SSMU Executive Endorsements 2020

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The following encompasses The McGill Daily’s endorsements for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) 2020—2021 Executive team.

 

President

Jemark Earle

Experience:

Earle has experience as VP Special Events of the Law Students’ Association (LSA), VP Internal of the Black Law Students’ Association at McGill (BLSAM), VP Student Life of SSMU, Director on the SSMU Board of Directors, VP Health and Athletics of the Music Undergraduate Students’ Association (MUSA), and as a Floor Fellow.

Platform:

Earle’s platform focuses on institutional memory and long-term planning, specifically reforming SSMU GAs, working on the creation of a wellness space in 3501 Peel, and looking into the possibility of having more student-run services in the reopened University Centre.

 

Ruth Silcoff

Experience:

Silcoff has experience as President of the McGill Debating Union, VP Internal of a Hall Council, and Vice President of her high school student council.

Platform:

Silcoff’s platform focuses on increasing interaction and communication with the student body and clubs, proposing new accountability measures, increasing awareness of different academic departments, increasing diversity in different departments, reforming grading practices, and working with the Wellness Hub to create an online sign up system for appointments, among other proposed initiatives.

 

YES with reservations to Jemark Earle

Jemark Earle is the most qualified candidate for this position. Due to his experience as a former SSMU executive, Earle has crucial institutional memory that the other candidate, Ruth Silcoff, lacks. In addition, we believe his experience in other portfolios will aid him in the role of President, as the position often requires multiple skill sets. Earle’s platform also demonstrates familiarity with ongoing SSMU projects, such as the acquisition of 3501 Peel and the implementation of a Fall Reading Break, as well as institutional knowledge to continue these projects after the current executive departs. We are endorsing him with reservations, as there have been concerns in the past with how, as former VP Student Life, Earle handled the SSMU building closure. However, as the second half of Earle’s term went more smoothly, we believe these initial hiccups in his term are not sufficient enough to warrant a ‘NO’ vote.

 


 

VP Internal

 

Declan McCool

Experience:

McCool’s has experience on the Science Games Committee, the Montreal Runners Charity Organization, as Team Manager and VP Fundraising on the McGill Varsity Rowing Team, and with McGill Sports Media and Communications.

Platform:

McCool’s platform focuses on environmental sustainability at SSMU events, a new Communications Policy, involving first year students more, and making SSMU events more inclusive and survivor-centric.

YES with reservations to Declan McCool

The Daily editorial board endorses a ‘YES’ vote with reservations for Declan McCool. While McCool has some experience in communications and with aspects of the VP Internal portfolio, he lacks experience working in SSMU. However, McCool’s focus on implementing the ‘Golden Rule’ at all events and reforming the Involvement Restriction Policy (IRP) is crucial, and it is extremely important to see the VP Internal pushing for a survivor-centric approach at SSMU events, of which they hold immense responsibility. Our reservations stem from McCool’s proposed Communications Policy, which appears to allude to the current VP University Affairs’ use of profanity to express frustration with the administration’s greenwashing and with racism on campus. The Daily strongly condemns attempts to tone police at SSMU, and for this reason we are expressing our reservations with McCool and the policy he is proposing. Additionally, we hold concerns with McCool’s proposed ban on plastic straws and replacement with only compostable versions. While this may seem to be more sustainable, it does not take into account accessibility concerns for those who need plastic straws and for whom compostable straws are not feasible options. For these reasons, the Daily is endorsing McCool with reservations.

 


 

VP External

 

Noah Merali

Experience:

Merali is currently the SSMU Services Representative, and has spent the past year working, shadowing, and attending meetings on behalf of the current SSMU VP External. They are a member of the Affordable Housing Committee and a member of the McGill Student Emergency Response Team (MSERT). Further, they are involved with the project to renovate the Royal Victoria Hospital, and are working with the Milton Parc Citizens Committee to ensure that the renovation is beneficial to the community.

