SSMU Elections 2018 Candidates’ Interviews

President

Corrine Bulger
By Luca Brown

Corinne Bulger, candidate for SSMU President, took the stage at the SSMU Executive Candidates’ Debate to discuss issues crucial to student government and advocacy. Bulger’s platform is informed by her involvement in McGill residences, her experiences as an Arts representative to SSMU, and her active role in several boards and committees. Her platform is focused on “community, succession planning, and making SSMU an accessible space,” which she argues will be bolstered by her experience. As well, Bulger’s platform includes a commitment to transparency and increased accessibility by establishing longer office hours, creating accessible spaces that can be used during the SSMU building closure next year, and ensuring that decision-making bodies — like Council and GAs — are more accessible through the use of audiovisual aids.

Bulger was asked about the issues she raised in her platform at the debate, and emphasized her commitment to keeping student government functional and accountable during the building closure. Bulger said that she felt comfortable dealing and negotiating with the McGill administration regarding the building closure, emphasizing her commitment to ensuring that SSMU acts as an advocate on behalf of students and to “understand where their needs fall in terms of [SSMU] building closure.” Bulger also emphasized that she has taken the time to analyze how current executives interact with administration and advocate on behalf of student interests, stating that the relationship between the two is “extremely important because we are an advocating body and we need to be working with our student groups to make sure that we are understanding what they need from us.”

“I think next year we’re going to have to do a lot of grassroots work in terms of having smaller, more collaborative engagement with students,” Bulger said. This would entail “engaging with students in smaller talk circles in the office to make that space more accessible so students can learn about what is happening in our government."

Bulger and her opponent, Tre Mansdoerfer, were asked what distinguished each other from their opponent. Bulger’s response emphasized her involvement in McGill Residence as a key aspect that differentiates herself from her opponent, especially when it comes to making spaces and events accessible to students.

 Tre Mansdoerfer
By Nora Duffy

Tre Mansdoerfer is a third-year electrical engineering student currently running for the position of SSMU President. Over the past two years, Mansdoerfer has been both an EUS Senator and representative to SSMU, and believes that SSMU has not done enough to facilitate inter-faculty initiatives at McGill. Mansdoerfer proposes introducing monthly meetings between SSMU executives and faculty representatives, as well as granting all faculties a seat at Senate Caucus. Additionally, Mansdoerfer hopes to rebuild students’ faith in SSMU by generating greater student involvement in SSMU General Assemblies and making student government more accessible. Finally, Mansdoerfer aims to advocate for student interests in a more focused way, with a particular focus on key issues such as implementing a Fall Reading Week, increasing access to mental health resources, and improving the Sexual Violence Policy. At the SSMU Executive Candidates’ Debate, Mansdoerfer stated that SSMU should “be making sure that [it is] advocating for what students need, and making sure that we are prioritizing those [needs] during the year so that we can go after bigger projects in the future.”

Corrine Bulger

Corinne Bulger, one of two SSMU presidential candidates, sat down with The Bull & Bear last Friday to discuss her candidacy. She emphasized that team building would be a key aspect of her role, if elected. Bulger stated that “the team within the executive, SSMU, and Legislative Council will be the face of SSMU for a lot of the year,” and that it is “important to build that strong network early on.” She sees the role as a “really administrative one,” and believes that her experience as a Floor Fellow, Rez Lifer, and AUS executive would help her with those duties. Bulger also cited the administrative aspect of the role as one that is largely behind the scenes, noting that most students see the portfolio as a more outward facing one that it actually is.

Bulger expressed her sadness about the apathy that she sees as fuelling the mistrust students feel toward the Society. She validated the concerns of the membership, however, and stated that she would like to ensure that she and her team “are going out into community, rather than [having] the community come into [it], especially with the building closure.”

When asked about the divisive issues SSMU faces, Bulger noted that SSMU is a “representative and advocating body,” and that “deciding that [one perspective] is the voice of all the students is not [the SSMU’s] job,” but rather bringing various perspectives to the administration to ensure many voices are heard. She stressed that the SSMU executive’s main role is ensuring the upkeep and wellbeing of the union so as to provide adequate services for students.

