The Daily interviewed each of the seven candidates in order to decide on our endorsements. Questions centred around past experience, the executive as a political actor, and portfolio-specific details. We sincerely hope that the 2018-19 student executives contribute to a better undergraduate experience at McGill. Please take the time to make an informed decision; the voting period runs from March 19-21.
The SSMU President is the leader of the SSMU executive team, in addition to being a key player in interactions with the administration. The President is the only undergraduate representative on the Board of Governors, and sits on Senate. The President is also responsible for the maintenance of SSMU’s governing documents and the enforcement of its Constitution and Internal Regulations. Furthermore, the President is tasked with supporting the rest of the executive team as need arises.
Bulger is a U2 Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies major with a minor in Indigenous Studies at McGill. She is currently an Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Representative and Floor Fellow at New Residence Hall, as well as a former Rez Life Coordinator. As an AUS Representative she has had to sit in on the AUS and SSMU Council meetings, which have contributed to her experience in governance. Her involvement with residence life has both trained her in event planning and established an understanding of the supportive environment necessary for the interpersonal relations within the SSMU Executive Council.
Her platform revolves around three aspects: creating a community space in the aftermath of the SSMU building closure, evaluating the progress of certain projects such as the Our Turn Sexual Violence Policy and the Milton-Parc Relations, and lastly, increasing the accessibility of governance practices such as voting, referendums, and the General Assembly. Bulger stated that the transparency of governing documents and the translation of some of these documents, such as the SSMU Constitution into French, are also aspects which she wants to focus on.
Bulger conveyed a concern towards the amount of privileged candidates running for executive roles and expresses her desire to make “our governing bodies more inclusive.” In terms of governance reform, she cited the mandate to the AUS reformation on their hiring practices as a source of inspiration to base this desire off of. The mandate strongly encourages marginalized groups to apply for executive positions.
Bulger states that her long-term goals as President include creating a positive environment and focusing on teamwork and empathy between different executives on SSMU. She emphasizes the necessity for strong and close relationships between the executives of SSMU in order to increase the overall empathy of the SSMU Executive Board.
Mansdoerfer is a U3 student majoring in Electrical Engineering. He is an Engineering University Society (EUS) Senator as well as a former EUS SSMU Representative. Mansdoerfer’s platform focuses on three aspects: rebuilding faculty relationships, engaging current student concerns, and focusing advocacy on student needs.
As Senator he sat on the Legislative Council for the past two years, and he explains how he has witnessed apathy from most faculties on the council. He cites the impeachment of the Management President over the past two years as well as the lack of involvement of EUS within SSMU. He emphasises his hopes to strengthen inter-faculty relationships. He also describes the lack of involvement in the Round Tables, saying that only four out of the five presidents attended. In order to increase attendance, he expresses a wish to reach out to faculty presidents and establish a more personal relationship with them.
In regards to engaging current student concerns, Mansdoerfer wants to reform the structure of the General Assembly (GA) as well as the Board of Directors. He proposes a lowering of quorum in the GA because he does not believe that high turnout should only occur for assemblies addressing issues students are most passionate about such as the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) campaign. In the past, Mansdoerfer has expressed his belief that SSMU should remain relatively apolitical about “external” issues. He would also like to make the Chair of the Board of Directors a non-voting member as it is undemocratic and he would like to invite two alumni representatives on the Board in order to strengthen its structure.
Overall, Mansdoerfer’s platform stresses a dedication towards involvement and representation of all faculties in SSMU as well as a campaign revolving around “restor[ing] faith in the student society.”
Endorsement: Corinne Bulger, with reservations
Both candidates, Bulger and Mansdoerfer, demonstrate extensive involvement in respective Faculty representation at SSMU and an understanding of student politics. However, Bulger demonstrates a more streamlined plan as a President, as she draws on her experience with student engagement and administrative work, both through her intensive involvement in Residence Life and as an Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) representative to SSMU. While Mansdoerfer’s experience also speaks to his work, his platform only focuses on issues that pertain to student involvement and fails to provide a consistent framework that is aligned with the President portfolio.
Bulger’s platform highlights her dedication to advocacy for increased student participation in government, but fails to propose a concrete solution to SSMU’s inaccessibility. Bulger expresses her intention to follow through on SSMU’s more positive initiatives, including work with the Milton Parc community and Gender Neutral language in SSMU legislation.
However, Bulger only commits herself to addressing the inadequacy of SSMU governance and its relation to student body representation, and thus fails to take a stand on significant political debates, like the SSMU-AVEQ affiliation question. Her goals regarding governance reform, while admirable, are not concretely outlined at this time.
