Editorial, Opinion

Winter 2024 SSMU Executive Endorsements 

The Tribune’s editorial board presents its endorsements of the candidates for the 2024-2025 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) executive team. Editors researched and communicated with each candidate before leading an editorial board discussion on the candidate’s qualifications and vision for their prospective role. Editors with conflicts of interest abstained from discussing, writing, and editing relevant reviews.

The Tribune would like to acknowledge that no candidates have come forward for the President or Vice-President (VP) Finance positions and that there is only competition for two of the seven executive positions. Having a full and strong executive team is vital going into the 2024-2025 academic year, and the lack of applicants is deeply troubling for our student democracy. The Tribune encourages SSMU to continue its outreach to find qualified and passionate candidates and students to engage in the democratic process.

VP Student Life 

Chloé Muñoz

Muñoz, who was VP Environment of New Residence Hall and VP Internal of the Environmental Residence Council from 2022-2023, vows to maintain and strengthen SSMU services if elected. She feels that having permanent, non-student positions in certain, critical services—such as those dealing with mental health—is important to avoid the loss of institutional memory as students come and go. She plans to meet with clubs, independent student groups, and services frequently to hear their concerns and help them run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. She also has a few community-building initiatives planned: Muñoz wants to increase the number of third spaces around campus, as she believes they are crucial for fostering a stronger sense of community and collaboration among students, and intends to hold community mixers to bring people together and increase engagement with SSMU. Finally, she has a strong grasp of campus, city, and provincial politics. If elected, she would advocate against the provincial government’s tuition hikes and for the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine, which was passed during the Fall 2023 SSMU Referendum but has been challenged by both McGill and B’nai Brith.

Avin Ahmadi

If elected, Ahmadi—who has experience as Inter-Residence Council’s Solin Hall representative—plans to centre her work around student feedback to ensure that SSMU is working for all of its constituents. To this end, she would focus on improving the quality of SSMU services—which she thinks many students are dissatisfied with—starting by conducting a survey of students’ experiences to see what is most needed. She plans to work on improving the McGill App to make it better customized to students’ needs, which, in turn, she hopes would help SSMU members gain a better understanding of the Society’s work and increase students’ engagement with SSMU. Additionally, she would work to make Activities Night less daunting for students by creating an interactive map to help attendees navigate the tables. Finally, Ahmadi would carry on the current VP Student Life’s practice of holding frequent office hours to hear student feedback and create new anonymous channels through which students could communicate any concerns with SSMU executives.

Endorsement: Yes to Chloé Muñoz

The Tribune endorses Muñoz for VP Student Life because of her dedication to anti-oppressive work and fostering community, as well as her understanding of the importance of maintaining SSMU services that are key for students’ mental and physical health and well-being in the face of budget cuts and tuition hikes. While her platform is strong, we encourage Muñoz to create more specific plans for tackling the crisis of mental health at McGill beyond supporting services and working to foster community. Despite The Tribune’s endorsement of Muñoz, Ahmadi deserves praise for her platform, specifically for her ideas on how to centre student feedback and increase engagement with SSMU.

VP Sustainability and Operations

Meg Baltes

Baltes is a third-year science student wanting to continue Hassanatou Koulibaly’s work of revitalizing the University Centre in the role of VP Operations and Sustainability. She plans on attracting more students into the space by adding other vendors to the basement space alongside Gerts. Baltes also hopes to enhance SSMU’s sustainability commitments by incorporating McGill’s Sustainable Events Certification into the society’s event planning structure and by improving waste management practices. She is committed to facilitating improved communication with students by reaching out to clubs at the beginning of each term to ensure students know the VP, their role, and the support they offer.

Endorsement: Yes to Meg Baltes

Given the difficulties that come with advocating for sustainability within bureaucratic institutions on campus, her experience working around these challenges as Sustainability Projects Fund ambassador at  McGill will serve her well in the role. Her focus on achieving concrete goals and improving transparency with students are also key to more effective work by SSMU. However, since Baltes is a full-time honours student, fulfilling the responsibilities of an executive position will be a challenge. The Tribune hopes her courseload, as well as her focus on efficiency, do not lead her to neglect parts of the portfolio. 