Bulger hopes that the building closure will be an opportunity to “bring the student body together.” She is confident that the new spaces on Peel and Robert Bourassa will adequately serve clubs and services, and reiterated that, if elected, she and her team would proactively go out to the various student groups to ensure the spaces are working, and to determine what could be done better.

 Tre Mansdoerfer

SSMU Presidential Candidate Tre Mansdoerfer spoke with The Bull & Bear about his campaign, where he emphasized rebuilding SSMU’s relationship with the greater student body of McGill. “The most important part of the role is understanding that you are representing the entire student body, and to do so you must be engaging with the entire student body. I feel like there is a big disconnect with SSMU, so the most important part is understanding that you are a representative.” When asked about how he could change the loss in confidence some students felt toward members of the SSMU Executive, Tre stressed the need for proactive community building. “Something I want to do is to actively engage and not necessarily always stay inside the SSMU building, which I think is kind of typical.”

The Bull & Bear then asked the Presidential candidate how he plans to lead the executive in a way that ensures unified leadership and a successful year in terms of student advocacy and interest. “I think the most important thing in creating a unified team is having an understanding that we are all there to do the right thing,” Mansdoerfer responded. “Something that needs to happen is that while we are respecting each other, we need to be actively listening to each others’ opinions.  You can’t just pretend to listen and sort of reject, because I think that is what has created a divide over the past year, that a lot of people who aren’t really listening are sticking to their guns and are not actually trying to give any form of courtesy or respect for people’s views.”

Mansdoerfer was then asked about how he plans to implement separate task forces to advocate for solutions to issues such as a fall reading week, mental health, and a strong sexual violence policy. For a fall reading week, Mansdoerfer noted “[Ollivier] Dyens is getting replaced this summer, and I think we could re-engage the conversation with the new Deputy Provost [Student Life and Learning] and find an ally in the administration.” Tre then addressed his proposed mental health task force, stating that “The mental health taskforce would have [student Senators], mental health commissioners, as well as members at large who can strategize [and] have interactions with the administration...The Senators in general have a lot of connections with the administration to further these important causes.”

VP Student Life

Sophia Esterle
By Teddy Neuman

Running for VP Student Life in the 2018-2019 SSMU elections is candidate Sophia Esterle. As a former Douglas Hall Spirit Representative, and a former member of the SSMU Equity Committee, Esterle believes that she can utilize her experiences to “directly impact student life.”

Sophia Esterle’s main motivation, according to her campaign page, is to fix the many flaws in McGill’s on campus resources directed toward combating mental health issues. She has discovered through her own experiences that the system needs to go beyond telling students “to get better” and actually teach McGill students how to start helping themselves.

On the administrative front, Esterle plans to tackle to obstacles, such as enabling friends or trusted ones to book appointments for others that may not feel comfortable in taking the first step themselves. Her other course of action is to work with McGill Counseling to change their binary boxes denoting gender that are “purely wrong and discriminatory,” according to Esterle.

As a personal goal, Esterle hopes to achieve several tasks if elected. First, she would like to create “an in-residence support system coordinating with the Peer Support Center, McGill Counseling Services, or any group/service that would help.” Second on her agenda is to start “sharing sessions” at McGill’s residence halls to provide a space for students to open up about their experiences with mental health and acclimating to life in Montreal and at McGill. Third, she would like to improve the accessibility of clubs at McGill by creating an up-to-date database where all of them would be listed. Lastly, Esterle intends on creating a stronger media platform to encourage greater student involvement on campus.

Sophia Esterle

Speaking with The Bull & Bear, sole candidate Sophia Esterle identified three main components to the role of VP Student Life: acting as a liaison between the SSMU and clubs and services, improving mental health services, and family care. Esterle emphasized her commitment to improving mental health on campus, saying that despite it constituting its own category, that all three of the aforementioned arenas contribute to mental health and wellbeing.

In discussing her platform plank to create an in-residence support system, Esterle indicated how it would be different from existing “floor tea” events and other support systems in residences. “[This system] would be specifically dedicated to talking about mental health,” she explained. “It would be a space where students can safely share their experiences with mental health, whereas floor tea is more like ‘hanging out’ and talking about your day.” Referencing her own experience with depression, she said that as she got better and talked about her own problems with friends, they opened up about their own problems. “I would hope that these sharing sessions would help people realize that they’re not alone, but also start more conversations outside of [the sessions],” Esterle explained.

