SSMU Election Endorsement: President Sarah Woolf

After careful consideration, the McGill Tribune Editorial Board proudly presents our fifth annual SSMU election candidate endorsements. While this year’s ballot includes two acclamations, we still provide our analysis of each candidate’s potential, along with our thoughts on the referendum questions (page 9). We’d like you to keep our endorsements in mind while voting, but ultimately, it’s your decision. Do some research by reading our candidate interviews in the news section, and cast your ballot online at ovs.ssmu.mcgill.ca by Thursday at 4 p.m.

The Tribune’s choice for Students’ Society president is current Arts Senator Sarah Woolf. Woolf is an articulate and experienced student politician who has been active on SSMU Council for the past two years. She has a firm grasp of the major issues facing SSMU, as well as practical and detailed plans for how she would tackle those issues.

Woolf understands the presidential portfolio and should be able to work effectively with the rest of the SSMU executives. She was impressive in the candidates’ debate, and has run a strong campaign centred on fighting tuition hikes, renegotiating SSMU’s Memorandum of Agreement with McGill, and improving student services. The Tribune is confident that she will be a forceful and rational voice for student concerns both within the Society and to the administration.

We are concerned, however, about Woolf’s ability to control her emotions when she becomes passionate about an issue. While approachable and personable in social interactions, Woolf can be brusque and polarizing when she disagrees with fellow student politicians. While we agree that executives should be outspoken, we hope Woolf will employ more diplomacy and tact if she is elected.

The Tribune sees this presidential election as a two-horse race, as a minority of the Tribune editorial board supports Zach Newburgh for president. Newburgh has a wealth of organizational experience as SSMU speaker of council and the president of Hillel Montreal. He displayed a pragmatic knowledge of SSMU politics and procedures in interviews, and would likely work to strengthen the organization without seeking to unrealistically overhaul SSMU.

However, Newburgh leaned heavily on buzzwords during candidate debates and an interview with the Tribune – relying on catchphrases like “building community” instead of substantive policy ideas. His idea for a SSMU café – where executives would sit for an hour per day to meet with students – is unnecessary, and his focus on strengthening Greek Life seemed like a strategy to draw votes from fraternities, rather than a legitimate campaign issue.

While Trip Yang and Stefan Link have good intentions and a few good ideas, neither is qualified to be SSMU president. Both have no experience with the internal workings of SSMU, and we’re at a loss to explain why they aimed for such a lofty position without first acquiring some basic experience in the day-to-day operations of the Society. In the debates, Link was unaware of the existence of the McGill chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group – a sign that he lacks the necessary knowledge to take charge of an organization with a multi-million dollar operating budget.

Although Link’s two main campaign issues – 24-hour library service and a student run food co-op – are interesting, he displayed a poor grasp of the challenges of implementing either of those services. The library budget and staff are already stretched thin, and student-run businesses are notoriously expensive and difficult to manage. While Link seems to have picked up much of the rhetoric and important issues in SSMU politics, he lacks the concrete plans needed to accomplish his goals.

Similarly, Yang is right to insist on GA reform – but we don’t think televising GAs would do much to increase their democratic nature. Yang has no experience participating in student politics, which is reflected in misguided campaign ideas such as a massive dodgeball game and “pre-emptive” fundraisers.

However, it’s heartening to see that the presidential portfolio attracted four candidates this year – a trend towards greater participation that is reflected in contested races for all but two executive positions this year. This year’s executive has done well to encourage potential candidates by making themselves more accessible. We hope next year’s executive will expand upon their efforts.

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