Bryan Buraga, U1 Economics, has served on SSMU’s Board of Directors as an Arts & Sciences Senator and is currently chairing the Ad-Hoc Fall Reading Break Committee. His platform emphasizes student advocacy, financial and institutional reform, and improved student support services. If elected, Buraga hopes to continue working with the administration and with student representatives for the implementation of a Fall reading week and to obtain fair compensation for student staff. Buraga’s platform emphasizes equity and he intends to advocate on behalf of marginalized students by holding the administration accountable for implementing the Calls to Action in the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Affairs and Education. Additionally, he hopes to further improve the GSVP.
Kyle Rubenok, U3 Computer Science, is running on a platform of improving SSMU’s capacity for long-term projects and improving institutional memory. His initiatives include reworking SSMU health insurance for international students, making general assemblies remotely accessible, and providing study space in the University Centre to help offset the effects of the Schulich Library closure. Rubenok has served as the Computer Science Undergraduate Society’s president, co-director of HackMcGill for the past two years, and, as a member of the SSMU Board of Directors, has sat on the organization’s accountability and finance committees. Rubenok’s other campaign initiatives involve improving SSMU’s communications with its constituents and spearheading the development of SSMU’s proposed wellness hub, a subproject of the current SSMU Master Plan.
Though both candidates have extensive knowledge and experience with SSMU and student governance, Rubenok’s campaign proposals show a greater awareness of the role and scope of the presidential mandate. While Buraga is well-positioned to have great impact on student life in the coming years through his work on the Fall Reading Week committee, his many ambitious proposals and political goals are ill-suited to the primarily supportive duties of the presidential position. Rubenok rightly angles for fostering the development of a successful SSMU executive team and focuses on the most significant organizational challenges that face SSMU such as institutional memory, long-term continuity, and spacing needs. Some of Rubenok’s strategies for addressing these problems, like creating an alumnus position on the SSMU Board of Directors, show promise. However, other ideas, namely his ‘ten-year plan’ proposal and intention to provide study space for students, feel unrealistic. In order to succeed as SSMU president, Rubenok should continue to prioritize the issues he has identified, but consult further with students and SSMU employees to draft effective solutions.
Adam Gwiazda-Amsel, U2 Philosophy and Economics, comes with a fresh approach to the position of VP External. His platform highlights that the role of a VP External should not be politicized through a singular narrative, but that it should raise all voices on campus.
Gwiazda-Amsel intends to serve as both an ally and a facilitator by uplifting the students behind movements which urge a positive change—notably Divest McGill, #ChangeTheName, and the Gendered and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP). A Montreal-native, Gwiazda-Amsel plans to connect McGill to Montreal and provide more resources for francophone students who wish to participate in student life. In light of the dissolution of AVEQ, he plans to either consider the possibility of joining FEVQ or create a new provincial students’ union.
Gwiazda-Amsel’s approach to the VP External position is favourable as he intends to empower all voices on campus. Nonetheless, he must recognize that the VP External should choose a specific direction to see positive change. Gwiazda-Amsel must strike priorities in his portfolio to mobilize his efforts and accomplish progress within his portfolio next year—but as he listens to students and fosters an accessible space, Gwiazda-Amsel gives himself a good place to start.
Billy Kawasaki, U3 Arts, is the only candidate running for the position of VP Student Life. His platform centres around streamlining SSMU’s relationship with clubs, growing a student network through building management, and addressing larger issues on campus such as mental health and food security.
If elected, Kawasaki intends to focus his energy toward the creation of a clubs portal that would host training modules for club executives, post announcements from SSMU, and act as a space to submit documentation such as insurance claims. He also wants to use the portal as a way for campus groups to register for Activities Night in the hopes that a digital platform and record will simplify the organization of the event.
As VP Student Life, he also intends to create two new ‘hubs’ for clubs, services, and Independent Student Groups: A wellness hub and a cultural and community centre. Kawasaki envisions grouping specific organizations together will help to foster a stronger undergraduate community.
While Kawasaki has extensive experience with SSMU and in student governance, his resignation from the role of VP Internal of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) after a short term from Dec. 2018 to Feb. 2019 is concerning in light of the heavy workload and scrutiny that SSMU executives face.
Moreover, many of Kawasaki’s projects seem unrealistic for a single-term executive either from a logistical or financial standpoint. The clubs portal is a valuable endeavour, but, in light of the slow progress that has plagued the current VP Internal’s calendar, the portal appears to be too large of an undertaking to complete by Kawasaki’s prospective deadline of Fall 2019. Similarly, his plans to solidify the eating disorder programming within SSMU and address the issue of food insecurity on campus are commendable but lack concrete agendas.
Sanchi Bhalla, U2 International Management, is running on a platform of developing greater student socialization and encouraging interfaculty co-operation. Currently, she works as the Executive Financial Assistant to VP Finance Jun Wang.
Bhalla plans on improving school spirit through ad-hoc, spontaneous events such as a snowball fight on Lower Field. She also hopes to improve communication between faculty bars and implementing a loyalty card to encourage students to venture beyond typical locales.
Regarding Frosh, Bhalla suggests that alternative events be added to the pre-existing event structure to accommodate a wider variety of students. Proposed alternative events include a comedy night, a bus tour of Montreal, and café crawls.
