News  SSMU Elections 2009

Each year during election season, The Daily barrels through a series of interviews with all the runners for a SSMU executive position, and publishes a condensed version of the Q&As and our endorsements (online in the Commentary section). With an apathetic turnout of eight candidates for six positions, we thought it might be a good idea to force some of the acclaimed candidates to concretely articulate what they intend to do next year, given that there are so few actual contests. We generally found that while a number of candidates had an impressive background, they lacked a fresh, vigorous approach to their upcoming year. But don’t let us decide for you. Read through everything, make up your mind, and cast your votes where possible at before Thursday at 4 p.m.


MARSHALL PETERS Candidate for President

What made you decide to run for president?

When I failed my year in arts and was kicked out of the University, I hated this place. Three years later, I’ve realized I care about it and that I should go the extra mile to make changes.

What are your big plans for next year? 

I want to change the cost of food. I’d like to see Midnight Kitchen expanded until they serve 1,000 students a day. I would discuss with them to change their menu to incorporate free-range meat and vegetarian food.

I’d like to make SnowAP profitable with a smaller environmental footprint, potentially through insulation.

How do language politics fit into your portfolio?

One student [I talked to] suggested we offer French classes to anglophone professors. The anglo/franco divide is racist, really….We need to include the two communities and take them out of their insular perspectives.

What did the question about Gaza teach you about General Assemblies?

People were turned away [from the GA] due to [limited] room capacity. It’s inappropriate for such a small percentage of the student body to make a statement that affects everyone. We shouldn’t be working to voice global political opinions when we can’t [manage our own affairs].

Does that constitute censorship?

To say no to a question: that is censorship. But maybe the General Assembly isn’t the right forum. [We could] open the ballroom for a discussion and not have it be a motion.

IVAN NEILSON Candidate for President

What made you decide to run for president?

My involvement [in SSMU] this year. I could see what was going on and what I could bring to the position. [I learned] how I could effect change.

What are your big plans for next year?

Foremost, we need to look at our ancillary fee bylaws. Right now there is no clear procedure if students reject a fee increase. The admin can come right back with it with a few modifications. They try a different direction, try to get fees through no matter what. I want to look into different kinds of outreach mentorship between local and international students in first year. We need better publicity for how native Montrealers can get engaged.

How do language politics fit into your portfolio?

Professors are reluctant to [let students submit papers and tests in French] because they are not necessarily supported in terms of translators. Since [grading work in French] is such an added hassle, we have to ask whether submitting work in French is really a right.

What did the question about Gaza teach you about General Assemblies?

[The Gaza question] showed students are in fact interested if the issue is relevant, so we can’t always cry apathy. Hillel suggested more of a debriefing should have been done after the event. It’s only at the next General Assembly that we will report on the previous one.

REBBECCA DOOLEY Acclaimed candidate for VP University Affairs

What are your strengths coming into this portfolio?

I’ve been part of a community of student activists who are really passionate about looking into the structures that we’re learning in, criticizing them, and taking action towards that. I’ve also done a lot of work with Queer McGill as the Political Action Co-ordinator.

How will you be accessible to students interests, considering student apathy?

For my portfolio, students just aren’t informed, and I’ll take a more active role in information campaigns. When big issues come up at the University, I’ll use all media outlets. I’m representing the student body; I need to hear what they have to say.

What issues crop up in your portfolio concerning the administration and how are you going to smooth those out?

Professor Mendelson just put out his Student Life evaluation, and I’m hoping to work closely with him on that. I’m interested in the different Senate sub-committees, especially those related to equity and marginalized students. I know the administration next year is going to be addressing a lot of economic crisis issues, which could result in a lot of funding cuts. I plan on taking a very pro-student stance on those.

What are the dream projects you want to launch and carry through?

I’m interested in working with the Senate sub-committees to clean up the bureaucracy and get more done. On the Queer Equity subcommittee, I want to make sure their safe space program is working effectively. I’m interested in working with VP External on international tuition issues.

SARAH OLLE Acclaimed candidate for VP Clubs and Services

What are your big dreams for next year?

I specifically would not say that I have big dreams. I think I’ve learned a lot from previous SSMU executives who have set their goals really high and haven’t achieved them. [That being said,] I want to see if we can get more money into the clubs fund from other departments. I was also really disappointed about how long it took to grant club money. Another category is space. We do have spaces on campus, we just need to figure out how to get our clubs permission to use them.

How would you handle another situation like Choose Life?

VP Clubs & Services (C&S) is a specific role that does specific things. For a club that comes for approval, that goes to the C&S committee – the VP does have a seat but they’re one of seven [committee] voices. I really respected the way VP Cook chose to handle the situation by not voicing her personal opinion in council.

What will be your biggest challenge?