Platform:

Merali’s platform pushes to continue working for affordable housing in the McGill community, and to improve the image of the McGill community among local Milton-Parc residents. They aim to connect with other student unions to lobby together for larger government issues, and through this, support underrepresented groups on campus. They discussed helping campaigns navigate McGill and SSMU bureaucracy and governing practices while supporting existing campaigns and being a reliable point of contact. They want to expand their office hours and hold public consultation sessions where students can not only discuss issues and share their ideas, but can access resources, institutional support, and guidance to launch initiatives. A large focus of their platform was dedicated to the problem of food security, and how they could work with McGill to establish better food practices. Further, they hope to create a coalition among other student unions at other Quebec universities, such that they could work together to oppose or support causes, creating a stronger voice against the government or for the people.

 

Ayo Ogunremi

Experience:

Ogunremi is the co-founder of Climate Justice Action McGill (C-JAM) and is currently the vice president of the Black Students’ Network (BSN). He has worked in SSMU as the SSMU Mobilisation Coordinator since September. He has consulted on projects such as the McGill Student Suicide Framework Advisory Committee, SSMU’s Mental Health Plan, and the review of SSMU’s Climate Change Policy.

Platform:

As VP External, Ogunremi’s platform focuses mostly on campus advocacy. He hopes to strengthen SSMU campaigns internally and externally. Through this, he aims to support mental health advocacy, Indigenous and marginalized voices, and to support student unions. On this, he wants to support the SSMUnion development and facilitate its integration into the McGill Communities Council, and engage in early consultations for review of the Indigenous Solidarity Policy. Similar to Merali, he hopes to reach the community by tabling in an accessible public space at least once per month to update SSMU members on VP External activities, to promote information accessibility, and to hear members’ feedback. He wants to assume administrative and financial responsibilities of campaigns to allow Political Campaign Coordinators to dedicate more hours to organizing. Ogunremi also addresses the Affordable Student Housing Committee, and creating a healthier relationship with the Milton-Parc community.

 

YES with reservations to Ayo Ogunremi

Both candidates are highly qualified for this position. Ogunremi does not have the SSMU experience that Merali has, but his established network of individuals and organizations on campus is impressive and hard to forego. The VP External must operate SSMU campaigns and mobilization efforts, and Ogunremi has a stronger presence in the McGill community, as well as experience working as SSMU Mobilization Coordinator. Additionally, Ogunremi has more experience speaking in French in a professional context – he has done interviews in French – and for a position that requires external interaction with the province, French is critical. However, Merali’s platform fit the mandate of the VP External better than Ogunremi’s did, aiming to reach out to other schools and enact change on a provincial level, and looking beyond the immediate McGill community. Some of their larger-scale projects lack strong actionable plans. It should be noted that in a pair of candidates so closely matched, these small differences make a large impact. Because Ogunremi does not have the same level of experience with and understanding of the VP External portfolio as Merali, the Daily is endorsing Ogunremi with reservations.

 


 

VP University Affairs

 

Brooklyn Frizzle

Experience:

Brooklyn is currently the Resource Coordinator at Queer McGill, which is a SSMU service. They have also worked with Office of the Provost and VP Academic on their plan regarding Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Platform:

Brooklyn’s platform focuses primarily on equity. Within the realm of library improvement, they plan to use the Fund to expand the library’s free collection of textbooks and open access materials. They also hope to integrate alternative libraries, such as those at Queer McGill and QPIRG, into the library catalog. They plan to launch an independent research project into the student Wellness Hub, which they told the Daily they will use to “advocate for change [through] McGill’s legislative and administrative bodies, [and work with when] collaborating [with] student groups and executives.” They also plan to give students tools to navigate McGill’s complicated bureaucratic system by “integrating educational content built around alternative reporting streams into the existing mandatory anti-oppression programming.” Furthermore, they aim to “implement measures to increase the representativity of SSMU’s Senate delegation by involving relevant student groups throughout the senate committee appointment process while maintaining due impartiality.” Finally, they hope to add more gender-neutral bathrooms to McGill campus buildings.