Aandrianna Jacob, U2 Political Science, has event-planning experience from high school and from serving as VP Events in her high school’s residence hall. She is running on a platform of a more inclusive Frosh, more varied Faculty Olympics activities, and making campus activities more accessible. She plans to revamp the SSMU app, modify the appearance of the listserv, and implement current VP Internal Matthew McLaughlin’s plan to create a campus calendar. Jacob also hopes to inform students of the help provided by the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) and mental health services, increasing mental health awareness.
Bhalla has previous SSMU experience and a better grasp on the VP Internal portfolio. Her emphasis on including additional non-drinking events during Frosh indicate realistic and inclusive goals. Her pragmatic approach to event planning and proposed initiatives show promise. However, Bhalla must remember to not let her creativity get the better of her; the logistics behind proposed ad-hoc events and an extended Fac-O point period are more time-consuming than she might imagine.
Though Jacob has previously planned events her inexperience in student governance and relative lack of knowledge of current campus affairs make her an unsuitable candidate. Her campaign’s emphasis on improving health resources across campus seems misdirected—such initiatives typically fall under the VP Student Life portfolio.
Sam Haward, U2 Joint Honours Economics and Political Science, has SSMU experience as a Parliamentarian, co-chair and chair of the Accountability and Nominating Committees, and as a member of the Finance and Governance Review Committees.
Haward aims to strengthen institutional memory to mitigate difficulties arising from annual executive turnover. Some of his key proposals include continuing to inform club executives about the SSMU finance system with interactive online workshops and recommitting to socially-conscious investment with a renewed Financial Ethics Committee. Haward wants to revise the Services budgeting process, allowing them to earmark funds for future projects and avoid surpluses like the current surplus of over $400,000 across the 16 student services. Further, he plans to bring international students under SSMU’s Health and Departmental Insurance plan.
Ashar Yahya, U2 Economics and Finance, has served in financial positions with various clubs, including VP Finance of the McGill Students Actuarial Association.
His platform consists of three main projects to improve McGill. First, he plans to combine the financial surpluses of SSMU services into a mutual fund, which can be shared between them for large expenses. Second, he plans to hire additional staff for the funding committee. Finally, he hopes to build relationships between faculties, primarily through the creation of an online database on which students and professors can upload course materials and past exams for general use. More generally, he also aims to improve the structure of the financial system by creating an autonomous program to track clubs’ application process and institute a multistage system for approving applications.
Ahmed Bawany, a U1 Bioengineering student with a minor in Management, cites his experience as chief financial officer of Nixor Hospital, financial analyst intern at Aga Khan Development Network, investor in the stock market, and founder of a startup cosmetic business as qualifications for the position of VP Finance.
Bawany plans on creating more sub-departments within SSMU to improve efficiency, hiring additional students to inspect clubs for fraud and mismanagement of funds. He reported that SSMU has $400,000 in unused funds which he hopes to put toward scholarships, financial aid opportunities, and better health insurance. He also hopes to improve institutional memory by uploading financial records and files to computers and training his successor.
Of the three candidates, Haward’s platform shows the best grasp of the VP Finance position, and his time in various positions at SSMU has given him an excellent understanding of the scope of the role.
Ideas such as a Google Classroom for efficient communication and expansion of financial literacy build on the work of the current VP Finance. Furthermore, Haward’s plan to work on international healthcare will help improve campus life for students who are already bearing the brunt of high tuition, and his experience on governance committees dedicated to this will prove useful in the position.
Husayn Jamal, U2 Political Science and International Development, has extensive experience in student governance. He has served as speaker for the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), Science Undergraduate Society (SUS), and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) legislative councils. He is also a member of the SSMU Governance Reform Committee, which is planning an overhaul of the society’s governance structure.
His platform aims to make university governance more accessible and responsive to students by limiting the number of senate committees and beginning to submit annual reviews of the Deputy Provost Student Life and Learning (DPSLL)’s activities on behalf of SSMU. Other platform goals include continuing to streamline the application process for Library Improvement Fund (LIF) and prohibiting professors from requiring doctors’ notes for excused absences from lectures.
Madeline Wilson, third-year Political Science, has comprehensive academic advocacy experience as a current Arts Senator and the VP Academic of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) during the 2017-2018 academic year. Wilson has two major campaign promises: Student advocacy and increasing academic accessibility.
Wilson plans to continue advocating for open educational resources, as well as refocusing the Know Your Rights campaign to educate professors. She intends to focus her advocacy efforts on divestment from fossil fuels, changing the name of the men’s varsity teams, and sexual violence awareness, among other areas, and plans to employ governmental structures like an emergency referendum to address these concerns.
A previous version of this article omitted Madeline Wilson’s experience in student governance. The Tribune regrets this error.
Jamal’s impressive experience with SSMU and McGill governance make him an ideal pick. His familiarity with the institutions’ structures will empower him to pursue his goals effectively. Most of his platform focuses on achievable, concrete goals that would meaningfully advance students’ wellbeing. Wilson stated that her ‘combative nature’ and refusal to compromise will be her greatest challenges in the VP University Affairs (UA) position, if elected. This is fundamentally at odds with the VP UA’s mandate, which is to liaise between student groups and McGill’s administration—a process built on compromise. Jamal’s plans are also more rigorous, tying advocacy with actionable policy.