These interviews have been edited and condensed by Sara Espinal Henao
Photos by Alexandra Allaire, Simon Poitrimolt, Sam Reynolds
See Get to know your SSMU candidates, Pt 2 for the Tribune’s endorsements
The VP External Affairs represents the Society off-campus at the provincial and federal levels.This individual communicates the Society’s policies and stances to external bodies and agencies and must develop projects and initiatives that advance the interests of SSMU members beyond the Roddrick gates.
McGill Tribune: How does your experience qualify you for this position?
Samuel Harris: Well, I’ve been on the external affairs committee of SSMU all year. I’ve gone to TaCEQ meetings. I’ve also had extensive discussions with this year’s VP External, Robin Reid-Fraser. I feel [that] I have a very good knowledge of what the position entails. Also, I’m fluently bilingual, so I think that’s an important communication skill, especially for this position.
MT: You said that it’s important that the VP External is someone who bridges the gaps. How do you think you’ll be able to do that?
SH: I mentioned that I’m fully bilingual, which I think is a big help. I’m Montreal born and raised so I think I have a unique perspective. As somebody who has grown up here my whole life, I’ve been immersed in Quebec politics, society, etcetera.
MT: What’s your overall vision of the VP External portfolio?
SH: I see it as generally all relations external to McGill undergrads, more specifically what that means is relations with the government, with other universities, and even with the Montreal community and specifically, Milton-Parc. [At] each of those levels, we want to strengthen and build on those relationships. One thing I haven’t mentioned so far is that I want to have discussion workshops with other Montreal universities, especially the francophone ones, but even Concordia. We’re very geographically close to them, and yet we don’t have [close relationships]…. Last spring we had different opinions, but why didn’t we ever sit down together to discuss them?
MT: If you had a superpower, which one would you have?
SH: Levitating, so that I could lie down anywhere with enough resistance that I could basically just sleep anywhere.
Click here for the full interview with Samuel Harris.
VP Clubs & Services
The VP Clubs and Services manages all relations between the SSMU and the university’s numerous clubs, publications, and services. This person is in charge of communicating SSMU’s policies to these groups, as well as of providing them with support.
McGill Tribune: What experiences do you have that have prepared you for this position?
Stefan Fong: When I joined McGill, I knew right away that I was going to be a part of a student group because that’s what I had done since high school and following on through CEGEP. I found The Musician’s Collective by pure chance, and it so happened that the semester that I joined McGill, they were looking for four new executives. I joined as a new executive, and since then, I’ve just been part of that student group at McGill. I’ve been president of The Musician’s Collective for a year now and before then I was VP External and VP F inance. I’ve been juggling both roles because they have never done finance before and I started doing that for them.
MT: What would you bring out of that experience to the portfolio?
SF: A great thing about my group is that it’s an overarching network of musicians. And so, part of my job as External when I joined was communicating with other groups and because of that, I’ve gotten to know what other groups have to face. Especially this year, because we’ve got an office and we share the office, I hear everyone’s grievances. I’ve gotten to know a lot of different clubs. I get to talk with them and see what sort of issues they have been dealing with. My job was to talk to Carol Frasier, who used to be the VP Clubs and Services, and also talk to Shayam Patel ,who used to be the VP Finance. This year, I’ve been working a lot with Alison because we just turned into a service. And so, interactions with SSMU have taught me what’s going on.
MT: So given your experience, how would you change as VP Clubs and Services?
SF: one of the things that I find unfortunate is the fact that there are three C&S reps … but as clubs, we were never told that these three students are there to help us and to represent us … I think that Alison gets overwhelmed by so many emails from clubs because, as soon as they have a problem, they think that Alison will be able to help them. And it’s true that it’s her job, but 300 clubs sending emails daily, it’s a lot to go through, and some of that work could be shared with the C&S representatives so that everyone would be able to share their responsibility. In that sense, the C&S reps would better be able to represent students on council because they’d be more familiar with the issues that a lot of the clubs are facing.
MT: How would you work to address those issues? Specifically?
SF: Each club is like its own island, You have to be flexible and be able to deal with a range of issues. I know one other thing that Alison is working on this year is what is it called Clubpedia. It’s important to make sure that clubs have easy access to this kind of [financial and administrative] information and Clubpedia is a fantastic way of doing it by putting everything in one place. You can go on the website. You can fill out the form directly there. You don’t have to submit it in person.
MT: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
SF: Oh my goodness … I think that it would be really cool to be able to control the elements. That would be pretty insane.
Click here for the full interview with Stefan Wong.