I think a huge challenge is student apathy. The fact that we have four acclaimed races for SSMU executive is really discouraging. I thought a lot about how to counter [apathy]. I think it is unclear to a lot of students how SSMU impacts their daily life, and I want to explain that more clearly to students. Another goal I have to decrease apathy is to make it easier to become involved in clubs and services.

ALEXANDRA BROWN Candidate for VP Internal

What strengths do you bring to the portfolio?

In the time I’ve been involved with SSMU, I’ve watched the position grow and change, but not as much as it could. I know what has worked and what needs to be changed.

What are your big dreams?

I want to make the VP Internal portfolio not just about planning events, but also about bringing people together so that events are great in every category. [For instance,] you can have all events both excel at managing their effect on the environment and be accessible to francophone students. I would personally love SSMU to be more out there. I’d love to start a campaign, ‘What can SSMU do for you?’

How are you going to engage students who are apathetic?

I think the reason that events have low attendance is because there is a disconnect between types of events and types of students. I don’t think the events calendar is diverse enough. I’d love to do something with other universities. I thought about doing a fun competition like an academic decathlon. I [also] want to talk to specific faculty associations and ask them what kind of events are popular [with that faculty.]

How do you think you can make Frosh more accessible to non-drinkers?

For a lot of people, SSMU Frosh is overwhelming or exhausting, as most of the activities happen at night. I would like to see better use of daytime for more inclusive activities that are not geared to drinking. SSMU Frosh can make a better introduction to Montreal and francophone culture. We could get people to use French or practice French.

BRENDAN SULLIVAN Candidate for VP Internal

What strengths do you bring to this portfolio?

I think that my work at Queer McGill is about working with other people and other leaders. I’m really good at getting people to see my vision and work within their visions and facilitate that.

What are your big dreams?

My overarching pledges are to make more events that are sustainable, both financially and environmentally, as well as more accessible. I want to review all the events we do now, and edit or get rid of ones that lose so much money. I want to cut [SnowAP] down to four days instead of ten –[and use the money for] lower cost and free events. I want to work with more faculty groups. I want to use things like the Green Fund to make SSMU events more sustainable, and utilize the Students Society Programming Network to help put on events.

How are you going to engage students who are apathetic?

I want to bring speakers that aren’t necessarily for everyone, but reach out to certain groups of students. I also want to work with other groups, like QPIRG and Concordia University. I want to have a Clubs Week, which is more accessible that Activities Nights.

How do you think you can make Frosh more accessible to non-drinkers?

The problem with SSMU Frosh is that it comes after all these days of drinking and everyone’s like ‘I don’t feel like going whitewater rafting at nine in the morning.’ I’d like more daytime events that are less alcohol-related.

SEBASTIAN RONDEROS-MORGAN Acclaimed candidate for VP External

What are your big dreams for next year?

My big dreams are to shepherd the Table de Concertation – a new provincial student society – into an effective institution. I think the External portfolio can also grow beyond the political element that it has largely been over the past few years. The Student Community Affairs Committee, for example, has done work in conjunction with Burst Your Bubble, but it can be improved. There hasn’t been any new energy or ideas brought into the portfolio recently. I’d [also like] to focus on programs that engage McGill students to learn about Montreal neighborhoods outside of McGill, through community and arts events.

Why do you think SSMU should try to create a new student federation?

I think there are two main issues why they should affiliate. SSMU would obviously be part of a greater lobbying voice. SSMU also can’t be an isolated association, given that in the context of Quebec it is a unique as an anglophone university, appealing mostly to Canadians of Quebec. It’s important that we develop ties with Francophone associations.

What will be your greatest challenge?

One of the greater challenges I will have is getting people mobilized on campus. Students will be inspired if they get the proper information on why they should to get involved. If they don’t feel passionate about certain things, then they won’t get off the ground.

JOSE DIAZ Acclaimed candidate for VP Finance & Operations

Why you should you be the VP Finance & Operations (FOPS)?

I think I would do a really good job because I am probably the only candidate in the last two years that comes to the portfolio with some experience. I already sit on most of the committees that the VP FOPS works with: I’ve been really involved with the Society as a councillor with operations and finance, with the comptroller, with the executive; it’s something of a continuity.

The position of FOPS is in flux. Do the requirements of the porfolio need to change?

The previous FOPS resigned partly because in practical terms the VP FOPS doesn’t have an oversight over all of the budgets of the society – many of them remain confidential, even to FOPS. That led to the idea that the position may need to be reevaluated. My personal position is that [reform] is not needed.

How do you plan to make SSMU operations financially viable, like Gerts and Haven Books?

I’m not promising they’re going to break even, because that’s extremely unrealistic, but we need to experiment with them.

For Haven, there’s a new inventory system, and that will allow us to do much better things with it, such as putting things online.

As for Gerts, something that will be important is to try to diversify events there. Council passed just yesterday the elimination of the booking fees for the remainder of the year for McGill University groups.