SSMU Elections 2021 Candidates

President

 

Darshan Daryanani

Darshan Daryanani is a U3 political science and international development studies student running for SSMU President. Daryanani is currently the Arts Representative to the McGill Senate, sitting on twelve separate University, SSMU, and Arts committees. He is also the former Arts Undergraduate Society VP External and served as the executive on multiple student clubs, including the Indian Students Association, Tashan Dance Company, and McGill Students for UNICEF. He cites that these leadership positions have given him experience in project and budget management that will help him work with the Board of Governors, student body, administration, and faculty deans. His platform calls for promoting equity at McGill and within SSMU, advocating for marginalized students, enhancing offerings to SSMU members, and reopening SSMU buildings. He argues that he has “detailed and concrete plans which are really easy to administer,” and wanted to avoid buzzwords.

Daryanani’s platform emphasizes the creation of anti-oppressive training for marginalized groups and the forming of inclusive spaces. He mentions he was never offered training on while serving in student government. He argues that student institutions become oppressive spaces without strong training initiatives and promises to ensure that every club executive receives both anti-oppressive and anti-violence training with survivor-centric focuses. Daryanani is particularly focused on changing how SSMU conducts accountability reports, the surveys that every council and Senator use to rate fellow representatives on debate style, respectfulness, and approachability in SSMU meetings. He argues that this system devalues marginalized, and particularly BIPOC, students within SSMU and says that “the same people that mark people up and down are the same people who continue to make these spaces oppressive.” He also promises to increase International Student representation, who makeup one-third of the student body but only have one representative on the SSMU Board of Directors. Daryanani additionally wants to provide more financial and operational independence to SSMU commissioners like the anti-violence coordinator, Indigenous Affairs commissioner, and mental health commissioner to foster equity on campus.

Daryanani promises to enhance SSMU services by offering a Package Depot and Box Collection Service, a Tax and Financial Advice Clinic, a MySSMU App, and a SSMU Yearbook. He envisions MySSMU as a platform unique to McGill, on which clubs and university programs can promote their services and activities and avoid being lost in over-saturated Facebook feeds. Regarding his plans for Gerts, McGill’s student-run bar, Daryanani argues that students enjoy the “rough and tough” of a university bar and wants to maintain the student element of it, but stresses the need to have a “superfunctional” bar, which he argues was not emphasized enough in the old Gerts. He envisions the newly renovated Gerts to operate both in the morning—as a brunch spot or event space for campus clubs, coffeehouse Sundays, comedy shows—and in the evening as a student bar.

Outside of student government, Daryanani is a big fan of donating blood, having already donated over three litres of it. Daryanani also loves to travel and is from an exceptionally diverse background: his parents are from Jamaica and India, he was born in Indonesia, has lived in China, the United Kingdom, and Canada, and has visited 32 countries. Owing to a variety of cultural experience, in addition to English he speaks Mandarin, Hindi, Sindhi, bahasa Indonesia, Spanish, and French.

 

Jake Reed

Jake Reed is a U2 Materials Aerospace Engineering student running for SSMU President. They currently serve as an Engineering Rep to the SSMU Legislative Council and sit on the EUS Board of Governors. In addition, they sit on the EUS Governance Review Committee and are Sponsorship Coordinator for the Materials Engineering Undergraduate Society (MEUS). As president, Reed hopes to expand the SSMU’s available student services and to solidify student rights and opportunities during the pandemic.

Throughout Reed’s Engineering Rep campaign during the 2019-2020 school year, they focused  on the shared concerns of Engineering students regarding the commitment and apparent inefficiency of student government in representing their peers. During his presidential campaign, Reed is equally in tune with student grievances. Reed is adamant about continuing SSMU’s valuable mental health and sexual violence services, among others, under pandemic conditions. They also plan to release regular updates over the summer concerning the reopening status of SSMU clubs and services, in accordance with provincial directives..

During the pandemic, Reed sees student representation as subject to unfair limits by the administration. With the university administration’s recent intent to host Fall 2021 in-person, Reed insists that better student representation is required in the face of unclear communications and one-sided decision-making. Reed supports safely executed, in-person learning opportunities,  as well as virtual learning options for the Fall in light of rushed planning and unfair manipulation of international students’ learning options.

