Ikram Farah has begun a series of initiatives over the first term and has mostly been on schedule with her year-plan thus far into the academic year.
Farah worked with Metrolinx to implement extended Go bus hours on the busiest nights of Welcome Week and throughout the year, a prominent platform point for her. There are now two added trip times at night for the 47 eastbound and the 15A Aldershot routes.
Farah has also pushed for more bus shelters on campus. Currently, three out of the planned four bus shelters have been installed at Sterling Street and Forsyth Avenue and at University Avenue and Forsyth Avenue. While the Sterling Street and Forsyth Avenue shelters have been completed, the University and Forsyth stop on the hospital side is still in progress.
Improving lighting on and off campus to increase student safety was also an important year-plan target for Ikram. A few lights have been upgraded, but these projects will mostly carry into 2019 as Farah is working with city and university staff to complete the improvements.
A successful initiative for Farah was the recent launch of the “Tax Free Tuesdays” pilot project, which allowed students to purchase food from La Piazza at a 13 per cent discount.
In addition, Farah had discussions with university stakeholders about changes to the McMaster student absence form policy and exam scheduling, including opting out of back-to-back exams, which she initially proposed. However, she now believes examining the current teaching methods and assessment structures at large will better address this issue in the long-term.
”We are looking at accommodations and we are looking at students’ well-being and a lot of the mental health concerns,” Farah said. “I don’t want to look at MSAFs in isolation with exams or teaching and learning and evaluations.”
Free speech has been another important issue that has come up during Farah’s term. Farah sought out student feedback via the Student Representative Assembly. In November, she helped organize a town hall discussion where students could ask questions in an open forum.
In 2019, Farah aims to focus on exam scheduling and MSAF policies, lighting and lobbying for an international student shuttle bus.
Scott Robinson outlined 26 objectives in his year-plan and has stayed busy largely with revamping the McMaster Student Union-run restaurants.
Robinson has worked to update TwelvEighty’s menu and install new event centre flooring in the restaurant. Robinson has also helped introduce new TwelvEighty nightlife events such as trivia nights.
In addition, Robinson led efforts to rebrand and revitalize Union Market, which, according to Robinson, saw increased sales over the summer.
In partnership with the Student Activity Building ad-hoc committee, Robinson oversaw the interior design consultation campaign for the SAB, which is slated to open in 2020.
Robinson also helped implement an online loading system for the Hamilton Street Railway student presto card system through Mosaic.
In addition, Robinson is planning to release a video for the MSU in late November or early December to explain where exactly student fees go towards in the MSU. This is part of a larger effort to increase the union’s financial transparency.
Robinson has also helped improve the MSU’s social media strategy, creating video updates directly from the board.
Another one of Robinson’s projects entailed helping to implement a pilot project to use the $23,000 surplus from last year’s Welcome Week funding to buy essential items for reps and subsidize meals.
While Robinson has added more seating area to the McMaster University Student Centre, his objective of adding more moveable tables and different furniture has been more complicated than expected.
In January, Robinson will help run the “Life After Mac” program, which helps graduate students transition into the workforce.
Over the rest of his term Robinson will focus on developing the MSU’s long-term food and beverage strategy and looking at the effects of OHIP+ on the MSU health plan. He also aspires to improve new SRA members’ financial literacy before they approve the union’s 2019-2020 budget.
Stephanie Bertolo and the education team have worked to promote student engagement in two elections and continue to cultivate relationships with politicians and student groups.
The provincial election in June and municipal election in October were two major focuses for Bertolo. She organized two respective MacVotes campaigns, which included the all-candidates Ward 1 debate before the October Hamilton election.
During the campaign period, Bertolo and Farah met with all 13 Ward 1 candidates. She is also planning to meet with newly elected Ward 1 councillor Maureen Wilson in the next few weeks.
In September, Bertolo helped lead the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance #TextbookBroke campaign, which advocated for the adoption of open educational resources at the university.
Bertolo and her education team wrote the MSU's university budget submission, which included OERs, and increased funding for sexual violence response.
Over the past few weeks, the education team, led by Bertolo, wrote three policy papers for the MSU on on-campus infrastructure, student engagement and retention and tuition and student financing in post-secondary education.
Bertolo is also involved with OUSA and co-wrote their Tuition Paper, which calls for province-wide tuition freezes for all students, including international students.
As part of her “Unsettling Campus” year-plan initiative, Bertolo has begun discussions with the McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance and the Cooperative of Indigenous Studies Students and Alumni, two Indigenous student groups.