 

Griffin Scott

Experience:

Griffin worked for the Department of Education over summer 2019 doing data analysis and outreach work. He has also been a research assistant at Douglas Mental Health Institute since fall 2019. He does not have any SSMU or student government experience.

Platform:

Scott aims to centre mental health and equity in his platform, including improving the student Wellness Hub, allowing students to defer exams without notes, and making period products and contraception more accessible. He also hopes to advocate for hiring and tenure reform, including working to make these processes more transparent and advocating that disciplinary records be included in tenure decisions. Scott plans to advocate for proper use of preferred names by creating a reporting system for when students are deadnamed and advocating for accessible online requests for name changes. He also plans to create more open access to educational resources, following the model of UBC to build an open library. When asked by the Daily what he would do differently than the incumbent, Scott said “that upon election [he] will favor a diplomatic approach with the university whereas the incumbent has relied on direct action and an adversarial approach.”

 

NO to both Brooklyn Frizzle and Griffin Scott

Scott’s platform focuses on broad goals with few actionable elements, and he doesn’t have experience working with SSMU. His suggestions for improving the Wellness Hub – online booking and extended drop-in hours – are likely unfeasible, and suggest that Scott hasn’t spent enough time assessing the work that has been done by UAs and SSMU teams in the past. While Frizzle has more experience in a student government setting and stands as a stronger candidate overall, their aim to “implement measures to increase the representativity of SSMU’s Senate delegation” speaks to a misunderstanding of the internal function of SSMU. The UA position requires experience as well as a realistic set of expectations, neither of which are strongly represented by either candidate. Both candidates referenced the importance of a more diplomatic approach when addressing administration, which raises some concern about their understanding of their role as UA. Being diplomatic is a requirement of these conversations, not a campaign promise, and including respectability in their campaign comes uncomfortably close to condemning the outgoing UA’s outspoken (and effective) advocacy strategies. Additionally, UA must be comfortable promoting student needs at the expense of a comfortable relationship with the administration.

Though Frizzle is more qualified, both candidates present at least one action item that is either beyond the scope of the position or unfeasible. With more experience working directly with SSMU, each candidate could become more viable in future elections. For these reasons, the Daily does not endorse neither Frizzle nor Scott.

 


 

VP Student Life

 

Maheen Akter

Experience: 

Akter’s is a U3 student, focusing on Political Science and Psychology. Her work experience includes, Floor Fellow at la Citadelle, and her position as Arts Undergraduate Society Vice-President of Internal Affairs.

Platform:

Akter’s platform consists of five pillars: Revitalizing the University Centre, clubs and services, mental health, family/daycare, and personal projects such as working with the Scholarships and Student Aid Office to create more scholarship opportunities. Other examples of what Akter plans to do with said pillars includes strengthening accessibility regarding Mental Healthcare. For Akter, this would mean connecting the Wellness Hub to mental health clinics outside of McGill services, thus creating ,trans-positive, survivor-centric mandate. Additionally, she wants to provide better feedback mechanisms for SSMU staff, and work with students who need childcare in order to improve the model of daycare at the University.

 

Belle Sullivan

Experience: 

Asides from campus activism, Sullivan’s experience includes being a member of Union for Gender empowerment, working as the SSMU Eating Disorder Campaign Coordinator, and lastly, being an organizer of the SSMUnion (the union for SSMU employees).

Platform:

Sullivan’s platform consists of three pillars: accessibility, engagement, and samosas.  Some examples of what Sullivan plans on doing with her pillars include holding “a greater amount of office hours to allow for more face time with clubs and club executives”, ensuring “a smooth transition back into the SSMU building for services”.

