Features | Snakes, SSMUshies, and Ladders

With the SSMU executive geared up for their year ahead representing the student body, The Daily provides you a run-down of where we think they might fall off the board and which freshly minted campaign promises they’re likely to deliver on.

President
Kay Turner

Roll the dice

Turner claims she’s ready for her game of SSMU round two. She says that Council’s rejection of a student-run café in Shatner – a cause dear to her heart – has given her the gusto to revamp SSMU’s decision-making process. While we would have preferred for that gusto to have kicked in last year instead, we’re eager to see if last year’s SSMU social butterfly has morphed into a more effective student leader.

Photos by Stephen Davis
Ladder rungs – one by one

Turner’s thinking big, and we’re skeptical. She wants to lay the groundwork for future executives to implement a student-run café in Shatner’s second floor food court and plans to use a student research team to draft a successful model.

Seeking more effective interactions between students and Council, Turner is overhauling the committee structure for an improved consultation process. The planned committees will focus on SSMU-relevant issues, have elected members and members-at-large, and meet before decisions are voted through in Council. Turner envisions publicizing regular meeting schedules on SSMU’s new website – whenever it finally appears. Turner’s goals are well-thought out, and full of good intentions, but last year she couldn’t even get the creation of a woman’s caucus for Council off the ground. Her ambitious plans could stir councillors from their apathetic slumber if successful, and bring long-term improvements to Council – only if she pulls it all off.

Snake bites

Turner is hoping that holding the year’s first General Assembly (GA), scheduled for early October, outdoors will make the decision-making process more appealing to students. But that didn’t work last year. Neither did postering or sending out listservs, so Turner’s promises to enhance posters with more jazzy information such as instruction on how to strike a motion, – still make us skeptical. Furthermore, with additional guidelines for GAs posted somewhere in SSMU’s notoriously unreliable cyberspace, students may remain mystified by their union’s bureaucratic process.

Turner also has lofty plans to involve the administration when battling student issues – a good idea. In theory. We worry that Turner’s plans may actually backfire and her vision to utilize the administration as an information source for students’ referendum campaigning against ancillary fee hikes, for example, could look more like administrative propaganda than useful guidelines.

Clubs and Services
Samantha Cook

Roll the dice

Hailing from small town Massachusetts, Cook got her feet wet in campus politics last year while administrating Queer McGill. She took two weeks off this summer from familiarizing herself with the paperwork in her filing cabinet to relax in an itsy-bitsy British coastal town where she shared the beach with geriatrics. Fun? Yes. But relevant to student politics? No.

Ladder rungs – one by one

The school year has hardly started and clubs are already complaining. So many are set up with office space, so why do they have to shuffle this weekend?

Cook wants to save clubs money. She is proposing online templates made available through SSMU’s website to take the pressure off of clubs to create independent sites, for which SSMU can charge over $200. Remember when SSMU’s website was updated? We don’t.

Snake Bites

While Cook is flaunting her ability to assist those who come to her, we’re worried she’ll fail to reach out to those clubs and services who don’t. And with her sights set on revamping the Old McGill Yearbook and guiding The McGill Tribune to independence, students that come a knocking might be faced with a closed door. Cook admits that there is no way of keeping track of how frequently postgraduate students use SSMU services. Why then did she try to charge the Post Graduate Students’ Society $16,000 to grant their use of SSMU clubs and services?

External
Devin Alfaro

Roll the dice

With two years experience on the External Affairs Committee, this articulate SSMUshie has some background know-how for this tricky profile. He travelled to Sherbrooke, Quebec City, and Ottawa this summer. He said – with a straight face – that it was fun.

Ladder rungs – one by one

Alfaro has bank-rolled time collaborating on SSMU relations with external organizations – governments, universities, student unions, and the like. Making new friends is nice, but making concrete plans is nicer. Alfaro knows what he has to do – encourage students to attend GAs, rally their support for political movements – but we’re not sure he knows how. His avoidance of the political-speak that becomes so ubiquitous among SSMUshies is refreshing.

