At the end of each academic year, the McGill Tribune assesses the performance of the SSMU executive team based on our own observations, the opinions of the executives themselves, and—new this year—feedback from SSMU councillors. To promote transparency in this process, this year we are presenting each assessment in an evaluation rubric. Our main criterion is “Portfolio management,” which encompasses the completion of the portfolio’s activities and the advancement of the portfolio. Our “Initiative” category judges the executives’ ability to show leadership in their positions and to deal professionally with unpredictable situations. Finally, “Transparency” relates to executives’ openness about their work and the attempts they made to keep themselves accountable for their actions.
Katie Larson: President
Portfolio management: 7/10
As a representative of SSMU to the administration, Larson was tasked with the responsibility of negotiating the terms of the society’s lease on the SSMU Building. We applaud Larson for successfully finalizing the lease and bringing four years of negotiations to an end.
Larson also brought a number of improvements to her portfolio, including the first Red and White week, a series of events tailored to graduating students; an overhaul of the bylaws; and the revision of the SSMU Constitution, which was passed in the Fall referendum period.
Although signing the lease is a significant accomplishment, Larson did not adequately see the project through. Along with the rest of the executive team, she failed to publicize the University Centre Building fee referendum question through either a ‘yes’ campaign or a clearer description of the consequences of a ‘no’ vote on the question, leading to its failure in the Winter 2014 referendum period.
Another missed opportunity to exhibit leadership was her failure to advertise the Fall 2013 General Assembly (GA), where lack of quorum limited the GA’s power and left the SSMU without a board of directors for several additional weeks. While a second, better-advertised GA remedied this problem, the incident wasted time and resources, and is indicative of Larson’s inability to accurately assess and connect with her constituents throughout the year.
Larson’s work this year has been marked by a lack of transparency to both student media and the student body at large. Perhaps the strongest indication of this problem lies in her management of the loss of the sustainability coordinator this year. SSMU is mandated to fulfill this position, and yet its termination was only discussed within confidential session of SSMU Council.
With matters regarding sustainability falling under her portfolio, Larson’s unwillingness to address this situation represents a troubling inability to effectively communicate and compounds a general lack of openness throughout the year.
Tyler Hofmeister: VP Finance and Operations
Portfolio management: 8/10
Hofmeister’s work as Vice-President Finance and Operations has been relatively successful despite numerous financial obstacles. Early on in the year, he was able to balance the SSMU budget, preventing an otherwise projected deficit of $90,000.
Another major success in his portfolio is the launch of the student-run café this semester. Since its opening in January, the Nest has run smoothly, and according to Hofmeister, aims to break even this semester.
Under Hofmeister’s management, Gerts has both successfully generated a profit this year and seen improvements such as the addition of a jukebox and a pinball machine.
Regarding the University Centre Building Fee, Hofmeister failed his constituents by not preparing or publicizing a contingency budget to explain the consequences of a ‘no’ vote.
Nonetheless, in the wake of the question’s failure, Hofmeister successfully drew up a reasonable budget in preparation for the upcoming year in a very short amount of time, and we commend him for that effort.
Early last semester, Hofmeister’s transparency suffered from his refusal to grant in-person interviews with the media, which prevented accurate reporting on important financial issues such as the budget. Councillors also found cause for complaint, including his presentation of the budget to Council without adequate time for Councillors to prepare for its discussion.
Hofmeister has greatly improved his communication efforts this semester, which has enabled much-needed transparency in light of the recent criticism of lease negotiations and the 2014-2015 budgetary issues that have arisen.
Joey Shea: VP University Affairs
Portfolio Management: 9/10
The Tribune saw Shea as the most accomplished executive this year in her work on projects that we expect to have a lasting impact on SSMU. Shea led the development of a much-needed SSMU Mental Health Policy, which entails hiring a mental health coordinator and creating a website to compile mental health resources.
According to councillors, Shea has had a strong voice at both Senate and Council this year. As a student representative to Senate, Shea brought undergraduate priorities to the attention of senators, notably with regard to the allocation of funds from the Student Services surplus. She was also one of the most involved student senators, often bringing attention to the administration in regards to undergraduate issues.
Another major project this year has been the improvement of the equity policy. While this is an ongoing project, it has yet to see results. Furthermore, attendence at consultative forums on equity policy revisions has been low due to a lack of promotion.
In the wake of criticism last Fall regarding McGill’s lack of a sexual assault policy, Shea stepped up to support campus initiatives to address this concern. Most significantly, Shea provided support for the student groups involved in writing a Sexual Assault Policy, which groups hope to eventually present to the administration. Additionally, Shea co-chaired the Forum on Consent in February.
