WHAT’S SSMU UP TO?

The McGill Daily - - Contents -

Muna To­ji­boeva - Pres­i­dent

The pres­i­dent co­or­di­nates the ac­tiv­i­ties of SSMU and de­ter­mines the long-term vi­sion of the so­ci­ety. To­ji­boeva, elected in the 20162017 school year, de­scribes the long-term vi­sion of SSMU as one that will pro­vide “ser­vices that en­rich the stu­dent’s ex­pe­ri­ence […] at Mcgill, mak­ing sure that their voice is heard not only within the ad­min­is­tra­tion [...] [and] bod­ies like the Board of Gover­nors, but within their own un­der­grad­u­ate com­mu­nity.”

To­ji­boeva is cur­rently work­ing on im­ple­ment­ing the Sex­ual Vi­o­lence Pol­icy, which she de­scribes as “the most im­por­tant […] pri­or­ity for the en­tire team .” The SVP first draft is cur­rently be­ing dis­trib­uted to dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers for con­sul­ta­tion, af­ter which it will be opened to var­i­ous clubs ATMC gill. The SVP was a cru­cial part of To­ji­boeva’s cam­paign plat­form, along with re form­ing the Ju­di­cial Board. She served as a chief jus­tice on the Board for the past two years. To­ji­boeva noted that the in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tions of the Ju­di­cial Board have not been up­dated since 2012, and stressed the need for re­form re­gard­ing “in­ter­nal clauses in the con­sti­tu­tion.”

When asked about the res­ig­na­tion of Vice pres­i­dent (VP) Op­er­a­tions Anu­radha Mal­lik this sum­mer, as well as the re­cur­ring pat­tern of exec turnover at SSMU, To­ji­boeva stressed the im­por­tance of men­tal health. To­ji­boeva de­scribed the 2017 ex­ec­u­tives’ team­work as “more co­he­sive” than pre­vi­ous years. “We are slowly try­ing to change the cul­ture of SSMU by all work­ing to­gether, com­ple­ment­ing our skills, […] and in­ter­ests, and port­fo­lios. […] I think we preach a lot of things about men­tal health so we need to ex­em­plify good work­ing con­di­tions.”

To­ji­boeva aims to ad­dress the lack of ac­count­abil­ity seen in SSMU with re­gards to the in­ci­dents last year by pro­mot­ing trans­parency. “We are try­ing to pub­li­cize more about what our op­er­a­tions are .[…] The ex­ec­u­tives are work­ing on dif­fer­ent cam­paigns to make sure that […] all stu­dents are more in­te­grated into SSMU. Since es­pe­cially the events of last year, it’s im­por­tant to […] re­build trust in SSMU and en­sure that stu­dents un­der­stand that it’s in good qual­i­fied hands, and that we ac­tu­ally take […] not only their choices but their trust se­ri­ously.”

Ar­isha Khan - VP Fi­nance

The VP fi­nance ad­min­is­ters the in­vest­ment fund­ing group and is re­spon­si­ble for the over­all fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity of SSMU. Prior to be­ing elected, Ar­isha Khan was the pre­vi­ous SSMU Fund­ing Com­mis­sioner and Fi­nance and Op­er­a­tions As­sis­tant at the VP fi­nance of­fice. Khan has ad­vo­cated for so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and ef­fec­tive re­source al­lo­ca­tion dur­ing her cam­paign, and re­ceived a‘ yes’ en­dorse­ment from the daily.

Khan’s pri­or­ity has been to es­tab­lish a fi­nan­cial port­fo­lio for So­cially Re­spon­si­ble In­vest­ing (SRI). Upon rat­i­fi­ca­tion, the funds will be moved to De­sau­tels cap­i­tal man­age­ment, a univer­sity owned, stu­dent run in­vest­ment man­age­ment firm. Khan ex­plained that the ad­van­tage of work­ing with De­sau­tels cap­i­tal man­age­ment is hav­ing reg­u­lar fi­nan­cial anal­y­sis re­ports from stu­dents. All SSMU funds are cur­rently man­aged by Lester, a pro­fes­sor at Mcgill run­ning Lester As­set Man­age­ment, who is also in­volved in De­sau­tels cap­i­tal man­age­ment. Khan hopes to start a trial pod of 1-2 mil­lion dol­lars in the SRI. How­ever, this will have to be rat­i­fied by the leg­isla­tive coun­cil and Board of Di­rec­tors. Ac­cord­ing to Khan, SSMU would be the first stu­dent union in Canada to in­vest in a man­date specif­i­cally ded­i­cated to SRI.

