Kareem Ibrahim was elected Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) president for the 2015-16 academic year, taking 52.5 per cent of the vote against opponent Alexei Simakov’s 47.5 per cent. 16.7 per cent of voters abstained from the presidential vote.
Lola Baraldi will serve as VP Internal, beating her opponent Johanna Nikoletos by only 13 votes. All those running unopposed secured seats: Chloe Rourke as VP University Affairs, Zacheriah Houston as VP Finance & Operations, and Kimber Bialik as VP Clubs & Services.
Voter turnout was 25.9 per cent, a slight decrease from last year’s 31.4 per cent turnout.
Though Ibrahim was not present at the election results announcements due to personal reasons, he said in a statement released to The Daily, “I’d like to thank you for having trust in me and my ability to continue to serve this community with passion and expertise. Two weeks is an awfully short amount of time to gain one’s trust, let alone that of thousands of people.”
“I’ve made mistakes, this I won’t deny. I’m more than happy to admit my flaws. On the other hand, I’m also happy that in being a part of this community for three years now, I’ve demonstrated to enough of you that I do care about student life and that this is truly important to me.”
He continued, “Whether or not this outcome is what you hoped for and whether or not you think SSMU should exist altogether, I want to hear from you. […] SSMU serves all students, and I hope to do that as well.”
Ibrahim’s platform was based on transparent leadership and improving SSMU’s communications, inclusion, and accessibility. Prior to being elected president, he served as president of McGill Inter-Residence Council (IRC), as the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) VP External in 2013-14, and this year as an Arts Senator and Senate Caucus Representative to SSMU.
The 2015 campaign played out largely online, with each candidate posting heavily on Facebook. While the forum proved a useful means for members of the McGill community to question the candidates, it also became a very visible platform for a number of allegations, including leaked screenshots pointing to Ibrahim’s potential involvement in planning a SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board) case seeking the invalidation of Tariq Khan’s short-lived 2014-15 presidency and allegations against Simakov of unpaid debt.
Simakov, who ran as a protest candidate, told The Daily that, despite the loss, he was satisfied with his campaign.
“I’m disappointed, obviously – we really thought we had a chance at the end. In the last few days, I think the campaign took a really positive turn. We had a lot of support coming in from people who usually didn’t vote […] people who usually didn’t pay attention, people who were usually alienated and didn’t feel they have a voice – I hope at least this year I gave them someone to vote for who represented their views and interests.”
“We did our best,” added Simakov. “I’m really proud about coming out of nowhere, we didn’t prepare at all, we didn’t know what we were doing. […] We tried to make an honest campaign, a campaign where we answered the hard questions.”
Baraldi’s win was incredibly close, with Baraldi receiving 50.2 per cent of votes to Nikoletos’ 49.8 – a margin, in the end, of only 13 votes.
Baraldi has spent the past two years as a SSMU councillor, as well as a member of the Students’ Society Programming Network (SSPN), and is the current AUS VP External. She told The Daily that consultation of the student body would be a priority for both her as well as her fellow executives.
“I think all of us have made student engagement a really big point in our platforms and from working with all these people, I’ve worked with most of the incoming execs since first year, and I know that they truly do care about student engagement so next year could really be good for that,” Baraldi told The Daily.
Nikoletos said that her involvement in student life would definitely continue. “ I am more involved on the event planning side, so I am definitely going to keep doing those things. […] l’ll still be involved, but not really student government,” Nikoletos told The Daily.
Running unopposed, Rourke will be the next VP University Affairs, with 89.4 per cent of the vote. Rourke has served as the Arts & Science senator and a SSMU councillor.
“I’m really excited to work with the incoming executive. I think we’ll make a great team and hopefully we’ll do a lot of great work this year,” she told The Daily.
Rourke said that her priorities next year will be dealing with the impact of budget cuts, and also that current state of mental health resources at McGill. “I’ve sat on the [mental health] committee so I know how bad it is, and it is something that we really need to talk about.”
She also addressed those students who are critical of SSMU and may view experience with SSMU as a negative. “I think they might be worried that that the executives with experience in SSMU will be less open to changes, but I think that that is totally false. Many of the executives that did get elected […] were all very aware that we would like to see SSMU be more relevant and more engaging with students.”
Bialik was also elected unopposed, to the position of VP Clubs & Services with 89.4 per cent of the vote. In the past, Bialik worked as the SSMU Interest Group Coordinator, and is currently the president or co-president of three SSMU clubs. Bialik noted that her first project will be the completion and analysis of the club survey.
“We’re gonna get all this data, and I’ll be able to define my mandate based on what clubs really want, which is something that’s really needed right now,” she said. “I’m really excited to get into the data and seeing what people want me to do.”
Houston, the only candidate for VP Finance & Operations, won the position with 86.2 per cent of the vote. Houston sat on the SSMU Funding and SUS Finance Committees, as well as on SSMU Council and as the VP Finance for a club. “I am very excited – we’re going to work with a great team next year,” he said.
Elections SSMU also announced that current Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) VP External Emily Boytinck and Jewish Studies student Joanna Schacter will run in the SSMU VP External by-election, with the campaign period beginning on March 23.
All referendum questions passed, with the creation of the Educational Community Living Environment (ECOLE) project fee levy garnering 64.0 per cent of the vote, the SSMU Access Bursary Fund fee renewal receiving 75.2 per cent, and the creation of a School of Environment seat at SSMU Council passing with 80.7 per cent of the vote.