News  So long, SSMUshies…

Kay Turner President

Turner jumped into 2008-2009 with many challenges ahead of her. She was forced to implement the outgoing Council’s decision to hand over Caférama’s lease to Café Supreme, a corporate chain, despite personal and vocal student support for a sustainable, student-run operation. Turner was also attentive to student input, even though it was admittedly the Gaza motion that finally spurred a large turnout at a General Assembly, not the organizational skills of the executives. Turner also has finally secured the SSMU nursery a spot, with construction expected to finish by the end of May.

Most importantly, however, was that when the VP Finance & Operations Tobias Silverstein resigned in October, the executive barely missed a beat, divvying up the tasks, running things fairly well, and writing a reasonable budget. Leadership is important in a crisis, and Turner kept SSMU running smoothly, even if some projects – particularly with large projects like retooling the inventory system at Haven Books, signing food service leases, and creating a functional and bilingual web site – took longer than we would have hoped.

Nadya Wilkinson VP University Affairs

If SSMU is supposed to check-and-balance the administration’s patronizing restraints on student life, Nadya Wilkinson certainly led the students’ defense. Brand new to SSMU this year, Wilkinson really stepped up to organize the Senate caucus, lobby the administration against the travel directive, and slash her way through the bureaucratic red tape. She organized some great research projects into campus food services, room booking reorganization, and at the same time worked closely to get the Office of Sustainability launched late this winter. After attending countless taskforce and Senate committees, we’re thrilled with the way Wilkinson has gracefully and professionally handled her portfolio, and we hope that she works closely with her successor to facilitate the continuation of all her hard work.

Devin Alfaro VP External

Devin Alfaro has had a tough year. He worked hard on Reclaim Your Campus, a campaign to preserve and recoup student rights. But after it fizzled out by early fall, he had trouble finding even five people to attend its relaunch. He tried to lobby for international tuition to remain at a reasonable level at McGill amidst provincial deregulation, but new international management undergraduates will pay nearly $7,000 more yearly than last year’s students. However, SSMU’s external position is stronger than before. By aligning SSMU with other independent student unions, Alfaro has built up the “table de concertation” enough to start formalizing the unions’ relationship, a massive task. We doubt the student federation will succeed without a more concrete plan, but it still holds promise, considering the abominable state of other student federations in this province and country. Alfaro has also increased awareness among students of late night disturbances and other problems they create for residents in the Milton-Parc Community – the McGill Ghetto – a noble and often forgotten goal.

Samantha Cook VP Clubs and Services

While Samantha Cook was largely treading water on two of her most important stated goals – defending student groups’ rights to use the McGill name and fighting McGill’s opt-out fee system for certain groups – she has not lost much ground either, while accomplishing other significant goals. She deftly maintained a professional, unemotional position on Choose Life’s status as a club, and recently oversaw the return of club funding to nearly $50,000 after it was cut by more than half in the last year. Gerts has also been run reasonably well – a responsibility Cook assumed after VP Finance & Operations Tobias Silverstein resigned. Cook also convinced the administration to grant students two more rooms for their use in the Arts Building. Overall, no news is good news; we have neither noticed nor heard many complaints from clubs or services this year, especially compared to the past. We can therefore honestly say that we hope that next year’s VP C&S, Sarah Olle, who worked under Cook, continues in the same vein – even if we would prefer a bit more ambition.

Julia Webster VP Internal

Julia Webster was so much more than a party-planner this year. Thanks to her efforts, SSMU has a new web site that’s usable, although still lacking in many areas, especially the much-anticipated French version. Although Webster promised last Thursday it would be released the following day, it remains hidden, and what we uncovered online was described by a member of the Commission on Francophone Affairs as “deficient” in its translation. Still, many campus events like Frosh and Snow AP had a more sustainable outcome, and Webster strengthened relations with McGill Varsity Athletics and francophone students, in spite of the web site problems. She also brought back two editions of 4Floors – although the Valentines edition was confined to the Ballroom – and picked up a couple VP Finance portfolio duties. She wasn’t able to get her big year-end concert and party, something she’s attributed to funding limitations. Now Webster is training her replacement, Alex Brown, who will probably follow in the Websterian school of thought next year, running a tried-and-true repertoire of events, along with some diversification.