SSMU Executive Candidates Clash Over Student-Admin Relations

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Candidates for executive positions in SSMU took to the Lev Bukhman room on March 13th to introduce themselves and debate their positions. The debates lasted for about two hours and touched on topics ranging from the proposal for a student-run café to relations between students and the administration.

Those running for each position had one minute to introduce themselves before being faced with a series of surprise topics prepared by the moderators. Candidates also faced pre-screened questions from the audience, which were passed to the debate desk or sent via twitter.  “We’re going to have to screen them beforehand just because there have been arbitrary questions in the past,” said one moderator.

Debates for the position of VP External were scheduled first and passed quickly. With the withdrawal of Daniyal Naqvi, Sam Harris is running unopposed for the position. Harris noted that he plans to increase the visibility of the student federation TaCEQ and that he wants to work with student residences to make first-year students more considerate of the Milton-Parc community.

Tyler Hofmeister and Thomas Kim, the two candidates running for the position of VP Finance and Operations, debated in a discussion that largely focused on the accessibility of SSMU funds and the planning of a student-run café.

The establishment of a student-run café has been a popular cause on campus since the closing of the architecture café in 2010. Hofmeister said that the café would be a good opportunity for students to gain work experience and would provide a new study space on campus. “I really hope it isn’t a quiet study space just because it’s a cafe,” Kim countered. “The student-run café should add to campus life, not necessarily in a rowdy and rambunctious way but in a fun good way.”

Kim said his mandate would be making the position of VP Finance and Operations “more engaging” and improving face-to-face communication with SSMU clubs. Hofmeister agreed but argued that the main problem was making resources such as budget creation guides available online and having them be more up-to-date.

In the VP University Affairs debate, Sam Gregory and Joey Shea clashed over SSMU relations with the administration. In his introduction, Gregory promoted himself as a candidate with “realistic goals and solutions” who could “repair our relationship with the administration.” Shea, on the other hand, called for “better representativeness and real dialogue with the administration.”

Gregory called for more consultation fairs and less antagonism with regards to relations with the administration. Shea questioned the efficacy of consultation fairs and proposed that the new administrators be invited to SSMU general assemblies where they could speak and listen to students in a less contrived environment. “We can’t lose sight of our role to represent students while talking with the administration,” noted Shea.

Chris Bangs and Katie Larson capped off the night with the presidential debates, where the candidates were asked how they would balance the need to represent students with their need to work collegially with the administration as the only student on the Board of Governors.

Bangs suggested that SSMU should find methods of allowing for direct representation for student organizations on the Board of Governors, which became a point of contention between the candidates.

“I do agree that it is important to talk to the student organizations you mentioned,” explained Larson. “However, I think at the end of the day, as students there is a limit to how much we can force our way into things like the Board of Governors. That would be taking a hardline stance and that’s not going to work. I would prefer to work in a collaborative way.”

“I disagree,” countered Bangs. “I don’t think that just because we’re here for only three or four years or because we don’t have a degree yet that we’re any less valuable members of the community.”

The ongoing SSMU Building lease negotiations between SSMU and the administration were discussed in terms of which methods are most effective for negotiating with the administration. “I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, but three years is a long time to wait,” said Bangs. “And if McGill is going to pull the rug out from under us again, I’m not interested.”

“It is going somewhere,” Larson assured. “Obviously it’s frustrating but you have to know the reality of the space you’re working in. […] You have to compromise.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the most effective methods to deal with the administration were discussed by the presidential candidates in terms of the student-run café, when they were in fact discussed in the context of the SSMU Building lease negotiations.

Voting in the SSMU elections is ongoing until Friday March 22nd. Make your voice heard at: https://ssmu.simplyvoting.com/

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