VP Finance and Operations
The Vice-President Finance & Operations (VP FOPS) manages the society’s finances and is in charge of setting up and making revisions to the SSMU’s annual budget. This person works directly with executives and student groups on the funding, financial planning, and budgeting of their operations.
McGill Tribune: What experience do you have specifically that qualify you for this position?
Thomas Kim: I did communications and PR for a legal clinic in Ontario. I was responsible for PR for the campaign, so contacting media, and media relations, and outreach. I was also responsible for soliciting corporate and individual sponsorship and donation for the clinic, and was successful in doing both. I have experience in Montreal with event planning. Part of that [involves] coordinating things with other people, working around multiple peoples’ schedules, creating a budget, revising that budget to maximize profits … as well as promotion and PR …. So, I’ve had a lot of experience working with financial details but also working in outreach initiatives, and that’s what I’m really basing my platform on.
MT: What are your tangible, concrete plans for a student-run café?
TK: Well … it’s very difficult to have a tangible plan, given that there is still the lease negotiation going on …. However, what I can say, after the lease negotiation is done, and we are aware of what the contract is and how much money SSMU is required to pay, the step would be to look at the five-year financial plan, and to see if the money allocated for the student-run café is still feasible to allocate. After you examine how much money can be allocated, then you need to take that money and create a budget. Once you have that budget, you take that budget and create a business plan. They have already set a menu—that was researched last year. This year, I hear that they’re in the process of researching equipment and details like tables and chairs. So, assuming that those two things are done, the next step would be the lease and the business plan.
MT: So, beyond the student-run café, what specific plans do you have for next year that you’d like to input?
TK: Well, one of my [plans] is long-term financial sustainability. [I want to] look into creating a committee to examine the possibility of SSMU opening an alumni relations office. And that office [would be]incorporated as a charity and a distinctive entity to that of SSMU, so that SSMU can use that office to broaden its revenue input through soliciting individual donations, and be able to give those donors tax receipts—something that SSMU is unable to do given that they’re not a charity, they’re a non-profit.
MT: What were you for Halloween?
TK: What was I for Halloween this year? I didn’t dress up ‘cause I was studying in the library that night, and I ended up going out later, so I just said that I was a professor and dressed up really nerdy.
MT: What experience do you have, specifically that makes you ideal for this position?
TH: I co-chaired MUS Carnival. It’s an event that has a budget around $100,000 .… I oversaw a committee of 16 people to make sure it went well and I think it went very smoothly. I was chief of staff for my faculty Frosh. I oversaw 32 Frosh staffers for that. I’ve had numerous involvements in business competitions. I was sent to West Point last year when I was a director on McMUN chair. On top of that, before I came to McGill, I worked in a bar. I was a manager and I oversaw well over $100,000 of sales and inventory. I took care of daily sales reports. This is right along what I’ve been doing for a long time. I really think the skills I’ve developed over the past four-plus years are going to translate well to this position.
MT: Do you have any particular visions on projects you will bring to McGill?
TH: I think my focus is going to be getting tangible things done …. Things like the student-run café. [Also] currently, there isn’t a formularized method to determine the order of how the committee goes through all the funding applications. So I talked about formalizing a triage process for that and actually publicizing the process .… I think this will help it significantly, specifically for events that have deadlines which require that funding. The second thing was looking at [having] multiple deadlines [for funding]… [so that] Instead of one giant pile of funding applications, they will come in a more manageable pace.
MT: What are your plans with the student-run café and the other space that is becoming available?
TH: I’m kind of putting the café on hold because that will depend on whether or not students want that. After looking through the survey results … the first step would be going over the current business plan, which would break down exactly what needs to be done into a series of steps. For example, going to the Architecture Student Society and getting them to draw out floor plans. Then looking at what the overhead would be, so what would it actually cost, what supplies we need …. This would allow me to fast track it and make sure that it does happen.
MT: What were you for Halloween?
TH: I was originally Max from Where the Wild Things Are, but I had the wrong jumpsuit, so I traded with a friend of mine for Tintin. He had the little dog and the safety pinned it to his shoulder, and I had the similar coloured shirt he wears so it was really great.
VP University Affairs
The VP University Affairs, manages the relations between SSMU and the McGill administration. This person organizes represents the Society on all committees and subcommittees of Senate, university selection committees for deans and directors, and through meetings with University representatives.
McGill Tribune: How does your experience qualify you for the position of VP of University Affairs?
