The McGill Tribune

Meet the 2017-2018 SSMU & PGSS executives

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SSMU President

Muna Tojiboeva

What did you work on this summer?

Over the summer, the SSMU executive team worked on the development of a SSMU-specific Sexual Violence policy (SVP). The entire SSMU executive team is committed to making sure that this SVP accurately represents the needs of McGill undergraduates. Because of this, the SSMU executive launched the stakeholder consultation process over the summer. We will continue to hold forums, ask for feedback, and talk to various stakeholder groups on campus throughout the Fall semester. I have been working on re-establishing a relationship of mutual trust and respect between SSMU and members of the McGill administration. Additionally, I have been actively working on making sure that SSMU gets a seat on various committees on which it stopped sitting last semester. For example, SSMU is now represented at the McGill Sustainability Advisory Committee, the Bicentennial Steering Committee, and the McGill Alumni-Student Engagement Council.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working with the Vice-President (VP) External on reviving the Affaires Francophones committee. The revitalization of this portfolio is extremely important to me since, as a francophone student myself, I understand how hard it is to not only transition from the French to English system, but also to feel included and welcomed at an anglophone institution. I have been working on a Judicial Board Reform with the justices. I think it is extremely important to have a well-functioning Judicial Board, not only keep to the executives accountable, but also to ensure that the individual members’ rights have been respected.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

The challenge that I foresee for this coming year is regaining the trust of McGill undergraduates, the administration, and the surrounding Montreal communities. I hope that through the executives’ work and dedication, people will see SSMU in a better light. My goal is to make sure that McGill undergraduates feel like SSMU is here to promote their interests, as well as to respect and promote their rights.

SSMU VP Student Life

Jemark Earle

What did you work on this summer?

Now that Activities Night is done, I have some more time to focus on a lot of my other projects. Now that the moratorium is lifted, these include finalizing last-minute things so that [students] can start applying for new clubs, and working on the club workshop and the services summit. I met with the mental health commissioners a few times over the summer, but now we're really going to start laying the groundwork for Mental Health Awareness Week. I will continue to meet monthly with Counselling Services as well.

What are you working on now?

So, there are some things I haven’t had as much of a chance to address over the summer, either intended or just because people haven’t been around — Fall Reading Week, for example. That’s something that we will probably revisit this month because the momentum on that kind of stalled in the late spring, and the summer didn’t seem to be a very good time to revisit it or get in touch with enrolment services. There’s [also] the Library Improvement Fund. So, as always we’re going to be trying to consult students actively on proposal ideas. [The fund is] a lot of money, so it’s really important that student priorities and student initiative ideas be reflected in those allocations. We’ll have a kind of a consultation period probably in October to start developing initiatives and start working with libraries. In terms of student communication, I’m hoping to push a lot of information out, but also bring a lot of information in. And so I’m going to be having some conversations with our senators and also our counsellors on how we can [improve student communication]

What challenges do you foresee this year?

Space is always a big challenge on campus. We have so many clubs and services and so little space for them to have their meetings, events, and quite frankly, to just hang out. So, a major challenge for my portfolio and probably the rest of the executives will be looking for new space, trying to maximize efficiency with the space we currently have, and coming to the realization that we won't be able to accommodate everyone at all times.

SSMU VP Finance

Arisha Khan

What did you work on this summer?

I have worked on the development of a Socially Responsible Investments Fund (SRIF). The expected launch date is between November and January, pending approval at Legislative Council and Board of Governors. I helped to introduce EmpowerMe, an unlimited counselling sessions either in person, on the phone, or over the web. All students enrolled in the dental plan are eligible. If students are receptive to this service, we will try to include it in the membership via a referenda. With regards to McGill Counselling and Psychiatry Services, I have worked on standardizing accounting services and holding consultations to determine best practices for digitizing its processes. I conducted the year-end audit, and conducted in-depth portfolio budget planning with the other execs.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on transitioning all clubs to online banking. I also am creating of a Finance and Audit Committee which will audit SSMU Services to ensure that all expenses are adhering to their mandates and fees. We [currently] do this for clubs, but not services, which does not make sense as there is more direct student money involved with SSMU Services. We are doing a disservice to members if any services are failing to meet their mandates or are misspending money. The VP Student Life and I have been looking into the centralization of SSMU Services for performance and quality management. I am working with the VP Student Life to launch MyInvolvement next semester as a funding and finance tool and club-management hub. I am building a partnership with the Scholarship and Student Aid Office’s Frugal Scholars Program to create a workshop for club and service executives. I am working with the VP UA on possible campaigns for Open Educational Resources.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

I foresee budgetary and HR allocation issues due to the [heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrade] HVAC project, and a lack of revenue from events and operations. Additionally, transitioning to new tools and softwares could be challenging. Anytime you increase internal controls, performance evaluation, or just adhere to current roles, there will be backlash.