Nevertheless, Shea showed poor leadership regarding the failure of the University Centre Building Fee in March, when she, as well as the rest of the executive team, did not adequately promote the fee and communicate its necessity to students. Her blame of students for not understanding the referendum’s implications are troubling.
Shea has been consistently communicative with campus media by responding to emails and making herself available for interviews. Throughout the year, she has consistently sought to communicate important issues and initiatives to her constituents. However, she could have done more to actively reach out to students, especially with regards to the University Centre Building Fee and the consultation forums on the equity policy revision.
Sam Harris: VP External
Portfolio Managment: 6/10
As Vice-President External, Harris has met the minimum standard of his portfolio. While he successfully engaged with the Milton-Parc Community by organizing street teams throughout the year and training Community Ambassadors, Harris failed to publicize these initiatives.
As SSMU’s TaCEQ representative, Harris attended the federation’s meetings, hosted several at McGill, and later reported on them to Council. He also attempted to improve TaCEQ‘s transparency with the translation of their website, although these efforts failed to yield results.
There were many external-related issues that directly affected students this year, and Harris failed to address any of them adequately or productively. Although he initiated a motion to condemn the Charter of Values, Harris did not take the initiative to address the matter in any other way. The ad-hoc committee he formed on the topic has apparently achieved little since its creation in the Fall.
Despite numerous concerns about TaCEQ, Harris failed to initiate a discussion of SSMU’s relationship to the student federation, despite promising consultative forums on the subject. In addition, he made no effort to explain TaCEQ to students. He only brought forward the referendum question to leave TaCEQ after one of the other student associations voted to leave. Additionally, he has proposed no future plans or alternatives now that SSMU has voted to leave the federation.
Harris was open to student media throughout the year and was always available for interviews, in addition to fulfilling his role as SSMU’s representative to off-campus media on external issues.
However, councillors have noted that Harris failed to properly communicate the details and implications of TaCEQ’s deteriorating circumstances.
Brian Farnan: VP Internal
Portfolio management: 6/10
Farnan consistently met the requirements of his portfolio. However, the loss of $21,000 due to careless mistakes in frosh budgeting represents a major shortfall of his tenure.
Farnan sent out regularly-timed listservs with information about SSMU and community initiatives; successfully organized SSMU’s signature events, including collaborating with faculties on Frosh and coordinating 4Floors and Faculty Olympics; and worked as a student representative on the Centraide service-oriented campaign.
In addition, Farnan worked with the francophone commissioners to host a conference on the state of French in North America. He also played a role in implementing several frosh initiatives, including increased training for leaders, a ‘chill zone,’ and a phone line that students could contact with questions and concerns.
Farnan displayed initiative in the communications aspect of the portfolio, working throughout the year to create and implement a Communications Guide, a Style Guide, and a Communications Strategy. These three documents provide long-term vision for the portfolio.
In collaboration with President Larson, Farnan has worked to organize McGill’s first ever Red and White week with activities for graduating students. While this is an exciting initiative, whether it proves successful and useful remains to be seen.
Throughout the year, Farnan failed to adequately promote his initiatives, such as Soapbox—a student idea promotion tool—which has remained little used and unknown across campus.
Farnan has not been consistently accessible and responsive, as the Tribune found him difficult to reach for comment with coverage of myInvolvement and Red and White week. Farnan has seen notable improvement in the second semester, as he responded more promptly to interview requests.
Stefan Fong: VP Clubs and Services
Portfolio management: 6/10
Fong has worked consistently to overcome the overwhelming workload involved in the clubs and services portfolio. Nonetheless, his constituents have criticized his inefficiency in managing day-to-day work such as the assignment of offices and lockers.
In advancing the portfolio, Fong played a role in the formation of the Co-Curricular Record of Involvement (CCRI), an official document that summarizes students’ extracurricular activities. He has also made improvements to the advanced room booking system for the SSMU Building, giving internal groups priority over external groups in room bookings.
Fong successfully made reforms to the format of Activities Night, such as expanding the space to include the Brown Building and implementing a one-way route. On the other hand, students gave mixed feedback about these changes, citing the emergence of safety issues and problems accessing health services.
Additionally, long-term intiatives in Fong’s portfolio have seen little progress this year. One disappointment has been the failure of Clubpedia, a collection of information about clubs, which was part of Fong’s original platform. Fong’s new idea for the creation of Clubhub, a proposed information centre for clubs, has also been slow to develop.
Fong has been clear in his answers, providing students with detailed responses and justifications on his courses of action. Despite his admitted lag in responding to emails, he has displayed a willingness to meet with student groups face-to-face to discuss their concerns and negotiate solutions.