News  SSMU Elections: Candidate Rundowns and Endorsements

President

Bryan Buraga

Experience:

Currently, Buraga serves as an Arts & Science Senator, which allows him to participate in SSMU Legislative Council and McGill Senate. Between those two bodies, Buraga has participated in many committees, including serving as director of the Board of Directors and chairing the SSMU Ad-hoc Fall Reading Week Committee.

Platform:

Buraga’s platform outlines five main points. If elected, he would focus on student advocacy, financial and institutional reform, student space renewal, improved student support services, and concrete accountability measures. In advocacy, Buraga would push for a fall reading week by 2020. Additionally, he is calling for “a policy that includes a clause stating that disciplinary action against professors will stay in their employment file for a period of seven years and will be considered in promotion and tenure.” His suggestions for financial and institutional reform include ending uncompensated student labour within SSMU while ensuring that student workers are awarded a fair wage. He would also revisit McGill’s meal plan practices, SSMU’s policy on approving course fees, and the biannual General Assemblies. Student space renewal and improved student support services efforts include acquiring more properties on Peel to host additional student services and clubs. For accountability and transparency measures Buraga suggests monthly Reddit Q&As and bi-weekly Facebook livestreams, along with implementing a SSMU conflict of interest policy.

Kyle Rubenok

Experience:

Rubenok is the current president of the Computer Science Undergraduate Society. He also sits on SSMU’s Finance and Accountability Committees, as well as the Board of Directors. Rubenok’s experience with SSMU has given him “detailed insight into the workings of this organization and has motivated [his] desire to lead it.”

Platform:

Rubenok’s platform has three main points: student experience, health and wellness on campus, and responsible governance. He would advocate for more affordable food options on campus during the renegotiation of food contracts. While Schulich library is closed for renovations, Rubenok wants to make sure student experience isn’t compromised. He plans on converting areas of the University Centre into study spaces, among other improvements to student spaces across campus. If elected, Rubenok pledges to make the 3501 Peel Street Wellness Hub project his “highest priority.” Similarly, he would like to advocate for better health insurance for international students at the upcoming renegotiation of Blue Cross’ contract with McGill. To ensure responsible governance, Rubenok wants to increase advocacy with administrators by fostering a good working relationship with the Deputy Provost Student Life and Learning (DPSLL) Rubenok also wants to improve General Assemblies by making them more digitally accessible, so students who cannot physically attend can still participate.

Endorsement: Bryan Buraga, with reservations 

Buraga has consistently shown that student input and advocacy are his main priorities, and has  demonstrated his capabilities in student government. Some highlights from his platform include a Fall reading week by 2020, ending down-curving grades and 70 per cent finals, supporting divestment from fossil fuels, and continued advocacy for a better McGill policy addressing sexual violence. Our endorsement comes with reservations because of Buraga’s Judicial Board petition in November of 2018.  While Buraga’s ultimate goal was to secure funding for the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) through SSMU and not student fees, quietly removing himself from the original motion without informing anyone and not taking into account the consequences if the petition passed, resulting in no GSVP at all, is cause to question how Buraga may solve debates like this in the future.

 

VP Student Life

Billy Kawasaki

Experience:

Up until February, Kawasaki was serving as VP Internal of AUS, resigning in the midst of the POLI 339 controversy. He is currently the HR coordinator of SSMU. In the past he has also acted as the McGill Industrial Relations’ Students Association VP Internal, as the VP Communications and as the chair of FEARC, and sat on the SSMU ad-hoc building committee.

Platform:

Kawasaki’s platform has five pillars: creating a clubs portal, building a SSMU network, mental health advocacy, keeping the eating disorder program, and working towards food security on campus. The clubs portal is at “the heart of [his] mandate.” The clubs portal would facilitate communication between clubs and SSMU, as well as improve the registration process for Activities Night. Building “a SSMU network” involves creating a cultural centre and a wellness hub using the space from properties on Peel and the university centre once both properties open. His advocacy on mental health, eating disorders, and food security involves strengthening existing or creating new programs that support students and foster awareness of these issues.

Endorsement: NO 

From November 2018 to February 2019, Kawasaki served as the VP Internal for the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS). He resigned amidst the POLI 339 debacle, after the suspension of the AUS Executive decision to overturn the Legislative Council’s decision not to approve the course fee. The circumstances of Kawasaki’s resignation and his short time at AUS show a lack of understanding of accountability in student politics, regardless of the other positions he held on campus. Further, while some points in his platform are admirable, like mental health and advocacy, protection of the eating disorder program, and improving food security on campus, the “heart” of his platform is an online portal for McGill clubs. This portal is meant to streamline interactions between student clubs and SSMU, and will take much time and effort to create. Making this initiative a priority neglects the more important policies and efforts surrounding student life, including those regarding mental health and student well-being.   

VP External

Adam Gwiazda-Amsel

Experience:

Gwiazda-Amsel has no previous experience in student government or associated fields.

