Ben Ger elected SSMU Pres­i­dent

Con­tro­ver­sial “ex­ter­nal and di­vi­sive” is­sues mo­tion fails

The McGill Daily - - News - Cem Ertekin The Mcgill Daily

On March 18, Ben Ger was elected Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety of Mcgill Univer­sity (SSMU) Pres­i­dent for the 2016-17 aca­demic year. Ger won against his op­po­nent Jor­dan Sin­der by a mar­gin of 30.8 per cent or 859 votes, with a to­tal of 1,828 votes cast.

The only other con­tested po­si­tion, that of VP Stu­dent Life, was won by Elaine Pat­ter­son, by a mar­gin of 52.8 per cent. All those run­ning un­op­posed were ac­claimed: Erin So­bat for VP Univer­sity Af­fairs, David Aird for VP Ex­ter­nal, Daniel Lawrie for VP In­ter­nal, Sacha Magder for VP Op­er­a­tions, and Niall Carolan for VP Fi­nance.

The voter turnout was 17.5 per cent, a marked de­crease from last year’s 25.9 per cent.

Speak­ing to The Daily, Ger said, “[I am] un­be­liev­ably ex­cited and thank­ful that the stu­dent body trusted me with this po­si­tion.”

“I prom­ise 2016-17 will be the best SSMU year we’ve had,” con­tin­ued Ger. “I know there’s a lot of trou­bles and a lot of doubts about what we’re go­ing into, but I prom­ise the coun­cil re­form com­mit­tee will come through. I prom­ise more voices will be in­cluded at the ta­ble, and I prom­ise we’ll fig­ure a way to bal­ance this bud­get and make stu­dent life bet­ter.”

In an in­ter­view with The Daily, Jor­dan Sin­der said that, de­spite his loss, he was proud of the cam­paign his team ran. “I think we raised im­por­tant is­sues that needed to be raised. I think we drew a lot of at­ten­tion to SSMU pol­i­tics and our cam­paign en­gaged many stu­dents,” said Sin­der.

“I’m happy for Ben and I know he’s go­ing to be a great pres­i­dent next year and I look for­ward to work­ing with him,” he con­tin­ued.

Al­le­ga­tions of per­sonal at­tacks

Like last year, this year’s elec­tions also made heavy use of Face­book event pages for cam­paign­ing pur­poses.

In a post shared on his event wall on March 11, Ger said, “This cam­paign is grass­roots-based. It fo­cuses on the is­sues, not my oppo- nent. [...] Per­sonal at­tacks from my op­po­nent will not be met with per­sonal at­tacks from my cam­paign’s end, and we will con­tinue to ad­dress crit­i­cal prob­lems on cam­pus.”

How­ever, on March 17, Sin­der re­leased a state­ment on his event page, al­leg­ing that mem­bers of Ger’s cam­paign team had been en­gag­ing in “per­sonal at­tacks” against Sin­der.

“My cam­paign team has not en­gaged in at­tacks against our op­po­nent’s plat­form; many sus­pect the same stan­dard has not been up­held on the other hand,” Sin­der said, re­fer­ring to the num­ber of posts made on his event page by mem­bers of Ger’s cam­paign team.

Some com­menters on Sin­der’s post pointed out that this could be be­cause stu­dents had gen­uine con­cerns about his plat­form. One com­menter asked, “Have you con­sid­ered that maybe the vol­ume of ques­tions and con­cerns that you have re­ceived as well as the op­po­si­tion against you is due to is­sues in your plat­form, rather than a per­sonal at­tack or a grand con­spir­acy?”

But at least one com­menter sided with Sin­der, say­ing that he was “sup­ported by the ma­jor­ity, at least in po­lit­i­cal opin­ion.”

Ref­er­en­dum ques­tions

The con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum to cre­ate a steer­ing com­mit­tee to block “ex­ter­nal and di­vi­sive” mo- tions from ap­pear­ing at Gen­eral Assem­blies failed, with 47.4 per cent voting for it and 52.6 per cent voting against it.

The event page for the “yes” com­mit­tee was very ac­tive dur­ing the cam­paign pe­riod, with a steady di­a­logue be­tween the pro­po­nents and op­po­nents of the ques­tion.

Those op­pos­ing the ref­er­en­dum ques­tion brought up the fact that this steer­ing com­mit­tee would be ob­struct­ing stu­dent democ­racy. Fur­ther­more, a num­ber of stu­dents were wor­ried about the lack of clear def­i­ni­tion of the terms “ex­ter­nal” and “di­vi­sive.”

One stu­dent com­mented on the Face­book “yes” event, “And here we see the cul­mi­na­tion of decades of de-politi­ciza­tion and ap­a­thy. [...] Stu­dent groups and unions have a crit­i­cal place in dis­course and ac­tion on es­pe­cially these kinds of ‘ex­ter­nal and di­vi­sive’ is­sues, where greater civil so­ci­ety fre­quently fails to act, and I’ll be re­joic­ing when this vote fails.”

SSMU Arts and Science Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Matthew Sat­terth­waite, one of the orig­i­nal movers of the mo­tion to ask this ref­er­en­dum ques­tion, ar­gued in a post in the “yes” event that the sheer num­ber of op­pos­ing and other sar­cas­tic com­ments on the event page made some stu­dents un­com­fort­able shar­ing their opin­ions on the page, say­ing, “Just be­cause you yell louder, doesn’t mean you’re right.”

All of the other ref­er­en­dum ques­tions passed, ex­cept for the ques­tion re­gard­ing af­fil­i­a­tion with the As­so­ci­a­tion pour la voix étu­di­ante au Québec (AVEQ), which failed with 62.1 per cent votes against, and the ques­tion re­gard­ing the in­crease of the Stu­dent Tele­vi­sion at Mcgill (TVM) fee.

David Aird, newly-elected VP Ex­ter­nal, who had vo­cally sup­ported af­fil­i­a­tion with AVEQ in his plat­form, ex­plained the fail­ure in an in­ter­view with The Daily.

“I think it was just hard to com­mu­ni­cate the value of a stu­dent fed­er­a­tion to the stu­dent body,” said Aird. “Most of what we had was just so­cial me­dia that only reaches so many peo­ple. The voter turnout was ac­tu­ally pretty low this year, too.”

“I think the ar­gu­ments com­ing from the ‘no’ cam­paign [for the AVEQ af­fil­i­a­tion] were rather in­flam­ma­tory [and] not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the true value of join­ing a stu­dent fed­er­a­tion. I think they failed to take into ac­count a lot of things,” Aird con­tin­ued, “which is why I’m go­ing to re­visit the ques­tion next year at some point, once we’ve had a bet­ter chance of see­ing what could hap­pen with AVEQ.”

“I think the ar­gu­ments com­ing from the ‘no’ cam­paign [for the AVEQ af­fil­i­a­tion] were rather in­flam­ma­tory.” David Aird, VP Ex­ter­nal elect

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.