In con­junc­tion with the den­tal and health plan, a new pro­gram for men­tal health will be in­tro­duced this fall. “Em­power Me is like the equiv­a­lent of an em­ployee as­sis­tance plan. […] This gives stu­dents un­lim­ited ac­cess to coun­selling […] be it for emo­tional sup­port, fi­nan­cial, nutri­tion coun­selling […] and life coach­ing. Coun­sel­lors are avail­able 24/7 ei­ther on the phone in per­son or in we­bchat”, said Khan. Pi­loted last year at Mc­mas­ter Univer­sity, Em­power Me pro­vides free men­tal health re­sources to plan mem­bers. Khan also sees Em­power Me as an in­terim pro­gram where stu­dents may po­ten­tially have faster re­fer­rals to Mcgill ser­vices based on their records with Em­power Me. “We need to do more than rely on Mcgill [...] Men­tal health and coun­selling, even with their ex­tended hours, they are hard to reach, so hope­fully this will be able to bridge the gap be­tween those pro­grams. […] We are hop­ing that by in­tro­duc­ing this ser­vice [..] they will be able to use this ser­vice as an in­terim,” added Khan.

Khan noted the changes above may in­volve an in­creased stu­dent fee, which is cur­rently es­ti­mated to be around $350,000. SSMU is to hold a ref­er­en­dum re­gard­ing the amend­ment later in the year. She ad­vised stu­dents to visit the Where is my Money Go­ing brochure avail­able on the Mcgill web­site to track SSMU spend­ing on stu­dent money.

Maya Koparker - VP In­ter­nal

The VP in­ter­nal is r espon­si­ble for fa­cil­i­tat­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the s tu­dent body and fos ter­ing com­mu­nity en­gage­ment. M aya Koparkar was the pre­vi­ous SSMU In­ter­nal Lo­gis­tics Co­or­di­nat­ing and Mol­son Hall VP in­ter­nal be­fore run­ning for SSMU in March 2017. Koparker stressed the im­por­tance of ac­ces­si­bil­ity in firs t-year en­gage­ment at the s tart of the semes ter. “We’ve […] fo­cused on fl ag­ship events that in­volved the same sort of el­e­ments such as drink­ing […] and party cul­tur e […] which is one as­pect, but ther e is room to in­te­grate […] as­pects more in­clu­sive to the stu­dent body,” said Koparker, re­fer­ring to the Frosh events from 28 Au­gust to Septem­ber 3. Koparker men­tioned the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Crash­pad pro­gram, which pro­vided stu­dents with a place to sleep in on cam­pus. Stu­dents liv­ing off-cam­pus who are po­ten­tially dis­cour­aged from par­tic­i­pat­ing in Frosh due to the long com­mute were en­cour­aged to take part in orientation ses­sions and to sleep in the SSMU ballroom.

Maya also sees the first-year en­gage­ment pro­gram as a cru­cial el­e­ment in “re­build­ing trust in SSMU and the stu­dent body”. The Of­fice for Stu­dents with Dis­abil­i­ties (OSD) is cur­rently work­ing with SSMU and other com­mit­tees to de­velop a pass­port pro­gram for the First Year Coun­cil (FYC). The pass­port pro­gram is a four-part train­ing work­shop which would fo­cus on cre­at­ing in­clu­sive and di­verse spa­ces at events. Ac­cord­ing to Koparker, the train­ing will “foster […] a sense of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and in­clu­siv­ity from the very be­gin­ning, […] mak­ing sure that the port­fo­lio is di­verse enough so that it [...] can ap­peal to a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent peo­ple in­stead of the same peo­ple that are be­ing en­gaged with SSMU events.” The FYC coun­cil will be cho­sen by Koparker in early Septem­ber, and the work­shop will be avail­able to the gen­eral pub­lic once it is de­vel­oped and im­ple­mented.

