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Hopping to the finish

This year’s SSMU executive stumbles through the final weeks of the semester

Jake Itzkowitz President

For a President who panders to the press and constantly checks his BlackBerry, Itzkowitz’s failure this year was maintaining an open and critical dialogue with students. He did not deny that he encouraged students to walk out of a General Assembly last semester, undermining SSMU’s direct democratic process. Further, councillors have accused Itzkowitz of orchestrating backroom dealings before Council on more than one occasion.

He failed to conduct student consultation on what to do with the Caférama space in Shatner. He neglected to inform The McGill Tribune that SSMU wanted to cut its financial lifeline to the Society until 48 hours before the idea was presented to Council. Nor has Itzkowitz shown good teambuilding skills on the SSMU executive or among councillors, allowing a tired Council to slack off, and nearly allowing the complete deterioration of the executive committee at the beginning of the year.

That said, he has reached out to different faculties through a series of semi-productive meetings and overseen new green proposals in the Shatner building. But Itzkowitz’s tendency to cater his responses to his audience means that it’s just plain hard to take him seriously.

Kay Turner VP Internal

We’re happy that incoming SSMU President Kay Turner has performed reasonably well as VP Internal. She helped make the many large events she heads up more sustainable, and improved the communication between the faculties for the Faculty Olympics.

But outside of her portfolio, Turner has not taken an active role. The change in the name of her position was supposed to allow her to take a more political role in SSMU – which she strongly supported – but we have not heard much from our future President. Turner has also been quiet at SSMU Council, save for her introduction of a motion to introduce gender parity at Council meetings – which, failing in a close vote, has not been pursued further.

We know that Turner has many admirable skills and leadership qualities, but so far she has failed to demonstrate them except when it is explicitly required of her. So while her tenure as VP Internal has been acceptable, Turner needs to step up and take on more responsibility, especially if she is going to be a successful President. It’s good she stayed in her lane and got to the finish line, but next year she’ll have to help the other execs get there as well.

Adrian Angus VP University Affairs

VP University Affairs Adrian Angus had a rough start this year. He was involved in encouraging a walkout to stop an anti-capital campaign motion at the Fall General Assembly, losing quorum for a motion on opt outs supported by CKUT – on whose Board Angus sat.

Navigating the bureaucracy that is the McGill administration is a tough task, but Angus has found his bearings. He has rightly focused on McGill’s concern over liability, which has prompted the University to crack down on alcohol, student-run food services, and events – basically, everything that makes life at McGill at all interesting. He has also proved capable on other files, especially coordinating and advising the student Senators. These Senators have been on the ball, asking hard-hitting questions and doing good work – Angus deserves credit for his proactive role.

But he was a little too pushy at Council last month, when he rushed through The Tribune independence, giving the paper two days’ notice on the biggest change in its history. And like The Daily wrote for Angus’s midterm review, we have seen little progress on his campaign promises of improving advising and library services.

Angus surprised us with some good ideas and leadership this year, but he should have thought about the consequences of his actions a little more before getting out of the gate.

Imad Barake VP Finance&Operations

The VP Finance & Operations had a heavy load of oversized projects this year, so we could understand if some files lagged behind others. But it seems that Imad Barake has tripped up in almost every race he’s participated in.

Barake inherited Haven Books and the empty University Bytes room, without a manual for their future use. However it took about a year to fill the University Bytes space, and you can count the number of new textbooks Haven Books has on two hands.

Throughout the year, club budgets have been slashed and reorganized, to the general confusion and anger of clubs. But now, SSMU’s pockets have turned out plenty of money left over.

More recently, the lack of transparency in finding a tenant for Caférama’s room is unbelievable. SSMU gave students about a week’s notice to submit a business model for the space. It also did not prioritize student-run initiatives despite a General Assembly mandate to do so, did not inform groups that they can apply for special funding for student space, and is now past its self-imposed deadline to choose a tenant for the room.

These problems point to disorganization on Barake’s part, which, we’re told, is because he was away most of the summer and did not prepare himself adequately. We hope Barake’s acclaimed successor – assuming he doesn’t withdraw like the four others who ran for the position this year – will be ready at the starting line come September.

Marcelle Kosman VP Clubs&Services

VP Clubs & Services Marcelle Kosman met a steep learning curve when she started at her position, and now says that SSMU has hardened her in a way few can understand. Rough. But that’s easy to understand after a year of tense relations in her portfolio.

While this year’s funding cuts might have put a black spot on her year in the short term, Kosman handled the backlash – votes on supporting clubs and services at the General Assembly and this semester’s referendum – respectfully and supportively. Still, she could have done more to help clubs understand the reasoning behind SSMU’s budget cuts.

Kosman’s focus on sustainability could be the first case of a politician following through on her campaign promises: she nurtured the growth of the styrofoam-reducing Plate Club and the Bike Collective, which will help shape a greener Students’ Society for years to come. Basically, Kosman races like a turtle – slowly but steadily moving along – instead of sleeping on the side like a hare.

Max Silverman VP External

Silverman has engaged more directly with the student movement than any VP in recent memory. Unfortunately, the past two years have proved that direct engagement with the student movement can be less than fruitful. This year, we saw the Canadian Federation of Students kick SSMU out before undergrads had a chance to vote on becoming members, and the Quebec student movement fracture – not unite – against higher tuition.

Silverman has turned SSMU into a strong student union that can work effectively on its own. SSMU has lobbied the provinical and federal governments, forged informal alliances with other student unions, and initiated its own lobbying effort – He even made some efforts to reach out on the community level, organizing meetings with Milton-Parc residents and holding a community-group dinner. Further, he deserves credit for doing his damnedest to get McGill students interested in a provincial student strike. On balance, Silverman has been an effective and competent VP External. He will be missed.