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SSMU Executive midterm review

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Josh Redel – President

Redel arrived in office with a divided and politicized student body and what seemed to be a politically divergent executive team. However, Redel has been successful in keeping the executive working together smoothly, although this has often been done at the expense of tackling divisive issues.

Redel also oversaw the implementation of a new General Assembly structure last fall – with online ratification and a mood watcher. However, these measures failed to effectively help maintain quorum, which was lost halfway through the year’s first GA.

As the only undergraduate student representative on the Board of Governors, Redel has fostered friendly relationships with the administration, although we will see – most likely, when a renegotiated lease for the SSMU building is finally released – if this has come at the cost of real student advocacy. Some of Redel’s projects, such as the “roaming councils” and the “Green GA,” were more fluff than substance. It is reassuring to know that Redel seeks to engage the wider McGill community, but these initiatives might not be the most effective approach.

As president, we would like to see Redel facilitate more productive discussions at SSMU Council.

Haley Dinel – VP University Affairs

One of the biggest projects for Dinel last semester was working with the SSMU Indigenous Studies researcher, the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office, and other parties in the implementation of a North American Indigenous Studies program. The joint effort resulted in the creation of a minor for next year and increased awareness on the subject on campus.

It is troubling to see that the executive responsible for relations with the University is heard so little during Senate, which has been exceptionally controversial this year. That being said, she should be commended for seeing her Senate livestreaming initiative through.

Dinel has also taken up the responsibility of negotiating the lease for the Shatner building along with Redel. Despite reporting “good progress” in the negotiations – confidential so far – the lease has yet to be signed.

SSMU also faced controversy during the 4Floors event last fall when a student attended the event wearing blackface. As the executive in charge of enforcing the equity policy, this was an important failure for Dinel, especially given that the prior executive had successfully prevented this sort of incident by publicizing the equity policy before 4Floors and informing participants to be sensitive regarding their costume choices.

Jean-Paul Briggs – VP Finance and Operations

Briggs started the year with the renovation in Gerts, an increase in sales for the bar, and the creation of Gertrude’s Corner. However, he faced some of the biggest challenges in the executive team, with the student-run cafe and the revision of the budget. Despite initially appearing hesitant about the feasibility of a student run cafe, given the lease negotiations which render SSMU’s finances so uncertain, Briggs now appears much more dedicated to fulfilling his campaign promise to see the initiative through, though likely with an extended timeline.

The budget revision was presented late last semester, and although reduced, still has a deficit of $211,320.

In the coming semester, Briggs should improve his communication efforts with the student body and especially with campus media.

Allison Cooper – VP Clubs and Services

Cooper’s first challenge was to run the Fall Activities night, which went smoothly, despite the expected long lines outside the building. The challenge for this semester is to have a widely attended Winter Activities night, which plans to feature performances and interactive activities. Cooper also started initiatives aimed at helping clubs, such as the clubs workshop, which assisted new club executives navigate SSMU bureaucracy, as well as a services round-table, and the “Club Hub” project, an online portal aimed at alleviating turnover problems by helping new club executives, which has however yet to be fully implemented. Cooper has been active in her advocacy for groups like CKUT and M-SERT, even when SSMU Council did not endorse a yes vote for the former.

Along with Briggs, Cooper has changed the financial audit for clubs to happen once a semester, instead of yearly. The change will allow clubs to receive funding based on their more recent performance. Cooper oversaw a lot of the building renovations planned last year, which saw the expansion of the Legal Aid Clinic and new flooring on the fourth floor of the Shatner building.

Despite having small initiatives like overseeing the office re-allocation on the fourth floor started by last year’s executive, Cooper has not undertaken many large projects aimed at improving the status of clubs and services.

Michael Szpedja – VP Internal

Orientation week, Szpedja’s first event of the year, saw a major overhaul with increased participation from the administration and the implementation of à la carte events. Frosh was, as usual, not without its major incidents, though it is hard to separate what we can pin on organizers and what is inevitable given the nature of Frosh week. Since Frosh, Szpedja has worked on big events like 4Floors, which sold out quickly but also proved controversial. As VP Internal, he has focused on traditional events but students would have benefited from initiatives of a different nature, such as speaker events mentioned in his campaign platform.
Szpedja needs to make better use of social media and other communication means to fulfill his campaign goal of building school spirit.

Robin Reid-Fraser – VP External

Reid-Fraser’s most notable achievements have been in SSMU’s relationship with the Milton-Parc community, such as the creation of the position of community ambassadors. She has also worked with the Community Affairs Coordinator in initiatives like the creation of French conversation classes with members of the Milton-Parc community and videos about the neighbourhood.

Although Reid-Fraser planned a candidate’ debate early in the semester with members of other student unions, she should strive to have a stronger relationship with other student unions in Montreal and Quebec to create similar initiatives. Reid-Fraser should also encourage stronger participation in Table de Concertation Étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ) next semester.

Reid-Fraser’s role as a liaison between SSMU and the provincial government could have been better. Despite the abolition of the tuition hikes by the Parti Québécois, concerted efforts to mobilize McGill students during the fall semester were absent.

– Compiled by Juan Camilo Velásquez