When asked about the sig­nif­i­cance of her role, Koparker re­ferred to the trust be­tween stu­dents and SSMU. “It’s about cre­at­ing those events and spa­ces and that line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion where stu­dents are able to feel in­cluded, […] en­gaged and ul­ti­mately es­tab­lish that trust […] While the VP in­ter­nal can still par­tic­i­pate in a lot of the gov­er­nances, […] it also of­fers a port­fo­lio that is able to hu­man­ize SSMU […] and take away […] from the bu­reau­cratic el­e­ments,” said Koparker.

Con­nor Spencer - VP Ex­ter­nal

The VP Ex­ter­nal’s port­fo­lio can be bro­ken down into six um­brel­las of re­spon­si­bil­ity: lob­by­ing on be­half of the stu­dent body to the mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, fo­cus­ing on franco phone af­fairs, in­dige­nous af­fairs, and af­fairs in the Mil­ton Parc com­mu­nity, sup­port­ing cam­paigns such as Div est Mcgill and De­mil­i­ta­rize M cgill, and pro­vid­ing sup­port for the labour and stu­dent unions on cam­pus.

Spencer is hop­ing to fo­cus on Fran­co­phone, In­dige­nous, and com­mu­nity af­fairs this year be­cause she feels that th­ese is­sues have been “bull­dozed by the cam­paigns” in the past. In em­pha­siz­ing this, she stressed that she is nei­ther Fran­co­phone, In­dige­nous, nor a mem­ber of the Mil­ton Parc com­mu­nity. “In say­ing that i’m go­ing to fo­cus on [th­ese things] it’s re­ally im­por­tant to know that I don’t have the an­swers for them and I shouldn’t pre­tend to.” In­stead, Spencer is form­ing com­mit­tees on th­ese is­sues and hir­ing spe­cial­ized pro­fes­sion­als who will de­ter­mine SSMU’S path for­ward.

With re­gards to In­dige­nous af­fairs, the In­dige­nous Stu­dents’ Al­liance( IS A) is heav­ily over­bur­dened, and SSMU hopes to ease that pres­sure .“Ev­ery­one reaches out to[ the IS A] be­ing like‘ can you like make sure we’ re al­lies’ and‘ can you speak here, and it’s to­mor­row ’,[...] the IS A is like, ‘that’s kind of not the labour we wanted to be do­ing, we’ re sup­posed to be are source for in­dige­nous stu­dents, not for white set­tler stu­dents.”

Spencer is work­ing with com­mu­nity lead­ers of the Mil­ton Parc Com­mu­nity to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of es­tab­lish­ing stu­dent coops, which would move stu­dents out of Mil­ton Parc and be less “ex­tor­tion­ately ex­pen­sive” and “re­duce the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion in the Mil­ton Parc com­mu­nity.” The Com­mit­tee on Fran­co­phone Af­fairs at SSMU is also start­ing up again this year af­ter two years of in­ac­tiv­ity.

Other projects Spencer is fo­cus­ing on include af­fil­i­a­tion with the As­so­ci­a­tion for the Voice of Ed­u­ca­tion in Quebec (AVEQ) to gain pro­vin­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tion. “SSMU is not a mem­ber of any Quebec pro­vin­cial level stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tion so there­fore it’s re­ally hard for us to make our voices heard at a pro­vin­cial level.”

Fi­nally, Spencer is work­ing to de­velop a Sex­ual Vi­o­lence Pol­icy at SSMU. She be­lieves that it should beast and-alone pol­icy so that in­ci­dents are han­dled by peo­ple with proper train­ing. “When there isn’t a sys­tem in place [...] there are fum­bles and peo­ple fuck up and it gets put in the wrong hands, [...] so [we’re] try­ing to avoid that ever hap­pen­ing again and also hope­fully us­ing it as a way to pres­sure changes in the larger Mcgill pol­icy.”

