At the end of each semester, the Tribune assesses SSMU executives based on their progress, engagement at SSMU Council, and presence at public events. Overall, we have found this year’s executives generally uncommunicative with the media. Additionally, SSMU Council documents are not often made publicly available in a timely fashion. Since both communication with student media and online documentation are important methods that allow students to keep executives accountable, we urge executives to address these issues in the Winter semester.
Katie Larson – President
Larson’s tenure so far has met tangible milestones, such as passing the new constitution. We hope that her work on the lease negotiations—which have taken almost four years and a considerable toll on the SSMU budget—will translate into a fair lease for both SSMU and McGill.
Although Larson organized a well-executed GA in October, SSMU’s lack of initiative in promoting the event resulted in poor attendance. However, the success of quorum at the Special GA demonstrated that participation can be achieved when its importance is effectively communicated to students. We encourage Larson to use the strategies behind this success to seek greater student engagement next semester.
Sustainability is another important part of the president’s portfolio, and we hope Larson will find ways to continue sustainability work at SSMU, given that the position of sustainability co-ordinator was cut from the budget for this year.
Larson has acknowledged that her communication skills, especially through email, need improvement. We feel that increased communication will enable us to provide better reporting on issues important to students in the new year.
While we recognize that the job of SSMU President is often thankless, Larson has also rarely shown enthusiasm regarding her work at Council or other public events. At a university where student apathy is a recurring issue, it is important for the student president to take the lead in showing disengaged students why they should care.
Joey Shea – VP University Affairs
It has been a busy year for Shea’s portfolio, with mental health initiatives and the sexual harassment policy at the forefront of campus conversation. The administration’s recently announced plan to coordinate forums on sexual harassment and the role of a university presents an exciting opportunity to reform McGill’s policy and open a wider discussion at McGill. We look forward to her leadership in this area next semester.
Additionally, Shea has been active in discussions on mental health at different levels in the university.
Shea also successfully organized a town hall on libraries this semester and worked in partnership with the VP Internal Affairs to create an “appropriate costumes campaign” that prevented the use of blackface and other racist and culturally insensitive appropriations at SSMU events.
We applaud Shea for her willingness to facilitate communication when necessary.
Stefan Fong – VP Clubs & Services
Fong’s portfolio involves the highly administrative task of managing the SSMU Building with the General Manager, Pauline Gervais, as well as sitting in the Board of CKUT—McGill’s campus-community radio station—and the SSMU Daycare.
One successful initiative by Fong this semester was the implementation of a time period during which internal SSMU groups have priority over external groups in room booking. However, some club leaders have been concerned by an erratic communication system, with emails sent often too close to upcoming deadlines.
Next semester, we hope Fong will be able to put out the long-awaited guides on how to run a club and continue working towards his campaign promise of ensuring that clubs have easy access to financial and administrative information.
Tyler Hofmeister – VP Finance & Operations
Although Hofmeister ultimately succeeded in balancing the budget for this year, this resulted in the removal of two positions: the sustainability coordinator and the political attaché, two important positions in SSMU’s mandate.
Additionally, Hofmeister has been consistently reluctant to explain details of the budget. Communication with him is difficult, as he does not grant in-person interviews and is largely unresponsive via email. Lack of communication with student press appears to be indicative of larger issues of transparency. Councillors have complained publicly that he is disorganized. Looking forward, we hope to see Hofmeister make an effort to improve communication and promote transparency regarding his portfolio.
The Student-Run Café (SRC) is a major part of the VP Finance and Operations’ portfolio, and it appears to be well on track to open in January. After years of discussion, we’re excited to see this project materialize. However, questions have been raised regarding the transparency of the project, as students were not made aware of the project’s progress until three months before its implementation. Furthermore, the positions of SRC manager and head chef were already filled before the project was announced to students.
Brian Farnan – VP Internal Affairs
In terms of communication, Farnan succeeded at creating a Communications Guide and Strategy for SSMU, which has been followed by timely and regular listservs—a much-needed improvement from last year. Although the implementation of “Soapbox” in the SSMU website is promising, so far it has scarcely been advertised.
The 4Floors Halloween party was well-organized and did not run into major issues this year. We commend Farnan for his work with the equity commissioners to take active steps in promoting appropriate costumes and preventing situations like last year’s presence of blackface at the party.
A main component of Farnan’s portfolio involves the organization of frosh. Although this year’s frosh successfully provided more alcohol-free alternatives, the overall event saw a $21,000 loss in student funds due to avoidable budgeting issues. We urge Farnan to take advantage of the accounting department within SSMU when planning similar large-scale events next semester.
Sam Harris – VP External Affairs
The most contentious event in Quebec politics this semester is undoubtedly the proposed Quebec Charter of Values. While SSMU Council took a stance against this issue, we would have liked to see Harris use this bill to encourage attendance at the first General Assembly of the semester.
