Editorial, Opinion

Students’ Society of McGill University Executive Midterm Reviews 2020-2021

Jemark Earle, President 

Jemark Earle campaigned for the position of SSMU president with two major goals in mind: Pinpointing and improving SSMU’s logistical weaknesses and carving out space for under-represented voices in high-level, decision-making arenas at McGill. Over Summer 2020 and throughout the Fall 2020 semester, Earle has proven to be an engaged adherent to both of these objectives. At SSMU Legislative Council on Nov. 19, Earle presented his 40-page proposal for a five-year growth plan for SSMU. The detailed document outlines a series of amendments pertaining to SSMU’s handling of its staff, operations, student clubs, organizational finance, and advocacy at McGill. Notable initiatives include the doubling of SSMU’s full-time staff, establishing a streamlined online portal for all clubs at McGill, and a Francization Plan, which would guarantee that all SSMU documents be made available in English and French. Earle has also been a vocal supporter of student advocacy initiatives, such as the “Take James McGill Down” campaign. Under his leadership, SSMU passed a motion on Sept. 24 to create a Black Affairs Committee within SSMU’s Legislative Council.

Ayo Ogunremi, VP External

Despite being absent from his position for September and October 2020 due to an illness, Ayo Ogunremi was highly engaged over the summer and has worked on important initiatives. In July, he campaigned against Bill 21 and changes to the Programme de l’expérience québécoise (PEQ). He also coordinated activism against systemic racism at McGill, helping to establish the Black Affairs Committee and helping to lead the “Take James McGill Down” campaign. Moreover, he forged ties of solidarity between SSMU and other student unions to foster continued advocacy. Indeed, when Ogunremi returned from his illness, he helped organize an inter-association of CEGEP and university student unions to facilitate discussion, collaboration, and joint action between student societies. At this event, Ogunremi drafted a proposition on solidarity with international students. 

Maheen Akter, VP Student Life 

Although many clubs are no longer active due to COVID-19, Maheen Akter has fulfilled several of her campaign promises this semester, including facilitating a successful virtual activities night and helping to implement the SSMU Clubs Portal to streamline the creation and organization of clubs. Akter was successful in her advocacy for raising the SSMU daycare fee from $2.70 to $3.00 and has also organized the return of clubs and services to the renovated University Center. While Akter has overseen several initiatives that support student mental health, such as the keep.meSAFE program and the October mental health week, she has not yet significantly increased the Wellness Hub’s accessibility for students, as was indicated in her platform, besides creating a survey about student mental health during virtual learning.

Gifford Marpole, VP Finance 

Gifford Marpole has used the Fall 2020 semester to implement various initiatives. With effectively all campus activity now remote, Marpole and his team have put accessibility, communication, and accountability at the forefront of his work. This semester, Marpole approved credit cards for all SSMU services and oversaw all banking procedures’ transition to remote processes. Perhaps Marpole’s greatest achievement so far is his Investigation into SSMU’s Student Fee Policies (ISSFeeP), which is looking into the current ambiguity of fee levies. Working with the Finance Commissioner and Committee, Marpole plans to establish a process that thoroughly assesses students’ fees for clubs and services and ensures that all funds are transparently and fully re-invested in them. Marpole hopes that these new implementations will be fully integrated and become standard procedure as classes return to in-person, on-campus learning.

Brooklyn Frizzle, VP University Affairs 

Frizzle has been hard at work since their term began, taking on numerous advocacy initiatives. One key area of their work has been library improvement, including working to expand McGill’s collection of free-access course materials and increasing the representation of marginalized authors, and the Open Educational Resources project. On Nov. 22, SSMU announced that coursepacks would be made available free of charge through the library rather than sold by Le James McGill Bookstore starting in Winter 2021an initiative in which Frizzle played a key role. Beyond the library, they have been revising several policy documents, including SSMU’s Human Resources Policy. With regard to employment equity, Frizzle has also been advocating for SSMU councillors to be remunerated. They also established the Board Ad-hoc Committee on Naming (BACoN), tasked with renaming the University Centre and 3501 Peel, another SSMU building. Beyond SSMU initiatives, Frizzle has been vocal with the McGill Senate to increase student representation within the Senate, address academic racism, and reform the University Student Assessment Policy. 

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