SSMU VP Internal Affairs

Maya Koparkar

What did you work on this summer?

Frosh was the event that took up most of my time. One of the challenges this year was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chris Buddle, the dean of students, and both faculty as well as non-faculty Froshes. This MoU protects students who are doing Frosh under the Student Code of Conduct, meaning that students can seek recourse for any incidents that may have occurred in the Frosh context, both on and off-campus. I also oversaw Crash Pad, a program that provides a place in the SSMU building for commuter students to sleep during Frosh. I have also been working on our website redesign and have updated our communications to include usage of a wide variety of social media channels. Finally, I have worked to overhaul the constitution of the First Year Council to include areas that are normally underrepresented, including Off-Campus Students, Varsity Athletes, and people involved in sustainability.


What are you working on now?

One of the biggest things on my radar right now is the Students' Society Programming Network (SSPN), our event-planning committee. Within the events portfolio I intend to encourage smaller, more varied events, ensure institutional memory, and impart a recognition of equity and inclusivity within events. I will do so by instituting trainings for my committee members from groups such as OSD and OSVRSE. I am also working on creating a budget structure and events/programming calendar outline for First Year Council in order to provide guidance once the positions have been established around late September to early October.


We’ve decided to have Mental Health Awareness Week in the Winter semester, and [we will] hopefully to get our mental health committees—the outreach committee and the advocacy committee—solidified [....] by early October [....] One reason we decided to have Mental Health Awareness Week in the winter is so that we can really [utilize] student help from the mental health committees in planning that event. Another thing that I’ve been working with [SSMU President Ben Ger] and the mental health commissioners on, since the mental health commissioners fall under my portfolio, is implementing Mental Health 101 training for all incoming faculty and staff.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

The biggest challenge that we face is the discord between SSMU and the student body. Given past events, there are still many students who feel at odds, and rightfully so. Outside of that, there is a larger portion of students who feel apathetic towards SSMU. In order to engage these students, we need to earn their trust through more open lines of communication, transparency, and showing them that ultimately we are here to listen. Discord and apathy in student politics is nothing new and we surely can't solve this problem in a year alone, but we do want to let the student body know that we are committed to trying.

SSMU VP External

Connor Spencer

What upcoming projects have you been working on?

[I was] organizing for campaigns as well as looking into working with [Comités unitaires sur le travail étudiant] CUTE. I attended [the Association for the Voice of Education in Qubec] AVEQ congresses, built an External Affairs website and listserv, and worked on the strategy and planning for the process of consultation for the SSMU stand-alone Gendered and Sexualized Violence Policy. [I also] worked with the president to revitalize Francophone Affairs, which included reinstating the Commission des Affaires Francophones. I worked with the Community Affairs Commissioner on designing and overseeing three projects related to Community Affairs, including looking into student co-op housing opportunities with [Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant] UTILE. I organized the Street Teams to patrol the Milton-Parc neighbourhood during Frosh, worked on a strategy for the upcoming municipal elections, and organized the publication of the Our Turn National Strategy Against Sexual Violence.

What are you working on now?

I will continue to push the conversation around gendered and sexualized violence on campuses forward, especially following the recent release of the provincial strategy. I am running a referendum on affiliation with AVEQ, getting the three SSMU campaigns up and running, consolidating the Indigenous Affairs Commissioner, and coordinating the release of the Our Turn Strategy.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

A lot, honestly. I think this is a critical year. There is a lot of hurt from the events of last year, and we can't pretend that with a change in executive problems in the SSMU will just vanish. We have our work cut out for us, but I think it is very important for us to recognize that we cannot fix a broken system in a year, and that we need many years of many good people working on the internal workings, external communications, and accountability of SSMU.

SSMU VP University Affairs

Isabelle Oke

What did you work on this summer?

I've been working with the University Affairs Secretary General Caitlin Mehrotra to find people to fill some openings on different committees and a couple student senator spots. In addition, although the summer brought many breaks in communication with the McGill administration due to [...people being on vacation], I was able to meet with various administrators, including Student Services directors, to talk about projects coming up this year. I also started working with the Equity Commissioners to plan for the upcoming expiration of the current Equity Committee. Finally, the Know Your Rights campaign is taking place this September to promote the SSMU student rights website which summarizes McGill academic policy and lists various support services on campus.

Another thing I did over the summer was Grad Frosh [....] The event went super smoothly; I had some pretty good feedback, which is great.

What are you working on now?

I'm currently working with the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) office and VP Finance Arisha Khan to move forward initiatives to increase pathways for youth in care to post-secondary education, and to create wraparound supports for students currently here.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

There are so many projects that [my] predecessors [started], so it can be difficult sometimes to find the time and energy to start your own, so staying focused can sometimes be a challenge.

Answers were edited for length, flow, and clarity.

PGSS

PGSS Secretary General

Jacob Lavigne

Due to absence from McGill and PGSS, Jacob Lavigne was unable to comment.