VP External

Hugo-Victor Solomon

Solomon’s campaign is centred around social justice, transparency, and accountability within SSMU and Montreal, with an intersectional lens informing his approach to these three pillars. In his campaign, Solomon has stressed the need to build structural support for movements across campus, including Palestinian- and Indigenous-led movements, student protests against tuition hikes, and unions. His own experience includes community activism with Black Lives Matter, anti-gun-violence protests, activism for LGBTQ+ rights, and anti-apartheid movement work. For Francophone Affairs, he plans to advocate for the multitude of multiracial francophone students within the specific context of Quebec, which also animates his desire to uphold Quebec’s long history of concrete political activism. He wishes to bridge dialogue between the administration and organizers on campus, while also bridging solidarity with Milton Parc community organizations such as Mobilizing for Milton-Parc and the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at McGill

Michal Ekiert

In the role of VP External, first-year law student Ekiert wants to increase government lobbying and legal policy action while continuing to support social movements on campus. From his time sitting on the SSMU committee on legal action against tuition hikes and volunteering at the Legal Information Clinic at McGill, Ekiert has experience working in legal advocacy both in and outside of the student union. Maintaining greater transparency by providing a newsletter to keep students informed on his work is key to his platform, as well as being a more active presence in committee meetings under his portfolio. Ekiert commits to streamlining communication between SSMU and the network of NGOs working on housing and food insecurity in Montreal to support students. He also hopes to foster strong community ties with Milton Parc by engaging and supporting all residents, including the unhoused community.

Endorsement: Yes to Hugo-Victor Solomon

The Tribune endorses Solomon’s campaign for VP External. Solomon’s decolonial approach to campus politics gave him the edge. For example, Solomon has emphasized his focus on community engagement shaped by deep listening and developing a “cognitive and spiritual” understanding of solidarity with the Kanien’kehá:ka Kahnistensera (Mohawk Mothers) and committing to the hunger strikers and academic divestment in response to McGill’s opposition to the Policy against Genocide in Palestine. Ekiert’s overall lack of concrete goals in the role hinders his commitment to supporting student activism and providing greater transparency. Furthermore, Ekiert’s choice to not explicitly stand in support of the Policy against Genocide in Palestine and the Mohawk Mothers in his platform undermines his claim of being committed to anti-oppressive work. With his careful understanding of activism and administration required in the role, Solomon is poised to carry on the work of past VPs and build on transparency, accountability, and human rights endeavours on campus. 

VP University Affairs

Abe Berglas*

Berglas has demonstrated a good grasp of McGill’s various governance structures and procedures, which is critical for anyone hoping to take up the VP University Affairs position. They list improving accessibility, holding McGill accountable for reports of discrimination, and ensuring that McGill committees are transparent about the state of equity and student rights as some of the key tenets of their campaign. In addition, if elected they would aim to strengthen the student caucus to the Senate by making sure all student senators are well informed, understand the structures at play at McGill, and ask hard-hitting questions. They would also push McGill to implement the recommendations from SSMU’s Accessibility and Accommodations on Campus report. Finally, Berglas, who is currently the Recording Secretary of the SSMUnion, would push SSMU to ratify the SSMUnion Collective Agreement if elected. 

*Berglas declined an interview with The Tribune, so we were unable to ask them questions and evaluate all aspects of their campaign.

Endorsement: No to Abe Berglas

Despite Berglas’ clear understanding of the structures through which they would be responsible for advocating for students in the VP University Affairs position, The Tribune does not endorse them due to their lack of specific emphasis on combatting racism, colonialism, and a myriad of other oppressive forces. It is imperative that the VP University Affairs does anti-racist and decolonial work—for example by taking a strong stance on the Mohawk Mother’s ongoing legal battle with McGill and on the Policy Against Genocide in Palestine—and that they make these issues a cornerstone of their campaign. If elected, we encourage Berglas to ensure that all students are being advocated for and supported.

VP Internal

Zeena Zahidah

Zahidah’s campaign focuses primarily on building strong first-year engagement through a new buddy program, as well as more inclusive representation for Francophone students on SSMU committees and an overall commitment to building a more diverse, inclusive community. She cites her varied experiences to support this commitment, including an internship for a 30-day film festival focusing on the themes of life, death, and oppression in the Middle East, and her experience delivering over 10,000 iftar meals to vulnerable sectors in Amman during Ramadan with her family. Zahidah plans to start a SSMU TikTok to increase student engagement with their representatives and believes fostering more collaborative opportunities with students and alumni will strengthen alumni connections. 

Endorsement: Yes to Zeena Zahidah

While a little inexperienced in student affairs and management, Zahidah’s experience organizing a wide variety of different events is encouraging. Her proposals and plans for accomplishing them are highly ambitious and a step in the right direction for campus life. The Tribune appreciates her commitment to diversity and inclusivity of the distinct groups on campus, and therefore endorses her candidacy and different proposals.

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