Candidate Profiles: President

The President is the chief officer of the Society, charged with acting on behalf of all members of the Society and ensuring the Society’s long-term integrity. The President is responsible for determining the vision of the Society, coordinating and supporting the activities of the Executive Officers, and representing the interests of stud ents on various university governance bodies.

[bootstrap_tab name=”Courtney Ayukawa” link=”tab1-slug” active=”active” ]

Name: Courtney AyukawaAyukawa

Year: U3

Campaign slogan: Let’s work together.

Candidate Biography:

I have been a Floor Fellow at RVC for the past two years, and while the RVC cafeteria is amazing, my favourite parts of this job are definitely the midnight conversations in the hallway of this beautiful Rez that I call home. I have two younger sisters, one of whom just decided to join me at McGill in the fall! When I’m back at home in Ridgewood, New Jersey my sisters and I often make “eggs in a frame” for our parents and ourselves. Which brings me to my favourite food: EGGS. When not eating eggs, Floor Fellowing, helping on SSMU Council committees, or coordinating the ECOLE Project, you’ll probably find me in the GIC (on the 5th floor of Burnside) talking about bees which I researched last semester and hanging out with friends in the sustainability community. A couple guilty pleasures of mine include singing to Call Me Maybe (still…I know), Redditing before bed (hey r/McGill), and biking around Montreal to take photos of people and food.


Describe your platform:

As President, I want to improve communication and transparency between SSMU and its student body, build a stronger sense of community across our campus, and expand McGill’s sustainability policy.

Revamp CommunicationRestore transparency around decision making processes

  • Hold open discussions within two weeks of emerging campus issues
    • Discussions structured similarly to the Forum on Consent
  • “This week at SSMU” update in each listserv with major decisions made
  • Publicize time and location of upcoming SSMU meetings
    • Listserv, website, Twitter, and Facebook
    • Link to descriptions of each committee and meeting minutes

Community BuildingImplement structures that facilitate community development across campus

  • Hire researchers to compare SSMU with other student societies with stronger campus communities. What are they doing that SSMU is not?
    • Apply their structures to SSMU, or establish a timeline for completion in the following year
  • Transform the Student Run Cafe to be a community hub
    • Shift seating layout on the second floor towards cozy couch spaces mixed with circular tables
    • Work with McGill Food and Dining Services to bring meal plan to The SRC

 Institutionalizing SustainabilityRedefine SSMU’s sustainability policy and projects

  • Expand the current environment-focused policy to include mental health and equity work
    • Create a sustainability committee of SSMU Council
    • Develop the equity policy
    • Centralize equity, mental health, and sustainability work into one SSMU executives’ portfolio
  • Implement recommendations made by this year’s [temporary] Ad Hoc Committee on Sustainability which I currently sit on
  • Work with McGill administration to create safe bike paths across campus


Describe your qualifications:

  • Coordinator of ECOLE: 2013-2014 (ECOLE is a $94,000 sustainability project launching in September which will be a model for sustainable living and a hub for the sustainability community.)
  • Arts and Science Representative to SSMU Legislative Council: 2013-2014
  • Floor Fellow at RVC: 2012-2014
  • Studying sustainability through the Bachelor Arts and Science


What are the successes and failures of this year’s SSMU and what would you have done differently?

A major success of this year’s SSMU is the drafting and implementation of the new Mental Health Policy and five year plan. I think the use of an ad hoc committee of Council and involving general members as Joey Shea did exemplifies the potential that exists for people to have influence on SSMU decisions. Furthermore, I believe the growth of a strong community of support among people on campus that are passionate about mental health issues was initiated by this committee that should be continued next year.

On the other hand, a major failure of SSMU this year is the lack of a timely response to campus issues. An example of this is the recent Forum on Consent, which I think would have been significantly more effective immediately following the sexual assault incident last semester. An action item I have for next year is the implementation of discussions similar to the Forum on Consent, but holding it within two weeks of the issue cropping up. This immediacy is crucial since people on campus will likely be asking questions and discussing their thoughts anyway. I envision the discussions in response to contentious topics to be spaces where people can trade thoughts, information, and best support each other on these issues that they are passionate about. These discussions would also be a perfect opportunity to better communication and consultation between SSMU and students.


What are some key issues you foresee SSMU having to address next year?

  • Developing and updating the equity policy.
  • Responding to the loss of a sustainability coordinator position this year.
  • Better valuing and connecting with students, especially as they are charged a building fee.