 

YES to Maheen Akter

Akter’s proposed mandates suggests a prioritization of accessibility. Her plans are explicit and if successful, would reshape day-to-day campus experience. Furthermore, Akter works to address numerous facets of student life that are being neglected. Examples of increasing accessibility include undertaking an ‘accessibility audit’ in order to provide “washrooms that aren’t gendered, baby changing stations in the bathroom, stalls accessible for mobility devices, etc.” Additionally, Akter wants to renegotiate “vendor contracts to introduce new, affordable food options”, “collect large-scale survey data on McGill student concerns, especially to see student interest around services like long-term counselling,” and continue the work started by Sullivan with the Eating Disorder Support Centre through expanding its resources, Akter, like Sullivan, also plans on eliminating the $25 Samosa fee. Overall, both candidates are qualified, however, Akter’s agenda is more thought-out and precise. Additionally, her strides towards accessibility address numerous facets of student life, from the price of food on campus to survivor-centric mental health counselling.

Sullivan’s platform is not as all-encompassing, and although she is a qualified candidate, and has accomplished significant work that relates to the Student Life portfolio, her proposals lack detail when explaining how they will be executed. When asked about her plan to create initiatives for mature students, she stated she wanted to conduct consultations with students first before specifying any details. Honesty and transparency is appreciated, however, her platform once again seems vague, making it confusing about what she will do with her position if elected. Additionally, her plans for accessibility when it comes to gender identity are limited – she plans on training SSMU employees to be knowledgeable when “using the correct name for anyone with legal names”– whereas Maheen’s plans are far more extensive, hoping to set-up more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. For these reasons, the Daily endorses a YES vote for Akter.

 


 

VP Finance

 

Gifford Marpole

Experience:

Marpole is an Economics student and is currently treasurer of the McGill chapter of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. However, he lists no other relevant experience working in student government or related positions in finance.

Platform:

Marpole’s platform outlines three main goals: more closely organizing the budget to prevent deficits or surpluses (based on historically-based budget projections), introducing organized summaries before SSMU finance reports for more student accessibility, and increasing the SSMU Environment fee from $1.25 to $1.75 and SSMU Mental Health fee from $0.40 to $0.60. He also plans to work with the funding committee to streamline and optimize the process of funding, making it easier for clubs to apply for funding. His platform emphasizes improving transparency between students and SSMU spending through introduction of the summaries, and investing in “ecological and social sustainability” through the fee increases, in order to support environmentally-friendly practices on campus and to “[increase] the accessibility of the mental health services run through SSMU.”

 

NO to Gifford Marpole

Marpole has not displayed adequate experience for the role of VP Finance. His platform is short, has little actionability, and does not seem to have a grasp of previous VP Finance resolutions. It is unsure whether organized summaries have already been implemented with students simply not knowing, and the strong emphasis on balancing the budget is unneeded and not necessarily feasible. He also makes no mention of why he has chosen the SSMU Environment and Mental Health fee, other than that they are ‘important’ to sustainability, and does not detail where the money from fee increases will specifically go, or what services and groups will benefit from them. In addition, the SSMU Mental Health fee only funds SSMU advocacy for mental health services, and will not translate into more counselors or improvements for the Wellness Hub, which can only be funded by endowments; this means the Mental Health fee increase will be unproductive in the overall goal of improving access to mental health services. Finally, his platform fails to address the responsibility of VP Finance in corresponding with groups about human resources and insurance, and how he plans to approach these aspects of the position’s mandate.

 

The Daily’s Coordinating and Managing Editors, Kate Ellis and Willa Holt, have personal relationships with VP External candidate Noah Merali. Additionally, Kate Ellis had a previous professional relationship with VP Student Life candidate Maheen Atker. As such, they both recused themselves and did not participate in the editorial endorsement process for the above-mentioned positions.

 


 

This article has been updated to include the full analysis of each candidate’s platform and experience that was included in the Daily’s research and discussion and was conducted prior to the publication of endorsements, in addition to the original posting of the Daily’s endorsements. 

A previous version of this article stated that the Daily’s coordinating editor, Kate Ellis, recused themselves only from the research and discussion involved for the position of VP External. They in fact recused themselves for both the positions of VP External and VP Student Life. The Daily regrets and sincerely apologizes for this error.