The McGill Tribune presents its endorsements for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) 2020—2021 Executive team. To form our judgment, our editors interviewed each candidate, asking them questions regarding their experience, portfolio, and goals for next year.
Jemark Earle, 2L Law, has been at McGill for the last six years. In 2016, Earle campaigned and won the position of SSMU Vice-President (VP) Student Life, and has since held executive positions for the Black Law Students’ Association at McGill and the Law Students’ Association. If elected, Earle hopes to prepare for the reopening of the University Centre, focus on building a sustainable, long-term plan for SSMU initiatives, completing the 3501 Peel Wellness project, and ensuring marginalized voices factor into university decision-making.
Ruth Silcoff, President of the McGill Debating Union, has focussed her campaign on making SSMU more accessible. She emphasizes academic issues at SSMU, including her plans to increase awareness for various majors within each department to combat under- and over-enrollment in different programs. If elected, Silcoff also plans to increase accountability by mandating that the administration produce more detailed reports to be shared with students. Silcoff also hopes to work with the VP Student Life and VP Finance to ensure clubs are aware of SSMU regulations.
Yes to Jemark Earle
Earle has distinguished himself from his fellow candidates by the sheer volume of experience he has to offer. As the former VP Student Life, he remains the only candidate running with any SSMU executive experience. Both candidates maintained that SSMU has a responsibility to connect with the student body; however, Earle’s plans to promote engagement were the most feasible. While Silcoff’s ambition to hold her fellow executives accountable was unique, her platform’s proposed solutions remain unfocussed and, in some respects, ill-conceived. Earle’s previous success within SSMU and other governing bodies, as well as the formal goals he has set out for himself, has made him uniquely capable to execute the President’s role.
VP University Affairs
Brooklyn Frizzle, U2 Science, is campaigning on a platform that emphasizes the VP University Affairs’ (UA) role as an equity advocate to the administration. Frizzle’s main experience stems from their role as Resource Coordinator at Queer McGill, and equity work with the Office for the Vice Provost, citing advocacy as central to their academic experience. Frizzle prioritizes library improvement, institutionalizing gender inclusivity in administrative practices, and a SSMU-led independent research into accessibility of campus. If elected, they further plan on continuing current projects led by the UA portfolio, including the “Know Your Rights” campaign.
Griffin Scott, U3 Arts, is a student researcher, campaigning on providing a stronger voice for mental health and equity on campus. Scott has experience working with policy studies as a data analyst for the State of Maine, and cites that this experience has enriched his understanding of administrative processes. If elected, Scott plans on working with the administration to remove the requirement for medical notes for exam deferrals, university-wide use of preferred names, accessible contraceptives on campus, Fall Reading Week, and to reform the Wellness Hub.
Yes, with Reservations, to Brooklyn Frizzle
Of the two candidates, Frizzle possesses a greater understanding of the scope and inner workings of the VP UA portfolio. In a position that requires constant co-operation with the McGill administration itself, Frizzle has more relevant experience to the position. Scott’s lack of direct experience with the administration may be a detriment, and the scale of his platform, which includes tenure reform, is unrealistic given the time and resource constraints of the VP UA. Both candidates praised the work of current VP UA Madeline Wilson, and both borrow heavily from her existing projects, specifically the Wellness Hub advocacy. It is unfortunate that credit to Wilson is absent in both of their written platforms and promotional material. Thus, the Tribune endorses Frizzle, with reservations.
Ayo Ogunremi, U3 Arts, currently serves as the SSMU Mobilisation Coordinator. Having also co-founded Climate Justice Action McGill and worked as the VP Political of the Black Students’ Network, Ogunremi brings an extensive background in community organizing and activism to the role. Ogunremi plans to support grassroots campaigns on campus, particularly concerning climate justice, Bill 21 opposition, and housing security, while working with senators and executives to provide external resources for mental health advocacy. Ogunremi also supports reviewing the SSMU Indigenous Solidarity Policy, and hopes to communicate developments in his portfolio to students through monthly tabling and in collaboration with VP Internal communications.
Noah Merali is currently the SSMU Services Representative to the Legislative Council, sits on the Affordable Student Housing Committee, and is a member of the McGill Student Emergency Response Team. As VP External, Merali plans to continue their work advocating for affordable housing, particularly through collaboration with Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Centre, running Know Your Rights campaigns, and offering resources relevant to students in residences. They also intend to collaborate with other student unions, and combat food insecurity issues on campus through meal prep workshops and demanding better food options from McGill.