[bootstrap_tab name=”Aaron Friedland” link=”tab2-slug” ]

Name: Aaron FriedlandFriedland

Year: U3

Campaign slogan: Getting SSMU in SHAPE 

Candidate Biography:

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. My family moved to Vancouver when I was young. While my time in South Africa was short, this heritage profoundly SHAPEd  who I am today. My parents, who had witnessed the cruelties of the apartheid, impressed upon me the sensitivity, compassion, and understanding of human relations that have come to characterize me. Moving forward, my McGill experience did not include an immediate movement toward student politics. This transition was largely triggered by my realization of how insular my lifestyle had become.


Describe your platform:

I have developed a comprehensive and detailed platform that can best be condensed into the slogan “Getting SSMU in SHAPE.” SHAPE represents Sustainability, Health and well-being, Academic equality and accessibility, SSMU Participation, and Empowering community.

Pardon the buzzwords. Now let me expound.

I will empower the implementation of Sustainable practices and attitudes into SSMU. Through the creation of a delineated Sustainability Hub, I aim to increase campus-wide discourse. This new physical and virtual space would provide influence and growth for a Sustainability Committee. The committee would be responsible for implementing full-scale, by-students-for-students sustainability audits, supporting grass-roots student initiatives, and ultimately ensuring SSMU and subsequently McGill are as environmentally and institutionally sustainable as possible.

Health and well-being is another area I would strengthen. In keeping with the latest research and with the mandates of McGill Student Services, I would strive to place greater emphasis on increasing preventative services, to minimize distress and the need for treatment. As a floor fellow, I know first-hand the value in services such as the Peer Support Network (PSN) and the need for the expansion of counselling services. While I recognize this is not entirely within the realm of my portfolio, it is an area I wish to support collaboratively.  Moreover, I recognize what an amazing job Joey Shea, VP University Affairs, has done regarding health, well-being, and awareness, and I intend to maintain her momentum.

Academic equality and accessibility are additional areas I will work to improve. I find it problematic that students are commonly subjected to three midterms in a 36-hour period. I would like McGill to Test Knowledge, Not Resilience. Moreover, I would like to ensure the provision of course syllabi before classes start, and increase the availability of tutoring services. These, too, are preventative health and well-being measures, ensuring a more manageable and balanced experience, and thus improved health and a reduction in the need for treatment.

The current SSMU-Student disconnect is another area on which I will focus, in an effort to increase Participation. There are so many valuable SSMU services that students do not access or enjoy, because they simply do not know. We can bridge that communication gap! Through the implementation of a SSMU notification app, by increasing executive outlets of communication and increasing relationships with other student societies, and by having executives facilitate Res Project to ensure increased interface between the disparate communities and greater understanding of the diverse identities within McGill. These and other participation initiatives will reduce the disconnect, and facilitate community.

Finally, I will Empower community through a variety of approaches. I will renovate and repurpose student spaces (for example, the creation of a multipurpose room in SSMU which can be used as a cafeteria, a space for SSMU clubs, and a study space for midterm/finals overflow). I will promote connectedness across disciplines through inter-faculty case competitions. I will improve forums for student entrepreneurial prowess. I would also highlight our Canadian setting by promoting outdoor community! During the winter, along with our wonderful Iron rink, it would be nice to have outdoor skate rentals, seating, and a student-run vendor. During the summer, I envision a stage setup at Three Bares park (where OAP takes place) to showcase our talents as members of the McGill community perform. I would further inspire a sense of community through a weekly campus focus. This initiative, called “Lumière,” would put one group, initiative, sports team, or business plan in the spotlight each week. (Yes, Lumière from Beauty and the Beast was an inspiration.) The chosen event or group would receive a visit from SSMU execs with coverage by TV McGill as well as the weekly newspapers, as a way of promoting our students to their peers and encouraging community engagement and pride.


Describe your qualifications:

I am actively involved in the McGill community and the global community, and I have a broad and unique range of experiences that I think make me well-suited to approach the issues we face together with both a level head and an open heart. Some of my involvement includes:

Floor Fellow: from fostering fun community to being on the front lines in times of crisis, being a McGill Floor Fellow means going through an intensive orientation about the pressures and pleasures of life at McGill. From issues of equality in gender, class, orientation, and race, to issues of safety and well-being, Floor Fellows learn about (and practice) active listening, harm reduction, anti-oppression, and much more, seeking to smooth the integration of both international and Canadian students into McGill life and onto the Montreal scene, while promoting the “One Rule” of McGill Residences: Respect. In addition, each time a student came to me with a concern, I myself often discovered a new service which could alleviate the problem, ultimately increasing and diversifying my knowledge of SSMU.