As she presents a hopeful candidate, the Daily endorses Bulger, with reservations.
VP University Affairs
The VP University Affairs plays a pivotal role in student advocacy, sitting on Senate and representing SSMU and its constituents to the McGill administration.The VP University Affairs also oversees the SSMU Library Improvement Fund, works with student senators on advocacy projects, oversees student research initiatives, and implements equity initiatives.
One of the two candidates to get on the ballot during Elections SSMU’s extended nomination period, Shapiro has no previous experience in student governance at McGill: in an interview with The Daily, Shapiro admitted to being “relatively new” to SSMU politics, but felt that as a self-described future teacher, he was attracted to the VP University Affairs (UA) position as it exists “to remind the university that it’s here for us to learn.” Shapiro’s three-pronged platform stresses “continuity, creativity, and community,” which highlights the VP UA portfolio’s research mandate, commitment to supporting student advocacy,and student consultation. Shapiro’s platform also includes a few more clear-cut promises to build on the work of the current VP UA, including but not limited to, adjusting the Academic Roundtable to allow for greater collaboration, broadening the bi-weekly Senate Caucus meeting to include additional representatives, and creating first-year senate support positions.
While not part of the VP UA portfolio, among Shapiro’s biggest concerns regarding SSMU is governance reform, be it at the level of McGill’s Board of Governors, or within SSMU. He feels it’s intrinsically linked to the VP UA portfolio because “it’s hard to advocate well for students if you can’t prove to the administration, [one] that doesn’t want to listen, that you’re speaking on behalf of students.” He points to “contradictions” in the SSMU system as being proof of this, i.e. SSMU having both elements of direct democracy, such as General Assemblies, but also a Board of Directors more akin to that of a corporation.
When asked which reforms could thus be put forward, Shapiro admitted he has “conflicting ideas because [he didn’t] know what the best model is,” but felt greater consultation needed to take place, and that an “elected Board of Directors should be up for debate.” The ultimate goal should be making increasing student engagement, and making SSMU “as democratic as possible,” he says.
While Shapiro’s platform does include some smaller straightforward goals and focuses on student consultation, it contains few concrete proposals. Plans for “support systems for students needing to engage in personal advocacy” and “equity events co-sponsored by student groups” are vague and offer little insight into how to implement them. Shapiro also
fails to mention the Library Improvement Fund, which the VP UA manages. Finally, Shapiro also has too little experience working in and navigating SSMU to convince students that bigger goals like a “university advocacy conference” are feasible. The Daily thus endorses a “No” vote for Jacob Shapiro.
The VP External is responsible for connecting SSMU’s constituents to the wider Montreal and Quebec community. The portfolio includes communication with other post-secondary institutions and McGill’s labour unions, and lobbying the government on behalf of SSMU. The VP External is also mandated to provide support for student-run social and environmental justice campaigns.
Serving as the primary liaison between SSMU members and the wider Montreal and Quebec community, the existence of the VP External position has been questioned by many who don’t understand why the position also mandates that support be provided for student-run social and environmental justice campaigns endorsed by SSMU. However, Cupido has defended the need for the position, and says McGill undergraduates should not shy away from SSMU’s “inherently political” nature: her platform emphasizes issues of social accessibility, be it greater Indigenization efforts on campus, the need for better outreach to the Society’s francophone members, or greater transparency between the society’s members and its student government. Cupido has highlighted the need for greater communication between SSMU and other Quebec universities, in campaigns like CUTE (“Campagne sur le travail étudiant”), organized around fighting unpaid internships in the promises, or in regards to joining a student federation. Amongst Cupido’s biggest campaign promises is her wanting to affiliate the Society with either the Union Étudiante du Québec (UEQ) or the Association for a Voice in Education in Quebec (AVEQ).
In the Winter 2016 referendum period, SSMU members voted against a SSMU-initiated proposal to join AVEQ, but Cupido feels SSMU members have not adequately been made aware of the the merits of joining a student federation, notably the increased level of provincial representation for SSMU. As VP External, she’s promised to continue to fulfill SSMU’s observational status with AVEQ, but also attend UEQ’s meetings and congresses, and initiate a “thorough communications strategy” informing students of the benefits of joining either UEQ or AVEQ, prior to bringing a new motion to referendum next year. Like a number of this year’s candidates, Cupido has little experience serving in student government, but cites her time working with The Daily as a News Editor and as the paper’s Managing Editor as proof of a deep understanding of SSMU’s inner workings, having covered student politics on campus for nearly four years.