Referencing the challenge of helping clubs and services fulfill their mandates and maintain student engagement during the SSMU building closure, Esterle discussed working with different buildings on campus, faculty associations, buildings near campus, and even McGill residences, if need be. “I’ll do my best to encourage student engagement by using social media, putting up flyers in buildings, clearly indicating the location of events,” she said. “It’s going to be challenging, and obviously more complicated, but I would work to have as much transparency and have specific places on campus available to find out where events are happening.”

VP Finance

Jun Wang
By Erica Sheffres

Jun Wang’s main goal as VP Finance is to improve the overall efficiency of SSMU’s financial system through his platform’s three pillars: accessibility to SSMU funds, accountability to students, and financial restructuring and communication. With regards to funding accessibility, Wang wants to simplify the funding process for student groups. Additionally, he will continue to facilitate training with club officers to better acquaint them with SSMU’s financial procedures. Wang also seeks to hold SSMU executives accountable by implementing mandatory performance evaluations (delivered via weekly memos), noting that, “SSMU is a job, and officers should be more transparent.” As well, Wang addressed restructuring and improved communication. He wants to change the convoluted nature of SSMU’s financial structure and better allocate resources through measures like a pooled surpluses fund. When asked how he will make the SSMU budget accessible to students, Wang stated that he will provide an infographic guide to the “financial jargon” in budget reports. This guide will be posted with the budget to ensure that the status of SSMU finances are more readily accessible. In his concluding statement at the March 13 Candidates’ Debate, Wang emphasized that his advocacy for gender equality and marginalized communities makes him a strong candidate for handling the financial interests of the entire student body.

Jun Wang

The Bull & Bear recently sat down for an interview with Jun Wang, the unopposed candidate for VP Finance. Wang, a Management student, firmly believes that the most important part of the role is maintaining the efficiency of the funding and allocation process of SSMU’s resources. He feels this “boils down to transparency, as many people don’t know where their money is going, and many don’t have the financial literacy to read certain budgets or complete accounting forms.” Wang stressed that this problem can be solved with effective communication between his office and clubs and services executives, and intensive training with all club officers several times yearly.

When asked about misconceptions students may have about the Finance portfolio, Wang noted that many don’t see how important the communications aspect of the role is. He feels that they see it as highly technical, and emphasized the importance of open lines of communication between him and those he would deal with, if elected.

While Wang does not have any SSMU-specific experience, he referenced the complaints that many of his friends, officers of SSMU clubs, had about their interactions with generations of Vice Presidents Finance, as both motivation to run, and training for the role. He acknowledged that the position would come with a steep learning curve, but believes that his Finance major will adequately prepare him for that challenge. Wang feels his “outsider’s perspective” will help him relate to the officers of SSMU clubs he works with, and intends to familiarize himself with the Quebec Corporations Act after his election.

VP Internal

Matthew McLaughlin
By Ryan London

Running unopposed for SSMU VP Internal is first year Management student Matthew McLaughlin. McLaughlin describes his platform as “practical ideas [that] are feasible and could be implemented to affect subsequent change here at McGill.”

His platform is based on ten ideas for reform, including the creation of a centralized calendar, semesterly town hall meetings, and “changing the perception of SSMU” by giving students a look into the daily lives of executives through use of Facebook live streams.

At the March 13 Candidates’ Debate, McLaughlin was asked how he plans to coordinate events following the SSMU building closure. He responded, “I think this is actually an opportunity because I think what we can do is collaborate more between faculties…this is a chance to build relationships with restaurants, cafes, shared working spaces - we can connect with them as SSMU and then use those spaces to plan events.”

When asked about his intention to host a town hall meeting each semester in addition to the GA, he stated that “[General Assembly’s] aren’t really a forum for students to come and have meaningful, casual dialogue with their executives. They’re a place to have high-level motions passed and to really change SSMU structurally…with town halls I want to have a more laid-back, casual-style event where students can come and ask questions to the execs in a public forum.”