PGSS Financial Affairs Officer

Matthew Satterthwaite

What did you work on this summer?

This summer I created a PGSS Library Improvement Fund Coordinator to spearhead library improvement fund projects. I was also tasked with overseeing and finalizing the audit from the previous fiscal year. In general, I was working on HR issues with the Board of Directors and supporting other executives with the budgets and expenses of their respective portfolios.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on the creation of a sponsorship commissioner position that will find sponsors that follow PGSS’ mandate. I am also seeking to improve financial transparency and preparing for the budget revision in October.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

We're currently short on full time staff and need to recruit for some positions as soon as possible. Additionally, various fees are up for referendum.

PGSS Internal Affairs Officer

Mansha Imtiyaz

What have you done this summer?

Right on the first day, I started with organizing the summer volleyball league. It went great, concluded in August, and received great feedback from the participants. Most of my summer was divided into getting sponsorships, planning logistics for Orientation, and establishing working relationships with other execs and PGSS staff. This year, we had more than 12 events for Orientation over the span of two weeks, including tours around the city, exploring Mac Campus, and the health services fair. I have also taken over PGSS’ social media pages and have been working to increase engagement and interest online.

What are you working on now?

I will be managing on Orientation until mid September, and then will be planning for trips and social parties for the coming months. I am currently working with the Innovation Commissioner and McGill Innovation Collective to organize the first Startup Weekend on Artificial Intelligence Theme in Montreal on Sept. 22. The response has been great and we are currently sold out. I am also focusing on organizing a series of events for the Mental Illness Awareness week and collaborating with CKUT radio for Live Thursdays at Thomson House. As a part of outreach, we will be collaborating with PGSS staff to revamp our communication strategies and devise better and more effective ways to connect to our members. One thing I really want to see happen this year is for PGSS Awards Night to recognize and appreciate the members who have gone out of their way to contribute to the society and PGSA’s.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

The past IAO’s have done an incredible job in building this portfolio and as such, the basic framework has been set. Now, the major challenges are communication and outreach. I am trying different avenues of reaching out to the members and collecting data and feedback to assess our strategies. It’s hard to accommodate each and everyone’s interest while planning for events and workshops but we have to try our best to be as inclusive and diverse as possible. It's a work in progress!

PGSS Academic Affairs Officer

Shufeng Zhou

What have you done this summer?

This summer I have improved PGSS member commitment and attendance both at PGSS and university committees.

What upcoming projects have you been working on?

My current agenda is to improve library space and graduate student supervision.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

There are two main issues that I want to resolve: ensuring that graduate students' needs are being appropriately addressed and improving the quality of graduate student supervision as well as making it as an institutional priority

PGSS Member Services Officer

Jenny Ann Pura

What have you done this summer?

I have worked with the executives, commissioners, and AMC (Administrative and Media Coordinator) to organize programs and initiatives for the year. I completed contracts for Leisure Courses such as yoga, zumba, language courses, first aid, and self defence. I finalized dates for Study Sessions for Parents and Kids Program (SSPKP), formally known as Study Saturdays. I attended conferences to reflect on what is happening at other academic institutions. With the family coordinator, I ran a Discover McGill session for student parents. Finally, I held orientation events for health information sessions.

What are you working on now?

Currently I am working on an initiative to supply supplemental resources to help access counselling services. I aim to release a soft launch program to evaluate user experiences with a sustainable menstrual product. I intend to provide essential skills training for our PGSA's.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

A challenge could be securing financing for new initiatives.

PGSS External Affairs Officer

Hocine Slimani

What have you done this summer?

I hosted the ThinkGrad conference to work towards the incorporation of the Canadian graduate students federation that aims to produce white papers on issues affecting students nationwide. I worked with Quebec Minister of Higher Education, Hélène David, through the Quebec Student Union to solidify the bill on sexual harassment and ensure its efficient implementation on campuses. I assisted in the creation of a mental health task force for a thorough assessment of McGill students' psychological profiles. I also aided in the creation of a task force for affordable student lodging on the McGill campus, as well as the creation of a sustainable development task force for the abolition of plastic bottles on the campuses of all Quebec universities. I assessed the impact of Article 91 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act on McGill’s Office for International Students Services. I also ensured the proper redistribution of the remaining funds of the Fédération des Étudiant(e)s Universitaires du Québec (FEUQ) through a well-framed settlement of dissolution. Finally, I collaborated with La Pépinière Espaces Collectifs for better interaction between McGill students and the Milton Park community.

What are you working on now?

I plan on continuing the above activities, planning Orientation, and populating my External Affairs Committee.

What challenges do you foresee this year?

In general, I would say the greatest challenge is continuing to be efficient in all the projects I am involved in. That is the reason why I am populating my External Affairs Committee.

Answers were edited for length, flow, and clarity.