SSMU Executive Candidate Debates 2020: A Recap

The SSMU Executive Candidate Debates took place past Monday, February 24th, preceding the 2020-21 elections this week. McGill students and faculty got the opportunity to hear from next year’s SSMU candidates and their respective platforms for the upcoming year should they be elected. Voting is open until February 28.


Presidential Candidates Discuss Experience and Fresh Eyes:

Second-year Law student Jemark Earle and U3 student Ruth Silcoff discussed their respective platforms, addressing possible opportunities for improvement in SSMU.

Earle prioritizes follow-through on the implementation of Fall Reading Week and revamping current General Assemblies to meet quorum. His long term vision includes the possibilities for the opening of 3501 Peel and Gerts. 

Silcoff’s platform pushes for reforming student unity and emphasizing academic concerns in  the SSMU. In addition, she will prioritize increased accessibility for students who wish to work with the SSMU.

Earle was the VP of Student Life in 2017, the year the SSMU building closed down. He noted that this experience, along with his 6 years of knowledge on student government, would fuel his push for better advocacy and representation in student government. Earle believes that his understanding of the setbacks that clubs endured when the building closed will help the reopening occur smoothly. He put the reopening of the SSMU building as one of the top projects of the 2020-21 year, as it will be the centre of 250 plus student groups and their various needs. 

Silcoff took a different angle, arguing that her ability to understand not only the internal workings of the SSMU, but also the external needs of the student body, will give her the ability to excel as President. Calling herself “a little bit feisty,” Silcoff argued that confrontation is necessary to manage relationships between the university and the society. 


VP Financial Candidate Goes Solo

This term, U2 Arts student Gifford Marpole is the only candidate running for VP financial candidate. Marpole promised increased budget organization and clarity for clubs. His approach for serving different issues comes at a logical, first come first serve basis in terms of need.. 

When asked about his political motivations, Marpole addressed the fact that all SSMU Executive positions “can be seen through a political lens,” but noted that his decisions would not be politically motivated.


VP External Candidates Talk Managing Controversial Issues

U3 Arts students Noah Merali and Ayo Ogunremi, VP External Candidates, are each active in different networks throughout McGill student life. 

Merali is currently the Services Representative to SSMU Legislative Council and a member of the Affordable Student Housing Committee. Having shadowed the current VP External Candidate, they want to continue their work with the Affordable Student Housing Committee and emphasize the importance of administrative support. Their platform includes supporting campaigns in their navigation of the McGill bureaucracy and helping the student body lobby the government for larger tuition subsidies. 

Ogunremi has other experience as the VP Political of the McGill University Black Students Network, and commits to strengthening community and enhancing government should he be elected. He wants to build meaningful relationships that extend beyond McGill, forming coalitions with other student bodies to strengthen arguments towards the government. Ogunremi commits to a transparent student government should he be elected. 

When asked about managing controversial issues like BDS and free trips to Israel, Merali pushed for increased public forum and town halls, so people outside of student government can have a chance to have their voices heard. 


VP Internal on SPIN Possibilities

Stand-alone VP Internal candidate Declan McCools campaign involves sustainability and reforming restriction policy. He proposed the idea of separating the organization SPIN and Faculty Olympics to expand the horizons of SPIN away from “exclusive events” that heavily center around drinking. McCool proposed alternate events such as giant pillow fights, a partnership with university sports, or studying to broaden the scope of internal events.


University Affairs on Equity, Administrative Processes

U2 Science student Brooklyn Frizzle and U3 Arts student Griffin Scott, VP University Affairs candidates, explored the relationship McGill has with its current students versus its prospective donors. 

While both stated that McGill cares more about long term plans than its current students, Frizzle argued towards expanding the collection of demographics considered in any situation to improve this notion. Scott turned his attention inward, noting that the current structure of the SSMU should be modified to better serve groups on campus that care about equity.


Approaching Student Life from Different Angles

While U3 Arts student Maheen Akter focused on a centralized club portal to improve accessibility, U3 Arts student Belle Sullivan spoke about the feasibility of running clubs and the follow-through within SSMU to ease the process of running clubs. 

Akter broke down her platform into five major components: the SSMU building reopening, the reduction of bureaucracy, increased accessibility on mental health, improving the SSMU daycare and reforming the scholarships office. 

Sullivan preached herself as an effective ally to students, committed to making a difference through collaboration and balance. Both agree on utilizing the support staff and resources given to them in order to succeed, making a point that SSMU and Student Life success comes from hearing the ideas of others and working together. 

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