Sam Gregory: [There are] two experiences which I bring to the table that I think qualify me the best: The first is this year I’m working as … an ombudsman … for McGill food and dining services. McGill Food and Dining Administration recognized me as someone who was able to work and both represent students and understand where the administration was coming from …. Secondly, this year I’m working at SSMU as the Senate and Committee Secretary General for Haley Dinel, the current VP UA…. I’m in the office almost every day, I know the key issues, I know the methods to address them. I’ve got a very good understanding of the university and the different communities that exist, what they do, and what they’re supposed to address.
MT: In your opinion, what is the significance of consultation fairs and how do you see getting more to students to go?
SG: We need to bring the consultation fairs back to the university-wide level. I think there are two ways we can make it more effective … we can have a day with two consultation fairs, one where students can just attend, and a second where students are invited by the administration to bring their points of view, and maybe the administration selects student of lower academic rankings, higher academic rankings from each faculty, so that they can get a broad perspective of students, and so they can move forward on issues like that. The second thing is move consultation fairs to a much more accessible location. What about the new group study area in Redpath? Locations that are open to students and where students who are just walking by in their day-to-day life can come in and partcicipate in the consultation fair.
MT: What do you think is the most important part of the UA portfolio?
SG: I think it’s hands down being the student representation on Senate, and representing students on Senate. There’s lots of other very important parts of it, and like equity’s a key part of it, and libraries—I think the VP UA portfolio is responsible for everything to do with the libraries at the university. But Senate is where a lot of the issues are debated, and where a lot of the decisions are made. And so ensuring that students are represented there, and that we’re representing everyone’s interests.
MT: And what were you for Halloween?
SG: I was a palm tree. I had this big thing on my head and hula stuff.
MT: What experiences qualify you for the position?
JS: I’m the VP Academic for the PSSA, and last semester I chaired two of the hiring committees for the new political theory prof and the new international relations prof, and the new comparative politics prof. So, on a faculty level, I think that experience directly relates to being able to deal with administration, and also represent student interests.
MT: Your platform discusses professionalizing SSMU in a sense. How, specifically, is this going to strengthen the link between students and administration?
JS: The Internship Offices Network is the network that coordinates internships for sciences, agricultural sciences, arts, management and engineering. I want to coordinate with them so that students can do academic internships at SSMU. At the last GA, one of the really good motions that was passed was one on conflict minerals by the girls in the STAND club, and it was a really good motion, really well researched. I want to have the opportunity to have those really well researched motions at SSMU, and so I think coordinating with the internships office would not only be providing students with internships at SSMU, but it would also be [a way] to have more policy documents on the desk of the administration, and strengthen our policy that way.
MT: What were you for Halloween this year?
JS: Oh my God. I was so many things for Halloween. Halloween is my favourite holiday. I was Carrie, if you’ve seen the horror film, the ’70s Steven King: the one where she’s covered in blood. I was Nietzsche on Oct 31, which was a Wednesday. I had an existentialism exam on Nietzsche so I dressed up as Nietzsche, it was pretty cool. I was like the only one actually dressed up on campus. I dressed up as the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland.
The VP Internal oversees activities for SSMU members, and coordinates faculty, clubs, and student associations to facilitates communication between them.
McGill Tribune: What tangible experiences do you have that qualify you for the position?
Brian Farnan: Going into this year, as VP External for [the Faculty of] Arts working with an executive team. With regards to frosh and events planning, I’ve coordinated Arts Frosh, which was one of the biggestfaculty Froshes. Being both an executive and a coordinator, we cleared $17,000 profit …. I knew that I was running for this position since September, so [I’ve been] figuring out logisitics … talking to Mike Szpejda since the beginning of the year, and then attending the working groups that he sits on as well as the larger Orientation planning groups.
MT: So, based on all these experiences you have, what professional and personal skills have you developed in that time that will prepare you for SSMU VP Internal?
BF: First, it’s dealing with people. I think that’s a skill I’ve just grown because it’s a skill that you realize you need. It’s being approachable. It’s being open-minded … The other aspect is kind of just like breaking with tradition .… With my External position this year, we [were] in charge of philanthropy. So in years past, it’s been like a charity week … a five-day long, isolated event … I took issue with that at the beginning of the year. So what I did was I changed it, so that I created a committee, it’s called the Arts Community Engagement Committee, and so just doing that job throughout the year, in smaller, more focused ways.
MT: What projects would you want to implement next year that are different?
BF: Well, the Simplify McGill is a huge one for me, because I think that these are little, simple things you can do that don’t take a lot of man power, they don’t take a lot of resources…. The Equitable Events Protocol is something that the equity commissioners are working on, that I would really like to get solidified and get included because it kind of links to this other thing that I want to do, which is create a chair on every events committee or at least have a step that is purely consultative before an event gets off the ground …to go through the Equity and Sustainability Chair and just see what their thoughts are.