In his closing statement, McLaughlin addressed any doubts about his level of experience, given that he is a first year student. “I hope that I’ve proven that being a first year isn’t going to be an obstacle for me. I think I am ready for this and I’ve developed a nuanced understanding of how SSMU works, how the different bodies interact with each other, and how communication can be improved.”

Matthew McLaughlin

The Bull & Bear recently sat down with VP Internal candidate, Matthew McLaughlin to discuss his campaign and his plans for the role. Though the youngest of all the SSMU Executive candidates, McLaughlin considers his status as a first year to be an advantage in some ways. “I’ve actually gotten really involved in SSMU in my first year,” McLaughlin said. “I’m currently the Secretary General to President, I’m planning the General Assembly this semester, so I’ve had a lot of exposure to SSMU, specifically working with SSMU Executives.” He noted that the VP Internal portfolio does have a lot of first year events and aspects to it, such as Frosh and First Year Council, so being a first year student makes him more connected to first year student life. “I’m living as a first year right now, so I see the ways that it can be improved right now.”

Speaking about his campaign promise to improve communications between faculties and internal organizations, McLaughlin emphasized the nature of VP Internal as a communications-based role. “I want to outline that VP Internal will be the liaison between SSMU and the different faculties, but also between faculties,” he stated. “Faculties on campus don’t have outreach to everybody on campus, whereas the VP Internal does.”

McLaughlin also plans to change students’ perception of SSMU by hosting biweekly Facebook live videos about what each Executive has been working on. They would be based off of each Executive’s’ prepared report to Legislative Council. “Taking those summaries of what Executives have done in the past two weeks and putting them together in a five minute video, makes it way more accessible to students,” McLaughlin outlined. “I think if students see the actual work that Executives do behind the scenes, then they’ll have a better understanding of what SSMU is about and change its perception,” he explained. “SSMU isn’t one issue, SSMU isn’t one big headline, SSMU isn’t a scandal. The scandals are what make headlines, but they’re not what really matters in SSMU. There’s so much more going on.”

VP External

Marina Cupido
By Maya Abramson and Clara Marchioni

Marina Cupido is running unopposed for VP External of SSMU. They have gained experience with student politics and activism at McGill in the positions of reporter, News Editor, and Managing Editor of the McGill Daily, where they covered SSMU politics. Cupido’s platform begins with wanting to affiliate SSMU with a wider student federation within the province. They want to improve accessibility to SSMU for McGill’s francophone community. They hope to work with Indigenous initiatives on campus, as well as strengthen relationships between McGill and the Milton-Parc community. Cupido is interested in fighting against the prevalence of unpaid internships, and would like to work with other Quebec institutions to further this cause. Finally, Cupido is committed to improving overall transparency of SSMU.

A "no" campaign has been launched against Cupido’s candidacy, spearheaded by “McGill Students for an Inclusive SSMU,” a new Facebook page. The anonymous group believes that Cupido has “damaged marginalized communities at McGill” by using “hateful and divisive language” and condoning “incitements to violence” in the past.

In their opening statement at the SSMU Executives debate on March 13, Cupido explained that their interest in the VP External position stems from their longstanding involvement in the student community. Cupido stated that over the years, they have developed both a “deep appreciation” for as well as a “deep frustration” with SSMU, the functioning of which she wants to improve. When asked about the “no” campaign against them, Cupido said they did not wish to address it publicly, as they found it “disgusting” and did not wish to validate the effort against them.

Marina Cupido

In sitting down with The Bull and Bear, VP External Candidate Marina Cupido stressed that the most important part of the role they are running for is “the section on supporting Indigenous Affairs.” They contended, “It’s really essential to supporting student life on campus, as well as the very existence of McGill. We’re all able to study here because of an ongoing violent crime. It’s the most underfunded and under-resourced part of the portfolio, so it’s not only important in and of itself, but it’s also important for the VP External to advocate for more resources.” When asked what the most common misconceptions about the position are, Cupido stated their belief that many students do not see a need for a VP External: “It’s honestly partly because of the name. People think, ‘oh, VP External, how is that relevant to me and my experience at McGill?’ Whereas in fact, on so many levels, what’s covered under the portfolio is incredibly important to everyone on campus.”