“McGill is gambling with not only the health and safety of all our students but also our international students abroad,” Reed laments. “They'll have to buy tickets and an extremely expensive hotel quarantine for a Fall semester that may not be.”

Reed also plans to improve SSMU’s student accessibility through increased student activist dialogue and by considering the addition of a SSMU policy writer position to help draft statements. Reed will ensure that consultations occur with relevant groups and the support of the Legislative Council before any statements are published. 

Within SSMU, Reed will also call on former SSMU executives to lend institutional expertise and help Student Life and Internal portfolios compensate for its current reduced labour capacity. Reed advocates for further SSMU coordination by communication between faculty leaders via the Presidents’ Roundtable.

Reed is particularly excited about plans to adopt the Student Care legal insurance policy, entitling all SSMU members to professional legal representation for an $8.33 opt-in fee. To counter many students’ lack of experience and knowledge about the legal system, a 24-hour legal consultation hotline for housing rights, employment, academic, and other advice will set, in Reed’s words, a “new standard for protection and outreach” for McGill students.

Reed bemoans the provincial government’s vague endorsement of academic freedom, citing “damaging, divisive” rules that do not properly hold university faculty accountable for unsafe learning environments. Rather than student inclusion stopping at academic freedom, they say, academic freedom should not encroach upon a safe, dignified campus culture where free speech can readily coexist.

Off the campaign trail, Reed is a McGill Model United Nations delegate, self-confessed space nerd and seasonal Metro busker. In their role this summer as Dispatch Coordinator for Montreal Students for COVID-19 Response and Relief, which helped to serve thousands of meals to families on the Island of Montreal, Reed learned that “individual initiative and spontaneity lead to great things.” Reed looks forward to fostering a “kinder and more representative political culture” in which students can achieve what dreams they want.

 

Mark Morrison

Mark Morrison is a U2 chemistry honours student running for SSMU President 2021-2022. The Bull & Bear sat down with the candidate to discuss his motives, his platforms and his goals as the future potential SSMU president.

 

What pushed Mark to present his candidacy was the feeling of fatigue he felt among the student body towards SSMU executives. “Over the past couple of years, despite their best interest, the executive at SSMU seems to have been forming a toxic environment of drama which created a lot of fatigue amongst the student population,” said Morrison. “I believe I can change that and bring a new outlook on things.”

 

If his platform had to be described in three words, he says they would be: sustainability, inclusivity and accountable transparency from SSMU.  

 

“I will continue to work on inclusivity and advocacy, working closely with directors of marginalized groups on campus such as the Indigenous Student Association. I also wish to implement mandatory workshops and training on sexual violence, similar to It Takes All of Us, but specificaly for the SSMU members,” explained Morrison.“My platform will be one of accountability, consistency, and transparency, providing more public reports from SSMU.”

 

His goals during his presidency consist of continuing McGill’s past sustainability policies and implementing new procedures regarding sexual violence on campus, particularly among the SSMU community on a regular basis. He also explained his intention to continue the sustainability policies such as Vision 2020 and the McGill University Climate & Sustainability Strategy 2020-2025. “I have acquired a lot of experience by working with leading industries in the sector in the past, and I wish to use my contacts and knowledge to create a masterplan for economic, environmental, and social sustainability.” 

Morrison also reiterated his intention to implement “SSMU regular inclusivity and sexual violence training, as well as accountability and transparency from the SSMU team to the students.“

“We all pay SSMU a fairly significant sum of money each year to work in our interests as students, said Morrison. “It is time to work towards truly giving back to our electorates.”

 

Morrison has experience in student-administrative positions as part of the Executive Council and Board of Directors for several community groups at McGill and being part of the Science Undergrad Student Society and by working with nonprofits in his home province of Nova Scotia. However, his rather unconventional academic background for this position is something he wishes to use for change.  

 

“To have a change in something you need someone that doesn’t fit the mould or continual pattern of people filling the same roles, particularly in our student body at McGill. Despite their best interest, continuing in the same pattern cannot create sustainable change,” Morrison asserted. “Although I am not what one could call a typical candidate for a student government position, I do not want people to think of me as that; I want to refresh SSMU, and bring a new perspective on things.”