The other thing … is implement a system that essentially makes the application process for Orientation staff and leaders a lot more thorough …. I would love to [create a] certificate program for Orientation staff and Frosh leaders … essentially just adding more credibility to these positions …. Setting that tone and setting that expectation right away works because… when they think that they are something important, then they usually reciprocate with behaviour that reflects that
MT: What were you for Halloween?
BF: I was a baby. I wore a man diaper and stuff. It was great. Hopefully that picture doesn’t make it into this issue.
McGill Tribune: Why are you a good candidate for this position?
Julia Kryluk: I work extensively with the current VP Internal, and I was at the Student Programming Network Committee, which is the main committee that the VP internal oversees, so it plans SSMU’s events. And so, I planned all the events for last year and this year. Also, I’ve done a lot of events for the Science [faculty]. I was a Frosh coordinator this past summer. I was also the Science Carnival coordinator last January. I also sat as the Science Councilor coordinator so I have a lot of experience within SSMU. I’ve seen all the exec reports, what it’s really like to be an Internal. And also working with all the events, having coordinated them before gave me firsthand experience of actually doing these events, as opposed to opposed to only observational experience.
Also part of my platform is integrating all ages events because each year there are many students that can’t participate because they are underage …. So I introduced the idea of an all-ages Frosh at the same time as faculty Frosh run by SSMU that would alleviate the pressure of faculties to decide to plan all these different events where there’s no drinking on top of their other events.
MT: You mentioned that equity is a big part of your platform.What specific ideas do you have to promote equity on campus?
JK: Definitely educating students about what is equity and what is an equitable event. That includes first and foremost educating events leaders and coordinators because they are the ones who interact one on one with the students … they are the point of contact with the students …. What matters is to make the average student familiar with that term.
MT: You mentioned during last Wendnesday’s the debate having a calendar of events. How are you planning to move this forward?
JK: The first step would be deciding the format… deciding the information we need from science, arts, clubs, and athletics and asking them “do you want to be included in this? ….There’s someone already at SSMU who does things like these and who works on the interactive calendar for Frosh where students can pick the events that they want to go to …. Often, students don’t know what’s going on. [They] cannot find it in the listserv, or the website had no information …putting it all in one place, and making it inclusive and accessible [would make everything easier].
MT: In what way is this better than the listservs? Because at least in the listservs you get everything in your inbox. With the calendar you’d have to go and find it.
JK: The listervs are a good tool, but also people don’t always read them. Also, especially this year they aren’t really regular …. I think that having a second tool is very useful, and where everything is in one place, can also become a primary tool in the future.
MT: What were you for Halloween?
JK: I was Wonder Woman.
The President acts as the coordinator executive of the SSMU. As spokesperson of the Society, this person represents SSMU members at the University Senate and Board of Governors, and maintains relations with the university’s administration, faculty and student associations. Furthermore, as Chair of the Executive Committee, is also in charge of coordinating and overseeing the process of the Council’s agendas.
MT: Why do you think you are qualified for the position?
Chris Bangs: I started my career working with SSMU as the founder of the Independent Student Inquiry …. We were a completely autonomous student group; we worked closely with the VP UA, and VP Clubs & Services [and] Alison Cooper was another founder, so I had this perspective as an outside student group that worked for SSMU support, and worked for students that way. Now, I’m Campaigns Coordinator for SSMU, I work with Equity, Sustainability, Environmental Commissioners etc… I’ve worked with all six portfolios to get things done, and I’ve been very lucky to build these strong connections across [the] university. Also, I’m on the by-law review committee, so we are re-writing the constitution right now, getting into what the SSMU governing documents actually are.
MT: Based on this experience in the last year, what’s the biggest issue that you think you’ll have to deal with next year?
CB: The lease. I don’t have any more information than the average student, so I hope that’ll get resolved this year, and they say that it will.
MT: They said that last year too.
CB: Yeah, it’s been three years now, so we’ll see, it could be a glaring issue. But I think the largest one, and the one that’s on students’ minds the most is these budget cuts and this tuition hike. The combination of them, I think, is really disastrous for McGill, for McGill students, and for the university system as a whole.
That’s something I really want to work with: [trying] to stop the hike and the cuts, and then working within McGill to make sure [that] if we have to have the funding cuts, they’re done in an equitable and fair way .… I want to make sure [that] that the cuts, if they have to go through, are maybe more confined to expenses like lawyers’ fees and administrators […] not [necessarily] contributing to student life or faculty on campus.