SSMU’s student federation TaCEQ has been interesting to watch this semester, particularly as REMDUS—a coalition of University of Sherbrooke students—is holding a referendum on whether they want to remain a member of the student federation. If this vote passes, this may be an important chance for SSMU to reconsider the benefits of being a part of this student association. We hope that Harris will spearhead a critical discussion of the implications of staying or leaving, and ensure that students know and understand what TaCEQ is, its financial cost for students, and its role in the province.
In terms of outreach to the wider community, Harris has continued ongoing events like Community Engagement Day and street teams during frosh to promote communication and awareness of the interconnectedness of the community. We look forward to seeing what new initiatives he can come up with in this aspect of the portfolio for next semester.
Harris and SSMU had very little to do with community engagement day. It was organized and run by the hardworking staff at SEDE. Saying that he “continued” implies it wouldn’t happen without him.
This is weak and poorly written.
Glad I’m not the only one that noticed that Larson lacks the passion of her predecessors. Still, you guys could have been harsher on Fong, Farnan and Harris.
DISCLAIMER*: These are my thoughts and I acknowledge that some may disagree. I would love to respond to posted rebuttals and comments.
Although the McGill Tribune holds the right to review the SSMU Executives as they see fit, this article lacks too much information and depth for a proper evaluation. Sure, some may think that these evaluations are fair; however, there seems to be a greater emphasis on communication with publications than output for the Society. I do understand that it must be frustrating at times–as it is for some Councilors–especially when these things are to be communicated to constituents and to the Society as a whole. However, lack of communication is hardly enough to discredit the work of these individuals. (I am not saying that the entire review revolves around efficiency in communication. However, it is the only consistent factor that is in this article, given the lack of concrete information.)
To speak on what could have been added, here are a few thoughts:
1) Regarding the Constitution, I think that more could have been said as to what changes were made by President Larson over the summer and why it was important to pass the Constitution. The Constitution was also worked on last year by the Ad-Hoc By-Law Review Committee under the previous President, Josh Redel. As for her not being “passionate” about her duties, I personally think that is a misrepresentation and is not necessarily relevant to her role. As we know, passion alone is hardly a good indicator of output. I do recognize that President Larson’s attitude may come across as “distanced” to some, but that is more a testament to personality and style rather than to commitment, as it seems to imply. Given her long history with the internal operations of the Society, especially with the SSMU Legislative Council and the myriads of motions that she has debated over the years, I’m not sure if “passion” is the right word to use within this context.
2) Vice President Shea’s review, although fair–once again–lacks a bit more depth. For example: what were the results of the new campaigns at 4Floors?
3) As for Vice President Fong, I think more comments could have been made about Activities Night (one of the only mandated events under that portfolio) and the changes that were made. How about Culture Shock? How about the changes that were made to the amount of time a SSMU interest group can book a room ahead of time?
4) Regarding the comments made about Vice President Hofmeister, I do think that this review was harsh and did not–at all–reflect on the work that he has done. It should be noted that had the two positions not been terminated, other positions would have had to go. Yes, the positions were very important, but in light of recent budget cuts, there were no easy way to cut down costs on the budget of the Society, and that is why the decision for the termination of those jobs were ratified by the SSMU Leglislative Council. He covered a $200,000 deficit…
To speak more about the budget, there should be at least a few sentences outlining the changes made within the budget and why they are crucial. For example, for the first time students can directly see the budget of services that they are charged for and how they are managed (big improvement on the financial transparency of the Society and its operations). Additionally, no comments were made on Minicourses’ success (a large part of the SSMU’s operations). As for Councillors saying that he is disorganized, I think that is more a personal view of those Councillors rather than facts, given that no information is made to back such claims. Also, as a Councillor myself, one that sits on two of the committees under his portfolio, I don’t think that Vice President Hofmeister is disorganized. To speak briefly on “the lack of transparency of his portfolio,” it should be noted that the Board of Directors–which is needed for logistics of the Financial Ethics Research Committee–was just ratified at the Special GA barely two weeks ago. His hands were tied.
5) As for Vice President Farnan’s review, the fact that the only recommendation is “to take advantage of the accounting department within SSMU” speaks to the lack of depth of the research conducted in this. He publicly gave that solution at the Special GA, so it is not constructive to repeat his words. The review does not given an accurate picture of the portfolio.
6) I will admit that Vice President Harris’ portfolio is one that I am not familiar with, so I have no additional comments to say regarding that.
As a proud reader of the McGill Tribune, I think that this review is disappointing given the amount of information that the Tribune possesses. Your reporters are consistently at the SSMU Legislative Council (where a large portion of information is discussed) among other events, and it is surprising that the Society’s Executives’ work would be summed up in such a manner. With a new Principal and Deputy Provost, of Student Life and Learning; budget cuts that have trickled down and affected the Society; and many other things, a lot more things could have been said not only to properly evaluate the Executives but also to properly convey this information to the Tribunes’ readers. I hope that my comments will be considered and I look forward to the grades that you allocate next semester.