VP Student Life

Karla Heisele

Running unopposed for the position of VP Student Life is U2 Psychology student Karla Heisele. The former VP Events at the Spanish and Latin-American Student Association (SLASA) and the Director of Recruitment at Alpha Phi McGill, Heisele says she is inspired “to go beyond the community I have built over my years at McGill and give the community as a whole the support and resources they deserve.”

The three main pillars that Heisele’s platform highlights are mental health, family care, and student groups and professional development. To improve the resources in these areas, Heisele said that she will strengthen the communication between the Wellness Hub and students, and continue the work of the previous VP Student Life and mental health commissioners in improving digital health platforms. She also plans to provide student parents with accessible childcare through a student volunteer program. In terms of career development, Heisele hopes to provide access to free workshops and student services with a certificate proving completion available for use on resumes.

Despite noting that it’s hard to pick a priority from her platform, Heisele stated that her first step, if elected, will be “ensuring that we have a safe and accessible return to in-person activities” where students have “all the resources available immediately to them” as they ease into the transition. 

Following McGill’s plan to move resume in-person learning in Fall 2021, Heisele intends to ease student booking in the University Center and strengthen communication with active clubs and services. 

As a candidate with an active presence on social media, Heisele also has previous experience connecting with the Spanish and Latin American communities through social media; Heisele says this allows her to “show her personality” and “make student politics fun.” She said that she has already achieved success reaching out this way: “students know that I am really there for them and that they can reach out to me whenever.”

“I want students to feel like they know me as a friend in order to create a strong relationship,” Heseile explained. “The person who sits as the next [VP Student Life] needs to create avenues where students can reach out to them in an informal way… Creating spaces where students can sit down, virtually or in-person, and chat to the VP about their concerns and hopes will create a tighter community.”

Asked for a fun fact, Karla said that cows are her favorite animal, calling them “the sweetest and prettiest creatures to ever exist.” She can be found on Instagram @karlaheisele, where she shares information about her campaign.

VP Finance

 

Éric Sader

Éric Sader is a U3 Economics student running for the position of VP Finance on a three-fold platform of reform, advocacy, and accessibility. . Hailing from the Southshore, Sader attended Dawson College before coming to McGill. 

Although he has not previously been involved with SSMU, he has several leadership experiences in student clubs, including McGill Model United Nations,  ande has always been interested in joining student government. Sader claimed that in his experience as a student outside of SSMU, he has realized that most of what gets relayed to the student body is entirely political, and this makes it so that many students are unaware of the function SSMU plays in the university system. “Most of what SSMU does is actually incredible work, because it supports the services, it allows students to run clubs and have the funding that they need, and it supports really important initiatives on campus, but that is not what comes to the mind for the average student.”

As an executive member of McMUN for the past two years, Sader is familiar with finance and equity issues. This year, his role as Deputy Head Delegate required him to handle budgeting and equity matters.

Trying to move away from a purely political role of SSMU, Sader is an advocate for “active involvement,” who believes that the numerical and procedural aspect of the VP Finance position is “the logistical and supportive backbone” of the whole organization, even if it isn’t the most “spicy” aspect of it. “Aside from it best meeting my qualifications, the role of VP Finance is one of the most actionable parts of SSMU.” The focus of his campaign platform aims to make real change in SSMU operations.

Firstly, Sader wants to focus on reforming how SSMU relates to the clubs and services it oversees. One of his top priorities is implementing the reforms from a report on ancillary fees published by the SSMU Department of Finance this past winter. “The report showed some glaring issues. For example, the significant surpluses that services have every year, especially the funding committees have every year...that’s just money sitting in bank accounts, its not being used for what it was intended.” 

Sader also wants to change the way clubs and services apply for ancillary fees. As of right now, clubs only have to apply and get it approved by the SSMU Legislative Council, but they don’t have to justify it. “There’s no actual planning behind [the application],” he stated. “I want people to take advantages of the funding that we already have - It’s not about taking money away from the clubs and services, it’s about actually using it.”

Sader also wants to increase advocacy in the finance portfolio, delineating better regulations for funding. “I don’t want anyone to feel that their club situation was denied because I disagree with the purposes of their club. At the same time, we need to have a basic barrier: we can’t have clubs that promote racist, misogynistic, or transphobic policies.” 

Furthermore, he would like to see SSMU divest from organizations that don’t align with the interests of the student body and reorient investment towards more eco-friendly and ethical entreprises to promote long term growth.