“I’m working with CISSA right now to set up a meeting with [McMaster president] Patrick Deane,” Bertolo said.
In January, Bertolo is planning to soft launch the landlord rating project for students. The rating system was originally planned for first semester, but it was pushed back.
The landlord licensing project is an ongoing city-wide initiative that Bertolo is hoping to work with Maureen Wilson and other city councillors to implement.
Over the rest of her term, Bertolo will help run the experiential education campaign in partnership with OUSA, finalize the municipal budget submission for Hamilton and further develop the unsettling campus project.
Kristina Epifano’s year-plan included thirteen objectives. Her other ongoing responsibilities entail supporting MSU part-time workers and reviewing Welcome Week and MSU hiring practices.
As promised in her year-plan, Epifano has scheduled bi-weekly or monthly meetings with each part-time manager and has held two feedback meetings for all the PTMs.
Epifano has also updated job descriptions and required skills for each MSU job opening to aid the hiring board.
She also restructured the SRA training back in May, specifically by bringing in different full-time staff to speak. Epifano promises more changes for SRA training next May.
To support MSU staff and volunteers, Epifano has also renovated the committee room to provide a better space for students to work.
Epifano chaired the first strategic themes advisory committee, which prioritized four themes for Welcome Week: responsible drinking, sexual violence response and prevention, mental health and wellness and community engagement.
Throughout the year, Epifano, Bertolo and Farah have been in talks with McMaster sexual violence response coordinator Meaghan Ross to fulfill the objective of making campus safer.
“There was a survey that went out last year that we are still waiting to get the data from, and we want to advocate to the university to increase the support we have for Meaghan Ross and survivors of sexual assault on campus,” Epifano said.
Another priority for Epifano was increasing SRA transparency. The SRA bi-weekly meetings are now live-streamed on the new SRA Facebook page, which has resulted in significantly increased views.
Epifano is currently creating Welcome Week planner job descriptions, which she hopes will better ensure that hired individuals are qualified. She has also been collecting feedback from first years and looking into the possibility of turning the welcome week planner role into a paid position.
In January, Epifano will oversee the second round of hiring for PTMs, present her Welcome Week research findings and begin planning training for PTMs and the incoming SRA. Beyond that, she will begin planning the strategic themes for Welcome Week 2019 and continue her support of sexual violence education and response.
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Following their election by the Student Representative Assembly on April 7 and 8, Scott Robinson, Kristina Epifano and Stephanie Bertolo were installed as McMaster Students Union vice presidents on May 1, joining the Board of Directors with MSU president Ikram Farah.
What the incoming vice presidents have in common is a high degree of experience and knowledge about the MSU, something reflected in the leaders’ confidence in the feasibility of their platforms.
“I’m looking forward to focusing on the entirety of my platform. I wouldn’t have put projects on there that I didn’t think were achievable in the year,” said Robinson, vice president (Finance), who plans to modernize the MSU’s communications strategy, make additions to services such as Compass and the Underground and develop partnerships with local businesses.
When it comes to TwelvEighty, Robinson seeks to advocate for a menu redesign and possibly expand seating at The Grind into the TwelvEighty event centre. He also has plans to use The Grind as an after-hours event space for clubs and increase the number of products offered.
Robinson’s experiences as associate vice president (Finance), SRA caucus leader (Commerce) and chair of the finance committee for the Student Activity Building Space, allocation committee, sponsorship and donations committee and the programming advisory committee have prepared him for the financial nuances of his role.
“I am looking forward to engaging students in the Student Life Enhancement Fund, focusing heavily on the design and construction of the Student Activity Building and Fitness Expansion, and redesigning the idea submission and voting process and timelines for the Student Life Enhancement Fund to engage more students in the 100k fund,” he said.
Two of Robinson’s goals for the near future include introducing “Rep Support,” a project aimed at supplying Welcome Week reps with subsidized meals, food, water and sunscreen and renovating the MSU clubs storage system to add usable storage space.
Epifano is also armed with MSU experience, having served as both a customer service representative and Internal Coordinator at Compass, leadership developer for Creating Leadership Amongst Youth and associate vice president (Services) during her undergrad at the university.
“This really helped me better understand what it was like to be a manager in the students union. I got to meet and work with a lot of the full-time staff which allowed me to come into this role feeling more comfortable, as I already had a working relationship with many people in the office,” she said.
