VP University Affairs
The VP University Affairs plays a pivotal role in student advocacy, sitting on Senate and representing SSMU and its constituents to the Mcgill administration. The VP University Affairs also oversees the SSMU Library Improvement Fund, works with student senators on advocacy projects, oversees student research initiatives, and implements equity initiatives. Jacob Shapiro
One of the two candidates to get on the ballot during Elections SSMU’S extended nomination period, Shapiro has no previous experience in student governance at Mcgill: in an interview with The Daily, Shapiro admitted to being “relatively new” to SSMU politics, but felt that as a self-described future teacher, he was attracted to the VP University Affairs (UA) position as it exists “to remind the university that it’s here for us to learn.”
Shapiro’s three-pronged platform stresses “continuity, creativity, and community,” which highlights the VP UA portfolio’s research mandate, commitment to supporting student advocacy, and student consultation. Shapiro’s platform also includes a few more clear-cut promises to build on the work of the current VP UA, including but not limited to, adjusting the Academic Roundtable to allow for greater collaboration, broadening the bi-weekly Senate Caucus meeting to include additional representatives, and creating first-year senate support positions.
While not part of the VP UA portfolio, among Shapiro’s biggest concerns regarding SSMU is governance reform, be it at the level of Mcgill’s Board of Governors, or within SSMU. He feels it’s intrinsically linked to the VP UA portfolio because “it’s hard to advocate well for students if you can’t prove to the administration, [one] that doesn’t want to listen, that you’re speaking on behalf of students.” He points to “contradictions” in the SSMU system as being proof of this, i.e. SSMU having both elements of direct democracy, such as General Assemblies, but also a Board of Directors more akin to that of a corporation. When asked which reforms could thus be put forward, Shapiro admitted he has “conflicting ideas because [he didn’t] know what the best model is,” but felt greater consultation needed to take place, and that an “elected Board of Directors should be up for debate.” The ultimate goal should be making increasing student engagement, and making SSMU “as democratic as possible,” he says.
While Shapiro’s platform does include some smaller straightforward goals and focuses on student consultation, it contains few concrete proposals. Plans for “support systems for students needing to engage in personal advocacy” and “equity events co-sponsored by student groups” are vague and offer little insight into how to implement them. Shapiro also fails to mention the Library Improvement Fund, which the VP UA manages. Finally, Shapiro also has too little experience working in and navigating SSMU to convince students that bigger goals like a “university advocacy conference” are feasible. The Daily thus endorses a “No” vote for Jacob Shapiro.