The executive board of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) is one member short as of Wednesday. On Oct. 10, SSMU announced the resignation of vice-president (VP) External Marina Cupido in a statement emailed to SSMU members by VP Internal Matthew McLaughlin, which cited mental health concerns as the cause of Cupido’s resignation. The statement, also posted on the SSMU website and signed by Cupido and the remaining members of the SSMU executive committee, included plans to address the vacancy of the position at an Oct. 18 Legislative Council meeting.
In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Cupido confirmed that their decision to resign arose from the unhealthy strain of the position’s workload.
“Being in this job literally became a threat to my physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing,” Cupido said. “A large part of that is because this job is ridiculous [….] There need to be structural changes at SSMU that, among many other things, make it possible to be a VP, to be an executive and [to] be healthy, and have a life beyond work.”
At the SSMU Legislative Council meeting on Oct. 11, SSMU President Tre Mansdoerfer expressed regret at Cupido’s resignation and assured council members that a proposal on how to respond to the resignation was forthcoming.
Cupido became involved in controversy after publishing a post on the SSMU VP External Affairs Facebook page on Oct. 2 which described the recently-elected Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government as ‘racist’ and ‘xenophobic.’ Although SSMU issued a statement on Oct. 11 reaffirming the sentiment, but apologizing for the language of Cupido’s post, Cupido told the Tribune that they did not regret publishing it.
“If I were writing a political science paper about the CAQ, I would describe it with a lot of the same language but also with more nuance,” Cupido said. “But I wasn’t [….] I honestly don’t regret posting that, I think that it was the right thing to do, I think it was called for and appropriate and basically fair. And I wish that SSMU was an institution where that was the norm.”
While Cupido is the first SSMU executive to resign this academic year, two executives, VP Finance and VP Operations and Sustainability, resigned during the prior academic year. In an email to the Tribune, McLaughlin concurred with Cupido’s statements regarding the strenuous workload of SSMU VPs and said that he hoped McGill students would be sympathetic given the body’s history of resignations.
“The sad reality is that executive resignations have become a staple of a typical year,” McLaughlin wrote. “As much as some people might think that resignations are often the result of politics and interpersonal issues, the reality is that executive roles are practically designed to cause resignations; the positions inexorably lead to burnout and issues of both mental and physical health. It’s easy to pass judgment and point fingers, but I’d encourage students to consider that executives are people, too.”
Cupido argued that the position of VP External would be easier to manage if the SSMU student positions under the External Affairs portfolio were expanded.
“To varying degrees, none of the student staff have enough hours,” Cupido said. “The VP External job has a lot of very disparate parts and having more of a team running those projects would be better [….] A [good] place to start would really be investing more in the team that does this job.”