 In addition, Sader aims to help the university re-regulate tuition fees in collaboration with the Quebec Government, specifically targeted towards a further reduction of tuition for french courses for law and medical students. He says that this would also help incentivize non-Francophone graduates to stay in the province for work. He would also like to see a de-mystification of financial aid services at McGill, to have students seeking aid feel more accepted.

The final component of Sader’s platform is accessibility for the student body, particularly for Francophone students. He plans to email biweekly reports  on the SSMU Finance Portfolio proceedings, and hold more meetings with clubs and services to help them acquire funding. 

Sader is also seeking a more up-to-date approach to handling bilingualism. “No budget or financial statement, or the report from January has been translated since 2018.” Sader explained. “That’s three years of nothing being available in French.” According to Sader, the website also needs an improved translation, as many French pages are missing or poorly organized. “About 20% of the student population identifies as Francophone first. Even though McGill is an English institution, we still have duties to our Francophone student body.”

Sader hopes to take a more collaborative approach into the role of VP Finance. “One of my greatest abilities is being able to listen,” said Sader, on why he’s the best candidate for the position. “I’m someone who very much believes in an open-door policy; I believe good ideas can come from anywhere.” 

VP Internal

 

Sarah Paulin

Sarah Paulin is running unopposed for the position of SSMU VP Internal. Paulin is a U1 student from Montreal, studying English literature in the Faculty of Arts. 

Paulin gained experience in student politics as the first-year representative for the Classics Students’ Association (CSA), and learned about event planning through her role as IRSAM’s deputy director of events. While Paulin is only a first-year student and admits she has limited SSMU experience, she believes that this will not hold her back. She told the Bull & Bear: “2021 will not be like 2019, so even if I had been here … that experience wouldn’t translate to what’s coming up next year anyways.”

Paulin’s platform is centred around increasing SSMU transparency and communications, while reviving the role of the VP Internal, which she believes has been neglected in recent years. Paulin explained that “there’s this wall between the students’ society and the student body that I really want to eradicate.”

Part of Paulin’s plan involves implementing weekly question and answer sessions for students to bring forth grievances and connect directly with SSMU executives. Paulin says that she wants “this to be a place where students can actually bring up their concerns,” beyond SSMU’s bi-weekly Legislative Council sessions and bi-annual General Assemblies.

Beyond improving transparency, Paulin’s platform also includes a plan to gradually re-introduce in-person SSMU events in accordance with loosening public health restrictions. She outlines a staggered approach, with smaller events planned with social ‘pods’ for the start of the year, moving up to larger groups as time progresses.

Paulin also hopes to bring a more flexible energy to a SSMU that she believes needs to reorient its priorities. “SSMU needs to focus more on actually representing students, rather than focusing on what their political agenda is,” she told the Bull & Bear. “SSMU is not an independent body and therefore should not act like it.”

Calling on students to vote yes for her candidacy, Paulin again asserted her commitment to building a stronger community at McGill through student government. “I know I do not have all the answers, especially as a first year,” she said, adding: ”I really want to build on the community and make sure that everyone’s being represented.” Paulin again stressed her passion and commitment to this role, should she be elected, saying: “I know I lack experience, but I make up for it tenfold in how much I care.”

VP External

 

Sacha Delouvrier

Sacha Delouvrier, a U2 Arts student majoring in international development and political science, is running unopposed for the position of SSMU Vice-President External. Delouvrier’s experience includes working for several Montreal-based nonprofit organizations and the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill (IRSAM). He intends to bring SSMU into the Union étudiant du Québec (UEQ), the largest Quebec Students’ Union. Stressing that the UÉQ has come more into line with SSMU policies since the group formed in 2015, Delouvrier believes that full membership in the student union would allow McGill students to have a greater influence on provincial policies. He believes that the due of $4.84/student paid to UÉQ ought to be opt-outable.

Delouvrier hopes to continue with incumbent President Earle’s five-year plan, and expand the role played by the VP External in said plan. Regarding the francization of SSMU documents, Delouvrier hopes to continue and go beyond. He said that he “want[s] to hire a French language commissioner to oversee both the translators [and] the work-centric language program.”

