The following encompasses The McGill Daily’s endorsements for the SSMU 2023–24 Executive Committee.
Ashkir has served as Speaker on the McGill Legislative Council for the past two years, and as a result sat on the Board of Directors as well.
Ashkir has three central tenets to his platform: reforming SSMU’s regulations and structures, increasing accessibility and transparency, and supporting student services, clubs, and departments. He outlines concrete steps to pursue each goal. His reform plans include updating and simplifying regulations, and in the name of transparency, he will advocate for resuming publication of meeting recordings. He also intends to continue advocacy for classroom accessibility, among other initiatives. Ashkir acknowledges the tradition of mistrust in SSMU while equally emphasizing the importance of a student union.
Endorsement: YES to Alexandre Ashkir
The Daily’s editorial board endorses a YES vote for Alexandre Ashkir. His platform is thorough and establishes concrete goals to reestablish trust in student government. As a speaker on the McGill Legislative Council, and position on the Board of Directors, Ashkir has experience navigating red tape. We also find his emphasis on accessibility and transparency to be a crucial step in allowing students to partake in the McGill community. Specifically, his goals to resume SSMU meeting recordings, prioritize positive relations with student media, and limit confidential sessions are feasible, essential steps towards increasing transparency and encouraging participation between SSMU and its constituents. Whereas previous democratization initiatives for SSMU have been overambitious, Ashkir’s proposed reforms are tangible, effective, and necessary.
Per her pen sketch, Espinoza states she has experience working in logistics and communication, which are consistent with the skills required for the VP Internal portfolio.
In her pen sketch, Espinoza expressed goals to (1) increase and advance accessible forms of student engagement, (2) value effective communication between faculties and members of SSMU, and (3) assume higher priority to the Francophone Affairs portfolio. In the debate, Espinoza expressed additional goals to research what areas on campus are most often used for event planning and to increase communication on how to vote and why it matters.
Barlas has experience with SSMU due to his involvement in Student Television at McGill and his position as VP Communications for SSMU Musicians Collective. He has also served as the VP Internal of Reboot McGill, and has been a coordinator for McGill’s Orientation Week. During the debate, he spoke of experience with event planning with the Musicians Collective, Frosh, and his own band.
In his pen sketch, Barlas outlined three primary goals of (1) fighting food insecurity on campus, (2) using SSMU Communications to build a stronger sense of community and (3) organizing more events and opportunities for students to get involved with university life. In the debate, Barlas stressed the importance of accessible event planning. He also spoke about using SSMU’s social media presence as a two-way channel of communication that would engage the student body through mediums like Instagram Reels. Furthermore, Barlas emphasized the importance of viewing the role of VP Internal as affecting the livelihood of both students and full-time, part-time, and permanent employees of SSMU.
Endorsement: NO to Leila Espinoza and NO to Jon Barlas
The Daily’s editorial board endorses a NO vote for both Leila Espinoza and Jon Barlas. Both candidates failed to suggest concrete and innovative goals for the VP Internal portfolio. Furthermore, both candidates’ failure to adequately answer a debate question about making SSMU’s events accessible is concerning; event planning is a central component of the VP Internal’s portfolio, and failure to speak on how to ensure that events are accessible to all is extremely alarming. The same concern extends to how the potential VP Internal candidates will manage communications. While Barlas did demonstrate more experience with SSMU, its structure, and event planning at McGill, this is not enough to redress our concerns.
Gaither spoke of his past four years of participation in local community organizing projects that specifically aimed at redressing food insecurity and climate change. Having lived in Montreal his whole life and being bilingual, Gaither possesses connections to activists and other community networks in the city. In the debate, he expressed that the VP External role is similar to the activist work he’s been doing, just in a “more official form.”
If elected, Gaither stressed his desire to build upon the work of the current VP External to strengthen ties between students and the community, and support grassroots mobilization with resources. Self-proclaimed as politically far-left, Gaither also spoke of incorporating principles of non-hierarchy into the role of VP External. Gaither states that he would approach the role of VP External as more of a facilitator who supports, rather than directs, coordinators in their work. Finally, Gaither expressed an aim to analyze different points at which organizations or movements within the portfolio could be connected or tied together to work toward a common goal.
Endorsement: YES to Liam Gathier
The Daily’s editorial board endorses a YES vote for Liam Gathier. Being bilingual and having ties to different communities in Montreal are certainly an asset for the position. His experience in activist networks, his leftist position, and commitment to non-hierarchy are also in-line with the Daily’s Statement of Principles. All in all, Gathier’s experience and innovative vision for the position make him qualified for this position.
VP University Affairs
Katchelewa has previous work experience in government, corporate settings, and SSMU, equipping her with tools of communication and diplomacy necessary for the position.
In the debate, Katchelewa emphasized her primary goals were to (1) support student activism, (2) support food security initiatives, and (3) create and protect safe spaces on campus where students don’t fear retribution for their race, class, sexuality, and/or other aspects of their identity. In emphasizing “getting things done” within bureaucratic structures, Katchelewa stressed the importance of always advocating on behalf of students and collaborating with the university to better their experience. She also spoke on working with the current VP University Affairs and meeting with on-campus unions to see how best to advocate for them. In her pen sketch, she further outlined her goals to continue the work of the menstrual hygiene project, improve advertising of the Know Your Rights Campaign and the equity complaint process, and encourage the growth of new light therapy initiatives in the libraries. When it comes to mediating policy direction disagreements between administration and students, Katchelewa stressed the importance of understanding the influencing forces behind the administration’s motivations.