Je­mark Earle - VP Stu­dent Life

The VP Stu­dent Life is the li­ai­son be­tween SSMU, stu­dent ser­vices, clubs, and in­de­pen­dent groups. They are also re­spon­si­ble for the pro­mo­tion of SSMU Men­tal Health and Coun­selling ser­vices. They are the ex­ec­u­tive that deals most di­rectly with the stu­dent body. When asked about re­cent changes in SSMU af­fect­ing stu­dents, Ear le re­ferred to last year’s mora­to­rium on the ap­proval of new clubs put in place due to re­source con­straints. “The mora­to­rium on start­ing new clubs was lifted and we’re work­ing hard to get the ap­pli­ca­tion up and run­ning so that should be avail­able within the next two weeks ap­prox­i­mately,” said Earle, en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to ap­ply for in­terim club sta­tus.

Earle stressed that the true value of his role comes from the re­la­tion­ship he has with the stu­dent body. “If the other six [ Ex­ecs] were to op­er­ate on their own I think it could still work, but it would be a lot harder to com­mu­ni­cate with the stu­dent body just be­cause their po­si­tions don’t nec­es­sar­ily deal with di­rect stu­dent en­gage­ment.” On this note, Earle is work­ing on re­vi­tal­iz­ing the club work­shop at the Ser­vices Sum­mit at the end of Septem­ber. He also wants to make SSMU more ac­ces­si­ble by be­ing more ap­proach­able and be­ing phys­i­cally avail­able to an­swer ques­tions.

With re­gards to Men­tal Health, Ear le plan store work SSMU’S Men­tal Health Aware­ness Week, as a re­sult of the or­ga­ni­za­tion of too many work­shops in the past, most of which were poorly at­tended .“We’ re go­ing to hope­fully move away from the work­shop heavy thing and have more movie screen­ings about Men­tal health and/or pan­els where stu­dents can talk to pro­fes­sors or alumni who think men­tal health is im­por­tant.”

Is­abelle Oke - VP Univer­sity Af­fairs

The VP Univer­sity Af­fairs ad­vo­cate son be­half of the stu­dents to the ad­min­is­tra­tion by com­mu­ni­cat­ing with var­i­ous stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tives, like the Se­nate. They are also re­spon­si­ble for eq­uity ini­tia­tives within SSMU, as well as the Li­brary Im­prove­ment Fund.

Oke’s main fo­cus within the eq­uity port­fo­lio is to in­crease Mcgill’s ac­ces­si­bil­ity to stu­dents from the child wel­fare sys­tem. “A re­search re­port … came out [last year] about stu­dents who are com­ing from the child wel­fare sys­tem and the in­sti­tu­tional bar­ri­ers that are set in place in post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions.” She con­tin­ued, “that set the knowl­edge base for us to [...] move for­ward […] and see where in the univer­sity there’s space for tai­lored sup­ports.”

Ac­cord­ing to Oke, there are al­ready pro­grams in place at M cgill try­ing to broad en the path­ways for those in the child wel­fare sys­tem pur­su­ing a post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. The pro­grams are mostly work­shop style events meant to fa­mil­iar­ize par­tic­i­pants with the univer­sity set­ting. “if peo­ple feel com­fort­able in the space, if peo­ple see what the space looks like and see them­selves in the space, then they will like be more likely to set goals to get here even­tu­ally.”

How­ever, Oke has strug­gled in cre­at­ing a more dy­namic struc­ture of sup­port for this pop­u­la­tion. Stu­dents from the child wel­fare sys­tem are poorly rep­re­sented at Mcgill. It would re­quire an un­bal­anced al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources to setup a“sweep­ing pro­gram of sup­ports” for a small por­tion of the univer­sity pop­u­la­tion. “Numbers shouldn’t mat­ter, but it seems like in this con­text they kind of do,” said Oke.

Oke is still ex­plor­ing other ways that SSMU can pro­vide ser­vices for this com­mu­nity. “We have this new of­fice that’s sup­posed to [...] act on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the provost task force on In­dige­nous ed­u­ca­tion and In­dige­nous stud­ies. There’s a big por­tion of In­dige­nous chil­dren who are over-rep­re­sented in the [...] child wel­fare sys­tem. Is that an­other av­enue that we can use to get re­sources to sup­port stu­dents that are try­ing to make it to post-sec­ondary from that sys­tem?” She con­tin­ued, “There’s also a bur­sary pro­gram that has been started with schol­ar­ships and stu­dent aid. That fund is specif­i­cally re­served for stu­dents [...] who came from the child wel­fare sys­tem.”

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