Since my interview for the Floor Fellow position took place over a bad Skype connection whilst I was touring rural India, I was very grateful to have been chosen for the role. I decided to pursue this role on campus when I realized that in my first and second years, I was doing a lot of taking from McGill and not making much of a contribution to the McGill landscape. My upbringing and education had strongly encouraged “giving back and repairing the world,” and when I looked back on my first two years, it felt like my endeavours had been vacuous. I realized that I had a lot to offer this wonderful University, and the role of Floor Fellow was a perfect fit for me; I have been able to use my strengths of leadership, compassion, and personability to create a fun, harmonious, and welcoming environment for my group of Gardnerites. It has been the most positive experience of my life.

I am also involved in SSPN (the Students’ Society Network Program). This social programming network works in conjunction with SSMU to host some of the popular events that have entertained tens of thousands of students over their 100-year history, such as Activities Night, Homecoming, 4 Floors, Faculty Olympics, concerts, Holiday Fairs, and more. Through my involvement with SSPN, I have learned about the importance of networking and outreach between SSMU and the student body. Moreover, it is through this network that I have been able to better understand and discuss the complexity of SSMU politics.

Peacemaking through Sustainable Coffee: In 2011 I joined an excursion to a remote village in Uganda. I had heard an incredible story about J.J. Keke, one of the leaders in the village of Mbale. He had been a witness at the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York during 9/11, and, from that experience, had decided that he could not effect global change, but that he was compelled to do something about the animosity and division among his Jewish, Christian, and Muslim fellow-farmers in Uganda. He looked to a local crop—coffee—for the answer, and immediately gathered together a co-op of coffee farmers comprising Jews, Christians, and Muslims. They called the co-op “Delicious Peace” and hoped their example of cooperation would serve as an inspiration. I got inspired! I invited the Delicious Peace founder to our campus, where a group of about 50 students tasted his coffee while he spoke of how Delicious Peace had built a school for the children of their coffee growers, which children from all three religions attend together, to encourage their peaceful initiative to spread to the next generation. My group coordinated the construction, decoration, and installation of a playground at this special school. I myself helped lay the foundation and paint the classrooms. I am currently spearheading an economic development plan to bring this sustainably-grown and ethically-harvested coffee to McGill cafeterias and coffee shops.

Intern at a Democracy Institute in the Middle East (2012): I worked in Human Resources at this democracy think-tank, where I was responsible for the interviewing and placement of interns. This experience taught me how challenging it can be for people with different worldviews and visions to work together efficiently, or at all, so I know that while I may thrive on teamwork and enjoy different perspectives, it can be difficult for some people and patience and kindness are key.

My year at The Hebrew University in Israel, as an exchange student immersed me in a different culture and exposed me to a warm camaraderie which was achieved in part from donation-based coffee stations and communal seating arrangements throughout the cafeterias and in public spaces on campus. This experience not only showed me some areas where McGill could improve to create warm community on campus, but it also awakened me to some of the extra challenges that come with being an international student.

In 2012, I collaborated with a Palestinian student at Hebrew University to develop a kindergarten curriculum where Palestinian and Israeli children learn English, in the hopes of using education as a means to model tolerance. While this plan is in early stages, a potential major donor has been located, and the next phase of the plan will be implemented in the coming weeks.

Residence Project Facilitator: Rez project, developed by students from SACOMSS, the Floor Fellow community, and Queer McGill, is designed to help create safer spaces and attitudes within residences. What started as a primer on gender, queer, and trans issues, has blossomed into an educational campaign on identity in general and is currently in expansion again. I currently volunteer on the workgroup to incorporate discussions of race, culture, and religion into future Residence Projects. Experiencing and then facilitating Rez Project and working on this committee has given me an in-depth understanding of the diverse demographics here at McGill. I now realize the importance of having the SMUU team play a more active role in assisting in the implementation of these beneficial projects. This would help bridge the SSMU-student disconnect, create a more cohesive environment, and increase communication.

Lastly, I have played on the Ultimate Varsity team since 2011. Not only has this been fun, it has taught me the importance of supporting our student athletes and other extracurricular groups. This way of getting involved in McGill beyond academics is essential to community-building and well-being.


What are the successes and failures of this year’s SSMU and what would you have done differently?

The successes largely involve increased knowledge and awareness of student health and well-being. While this area largely falls under the VP University Affairs portfolio. If elected, I aim to provide my full support and help maintain this incredible momentum.