Endorsement: YES to Lalia Katchelewa
The Daily’s editorial board endorses a YES vote for Lalia Katchelewa. Her past experience in other bureaucratic governance structures is valuable to the University Affairs portfolio. Her verbal commitment and promise of ability to “get things done” on behalf of students in negotiations with the university is enticing and deeply needed, and the policy goals and priorities outlined are meaningful to improving the student experience at McGill. Furthermore, Katchelewa’s prioritization of advocating for food security and the equity complaint process shows an understanding of current issues in student activism on campus, which demonstrates her competency to advocate on behalf of them with the university.
VP Student Life
Dakdouki has been involved with several clubs at McGill, including participation in McGill Robotics, serving as VP Social for the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), and serving as VP Finance and President for McGill Trivia Club. She has also volunteered at Nightline. At SSMU, she has served as Clubs Representative on the Legislative Council since 2021. She has also sat on several committees on council, including Clubs, Funding, EDI, and SSAMMOSA.
Dakdouki aims to promote the University Centre as a student space by (1) increasing study spaces, (2) introducing the building to first-years, and (3) opening the building on weekends. She also aims to facilitate a smooth roll-out of the new Clubs portal with minimal impact to clubs. She also stressed supporting ongoing campus life and club activities. She spoke of finding more space for events on campus, specifically prioritizing reserving space for smaller clubs catered to smaller communities (for example, events and clubs for francophone students). In the debate, she also committed to tailoring support to specific services through consultations, and revitalizing pre-pandemic campus life while also providing and ensuring proper COVID-19 safety protection.
Endorsement: YES to Nadia Dakdouki
The Daily’s editorial board endorses a YES vote for Nadia Dakdouki. Her extensive experience with club leadership and involvement in the legislative council demonstrates she has the knowledge necessary for communicating between SSMU and its clubs and services. Her goals are comprehensive, and her desire to help bolster smaller communities on campus is compelling. Her emphasis on COVID-19 safety and protocols also demonstrate a commitment to ensure clubs and services are accessible to everyone.
Fang’s most relevant experience is her current position as VP Finance for the Nursing Undergraduate Society (NUS). As part of this position she has worked with the current SSMU VP Finance. She has previously served as the Chief Revenue Officer of NUS as well.
Fang’s platform, as per her pen sketch, prioritizes funding for health & dental services for McGillians, accessibility to financial support, and financial transparency and sustainability. She plans to thoroughly examine SSMU’s budget and make expense cuts to lower the student membership fee. She also expressed a desire to eliminate less used services as a method to reduce costs, although how she would determine which services are least necessary to the student body was unclear. Fang says food prices on campus are a large concern to her; to address the issue, she intends to cut off suppliers who are monopolizing, increase fees towards Midnight Kitchen, and work with sponsors of local grocery stores. When asked, Fang responded that she intends to maintain a politically neutral approach to her position.
Endorsement: NO to Alice Fang
The Daily’s editorial board endorses a NO vote for Alice Fang. Although her goals for transparency and sustainability are admirable, the intention to cut services is alarming. Services are vital hubs of resources and community, and to determine the importance of each service and make an informed decision about which ones to eliminate within a year is an impossibility. This suggestion is not only harmful to the student body and to the communities fostered by services, but it also suggests an ignorance about the structure of SSMU. Additionally, any role within a student union is inherently political. Fang’s desire to remain neutral in a politically charged environment does not align with SSMU’s equity policy, which commits to advocating for marginalized groups. If Fang takes office, we advise that she consults with all McGill services and that she consult with the SSMU Equity Commissioner when implementing her goals.
VP Operations and Sustainability
Koulibaly served as SSMU VP Student Life during the 2022–23 term. During this time, Koulibaly oversaw the first in-person launch of Activities Night since the move to online learning, the launch of myWellness, McGill’s 2022 Mental Health Awareness Week, and Gert’s Cultural Night. Koulibaly additionally has three years of experience serving as an executive for the McGill African Students’ Society (MASS), including serving as president until 2022.
A vacant position since 2017, the VP Operations and Sustainability is tasked with coordinating the development of McGill’s University Centre, overseeing SSMU’s goals of environmental sustainability, and managing the direction of SSMU’s business operations, such as Gert’s and MiniCourses. These aspects are addressed in Koulibaly’s platform. Specifically, Koulibaly promises that she would commit a significant portion of her time as VP Operations and Sustainability to implementing grassroots changes to sustainability at the University Centre. In addition, Koulibaly wishes to implement measures that increase inclusivity in student spaces such as Gerts, and also plans on revamping SSMU’s MiniCourses.
Endorsement: YES to Hassanatou Koulibaly
The Daily’s editorial board endorses a YES vote for Hassanatou Koulibaly. Koulibaly’s successful term as VP Student Life makes her a qualified candidate to fulfill the mandate for the VP Operations and Sustainability position. Notably, her involvement in launching inclusive events demonstrates her understanding of the need for accessible student initiatives, something that will serve as an asset when implementing sustainable changes to the University Centre. However, many elements of Koulibaly’s platform remain vague; for example, it is unclear as to what specific changes to the University Centre’s sustainability Koulibaly plans to make. Due to this vagueness, Koulibaly’s platform at times appears to simply restate the responsibilities of the VP Operations and Sustainability position. Despite this, Koulibaly’s valuable work thus far as VP Student Life and her understanding and enthusiasm for taking on the revamped position leaves us with the impression that she would be a qualified candidate in implementing inclusive and sustainable policies as VP Operations and Sustainability.
The voting period for the Winter 2023 Executive Elections will take place from 9:00 a.m. on March 13 to 5:00 p.m. on March 17. Please visit ssmu.simplyvoting.com to cast your vote.