Yes to Ayo Ogunremi
Both Ogunremi and Merali have exceptional experience within the VP External portfolio and advocate for commendable causes such as anti-Bill 21 activism, fighting for affordable housing, and supporting Francophone students. However, Ogunremi’s experience in coalition building both on-and-off campus sets him apart. As SSMU’s Mobilization Coordinator, he worked directly with the current VP External, Adam Gwiazda-Amsel, to get McGill students involved with the September Climate Strike and anti-Bill 21 activism. As such, Ogunremi has a robust understanding of what SSMU needs to do to improve on this past year’s work, and his experience and passion for organizing movements will prove invaluable resources for student campaigns.
VP Student Life
Maheen Akter, U3 Political Science and Psychology, is the current VP Internal for the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), as well as a Floor Fellow at La Citadelle. If elected, Akter promises that clubs and services will deal with fewer bureaucratic processes and have more accessible support from SSMU. In terms of student mental health, she hopes to increase student involvement with the newly-formed Wellness Hub, as well as increase the variety of mental healthcare resources that students can access. For students with children, she plans to make improvements to the Daycare through better communication with its users. Other promises include increasing the availability of scholarship opportunities, and making jobs at SSMU eligible for the Work Study program.
Belle Sullivan, U2 Arts, has been involved with a multitude of campus initiatives, such as the SSMU Eating Disorder Campaign and the Student-run service members union (SSMUnion). She plans to reform many events for SSMU Clubs and Services such as the club workshop and the services summit. Sullivan also plans to create a more inclusive environment at SSMU through ensuring that all employees are trained on how to use correct names and pronouns, as well as implement initiatives for mature undergraduate students. Other plans include the revival of the SSMU Mini-Courses series and getting more executive and volunteer positions in a students’ Co-Curricular Record.
Yes to Maheen Akter
Both candidates are equally experienced and competent for the position of VP Student Life. Sullivan’s previous involvement experience with SSMU shows great knowledge of the organization, especially her work with the SSMUnion. Nevertheless, despite Akter having less experience with SSMU, her work with other major organizations on campus such as AUS, as well as her work as a Floor Fellow compensates for this lack of training within SSMU. Furthermore, Akter has beneficial ideas that are actionable such as forming semesterly budget reports for Clubs and Services and communicating health resources for mental health outside McGill. While ideas such as the elimination of the samosa fee are a little dubious, Akter shows promise in this position for the following year.
Gifford Marpole, U2 Arts, has financial experience working as a VP Finance for an off-campus fraternity and as a finance coordinator for a media production company in Ontario. Although he does not have many concrete goals for the finance portfolio, Marpole has a clear understanding of the primarily organizational and supporting role of VP Finance. However, he does not have financial experience in a large organization such as SSMU, which is a point of concern considering the multimillion dollar budget of the organization. The Tribune endorses a Yes vote, with reservations: Marpole will have to adjust to balancing the budget of a large non-profit such as SSMU in order to properly handle the portfolio.
Declan McCool brings his experience as VP fundraising for the McGill Varsity Rowing Team, and sitting on the Science Games Committee in his campaign for VP Internal. McCool is bilingual, and his platform pushes for inclusivity as he works to put together a comprehensive survivor-centric Involvement Restriction Policy for faculty. However, McCool should put more effort into plans for the SSMU listserv and social media, as his role as VP Internal will entail acting as the outward face of SSMU communications. As such, the Tribune endorses a Yes vote, with reservations.
In order to present the most informed endorsement decisions possible, our editors conducted in-person interviews with all of the candidates, and examined each platform in detail. The endorsements are the product of an Editorial Board meeting in which we addressed every position, debated, and voted. In order to earn the Tribune’s endorsement, a candidate had to receive a majority vote. Reservations could also be appended to any “Yes” endorsement with the approval of a majority of editors. Any questions or concerns about our editorial process or its outcomes should be directed at [email protected]
The Features Editor, Gabe Nisker, has a personal relationship with VP UA candidate Griffin Scott. As such, Nisker refrained from voting on that executive position.