The 2022-2023 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executive team was announced on March 18 after a five-day voting period that saw the lowest voter turnout of the past decade. Only 12.9 per cent of the undergraduates cast their ballots this year. Risann Wright, U3 Arts, clinched the SSMU presidency with 51.9 per cent of the vote, beating opponents Bryan Buraga, U4 Arts and Science, and Julian Guidote, 1L.
With 61.1 per cent of the vote, Hassanatou Koulibaly, U2 Arts and Science, was elected vice-president (VP) Student Life against Olivia Bornyi, U1 Arts. After five rounds of preferential voting, Catherine Williams, U3 Arts, won the VP Internal position over Jaz Kaur, U2 Arts, and Ananya Seth, U1 Arts.
The rest of the executive team, all of whom ran uncontested, comprises Kerry Yang, U3 Science, as VP University Affairs (UA), Val Mansy, U3 Science, as VP External, and Marco Pizarro, U3 Science, as VP Finance.
In an interview with The McGill Tribune, Wright affirmed that her priorities as SSMU president are to push for “systemic change” in the society, which would include reforming Human Resources and creating an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion committee.
“The environment that I hope to create at the SSMU is one that is first and foremost professional, that is collaborative, and one that, should conflicts arise, [has] a very clear process to swiftly and effectively deal with them,” Wright said. “I can’t tell you that no conflict is ever going to happen or there are going to be no disagreements, but I can tell you that I can make every effort to have a safe environment and a structured process to deal with it so that it does not go to the sizes we have seen or overshadow work.”
Wright plans to work with the rest of the executive team to improve student engagement in the SSMU, emphasizing the importance of getting immediate resources to students, such as stipends for wifi modems and access to COVID-19 rapid tests.
“Students have every reason at this point to be disenchanted with the SSMU,” Wright said. “The way that we can improve engagement and improve voter turnout is by showing students that it is important, that [the SSMU] does impact you [….] We can improve confidence in the SSMU by genuinely and directly helping students, by allowing them to see that there are leaders, there are executive teams that are transparent, that are going to be held accountable, and that will own up to what they say they are going to do, which I have every intention of doing.”
VP Internal Williams referred to her status as a newcomer to the society, and discussed her focus on having better communication with students.
“I understand being a student and feeling left in the dark, you see all these things happening, but no one is telling you anything about it,” Williams said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I completely get the frustration of a lack of transparency. My aim is to be as transparent as possible.”
In an interview with the Tribune, Yang cited the importance of centring students for a democratic student society.
“This is going to be my fifth year at McGill and I have seen four SSMU exec teams all from varying levels, and I understand what a good SSMU team looks like and what a bad one looks like,” Yang said. “It is being humble and being people-centric and student-centric, because at the end of the day [being a SSMU executive] is about making every student’s experience the best it can be.”
The SSMU Winter 2022 Referendum results were released later on March 21 to account for an extended voting period after the Palestinian Solidarity Policy was removed from the ballot following an order from the SSMU Judicial Board. The Referendum ballot was rerun and the Policy passed with 71.1 per cent of the vote in favour.
Other motions that passed included the creation of Dialogue telemedicine service fee, the creation of the MUSTBUS fee, the creation of the Student Support fee, and the creation of a Black Affairs fee levy. The proposals to increase the SSMU membership fee and to create aFrench Accessibility Fee did not pass.