Statement of Recusal
Cupido has been a contributor at The Daily since her first semester at McGill. She’s worked as both a News Editor and as the paper’s Managing Editor in the last two years alone, and as such, The Daily’s Editorial Board has chosen to recuse itself from an endorsement, as any endorsement could reasonably be questioned by SSMU’s membership.
The VP Finance portfolio includes ensuring the long-term financial stability of SSMU in cooperation with the General Manager, overseeing funding and operations management committees, providing the Executive Committee and Board of Directors with regular reports on the financial status of SSMU, and developing the annual budget of SSMU. among other tasks.
Wang is a third year finance student, who previously served as VP finance of the student resident council, as well as the Desautels Management Competition Committee (DMCC). He hopes to rebuild trust in SSMU by implementing reforms to the funding system. Wang’s platform is centered around three pillars; accessibility of SSMU funds, accountability of SSMU’s processes, and the transparency in financial structure.
During the debate, Wang expressed concerns over SSMU’s dense network, which he believes can be inaccessible for individual clubs and student services. Wang’s campaign prioritizes reforms in the application of for funds, as well as a service pooled fund, aimed to allow services to donate their surplus to others in need without a referendum. Wang believes that the reimbursement process and reformed templates should be communicated through a mandatory, collective meeting between the presidents and VP finances of SSMU services. Wang emphasized that many services lacking a business background, may face barriers in understanding their financial position.
When questioned about the role of VP finance in advocating for social responsibility, Wang emphasized the need to maintain financial stability, while representing the interests of students. If elected, Wang plans to build on the social goals of the green funds, and to strengthen SSMU’s social responsibility mandate on its investment portfolio.
Wang’s platform for the VP Finance position is based on accessibility, accountability, and a minor restructuring of SSMU finances and communication. He proposes changes to the funding application procedures for clubs in order to make it more accessible and simple, and an advisory committee to review club spending. Wang has served as VP Finance of student residence hall council, and the DMCC marketing committee, but has no SSMU experience. When asked about how he would implement social responsibility in his role as VP Finance, Wang only briefly discussed past initiatives, but did not seem to present any concrete new goals. He did, however, mention that he would try to keep his personal beliefs out of his job. Due to his lack of prior experience with SSMU, along with the limited nature of his platform and relative lack o engagement with social responsibility, the Daily endorses a No vote.
The VP Internal is responsible for communication between SSMU and students and sends out the SSMU listserv. Responsibilities also include the Old McGill Yearbook and various events, including the 4Floors Halloween party, Frosh events, and Faculty Olympics.
The VP Internal position at SSMU is responsible for planning events like Frosh, publishing the yearbook, and running the weekly listserv. Matthew McLaughlin, a U0 Management student studying Strategic Management and Urban Systems, is running unopposed. He is currently the SSMU Secretary General and the Douglas Hall President, and has also served on a number of other SSMU committees, including the Accountability Committee and the Community Affairs Committee.
McLaughlin’s platform focuses on the accessibility of SSMU, emphasising the need for more communication. He proposes expanding the weekly listserv to additional platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, and WhatsApp. He also aims to make it easier for students and clubs to submit content to be included in the listserv, along with biweekly Facebook Live broadcasts in which he’ll explain what the SSMU execs have been doing. Furthermore, he wants to create town hall sessions in which students will be able to speak to the SSMU execs face to face, to ask questions and voice concerns. Addressing the SSMU building closure, McLaughlin says he will send out periodic listservs including updates on the construction, and important information regarding the relocation of clubs and services. Matthew’s platform also proposes a centralized calendar in which students would be able to find all events taking place around McGill at one location.
Endorsement: Yes, with reservations
Matthew McLaughlin shows extensive experience in student governance, team working and group governance in general. His proposition regarding the creation of a campus calendar, and concrete propositions regarding student instances and organisations traduce a knowledge of the functionings of parts of the student organisations, that make him mostly fit for the position of VP Internal. The Daily nevertheless maintains reservations based on McLaughlin’s lack of experience regarding the functionings of SSMU’s legislative parts. The Daily also maintains reservations on McLaughlin’s silence on contentious student issues. We worry this silence translates a disregard of the fundamentally political role of a SSMU executive position, and a buy into the idea that SSMU can be apolitical, an idea we believe simply is erroneous given the inherently political nature of governing. The Daily endorses a Yes, with reservations.
