SMU speaker Zach Newburgh edged out Arts senator Sarah Woolf to win the 2010-2011 SSMU presidency Thursday night by a 1.5 per cent margin, or about 80 votes. The pair took 28.6 and 27.1 per cent of the vote, respectively. Presidential candidate Stefan Link garnered 25.6 per cent of the vote, while Trip Yang received 11.4 per cent support. Newburgh said that he was “speechless” at the results.
His victory concluded what has been one of the more bizarre elections in recent SSMU history – with numerous campaign violations, Internet scandals, and allegations of competition-related violence among presidential candidates.
Elections McGill encountered two problems during the voting period. The online ballot for Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) representatives to SSMU was incorrectly formatted to suggest that only one AUS slot was open, when in fact students could elect three candidates to the position.
The plebiscite on student support for funding the Table de Concertation Étudiante du Québec had been slated to run on the online ballot. Due to a technical error, the question was not visible to voters. The results were invalidated as a result.
2010-11 Executive and Senate
VP (Clubs and Services) Sarah Olle noted that many of the presidential candidates focused on campaign issues that pertained to the Internal and Clubs and Services portfolio, and not the presidential portfolio itself.
Olle also felt that students and the campus press placed an inordinate emphasis on the presidency to the neglect of other candidates and positions.
“While I think that the president is an important position, I think that it is just as important as the other VPs. Most of the complaints and ideas around SSMU centre around the service portfolios, which are the VP (Clubs and Services) and the VP (Internal),” Olle said.
Olle and VP (University Affairs) Rebecca Dooley were also concerned with voter participation in the other executive slots – notably VP University Affairs (UA). The position was won by Arts councillor Joshua Abaki with a vote of 49.3 per cent in favour, compared to Arts senator David Lipsitz and candidate Mathew Crawford who received 17.9 and 14.5 per cent of the vote, respectively.
Dooley expressed reservations about Abaki’s experience, though she felt working with him over the summer would help him prepare for his position.
“I think that Josh is very outspoken and I think those are really good qualities,” said Dooley. “I didn’t have experience either so I think he will be able to learn a lot over the next few months. He and I differ a lot in opinion. But [my predecessor] Nadya Wilkinson and I differed in opinion as well.”
The other contested VP positions went to Myriam Zaidi, who won VP (External) with 46.7 per cent support, and Tom Fabian, who beat out Marta Gruntmane with 54.9 per cent to Gruntmane’s 26.1 per cent. Zaidi’s fellow candidates Eric Jinsan and Tedi Angoni received votes of 22.8 and 12.1 per cent, respectively.
Acclaimed candidates Anushay Khan and Nicholas Drew were approved for VP (Clubs and Services) and VP (Finance) with votes of 66.4 and 67.8 per cent in favour, respectively.
Olle said she was happy that Khan, who worked under her this year as SSMU interest group coordinator, had won, and said Khan should continue to gain experience to prepare for the position.
“She has a lot to learn [but] I hope that when she says she’s going to be apolitical that doesn’t mean she will not fight for SSMU policy because I think that’s a really important part of her position. If you look over the past four years, there’s always been a fairly outspoken political left female in this position and I hope that that continues,” Olle said.
When asked about next year’s executive team, Dooley said she thought Zaidi, who sat on the SSMU External Affairs committee this year, would add a degree of much needed experience to the team.
Dooley added that she was looking forward to next year’s “politically diverse” Senate caucus. Art seats went to Claudette van Zyl, Amara Possian, and Tyler Lawson; Science seats went to Annie Ma and Hui Long Li. Single seats went to Andrew Doyle in Engineering, Phillip Cutler in Education, Randall Blom in Law, Matt Reid in Management, and Catherine Ready in Music.
Trib and TVMcGill win funding
The McGill Tribune’s bid for a $3 opt-outable fee passed with 49.9 per cent of the vote. The student paper will separate from SSMU next year and receive funds directly from the student body. Students also approved a 50-cent opt-outable fee for TVMcGill with a vote of 50 per cent in favour, 24.7 against, and 35.3 spoiled.
TVMcGill president Charly Feldman was elated at the results. “We finally reached the point where we could win. We expanded so much this year, we couldn’t conceive of not having that support,” Feldman said.
A motion creating a 500-person quorum for General Assembly discussions of policies external to SSMU passed with an approval of 44.2 per cent.
Referendum questions adding a clause on bodily sovereignty to the SSMU constitution; the removal of descriptions of the Constitutional Review Committee, the Financial Ethics Review Committee, and the Nominating Committee from the SSMU Constitution; the creation of the Student Life Fund; the renewal of the SSMU Environment Fee; the allocation of WUSC scholarship funds; and the QPIRG constitution changes all passed.
Overall, 28 per cent of the undergraduate student body, approximately 5,449 students, voted in the election and referenda, though Elections McGill chief electoral officer Mike Vallo said he had been hoping for a higher turnout.
“I’m a little disappointed at the voter turnout. Not because it was bad, but because we had done really well in the fall. I expected a bigger increase in the spring,” Vallo explained. “Fall was like a 13 per cent increase from last year and this term was a 10 per cent increase.”