News, SSMU

SSMU REPORT CARDS: JOSE DíAZ – VP Finance and Operations

Vice-President Finance and Operations Jose Díaz began his term in the most difficult position of any of the executives. Tobias Silverstein, his predecessor, had resigned midway through his term, leaving the rest of the executives to handle his portfolio. Despite this initial disadvantage, Díaz stepped confidently into his position and has handled his portfolio well throughout the year.

Díaz’s major success this year has been the revitalization of Gert’s Bar. Thanks in part to the increased number of successful events held in the bar, Gert’s has been become a watering hole for regular students – in addition to its usual crowd of drunken SSMUshies and newspaper editors.

SSMU’s renegotiated beer contract provided approximately $6,000 in sponsorship money from the beer companies, which Díaz used to create the Gert’s Life Fund. The money from the fund was used to subsidize various events – a key factor in boosting the bar’s popularity.

A number of smaller initiatives have also helped to put Gert’s in the black this year. Díaz invested in two new pool tables and instituted a new pricing scheme, which has netted about $6,000 in additional revenue. Thanks to a new lease with Al Ta’b, Gert’s now uses its ovens to serve pizza after-hours, as well as an assortment of fried appetizers. And Díaz is currently in talks about renovating the bar after a successful redesign contest.

The most significant decision Díaz made this year was to shut down Haven Books, SSMU’s financial fiasco of a bookstore. Haven Books, purchased in 2007 by former VP Finance Dave Sunstrum against the advice of SSMU’s auditors, had racked up losses of more than $200,000 by the time Díaz delivered a 40-minute speech to Council in February arguing for its closure. According to Díaz, he and Ben Paris, the bookstore’s manager, examined various solutions to Haven’s woes before deciding to close its doors. The Tribune has editorialized in favour of closing the bookstore several times, and we’re glad that Díaz made the difficult decision to give up on it.

Díaz’s competent management of the operations side of his portfolio – breaking even on Gert’s and other operations – aided the financial side, giving the executive more money to work with later in the year. Events like the Girl Talk concert and this week’s lecture by Salman Rushdie were largely financed by these funds.

Overall, Díaz has successfully picked up the pieces of his portfolio, solving previous mistakes like Haven Books while improving Gert’s and tabling a successful budget. Though Díaz’s frequent late nights out meant that he didn’t make into the office until the afternoon some days, his hard work on the portfolio will put Drew in a strong position when he takes over this summer.

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