Though he was a politically engaged SSMU councillor, José Diaz has inherited the most technocratic SSMU VP position. The VP Finance and Operations (FOPS) is responsible for the SSMU budget, chairs the Operations committees, manages Gert’s and Haven Books, and sits on a number of smaller working groups — like the Financial Ethics Research Committee (FERC), which reviews SSMU’s investments.
Acclaimed in last year’s election, Diaz has said from the beginning that he isn’t promising to break even on SSMU’s secondhand bookstore and financial sinkhole Haven Books. Even worse, former VP Clubs and Services Julia Webster—who took over the Haven portfolio when Tobias Silverstein resigned—dropped the ball last year on the book drives that make up a healthy portion of Haven’s stock. Diaz’s two ideas were to move Haven almost exclusively online—except during the early days of term—or to sell additional merchandise, like used records and clothes, to bring in extra customers. However, he has also admitted that “Haven can’t be saved,” so we hope that he drafts an exit plan ASAP, rather than prolonging Haven’s demise.
We were a little more pleased, though, with Diaz’s plans for Gert’s. He has already helped organize a few minor renovations: getting two new pool tables and sanding down the bar to show its wood finish. He is also getting quotes to install hardwood flooring, a bar top, and shelving behind the bar. Considering how nice the graduate students’ bar is at Thomson House, it’s about time that Gert’s became somewhat comparable and stopped resembling Bar des Pins. But if Diaz wants to bring some class back to Shatner, perhaps the planned hot tub party in Gert’s isn’t the way to go.
While Gert’s and Haven are important, we’d like to see a little more creativity from Diaz—or as much as he is allowed within his mandate. Last year, FERC barely got off the ground—and if it did, we didn’t notice. We’d also like to see a little more political gusto on issues concerning university financing. The 2005-2006 VP FOPS Eric van Eyken wasn’t afraid to lobby the federal government, and we hope Diaz—who was never a timid SSMU councillor in years past—will do the same.