MT: Last year, as you said, you were a big part of the Independent Student Inquiry. How do you foresee actually working with the administration, rather than maybe creating something that’s separate from their own policies?
CB: Clearly, the Independent Student Inquiry was independent of McGill, but it wasn’t independent in the context of opportunities to engage. As we worked with the VP UA, we met with the principal, we met with the Deputy Provost Student Life and Learning [Morton J.] Mendelson, Dean Manfredi, who was conducting a review of the provisional protocol, to talk about it with them .… I am working very closely with the Board of Governors right now, with Divest McGill, and I probably, as President, would sit on the Board of Governors, and [be] the student, outside of the students on the Board of Governors right now, who has the most experience actually dealing with the body. And so I think that I have very strong allies there, I’ve worked closely with them, and I think that I’m going to approach it with cautious optimism, especially in the context of the new principal and the new DPSLL.
MT: What are the most important ways that your platform differs from your opponent’s?
CB: She has a focus on mental and physical health, and I think that’s really great. I think that what I’m most excited about is how to translate these vague ideas into very concrete things. So when I’m talking about mental health, I [have] two very concrete things I want to do:
The first one would be to have a 13 cents per semester mental health fund, so that would raise $6,000 a year, and that could go to fund things that come out of this program, but also things like student research and conferences, puppy petting in the library, special support for students with disabilities, or disadvantaged students, etcetera. The other idea is, a motion, or a referendum question [because] student services are paid for entirely by students, McGill doesn’t pay for it at all … they don’t provide any direct funding. And so they charge about 1.5 per cent of the money that students give to student services … and they’re going to try to raise that by a couple percentage points, and half the money that we are giving to student services is going straight to James Admin, instead of things that we need …. I’d want to give the choice to support these really great frontline services [without increasing the] percentage fee that [the university is] charging.
MT: How has your experience working with SSMU qualified you for the position of President?
KL: I have been working with SSMU for a very long time now, around three years. The second year I started as VP external of Music Undergraduate Student Association, and so I sat on SSMU Legislative Council. And then last year, as President, I worked with Maggie and the other student Presidents. This year, I’m back as Legislative Councilor and Internal again, and I’ve put a lot more time into committee work, doing events, Steering Committee, external affairs, and funding. So it’s been a really good experience. The first time I did the SSMU thing, I was working a lot for Clubs & Services …. And then I worked there this summer as one of the culture/project coordinators. So I have a pretty good grasp on how it works day-to-day and what really goes on and where it is really going.
MT: What’s your vision for SSMU?
KL: Something that I see as a challenge but also as an opportunity is to really try to get more face time with students, both with SSMU executives as they’re representing so many different students …. [And I will] try to have as much of an open door as possible.
I also really want to keep the push going towards collaboration between the student associations, [and] the student groups on campus. Since I’ve been here working in them, I’ve seen it really go from the first year I did it … and since that’s where my background is, I’d like to bring that forward and see how we can get services involved in that.
Within the university, I [also] think that the things that the university should be really looking towards are from the student services perspective. Mental and physical health [are] always an issue here. [There are] ways to improve that, not necessarily from a budget perspective [only]. I think having to commit to better communication about it or just keeping the website updated; just little things to make sure that everybody knows how to help themselves, even possibly asking each other how to partner or work with other things around the community to increase those services would be interesting.
On the academic side, two things that we have discussed at length with Professor Mendelsson, [are] advising and course evaluations, that is [deciding] when [course] evaluations [should] happen. [And also] making sure professors are following the rules about the syllabi. We’ve discussed different ways that it could be remedied. It’s just something that needs to be pushed through the channels, especially at Senate and at academic policy committee. I think that could happen next year.
Within SSMU, I’d really like to review the way that we do student staffing executive positions, because as President, I’d be in charge of Human Resources, [I would be] looking for other sources of funding, whether it be government or provincial grants to come in, to have us increase student staff hours or jobs if we can. And for the executive positions, they need to be more clearly defined in the constitution and by-laws so that the mandates can be clear and people can have more of a way to feel that they’re really empowered by legislation for the job to move forward with it.
MT: Do you have any plans to bolster GA participation, or do you have any plans for the GA now?
KL: It’s absolutely a necessity to have [a GA] when we need it. So for example, last year there were 1,000 people at a GA because there was a serious issue, which was on going on strike or not. So that’s an example [that if] people really want to make a strong decision, the platform needs to be available for it to happen. However, I don’t think that it’s necessarily productive or helpful if we’re just telling people, “Oh, come to the GA. Make a motion because we have to have a GA motion.” There’s not really any substance behind it. It’s not really helping anybody.