The VP University Affairs plays a pivotal role in student advocacy, sitting on Senate and representing SSMU and its constituents to the McGill administration. This coming year will see some responsibilities removed from the University Affairs portfolio, such as mental health and student services, leaving the VP University Affairs to oversee the SSMU Library Improvement Fund, work with student senators on advocacy projects, oversee student research initiatives, and implement equity initiatives.
Sobat has been actively involved in student politics since 2012, most recently serving as an Arts Senator and Senate Caucus Representative during the 2015-16 academic year. He cited his working knowledge of McGill’s bureucracy as an asset, and said he hoped to “mentor” those newer to student politics.
He has pledged to continue the portfolio’s existing advocacy work with mental health initiatives and the Sexual Assault Policy, as well as pushing for more Indigenous course content. He has noted that as he is not Indigenous himself, his goal to increase Indigenous course content was informed by a report published by an Indigenous McGill student. However, he is also wary of placing too much of a burden of consultation on McGill’s small Indigenous student population.
Sobat told The Daily that, in his opinion, the administration’s view of the university is “disconnected from the student experience,” citing the most important part of the University Affairs role as “bridging that gap.”
Sobat describes his extensive platform as “ambitious.” Among other initiatives, he seeks to empower student advocacy through the “Know Your Rights” campaign, helping students navigate McGill’s confusing policies regarding regarding syllabi, exams, and assignments. He would also fulfil the yet to be completed mandate from the Winter 2015 GA to develop a policy on unpaid internships, which Sobat said would necessitate a summer research project by student staff.
Sobat noted that he’d also prioritize publicizing the advocacy work that SSMU does, calling the work “underappreciated.” He aims to launch a University Affairs website and listserv, neither of which currently exist.
Sobat’s term as a student senator has prepared him well for the role of VP University Affairs. This experience should allow him to successfully navigate McGill’s bureaucracy and to effectively advocate on behalf of SSMU members to an administration that too often fails to prioritize students’ interests. The care with which Sobat has formulated his plans to continue pushing for Indigenous course content – stressing the need for more Indigenous consultation while acknowledging the disproportionate burden this may place on Indigenous students – shows both thoughtfulness and pragmatism. The Daily also commends Sobat’s platform, which is among the most comprehensive and nuanced in recent years. His unwavering commitment to SSMU’s political nature and social justice priorities is not mere rhetoric, but clearly informs his platform in concrete ways.
In light of these considerations, The Daily wholeheartedly endorses a “yes” vote for Sobat.