Delvouvrier plans to boost McGill students’ work opportunities include reaching out to local businesses to encourage them to hire McGill students, and possibly offering a wage subsidy. To further improve relations between the Milton-Parc community and McGill students, he proposes for SSMU to deepen relations with local volunteer associations. To improve living standards in the Milton-Parc area, Delouvrier wants to continue SSMU’s support for the affordable housing project, and he hopes to lobby the municipal government to increase the number of trash bins. Furthermore, he wants SSMU to run information campaigns to students on trash disposal and recycling. 

His full platform can be found here

VP University Affairs

Claire Downie

Claire Downie is a U3 Arts student, majoring in economics and double minoring in history and health geography, running for VP University Affairs. She has worked inside the University Affairs Portfolio for the past two years as menstrual products coordinator, and has sat on the Mental Health Advocacy Committee. She is currently a SSMUnion executive.

Her threefold platform addresses student concerns about McGill’s response to COVID-19: academic rights, accessibility issues, and student health and safety.

Given the lack of details about the Fall 2021 return to in-person classes, Downie’s goals are to meet student needs as they evolve. She also wants to build on what incumbent VP University Affairs Brooklyn Fizzle has done this past year, by continuing the extended S/U Policy, furthering the Library Improvement Fund and the Know Your Rights Campaign, and establishing a standard of basic student rights for the coming year.

“In a traditional year you’d get things like attendance grades, participation points, that sort of thing, and I think COVID has made it a lot clearer for a lot of people that these policies are really harmful to students that are chronically ill, or students with disabilities,” Downie said. “And in a COVID context when we’re back in in-person classes [...] and professors are pushing for things like mandatory attendance, you’re gonna get scenarios where people are saying ‘Oh I’m not feeling great but I can’t miss class,’ and that extends into a public health issue way beyond McGill.”

With this standard of rights, Downie is keeping in mind the potential barriers caused by COVID-19 (financial costs of quarantines, student vaccinations, travel restrictions), as well as potential health precautions (spaced seating in smaller classes, mandatory masks). The standard would also address academic expectations (what percentage of the final grade an exam can count for, ‘missed’ coursework during Add/Drop), and long-standing accessibility issues like laptop bans, and the inefficacy of the OSD’s unpaid note-taking services.

Neel Soman

Neel Soman is a U3 Arts student studying Russian language, and is running for VP University Affairs. One of his priorities is shifting the way the university addresses sexual violence, and he has researched legal rights on this subject and multiple university policies to fully understand what barriers there are in reporting instances of sexual violence.

Through this research, he has discovered that McGill’s current Policy Against Sexual Violence and Policy on Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law include some aspects that do not properly and specifically protect transgender students or are not as clear as they should be. Soman believes that this causes issues for students when reporting instances of sexual violence or harassment.

“I would love to work with the provost and vice-principal academic to possibly look at the option of merging these [two policies] and making a policy on discrimination and sexual violence,” explains Soman. He says he would also like to work with the Post-Graduate Students’ Society to demand a higher standard in regards to their sexual misconduct policy from students who are and will be in positions of power in the future.

Soman’s platform also addresses the challenges that francophone students face in accessing information services and their right to submit work in French. According to Soman, different student services, including the Wellness Hub and the OSD, have inadequate information and services for francophone students. If elected, he plans to work with the Francophone Affairs Commission on this. Further, Soman will push for this policy to be included on syllabi and actively enforce it, as well as demand transparency in grading papers.

With regards to McGill’s return to in-person learning in fall 2021, Soman highlighted the importance of giving students options and the freedom to choose their academic study plan. He also intends to work on lifting class attendance requirements, declaring that “policies like that don’t work and encourage students to put attendance before things like their health, both physical and mental.”

In terms of administrative experience, Soman was a member of his Residence Council and the Inter-Residence Council. He was also the president of his high school’s Music Council and has worked with local schools to increase enrollment. In high school, he worked with the superintendent and the school board to “bring in a formal process for auditing classes,” and he advocated for teaching American Sign Language. While on exchange in Australia in 2019, Soman was involved with the board of directors of the Melbourne Figure Skating club, helping with finances and event management. 

However, Soman prefers to put more emphasis on his personal and lived experiences as a queer person of colour than his administrative experience. He is a survivor of sexual violence, and he explains that this has given him an “understanding of what barriers there can be to reporting things like this and what pathways can be taken both at McGill and outside.” He believes that these aspects of his background make him “very qualified to represent the students of this school at multiple levels.”

 

 

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