SSMU Executives Should Not be Paid for Jobs They Cannot Perform

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the editorial stance of the Bull and Bear.

The SSMU president, Darshan Daryanani, has been on a leave of absence and has not attended a council meeting since August 30th, 2021: the beginning of the 2021 school year. Students were not informed of this absence directly by the SSMU, which raises considerable questions.  

SSMU executives have not publicly responded to the situation, refusing to comment or disclose to the student body what exactly is happening with Daryanani, despite his failure to attend meetings since August 30, 2021. 

As pointed out by the Daily, VP Sarah Paulin sent an email to editors on The McGill Daily on November 3, stating that all SSMU employees are prohibited from sharing any information regarding the president with campus media. She went as far to suggest that any requests for details should be ignored, and she apologized for any “discomfort” caused by the media pressure for clarification.

For the sake of confidentiality about Daryanani’s personal life, I can understand why officials may neglect to comment. But to receive no information whatsoever—not even so much as a prompt notice—is inexcusable. Daryanani owes it to his electors to disclose that he is taking a leave of absence and who will be continuing to execute his duties. 

Busy students don’t have the time to read through the pseudo-political jargon from SSMU meetings. However, we deserve to know when our money is being tossed around without our knowledge. 

It was not made clear whether the absent president would be receiving his salary, which amounts to upwards of $27k. Seeing as these salaries are made possible by fee-paying students, it is disheartening to be faced with opaqueness about where our money is going. While paying most of these fees is optional, funding the SSMU is important nevertheless. There are several crucial programs beneficial to students that are run by SSMU, such as McGill Students Emergency Response Team (MSERT) and the Peer Support Centre (PSC), so financially supporting the students’ society is a responsibility of those able to pay; I like to think of it like a type of tax, where we receive benefits for extra fees. However, when it comes to paying an absent president, who has neglected to perform the job the student body elected him into, the validity of SSMU use of funds needs to be questioned. 

Before moving forward with this article, I want to clarify that I respect the situation Daryanani may be in, and I hope he is doing well under these stressful circumstances. This article is not necessarily directed towards the president personally and whatever circumstances have caused his absence. However, regardless of what Daryanani might be going through, this debate should not be swept under the rug or indefinitely postponed. This should be a wake-up call to students that SSMU needs to be held accountable for how they choose to disseminate student-provided finances. 

A leave of absence should not continue for an entire duration of a SSMU presidency.

A leave of absence should not continue for an entire duration of a SSMU presidency. No matter what obstacles Daryanani is facing, something has caused him to abandon one of the most important positions on the council. To even consider allocating funds towards paying his full salary is  a betrayal of the faith that students put into their governments. Daryanani’s refusal to resign last November makes the situation even murkier. It seems that SSMU is preoccupied with deciding if their colleagues get paid—even the absent ones—rather than responding to student concerns. To me, it’s a no-brainer. If Daryanani cannot fulfill his presidential duties, he should not receive full pay for the 2021-22 school year. 

Let’s discuss a SSMU executive’s salary in comparison to other employees at McGill. As an elected position, 27k seems an exorbitant amount of money to disperse to students no different from those who voted for them. 

Teaching assistants at McGill are paid $32.38 an hour from August 1 2021 until the end of July 2023, according to Article 17.01 of the AGSEM Collective Agreement. They are expected to work for 180 hours total. By basic arithmetic, this means that teaching assistants are paid upwards of $5800 for a semester of work or almost $12,000 for a school year.

Now let’s look at the salary of non-academic workers at McGill. The McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) was informed of decisions involving support staff salaries. Staff were outraged to find that the wage offers were below a living wage. Despite months of deliberation with the Employer (the university), McGill has neglected to provide for staff affected by the pandemic. There is little updated information regarding support staff wages on the McGill website. 

Could the university continue operations without TAs or service workers? Who would serve you your meals? Who would you email with course questions or assignment help? These workers are absolutely crucial and yet they are paid either below a living wage, or a fraction of what SSMU execs are given. These staff are, of course, paid by McGill and not SSMU, but in comparison, there’s still quite a disparity. And yet, the student society is considering paying thousands to an absent official.

It is also unfair to SSMU execs who have had to take on even more work to compensate for this absence. 

Now, I am sure that SSMU works hard. The people that work tirelessly to create a safe and fun environment for students deserve to be compensated fairly. There are many programs and events impossible to run without SSMU that are crucial for McGill students’ physical and emotional safety. But should elected students that fail to perform duties be paid full and significant salaries? As an international student, a SSMU position would pay a significant portion of my four-year tuition. It’s not an insignificant amount of money. And quite a sum of student money that should be going to these programs is lining the pockets of students who, for whatever reason, may not be not performing their duties. It is also unfair to SSMU execs who have had to take on even more work to compensate for this absence. 

Since it seems there is a lot about SSMU that McGill students might not know, I hope I can clear up exactly what is going on with our “society,” since it refuses to be transparent itself. Busy students don’t have the time to read through the pseudo-political jargon from SSMU meetings. However,  we deserve to know when our money is being tossed around without our knowledge. 

SSMU is a student government, but some members seem to get too caught up in their own microcosm to recognize that they are not above us because they have access to our fees. The only thing I’d say SSMU has in common with a real government is its thirst for a juicy scandal and a council of people who think they’re better than the people who elected them—all while their President failed to do the job he was elected into. Some SSMU members need to spend less time taking itself and its internal hierarchy so seriously and start taking their jobs seriously if they want to justify their salaries. They were not forced to take on the position. If at least $27,000 is going to someone who cannot do their job, then the student body must amend that. After all, no payment without representation, SSMU.

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