Platform:

Gwiazda-Amsel’s platform is broken down into four sections: multi-year projects, Montreal initiatives, political engagement at the inter-university level, and SSMU governance. He plans to work to change the R*dmen name and prioritize Indigenous voices. He also pledges to support advocacy around sexual violence, and to work with on-campus groups by holding strategic meetings with committees. Gwiazda-Amsel hopes to “lin[k] McGillians with Montreal, and Montrealers with McGill,” through a SSMU initiative to link off-campus students with those on campus and increasing the representation of Montrealers within student groups in order to increase community involvement. He also believes that McGill needs to foster more interuniversity relationships. He intends to create an ad-hoc team to “study how to meaningfully partner with other universities.” Finally, Gwiazda-Amsel intends to work to increase student confidence in SSMU by acting as an ally and advocating for students, prioritizing constitutionality, representing the interests of all students, and working towards increased centralization, information accessibility, and efficiency.

Endorsement: YES, with reservations

While Gwiazda-Amsel has the least amount of experience within SSMU, which is the reason for our reservation, he does have experience in leadership and community outreach. His platform is ambitious and involves making inter-university connections to strengthen McGill’s student voice provincially, as well as continued advocacy on important campus issues, including changing the R*dmen name, prioritizing Indigenous voices, and working to address sexual violence on campus. He plans to do so through a SSMU initiative to link on- and off-campus students, as well as facilitate community involvement by increasing representation of Montrealers in student initiatives, and to foster relationships with other universities.  

VP Finance

Ahmed Bawany

Experience:

Bawany does not have previous experience working in student government. However, he has worked as the Chief Financial Officer for an unnamed organization, and he is the only student in first year to run for an executive position.

Platform:

Bawany’s platform outlines three main goals: improving spending of SSMU funds, offering a space for students to give feedback, and establishing “better infrastructure.” The candidate states that with his experience in finance, he will make sure “that the money [students] give to SSMU will be in safe hands and is well spent.” Bawany plans to focus on creating more scholarship and financial aid opportunities, as well as improving the health insurance plan for students. He also wants to provide more funding for organizations that work to improve mental health awareness and treatment on campus. If Bawany becomes VP Finance, he will prioritize student feedback in his efforts to improve SSMU’s finance department. Lastly, Bawany wants to establish more sub-departments of SSMU and increase student employment within these departments, in order to improve communication between the departments and students/student organizations.

Sam Haward

Experience

Haward currently serves as the Parliamentarian for SSMU. Additionally, Haward has sat on committees such as Finance, Steering, and Comprehensive Governance Review. Furthermore, Haward chaired the Nominating Committee and co-chaired the
Accountability Committee.

Platform:

Haward’s platform is robust and extremely detailed. He lays out many goals for the VP Finance position, including amending student club banking and finances, investing surpluses from McGill Services into future projects, reestablishing the Financial Ethics Committee with new guidelines, and making the mandate of the Finance Committee clearer to maximize their involvement in Legislative Council. On top of this, Haward states that as VP Finance he would increase transparency between SSMU and the student body, make the international student health plan more accessible, and work towards more socially responsible investing and purchasing.

Ashar Yahya

Experience: 

Ashar Yahya is the current president and VP Finance of the McGill Students Actuarial Association. He has also served as VP Equity for Solin Hall 2017-2018.

Platform:

Yahya’s platform focuses on three issues: utilizing the leftover student clubs and services funds, hiring more students at SSMU to oversee applications for funding from clubs, and working with faculties to improve resources for students. The 16 non-profit clubs that collect student fees had a surplus of over $400,000. Yahya would like to work with these clubs to ensure their funds are spent efficiently. Yahya also hopes to create a McGill specific website similar to Docuum. McGill students would design the website, and collect helpful documents for current or future students through collaboration with professors and past students. Finally, Yahya would change the table booking system so that faculty clubs would book tables through their student associations. SSMU would oversee the table booking for all other clubs.

Endorsement: Sam Haward 

In comparison to the two other candidates, Haward has the most experience in SSMU politics. He is the current parliamentarian for Legislative Council, and has sat on both the Finance Committee and the Governance Reform Committee, positions which have given him valuable insights into the inner-workings of SSMU and the Society’s finances. During the debate between candidates, Haward also proved himself to be most knowledgeable of the position’s needs and current situation. When speaking about the student services surplus and club sanctions, Haward was able to clear up misconceptions and provide concrete solutions. Also, Haward’s extensive platform includes a built-in accountability measure; he has provided implementation guides for all of his campaign promises spanning beyond his term. Haward also wants to improve the transparency and accessibility of the VP Portfolio, renegotiate with BlueCross for better international student healthcare, and recommit to socially responsible investing. Between his experience, knowledge of the role, platform, and accountability measures, the Daily endorses a yes vote for Sam Haward.  

VP University Affairs

Husayn Jamal

Experience:

Jamal has participated in a focus group on the responsibilities of the Dean of Students and Deputy Provost, and is currently a member of the Committee on Student Discipline. He is also speaker-on-call for the Legislative Council and Board of Directors, and a member of the Comprehensive Governance Reform Committee.