Snake Bites

The most glaring problem is that we still can’t see how Alfaro intends to achieve his lofty goals. The intransigence of McGill and Quebec are notorious, and we have seen nearly nothing concrete on getting students involved and interested. It’s going to be a steep uphill climb for Alfaro.

Finance and Operations
Tobias Silverstein

Roll the dice

While it’s no surprise to see a management student heading up Finance & Operations, Silverstein – new to SSMU – came out of left-field, snatching the portfolio when the previously-acclaimed VP resigned. He seems to have the numbers in line. We wish we could say the same about his ethics.

Ladder rungs – one by one

Silverstein has spent a lot of time organizing the files in his office. Whoopie. While he says that he recognizes the complexity of his portfolio, SSMU’s finances are historically an incurable burden. Haven Books, Silverstein claimed, is inundated with customers, but the store’s shelves are a mess, and the most concrete improvement he cited was an increase of pre-ordered text books. By how much? “More than last year,” Silverstein said.

Snake Bites

We’re concerned Silverstein’s lack of experience in SSMU might be difficult for him to overcome. He described the summer, a time critical for laying a good base for the future of operations, as “transitional,” and referred to Liquid Nutrition, the new tenant of Shatner space, as “very affordable.” It’s not. At all. Silverstein is also apathetic about several politicized issues. GAs have not passed his radar, and apparently, if he had it his way, Council would never have considered a student-run food outlet in Shatner.

Internal
Julia Webster

Roll the dice

Webster’s got some decent experience under her belt – a definite perk to her portfolio – but the VP Internal position is harder than it looks, and after seeing Webster parading around campus last week with blowup toys, we’re having a hard time taking her seriously.

Ladder rungs – one by one

Webster is all over the Web. Thanks to a summer spent in the office, the SSMU website has had a complete overhaul, though it’s still missing its English version. With the First Year Office, Webster also commissioned a website to aid first-years through McGill’s plethora of orientation events. Good luck finding it.

Webster’s planning to make event-planning a cornerstone of her portfolio. Highlighting McGill’s Varsity athletics and pumping the Faculty of Music’s concerts is great and all, but Webster is at a loss for ideas to mobilize students for causes on campus, GAs in particular.

We’re waiting to see if Webster will surprise us. And if 4Floors will actually happen this year.

Snake Bites

Despite efforts for a greener Frosh, last week’s beer fest still left a flood of plastic and trash scattered on lower field. Organic cotton shirts were the event’s main green star, as Webster’s failed to implement a re-usable plate system. She should have taken tips from RadFrosh. Webster worries that due to record-breaking registration numbers for Frosh, event logistics may fall apart for following years. Say goodbye to drunk white-water rafting.

University Affairs
Nadya Wilkinson

Roll the dice

Wilkinson, a green-thumbed Vancouverite, is the happiest SSMU-shie we’ve seen in a while. And we like it. But there is such a thing as being too nice. Wilkinson’s optimism can go either way – leaving her trampled and jaded come May, or University’s new favourite student.

Ladder rungs – one by one

We like that Wilkinson is more that just talk when it comes to making sustainability a priority on campus. Thanks to her initiatives, a new sustainability office should be popping any time now. She’s even pushing an academic agenda to get students credit through their involvement. She has high hopes for a sustainability policy fitting snuggly into McGill’s structure. Alas, hopes are not enough.

Wilkinson is looking to student senators as a resource to promote GAs, but inspiring them to help may be harder than inspiring students to attend. Wilkinson also noted strategies such as student consultation sessions and long-term planning. Hasn’t every SSMUshie?

Snake Bites

We’re concerned Wilkinson’s lack of experience in the SSMU system will inevitably invite a grueling learning curve, and we’re curious to see how she juggles the year-long Senate review and coordination of a new ombudsperson for SSMU.

Prioritizing a hard-line stance for more transparent relations with the administration is key, but doesn’t seem to be on the top of Wilkinson’s agenda. Unfortunately for her, it’s going to take more than a warm personality to crack the icy hearts of McGill’s tangled bureaucracy.


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