In the past, not enough preventative measures have been taken on equity. I would have started off our year by having each member of our exec team lead a rez project. I know how much I grew from this educational workshop on social equity and diversity, which is expanding in scope each year, and I think having this invaluable training would be beneficial. Firstly, it would alleviate the current SSMU-Student disconnect by creating meaningful interconnectivity between the execs and first-years at the outset of their McGill careers. Additionally, it would strengthen the relationship among students, rez project facilitators, the floor fellow community, and SSMU. Not only would this be a great way to bridge this disconnect and a catalyst for friendships between often-disparate communities, but also to ensure that the executive team possess the sensitivities that enable prevention rather than just damage control. Establishing working relationships between these communities and encouraging frequent communication would not only give SSMU executives the know-how to keep themselves in abreast of the skills to represent a diverse and pluralistic community, but would also help inspire first-years to embrace the often brand-new and overwhelming information, seeing members of their student government doing the teaching.


What are some key issues you foresee SSMU having to address next year?

One major issue I expect to encounter has to do with my initiative of “Testing knowledge, Not resilience.” Among other things, this initiative aims to prohibit three midterms in a 36-hour period and ensure the provision of course syllabi before the start of classes; I recognize that I am likely to receive immense pushback from professors and administration.

Regarding Participation and bridging the current SSMU-Student disconnect, this apathy toward SSMU politics is an annual problem. However, this is a challenge I am excited about. I am ready to employ a variety of methods, from having executives volunteer in the facilitation of res project, to the implementation of a SSMU notification app, to the exploration of additional platforms for communication, and the establishment of a SSMU Involvement team and PDF package.

I will be the first to acknowledge that these are certainly big goals, but my methods for bridging the SSMU-Student disconnect should help to make them vastly more attainable. For many of these initiatives, I plan to create specifically tasked committees. These teams will not only bring more people into the SSMU circle, but will further enable the realization of these goals.


[bootstrap_tab name=”Austin Johnson” link=”tab3-slug” ]

Name: Austin JohnsonJohnson

Year: U3

Campaign slogan: Vote Austin Johnson for SSMU President

Candidate Biography:

Hey I’m Austin, I’m a 4th year and the best way to find out who I am is to reach out directly, but until then here is a little bit about what makes me tick. My favorite season is winter, which may sound crazy but as a hockey player and a skier / snowboarder winter provides plenty of fun. When not at class, during the week I spend a lot of time at SSMU working as a human resources coordinator or walking around campus leading around one of the tours for prospective students. In the evenings you can find me playing intramural hockey or volleyball, doing readings for class, or even at knitting club. I enjoy eating at the many restaurants around Montreal – especially at my favorite pub, Ye Olde Orchard. While not much of a cook, I have been known to whip up a delicious chili in the Crock Pot that my grandmother (Mema) bought me. My favorite colour is blue, I have lived with 6 of my best friends for the last three years, and I always wear a hat. If you would like to know anything else about me reach out – I love meeting new people.


Describe your platform:

I plan to increase student involvement on campus, restore McGill’s renowned reputation, and continue to advance the human resources portfolio of SSMU. First, I aim to facilitate communications between the SSMU team and students, not only in terms of consistent updates, but rather with two-way communications to help students become more involved. Second, Moving forward, I want to ensure the administration is accountable for the three overarching strategic priorities: advancing McGill academically, maintaining a student-centered focus, and optimizing revenue sources. Lastly, a long-term perspective is critical to the further development of a relatively new human resources portfolio at SSMU. To address this, I want to create more effective recruitment strategies for students and permanent staff, implement automation where possible, and foster an environment where employees want to work.


Describe your qualifications:

Over my four years of employment at SSMU, two of which were spent working directly with the President, I have gained the experience that I know will allow me to excel right from the start. My studies in HR, Environment, and Management have prepared me specifically for the projects of the President Portfolio. Additionally, I have gained the necessary leadership and team management skills through other experiences both at McGill and outside of it, like my job as a Student Ambassador and Tour Guide.


What are the successes and failures of this year’s SSMU and what would you have done differently?

Opening The Nest was a big step in the right direction for SSMU for many reasons but will need a strong second year with a continuing focus on sustainability to be considered a true success and to allow for expansion. The position of sustainability coordinator being left vacant needs to be addressed. A long-term perspective must be at the forefront of sustainability within SSMU, and if it is not going to be championed by someone in a designated position, it must be institutionalized in some other way.


What are some key issues you foresee SSMU having to address next year? 

Student involvement! How do we increase voter turnout, general assembly attendance, and two-way communication between SSMU and students? Equity policy! How do we ensure that equity at SSMU is woven into all aspects of SSMU, our services, and our communications in a more positive and educational way? These are the types of questions I am excited to take on and I have ideas. To learn more check out my website, watch the debates, and reach out to me in person.