When asked to address systemic mistrust in the system, Cupido articulated that trust is “obviously a huge challenge,” and that in the four years they have been “paying attention to student politics,” trust has always been an issue. They contended that the primary issue “getting in the way” of students’ trust in SSMU is a “serious lack of transparency,” and emphasized platform points such as uploading documents to the SSMU website promptly, making detailed minutes available to the membership, and improving the media’s access to meetings.

The Bull & Bear asked Cupido to address the “No” campaign formed against them. In responding to how they would reconcile and adequately represent the students who have felt Cupido’s leadership and actions have, in the past, been anti-Semitic or otherwise harmful, the candidate iterated several times that they “want[ed] to be careful” about how they responded. Cupido stated that they found the campaign’s claim “deeply offensive,” particularly “based on [their] record of reporting and [their] work on campus putting pressure on institutions at McGill,” and felt it centered primarily on issues of gendered and sexual violence. Cupido stated that there is “concern about the safety of Jewish students on campus,” but that they hoped they would be able to represent students whose political views diverge from their own, if elected, even if such students have found Cupido’s rhetoric “harmful in the past.”

VP University Affairs

Jacob Shapiro
By Ali Schwenk

Jacob Shapiro is running for SSMU VP University Affairs on a platform of continuity, creativity, and community. In order to pursue continuity, Shapiro aims to improve the institutional knowledge between previous SSMU executives, as well as engage with the broader student body. In particular, he expressed that he would like to see engagement between senators and student representatives with first year students so that “two years down the line, students know what they’re advocating for.” Shapiro stressed his background in education and proposed the idea of Open Educational Resources to allow for “fairer, kinder, more accessible education.” Shapiro prides himself on his listening skills and aims to bring a consultative approach to sexual violence policy and equity development.

When questioned about the relationship between the SSMU VP External and VP University Affairs, Shapiro declared that he believes the roles are complementary and that he hopes to collaborate with the VP External to more effectively influence the administration, if elected. Further, Shapiro would like to see students putting forward what they want as opposed to “defining [our ideals] as what we don’t want.” During the debate, one student pointed out that the VP University Affairs position has traditionally been overburdened, to which Shapiro responded, “I’m going to put my time towards things that are community-based, that are about learning and student-centredness.” If elected, rather than focusing on specific issues, he plans to focus on improving the system so that it can “empower other people” to ensure that all issues can be supported. Shapiro closed his portion of the debate with an emphasis on community-building, claiming that community is his passion that motivated him to run for this position.

Jacob Shapiro

Jacob Shapiro recently sat down with The Bull & Bear to discuss his campaign platform, beginning with the challenge of emphasizing student advocacy on various topics. “The most important part of the University Affairs portfolio, then, is figuring out how to amplify all advocacy,” Shapiro stated. “We need to tackle the basics first, like mental health on campus and making sure everyone feels safe so that everyone can learn.”

Addressing a lack of confidence in SSMU, Shapiro noted that SSMU has “a very confusing system. Combined with specific individuals, the system issues create a dynamic people don’t want to get involved with.” Shapiro suggested several ways to change this lack of confidence, such as targeting involvement to raise voter turnout by 10% by the end of 2019, and passing a motion at Legislative Council to recognize that SSMU democracy in its current state is not working. “When we get results, we need to amplify them. It’s essential, in terms of University Affairs, that when advocating for students we show the university we speak on the students’ behalf - we can’t advocate properly on their behalf if we don’t speak for them.”

“If I win, I encourage people to be as available as possible to relationship build,” Shapiro continued, noting that he intends to make himself highly available through extended office hours and increased efforts for consultation. “If you win with a mandate, you need to be honest to [your] platform, but also listen to students who may not agree with what [you] wanted to do.”

Elaborating on governance reform, a focus of his platform, Shapiro raised key issues with the current campus debate about governance. “I’m a little concerned when people talk about smoothing out the inconsistencies in the constitution: if that’s all we do, we’re not being creative and proactive enough,” he stated. “This is an opportunity for people to make this clear and to make it accessible.”

 

 

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