The Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) held its debate for candidates for this years elections last Tuesday. The debate highlighted recent tensions and turmoil on campus, and was widely followed by many students.
The positions which the candidates were debating for are those of the President and five Vice-Presidents: Finance and Operations, University Affairs, Clubs and Services, Internal, and External of the SSMU executive council.
The first position to be debated was VP External -- a contest between environment and women’s studies student Robin Reid-Fraser, and political science and history student Raphael Uribe.
Both candidates emphasized the desire to build more bridges between McGill and the broader Montréal community, as to allow students to “burst the McGill bubble”. Fraser expressed the desire to do so by encouraging the learning of the French language and having external Montréal organizations participate on campus events, while Uribe focused on promoting more exchange programs in order to increase the ties between the McGill community and other universities around the world.
The debate became more heated when the topic switched to the ongoing Québec student strike. Both candidates pledged to continue SSMU’s ties to the broader Québec student movement, but acknowledged that things will most likely be different next year, in the absence of a strike.
Controversy among the audience arose when U1 Economics student Diego Zuluaga asked the candidates whether they would uphold students’ right to attend their classes in the event of a strike at McGill.
Uribe stated that “it is a student’s right to decide whether or not to go to class”, and that right should be respected. Fraser on the other hand emphasized the necessity to encourage students to attend General Assemblies, but that a GA decision should be binding upon all.
The debate then switched to the position of VP Clubs and Services, disputed between Alison Cooper (4th year honours anthropology) and Sahil Chaini (3rd year environment). Cooper emphasized her desire to follow incumbent Carol Fraser’s redesign of Winter Activities Night, calling for “more experimenting” as to make the event more appealing to students.
When incumbent Carol Fraser asked on their stance regarding campus groups such as QPIRG and CKUT, both candidates emphasized their support for a vibrant campus life, but expanded little on what will effectively be done for those two organizations.
CKUT has had its existence referendum ratified by the Administration and is currently in the midst of another question regarding its opt-out system. The situation with QPIRG remains unclear, as the Judicial Board’s invalidation of the Fall referendum means that QPIRG’s ability to levy student fees next year could be jeopardized. QPIRG did not run a second referendum.
The debate for VP University Affairs was a three-way race between Matthew Crawford, Haley Dinel and Emile Briones. Crawford emphasized his knowledge of SSMU bureaucracy due to his experience as an Arts Senator, while Dinel cited accomplishments in the realm of increased transparency in SSMU, such as the live streaming of the Senate meeting following the events of November 10. Briones focused on the desire to increase accessibility on campus, both to disabled individuals, people of colour and other groups.
Surprisingly the debate for VP Internal was less heated, given it had the most candidates, with 6 candidates in all: Michael Szpejda, Katie Larson, Christina Sfeir, Inna Tarabukhina, Robert Bell, Salar Nasehi and Samuel Sigere. Much of the debate revolved around buzzwords such as communication, diversification of events, accessibility and sustainability.
VP Finance and Operations fielded three candidates: Zhi Zhen Qin, Claire Michela, and JP Briggs. The latter, a 4th year finance major, emphasized his experience handling large budgets in excess of $250,000, through his involvement in the planning of Frosh and the Management Carnival.
Qin focused her platform on her knowledge of SSMU bureaucracy through her work as an SUS councillor, as well as her efforts toward the building of a student-run café in the SSMU building. Michela focused her platform on more outreach to students, as well as the idea of expanding the widely successful SSMU minicourses to include ones that would be run on a pay-as-you-go basis.
The nightcap was the most awaited debate of all, between the two candidates who hope to succeed Maggie Knight as SSMU president: Shyam Patel (current VP Finance and Operations) and Josh Redel (current president of the Engineering Undergraduate Society). Patel focused on his experience, describing his campaign as one of “not change, but rather a continuation of that which I’ve already done”. Both candidates emphasized their experience for the job.
Students have until next Wednesday to vote for next year’s SSMU council. Votes can be cast online at any time, or between 10am-1pm in polling stations spread across campus.