VP Student life
The VP Student Life’s portfolio deals with clubs and services, student services, mental health initiatives, and independent student groups.
The VP student life is responsible for overseeing SSMU’s liaisons with the Board of Directors (BoD), student clubs and services, as well as managing McGill’s mental health initiatives.
Esterle previously served as the SSMU equity committee, and the Douglas Hall Spirit Representative. Esterle emphasized the need to advocate for marginalized voices through prioritizing mental health on campus, which has consistently been a prominent election issue in recent years.
During the debate, Esterle emphasized the need for reforms on the McGill Counselling Services, noting the month long wait for the first appointment. Esterle criticized McGill Counselling ‘s binary designation of gender in their sign up sheets, which they feel is “purely wrong and discriminatory.”
When asked about the cutbacks on the Eating Disorder Program (EDP) at McGill, Esterle responded that they will advocate for the right to a treatment program, and regain the resources firstly through communication with Mental Health services, then by pressuring the BoD. If elected, Esterle will attempt to create an in residence support system, and a search engine cataloguing clubs and services.
Esterle also stressed the importance of individual contact with students, despite the building closure, which may limit accessibility. Esterle plans on increasing office hours as needed, in order to maintain direct communication with individual students, and to represent their needs better on the BoD.
Esterle is running for VP Student Life on a platform largely based around mental health services at McGill. Her platform is divided into administrative changes, individual changes, and creation of committees. Main points of her platform include: a research engine for McGill clubs and services, and making McGill counseling services more efficient and easier for students to navigate. Esterle’s platform, while hopeful, is relatively limited in scope, and may at times forget to take institutional memory into account. While her commitment to the improvement of mental health services at McGill is valuable, The McGill Daily is not confident that her previous experience as Douglas Hall Spirit Representative and serving on the SSMU Equity Committee has adequately prepared her for the role. As a result, The Daily endorses a No vote.
Endorsements: Winter 2018 Referendum Period
Policy on Implementation of a Fall Reading Week – YES
While a majority of Canadian universities have already implemented a minimum of four or more study days in the Fall semester, McGill belongs to a growing few that have not. According to a 2015 survey by McGill Enrollment Services, 71.5% of respondents were in favour of a Fall Reading Week, and research has suggested that such a break would offer some much-needed respite to new students who might be over-burdened with a transition to life at McGill. The adoption of such a policy would mandate SSMU to support campaigns for the implementation of a Fall Reading Week at McGill through the offices of the VP External and the VP University Affairs, giving students added legitimacy to pursue this goal. As such, The Daily endorses a Yes vote regarding the implementation of such a policy.
ECOLE Fee Levy – YES
Created in 2011, the Educational Community Living Environment (ECOLE) at McGill, a collective living house and community space on the university’s downtown campus, has strived to exemplify a model of urban sustainable living through applied student research, alternative education and community building. Without the organization’s $2.00 opt-outable student fee levy, ECOLE would be incapable of supporting its own open study lounge hours, free space booking services, and putting on events and programming around environmental and societal sustainability. As such, The Daily endorses a Yes vote for this fee.
BSN Fee Renewal and Fee increase – YES
The Black Students’ Network (BSN) at McGill works everyday towards making our university campus safer and more accessible for Black students, and is committed to educating the McGill undergraduate community by hosting panels and events to discuss racial issues. In recent years, the BSN has become the main financial contributor to Black History Month at McGill, and has came forward and made it clear that without a fee levy, continuing to put on BHM at McGill will not be possible. As such, The Daily endorses both a renewal of the BSN’s opt-outable fee and a levy to increase the fee to $1.00 per student for full-time students and $0.50 per student for part time students per semester, from $0.40 per full-time student and $0.20 for part-time students.
Amendments to the University Centre Fee, the SSMU Clubs Fee, and the SSMU Campus Life Fee – YES
With the SSMU Building closure comes a new set of problems for SSMU, mainly concerning its ability to house the numerous clubs and services integral to McGill student life. Many of the fees that have helped SSMU keep said clubs and services going have strict definitions of how they can be spent, which could potentially constrain SSMU’s abilities to secure spaces for them with the building closure. These three motions would allow SSMU some more leeway in managing obstacles in the coming months, obstacles that include paying third-parties other than McGill University for expenses related to SSMU Building closure, allowing SSMU to use significant rollovers in the Club Fund and the Campus Life Fund from previous years, and amending SSMU’s Internal Regulations to allow SSMU to grant money to clubs that are not currently running a deficit. The Daily endorses a Yes vote in these three referendum questions.