organized the largest General Assembly in the past 30 years, spearheaded an overhaul of the Constitution, re-established the First Year Undergraduate Network, contributed to the Executive Restructuring Project, as well as collaborated to draft both a Family Care Policy and a Human Resource policy.
Despite Ibrahim’s accomplishments, his performance suffered from his lack of visibility and student engagement throughout the year. Aside from #McGill24—a one-day challenge aimed to unite students, alumni, and staff—and Centraide he was generally absent from the public eye . This may be a reason that much of his accomplishments have gone unnoticed, and some students feel disconnected from SSMU.
On the other hand, Ibrahim can be commended for ensuring SSMU’s sustainability and smooth sailing throughout the year despite many resignations. For example, Ibrahim managed the SSMU Daycare in the absence of its manager, oversaw the election for VP Internal in the second term, and developed a transition report for incoming SSMU presidents in order to ensure smooth integration into the position. SSMU did not fall apart this year and he should be commended for his leadSSMU stayed afloat.
VP Finance and Operations, Zacheriah Houston: 8.50/10 = A
As the last VP Finance and Operations, Houston worked hard to increase the institutional memory of both his position and numerous committees that his office oversaw. This included his management of the digitization of the Funding Committee’s application records as well as the revision of their by-laws. Houston also helped to create the Ad-Hoc Health and Dental Review Committee, which resulted in the approval of a referendum question adding mental health coverage to the SSMU insurance plan. The committee, now a permanent part of council, will continue to be involved in consultative efforts with students in order to improve SSMU’s Health and Dental Plan.
Houston excelled in the financial part of his portfolio; he created a clear budget that was easily digestible and improved the overall transparency of SSMU by being readily available to answer students’ questions. However, the Operations side of Houston’s portfolio was noticeably neglected, evidenced by the fact that the Student-Run Café (SRC) remains unnamed. Instead, Houston took on the additional tasks of negotiating SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement with McGill, an ongoing project that will be passed on to the next group of SSMU executives.
VP Clubs and Services, Kimber Bialik: 8.63/10 = A
This has been an extremely tumultuous academic year for SSMU, with multiple resignations and a myriad of organizational problems that came as a result of this instability. Despite this, Bialik has excelled in her role as VP Clubs and Services.
Following the resignation of the general manager in the Fall and the absence of the building director due to paternity leave, Bialik was forced to assume many extra duties. In many aspects she has gone above and beyond her portfolio. One of Bialik’s greatest accomplishments was the creation of a Club Fund Fee, which should create a more sustainable funding structure for SSMU’s clubs. Additionally, she was able to reevaluate the sustainability of the building and created an ad-hoc Space Committee to address issues surrounding the long-term vision of space within the Shatner University Centre.
Bialik’s plan to reorganize club space on the fourth floor of the SSMU Building was met at the time with resistance, and some clubs have not yet moved out of their former offices spaces. Despite this, Bialik has maintained positive relationships with SSMU’s many clubs; however, her work on the Independent Student Groups section of her portfolio has been lacking. Overall, Bialik has had an extremely successful year.
VP University Affairs, Chloe Rourke: 7.87/10 B+
Rourke has been a strong advocate for students at the university level. Unlike the other executive portfolios, the majority of the VP University Affairs position is involved in long-term policy changes for the entire university. As the sole link between SSMU and the upper administration, Rourke has made progress on various components of her portfolio, including sexual assault (although the new policy is not yet complete), mental health, and equity. She has consistently lobbied against the university’s position on tuition deregulation, made strides in working towards a Fall semester reading week, and was involved in the development of the SSMU Happy Lights Lending Program.
According to councillors, Rourke has done well in making headway with the Smoking on Campus Working Group and in her work as a representative on the Senate. Despite various hurdles faced by SSMU over this year, Rourke has moved forward in several policy areas. Her assistance in the review of the wellness strategy, as well as her work with Student Services, were particularly popular with councillors, as was her work in negotiating on mental health policy with McGill.
Although Rourke has done well to balance the various aspects of her portfolio, there were delays in improving the visibility of her portfolio. A website platform, which was begun during this year, will not be launched until Fall 2016.
Omar El-Sharawy, VP Internal: 6.13/10 = C+
VP Internal Omar El-Sharawy came into the position in the middle of the year after the previous VP Internal resigned in October. With his late start, El-Sharawy did not have much of an opportunity to shake up the position but nonetheless made some improvements.
After taking input from students, El-Sharawy revamped the weekly SSMU listserv to make it less robotic and more visual. He added features such as a location of the week and a club spotlight. Since he started in January, El-Sharawy had to rush to plan Faculty Olympics, which this year had the highest number of participants in its history. He added more academic and athletic events and a trip to Beach Club, but reviews from participants were mixed. El-Sharawy has done a good job of adding more new non-drinking events, including an upcoming talk with US ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman.
Overall, El-Sharawy did an adequate job of keeping the position functional and taking care of the roles in his portfolio, admirable given his limited time in office.
VP External, Emily Boytinck: 7.75/10 = B+
Boytinck has put in an impressive amount of work this year into the two new provincial student federations, Association pour la Voix Étudiante au Québec (AVEQ) and the Union Étudiante du Québec (UEQ). Although the motion to associate with AVEQ did not pass. Boytinck went to all of the student faculty association councils to advocate for joining student federations and was very committed to the motion’s passing. It was through issues misrepresented by the “No to AVEQ” committee that the motion did not pass and is through no fault of Boytinck herself.
Some aspects of her portfolio were neglected in comparision, such as Milton Parc community engagement and the Francophone Affairs Committee. Francophone Affairs were particularly overlooked by Boytinck. She put most of her energy into student federation-related work and has had little to say on the matter other than she has worked on improving her French language skills.
During her time as VP External she has straddled line between furthering her own beliefs and causes that she is mandated to support by SSMU Council. This has been apparrent on issues such as the Motion to Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) and divestment from fossil fuels.
By being so present and active, however, she has changed how the VP External position is viewed overall. Her consistent passion in addressing relevant social issues has made the position much more visible to students.
This article has been updated to add further detail to the grading process