News, SSMU

SSMU Restructuring: How the addition of VP Operations affected SSMU

Near the end of the 2015-2016 term, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council amended the SSMU constitution to separate the Vice-President (VP) Finance & Operations portfolio into two new positions starting in 2016-2017: VP Finance and VP Operations, which has been renamed as VP Sustainability & Operations.

Currently, the VP Operations Portfolio oversees the revenue-generating operations of SSMU, including Gerts, Sadie’s, and MiniCourses. Although these responsibilities have always existed under VP Finance & Operations, previous executives were unable to focus on both finances and operations because of the overarching scope of the portfolio.

Last year’s executives were also heavily affected by the absence of a General Manager (GM) in the fall semester. Zach Houston, the 2015-2016 VP Finance & Operations, was unable to properly manage building operations since the demands of finances alone became too overwhelming. Kimber Bialik, the 2015-2016 VP Clubs & Services, which was restructured to become VP Student Life in 2016-2017, became responsible for facilities during crises. As a result, the current VP Operations Sacha Magder was trained collectively by Bialik and Houston due to their respective knowledge of facilities and finances.

“[….] Since Zach [Houston] was more involved with finances, he really didn’t have enough information [on operations],” Magder said. “Kimber was in charge of buildings only when crises came up, [and] did not have time to do long-term building plans. September and October was a huge adjustment period.”

MiniCourses were especially affected by Magder’s difficult transition. He has since improved its low registration rate of 224 in the Fall 2016 to 406 in the winter semester.

“I take [the low registration rate] as partially my own responsibility,” Magder said. “But at the time, we did try our best. Now, at least, I feel confident enough to train my successors, so that they don't have that lack of knowledge when they start in September.”

Since the splitting of the VP Finance & Operations portfolio, Magder has also taken over the sustainability objectives, which were originally under the President’s portfolio. He has worked on issues such as waste management and community outreach.

“I am in charge of supervising the environment commissioner, who runs the environment committee [.…] And work very closely with the McGill Office of Sustainability, Magder said. “I am also organizing the SSMU Courtyard Garden Project that is [being developed] in the back of the SSMU Building.”

The division of responsibilities and the addition of a seventh executive has also allowed current VP Finance Niall Carolan to concentrate solely on budgets and administrative work, such as cheque requests. At the end of his term, Carolan will set the budget for next year’s executive.

“In the end of the year, we are hoping to post a $100,000 surplus above breakeven,” Carolan said. “The money will be invested back into the Capital Expenditures Reserves Fund. Any money beyond the surplus will be invested back into the society. I would like to see more investments into student resources next year, as this year the staff has faced challenges of budget constraints from last year’s deficit.”

Despite the separation, VP Finance and VP Operations are still closely related: While VP Operations handles the day-to-day affairs, VP Finance oversees the monthly profits to make sure they align with the set targets. For the upcoming year, VP Finance and VP Sustainability & Operations, and will likely remain close.

“We can put more of an emphasis on sustainability and physical spaces, which is great,” VP Operations-elect Anuradha Mallik said. “Considering [that VP Finance-elect] Arisha [Khan] and I have an established relationship already, I feel like collaboration will be easy and effective.”

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