2021 SSMU Executive Candidates debate over Zoom

The 2021 SSMU executive elections kicked off on Monday, March 15 with the candidates debate via Zoom. The debates were structured by position, with candidates giving opening statements and fielding questions from the current executives, the SSMU union, their opponents, and the audience. Four of the positions have candidates running unopposed. The only two contested positions are President and VP University Affairs. 

Presidential Candidates support Five-Year Plan, propose various initiatives 

Presidential candidates Darshan Daryanani (he/him), and Jake Reed (they/them) attended the debate. Mark Morrison (he/him) could not attend. 

Both present candidates emphasized their support for incumbent President Jemark Earle’s Five-Year Plan. Reed stressed that they sought to further retain institutional knowledge by placing prior SSMU executives in low-commitment advisory roles. 

Candidate Daryanani presented his platform, which focused on reopening campus life. Daryanani proposed the creation of a student tax clinic, as well as a SSMU app. He fielded many questions from President Earle and the audience on how his platform distinguished itself from current initiatives. An audience member noted that his platform promised to reopen the Gerts student bar, despite it already being slated to reopen in 2021.

Reed questioned Daryanani as well, remarking that “a lot of your platform consists of measures already in place…several people have expressed their frustration that they have already spent hundreds of hours implementing [these measures].” Daryanani responded that he “[was] acknowledging the tremendous labour [of these students]…and [that] I am asking for their trust and support.” 

Reed also stated their dedication to ensuring safe learning environments for students, establishing a hotel fund for international students’ quarantines, a make-up Frosh for current first years, and the creation of legal insurance for SSMU members. Reed touted their experience with SSMU as the Engineering Representative to the Legislative Council and as Governor of the Engineering Undergraduate Society. 

When questioned by Daryanani on how to engage in long-term planning, the candidate responded, “the infrastructure put in place by Jemark is excellent.”  

Reed was also questioned about the cost feasibility of their hotel fund initiative for international students to which they responded, “we can justify that the situation will alter by september [and] that we might not have to do hotel quarantine for every student…its feasibility I have checked with the present VP Finance.”  

They also proposed creating a full-time political advocacy position that would enable SSMU to have “a functional relationship with members of parliament, the labour unions, and other student unions in Quebec.” 

Daryanani closed by calling for SSMU to expand, follow through on the Five-Year Plan, and fight for academic justice programs. He also emphasized his prior experience as SSMU Arts Senator, as AUS VP External, with the climate strike movement, and with varying clubs. 

VP University Affairs Candidates discuss reopening

The two candidates for VP University Affairs, Claire Downie (she/her) and  Neel Soman (he/him/they/them), discussed important topics ranging from McGill’s return to in-person activities to support for sexual assault survivors. Soman and Downie expressed their agreement on the issues several times throughout the debate. 

Candidate Soman emphasized that their two most important issues were dealing with sexual assault on campus and francophone affairs. They fielded a question from incumbent VP University Affairs, Brooklyn Frizzle, on Soman’s pledge to advocate for the inclusion of linguistic rights in classes, given that this was already a university requirement. Soman responded that “while this is a requirement, many instructors will either omit this from syllabi or some professors, especially in [the] Faculty of Science, will say you have a right to do this but please don’t because I don’t want to do it.” 

They went on to state their support for ensuring that there were enough graduate students who were able to grade in French. While Soman does not have experience working directly with SSMU, they emphasized their experience volunteering and working with other universities’ administrations through their involvement in sporting institutions. 

Candidate Downie focused on holding McGill administration accountable during the transition to in-person classes. She stated her support for providing honoraria to students for SSMU surveys on COVID-19 safety to ensure that SSMU’s considerations included marginalized communities. Furthermore, she stressed the importance of informing students of their rights, especially regarding safe learning conditions. 

“You have a right for your prof[essor]s to be wearing masks…I don’t believe there is room to compromise on safe learning conditions,” Downie said. 

Regarding the Office for Students with Disabilities, Downie shared her negative personal experiences with their accommodations. She further remarked that she wanted to streamline the exam approval process to be fairer for students with disabilities.

She emphasized her experience with SSMU working with the University Affairs portfolio and that she is “ready for the job.” 

VP Student Life Candidate Cubilla calls for expanded daycare, student services 

Running unopposed, Karla Heisele Cubilla (she/her) emphasized her platform of expanded support for students. 

Remarking that she had “often felt really overwhelmed,” McGill students deserve to have the best resources. 

Cubilla stressed that she wanted to allow students to volunteer at the SSMU daycare to alleviate staffing pressures. She observed a long waitlist for student-parents who wanted to place their children in the SSMU daycare. Cubilla also called for professional development workshops offered through SSMU so that students might gain certification to put on their resumes. She also stated that the Wellness Hub was not keeping up with student demand and was inaccessible to many students. The candidate also highlighted her experience as VP for the Spanish and Latin American Students’ Association. 

VP Finance Candidate Éric Sader presents his platform 

Candidate Éric Sader (he/him) presented his platform, highlighting three categories: reform, advocacy, and accessibility. 

Calling the VP Finance portfolio the “financial underbelly of the organization,” Sader remarked on the importance of ensuring clubs and services were properly consulted by SSMU when implementing fee consolidations outlined in the Five-Year Plan. 

Sader also called for combining the portfolio’s bi-monthly reports into a single summary document and emailing it to students to ensure transparency. The candidate also called for increased efforts to make documents accessible in French. Sader’s experience includes financial management positions with McGill’s Model UN team.  

VP Internal Candidate Sarah Paulin discusses increasing SSMU engagement 

Candidate Sarah Paulin (she/her) called for rebranding SSMU on social media and creating a first year council to increase student body engagement. Paulin also stressed her commitment to increasing accessibility for francophones. She also hoped to run a SSMU frosh as an alternative to faculty froshes, and to increase accessibility for those who do not drink but recognized the potential difficulties of organizing such an event funded by only ticket sales and a minimal staff. Paulin, when asked about her lack of experience with SSMU, emphasized her leadership experience with organizing the International Relations Students’ Association of McGill’s high school Model UN Conference, SSUNS.  

VP External Candidate Sacha Delouvrier talks Student Unions 

Sacha Delouvrier (he/him), the candidate for VP External, focused on bringing McGill into the Quebec Student Union (QSU), engagement with the Milton Parc community, affordable housing, and increasing accessibility for francophones. Stressing the importance of solidarity to increase advocacy effectiveness, Delouvrier remarked that, “I have had a lengthy discussion with [current VP External] Ayo…the QSU is a relatively new organization.” 

While the QSU had not been in line with SSMU positions on social issues previously, this year, they came more into an agreement with SSMU’s positions on climate action, Law 21, and other issues. Delouvrier cites this change as a reason for SSMU to move from observer status to full membership, which, he says, would entail an opt-outable fee. 

Remarking that many students reside in the Milton Parc neighbourhood, Candidate Delouvrier emphasized increasing student awareness for trash regulations and volunteer organizations. Furthermore, he said he would continue to support the SSMU affordable housing project. 

Delouvrier also noted the lack of accessibility for French speakers and called for more translators and work-centred French language instruction. Finally, the candidate noted his background in political advocacy as well as volunteering and IRSAM. 

The 2021 SSMU Executive Election polling period is open until 20:00 EST on Friday, March 19.

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