Platform:

Jamal’s platform outlines his three main goals for McGill, for SSMU, and for University affairs. Jamal intends to have fewer and more effective University committees, to implement an annual review for the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), to advocate for a policy that no longer requires doctor’s notes for class attendance, and to strengthen McGill’s policy on sexual violence to prohibit student-teacher relationships. Within SSMU, Jamal would aim to restructure Legislative Council and the Board of Directors. He will also work on creating a closer working relationship with clubs, services, and student groups. In University Affairs, Jamal would help students address violations of their academic rights, create an open portal for SSMU to centralize data, increase student engagement by expanding the Associate Senator program to encourage first year participation, and simplify the Library Improvement Fund application process to make it more responsive to student needs.

Madeline Wilson

Experience: 

From 2017 to 2018, Wilson served as VP Academic of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) and chaired the AUS Library Partnership Committee, AUS Academic Affairs Committee, and AUS Departmental Academic Roundtable. Currently, Wilson serves as an Arts Senator, which has let her participate in McGill Senate, SSMU Senate Caucus, and Enrollment and Student Affairs Advisory Committee. She has also worked on the universal wait-list policy, anti-sexual violence advocacy, and divestment from fossil fuels.

Platform:

Wilson’s platform is made up of two sections: concrete advocacy and academic accessibility. She intends to focus on divestment from fossil fuels, sexual violence prevention, improving the accessibility of University governance, and changing the R*dmen name. Wilson would also like to see increased student representation in University committees and governing bodies like Senate. For academic accessibility, Wilson will work to make SSMU’s biannual Know Your Rights campaign more effective at informing students of their rights. She also aims to integrate Open Education Resources into classes, and to increase the usage of wait-lists. She will also work towards the centralization of academic accommodation policy, and will advocate for students’ interests during the revision of the University Student Assessment Policy.

Endorsement: Madeline Wilson

Both Wilson and Jamal have extensive experience within SSMU, knowledge of its governance structures, and well-thought-out platforms. However, Wilson has hands-on experience in social advocacy as a current Arts Senator, something Jamal’s role as speaker-on-call does not entail. In this role she has fought for student interests within SSMU’s governmental structures and at the administrative level. Wilson has already worked on and spoken to many of the ongoing debates on campus, such as #ChangeTheName, McGill’s divestment from fossil fuels, and the Policy against Sexual Violence. In these instances, and in debate, Wilson showed that she is not shy to confront members of the McGill administration and put student needs first. A considerable part of Wilson’s plan as VP University Affairs is “concrete advocacy,” which she has already proven to be adept at. Her platform centres heavily on forcing McGill to listen to student concerns through shadow task forces and increased accessibility to McGill governance.

VP Internal

Sanchi Bhalla 

Experience: 

Over this academic year, Bhalla has “worked closely” with the current VP Finance, gaining experience with creating and sticking to budgets.

Platform:

Bhalla boasts an extensive platform. Her primary goals are making the campus community more accessible and inclusive for all students, starting with updating the SSMU Listserv, fostering campus spirit through social initiatives and events, and providing more alcohol-free options. Other priorities include organizing low-budget campus events, creating a “loyalty card” to promote attendance at multiple campus bars, and SSMU representation at Pride and other parades. Bhalla would also continue to work on creating a campus-wide events calendar, an effort started by the current VP Internal.

 Aandrianna Jacob

Experience: 

Jacob’s Facebook event for her campaign does not mention any previous experience relevant to the position of VP Internal.

Platform:

Jacob’s primary goal is to make the campus community more accessible to all students, starting with updating the SSMU Listserv, making it a more interesting resource, and allowing it to act as a tool of accountability for SSMU. She wants to create a Frosh experience that isn’t dependent on club events and pub crawls, but is part of the Faculty Frosh. She also wants to revamp the McGill app and continue working on a campus-wide events calendar. Jacob wants to hire health staff within SSMU, and promote the existence of these services. Jacob’s campaign focuses extensively on expanding Faculty Olympics. She would like to allow people to collect points throughout the year, centering these opportunities around “expanding social horizons” and environmental awareness.

Endorsement: 

Neither candidate has adequate experience for the role. Both Bhalla and Jacob focus on campus events, a significant portion of the VP Internal portfolio; however their ideas show a lack of awareness surrounding existing programs. The candidates suggested creating sober groups within frosh, yet do not acknowledge the existing sober alternatives available within and outside of faculty froshes. Both also focus on Faculty-Olympics and building school spirit. While they both suggest feasible methods for improving and/or adjusting these events, the VP Internal portfolio is about more than frosh, Fac-O, and “awareness” campaigns. Major parts of the portfolio are first year affairs and faculty relationships, which neither of the candidates focus on.

Longer versions of candidates’ platforms can be found through their Facebook events.

A member of the Daily’s Editorial Board has a personal relationship with one of the candidates and as a result was not included in the endorsement process.