[bootstrap_tab name=”Tariq Khan” link=”tab4-slug” ]


Name: Tariq Khan

Year:U3 Engineering

Campaign slogan: Let’s address Real Issues!

Candidate Biography:

  • SSMU Engineering Representative 2011 – 2012
  • Successfully executed a $2 million project at a $6 Billion Company (2012-2013)
  • SSMU Interests Group Coordinator (Clubs Administrator) 2013 – 2014
  • Member of Accountability Leadership Commission


Describe your platform:

1. Employment
Part-Time Jobs:
Advocate for the increase of part-time jobs on campus.

Experiential Learning:
We need to push for experiential learning by connecting students to paid internships and campus projects at SSMU and the University level.

Student entrepreneurship:
The vision is to promote student entrepreneurship by increasing the number of companies created by its student entrepreneurs. The focus will be to encourage students to take initiatives, discuss ideas; and also by institutionalizing legal information clinics and exploring funding avenues. By pushing for the creation of SSMU House Fund, and trying to bring external micro financing institutions on board.

2. Student Aid, & Awards of Distinction
University Level
My goal is to work with the University to ensure that part of the $1.7B being reinvested in universities by the QC Government (over seven years) is being put toward student aid.

SSMU Level
By expanding the indigenous student aid network of SSMU I will be accommodating more students. This can be achieved by allocating more funds towards this.

In the spirit of creating a stronger Alumni Network, I will work with the Alumni Office in order to create an Alumni Awards of Distinction Fund to recognize students on campus for their accomplishments.

3. Sustainability
Having worked for Student Energy, I have the experience to not only promote environmental sustainability but translate that into action. I helmed two mega projects on Solar Tube Wells in Pakistan worth $400,000 which gives me expertise.

SSMU can be an energy efficient building if we work together with engineering students by optimizing the heating and ventilation system.

Promote a strong, safe, and empowering community by endeavoring to minimize systematic power imbalances within the society and to foster a culture of anti-oppression through education.

As per projections, SSMU will be facing financial challenges, which need to be tackled in an efficient manner. Instead of overburdening the students with an increase in student fees we need to think of smarter solutions. I plan to start a donation drive by contacting Alumni.

4. Outreach:
Instead of students coming to SSMU, I want to take SSMU to the students. This culture can be fostered by mobilizing the SSMU’s administrative and political structure towards this goal. Personally I want to meet students by attending their events, going to their classrooms, collaborating with departmental associations, and collaborating with the residences to reach first year students.

Visit for more information!


Describe your qualifications:

Having served students as a councillor and a student staff member of SSMU, I have both the political and administrative experience needed to tackle some of the most pertinent issues to students. As a councillor, I helped pass legislation and contributed to the student-run café working group that initially built momentum to this year’s opening. In addition, I sat on several university level committees in order to increase student aid on campus. Most recently, I have worked with the 300+ clubs and services, which has allowed me to understand the core problems that groups face when dealing with SSMU. This extensive experience is pivotal due to the learning curve involved and I plan to use this experience to bring forward concrete solutions.


What are the successes and failures of this year’s SSMU and what would you have done differently?

This year’s team has done a great deal to push forward important projects such as the student-run café. However, similar to every year, the outreach aspect of SSMU is at a minimal. As President, I will spend much of my time connecting students to a facet of SSMU that impacts them in some way, whether it be employment, student aid, sustainability initiatives and so on. By making outreach a priority, I plan to support new students in their transition on campus, guide students in their part-time employment process, and reach out the students at the faculty level to get their opinion. Much of SSMU’s approach relies heavily on passing legislation, but I want to extend that further by educating students about our offerings to ensure that the office becomes an active hub for their questions and concerns.


What are some key issues you foresee SSMU having to address next year?

There are two major issues that I plan to prioritize at the beginning of the term. Firstly, with the signing of the lease, the SSMU needs to set a long-term vision that is financially viable, socially responsible, and environmentally focused. This will be accomplished by creating a forum with not only internal members, but with the involvement of representatives from different faculties and departments.

Secondly, I want to restructure the human resources part of the presidential portfolio (full-time and part-time) to assuage internal administrative issues. Therefore, I will be focusing on the independency of the Accountability Leadership Commission to increase transparency among executives, councillors and staff members.



[bootstrap_tab name=”Debates” link=”tab5-slug”]

Debate: Ayukawa and Khan

Debate: Ayukawa and Johnson

Debate: Johnson and Khan

Miscellaneous Questions:



Other Candidate Profiles

VP UA | VP C&SVP FOPS | VP Internal | VP External