Jose Diaz has done a lot this year to improve Gerts, from buying new pool tables to improving its music selection. Last Thursday’s concert in Gerts, co-hosted with CKUT, sold more drinks than any other event this year. Diaz’s efforts are starting to show in the bar’s financial ledgers. Gerts will run a deficit this year, but it’s still about $10,000 better off than it was last year. In the financial sphere, SSMU outperformed its budget this term. From this, Diaz was able to allocate $50,000 toward a new SSMU department to organize conferences, concerts, and speakers. Diaz has also taken steps to create more financial transparency, posting financial statements from 1992 and onward online, along with SSMU’s budget.
The recent revelation that SSMU invested in companies inolved in the tar sands, as well as natural resource exploration, raised a few eyebrows. On the one hand, we’re happy that Diaz called attention to investment in a project that poisons water, displaces populations, and isolates workers from their families, among other things. On the other hand, we wonder why he didn’t wave the red flag sooner. We’re also concerned that SSMU may overlook the equally damaging side effects of other kinds of natural resource exploration. Haven Books, which is set to lose $65,000, may represent Diaz’s most pressing challenge.
Diaz has beaten us to the punch on recommendations. He’s taken steps to start working on a concrete investment policy this term with SSMU’s Financial Ethics Research Committee. We hope, though, that it extends beyond the tar sands to mining, natural resources, and exploration in general. Diaz is also trying to turn around Haven Books with a project to review the store’s options, with proposals from students, Haven employees, and SSMU councillors alike.