In her new role, Epifano plans to improve volunteer training and ensure that peer support services are knowledgeable about supporting intersectional identities, reform training to focus on small group rotational sessions, incorporate full-time staff in training and create a how-to guide for SRA and part-time managers to access during the term.
“I created my platform in a way that was achievable but still made a difference. Rather than coming in with big new ideas, I decided it was more important to focus on strengthening the foundations and improving what we currently do,” said Epifano, who wants to standardize hiring practices over the summer by having the hiring board meet prior to reading cover letters and resumes, work to revise the campus-wide crisis protocol and work with Farah and Robinson to ensure that GO bus hours are extended during Welcome Week.
“The areas of my platform that I really want to focus on this year is enhancing our peer support department and the administrative aspects of the role,” said Epifano.
In addition to Robinson and Epifano, Bertolo, vice president (Education), held a number of roles within the MSU, serving as associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), community engagement coordinator for the education team and as a delegate for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance.
“I believe my involvement in the education team and some of our services has provided me with a strong background to understand the context of a lot of the issues that will come up throughout the year,” said Bertolo. “The relationships I developed in these roles will allow me to continue to work well with partners on shared priorities.”
With a focus on improving the accessibility of education, Bertolo aspires to make a number of additions to the university’s policies and services, spearhead new advocacy initiatives at the municipal, provincial and federal level and improve MSU services, particularly the education department.
Some platform plans include advocating for a reduction in schedule conflicts during exams, the adoption of Open Educational Resources, a No-Sick Note Policy, OHIP for international students and more funding for race-based initiatives with the President’s Advisory Committee On Building an Inclusive Community.
When asked which platform points she wishes to focus on, Bertolo expressed interest in advocating for increased post-secondary affordability through base-funding for universities, pushing for safer student housing and ensuring that OSAP considers the higher costs of education for students in professional programs.
During the next few months, the vice presidents will be meeting with key stakeholders, solidifying their year-plans and laying the groundwork for a productive upcoming term.
Photo: Haley Greene
In Preethi Anbalagan’s year plan, she listed seven objectives she wished to achieve during her term as vice president (Administration). The majority of her year plan focused on supporting her staff, whether that be part-time managers, associate vice presidents or Student Representative Assembly members.
Anbalagan achieved the majority of the points within her first objective to strengthen training delivery. Anbalagan was not able to develop a formalized Safe(r) Training model with campus models due to the number of external organizations involved with this process.
To support the SRA, Anbalagan utilized the associate vice president (Internal Governance) to facilitate caucus leader meetings. Although she was able to cluster platform points and other aspects of her SRA support objectives, Anbalagan did not create a resource library for the SRA or offer skill-building workshops.
Anbalagan was able to hold one-on-one meetings with her part-time managers and create feedback mechanisms, among other achievements, but did not create a collaborative space for part-time managers, which would mainly entail renovating the current space in the MSU office for part-time managers. According to Anbalagan, this was simply due to the timeline for renovations.
Anbalagan also worked with associate vice presidents to settle them into their roles, as this was the first year their positions existed.
Anbalagan also completed the majority of hiring for the next term, with only three positions remaining open. She recommends that the incoming vice president (Administration) prepare for hiring in September.
Anbalagan also attempted to improve the human resources aspects of the MSU. She has worked with the operations coordinator to create a equity statement and an workplace accommodations policy, which is still being researched.
The last major aspect of Anbalagan’s year plan involved her role in planning Welcome Week. Anbalagan was able to highlight governance and services during Welcome Week, introduce new programming and bystander training. She was not able to successfully coordinate with the Society of Off-Campus Students, however, and instead added Community Engagement to Welcome Week’s strategic themes to ensure students interact with the city of Hamilton and better connect off-campus students to the university.
Deshpande had a particularly ambitious year plan, with 29 objectives. These objectives range from improving marketing to implementing policies in the MSU to advocating on the federal level.
Deshpande’s first four objectives involved maintaining the quality and outreach of MSU policymaking. To improve their outreach, he and his education team created a separate “MSU Advocacy” Facebook page, which they updated throughout the year. Deshpande also formally trained his education team this year, in addition offering a short training during the part-time manager and SRA member training.
Deshpande ran two policy conferences this year, which produced six different policy papers. He also worked with the new education committees to make sure they functioned effectively this year and reintroduced the sustainability committee, who have made strides to add compost bins around campus. Deshpande also conducted a review of McMaster’s health services.
Deshpande attempted to improve the efficacy of the Academic Affairs Council, which is comprised of members from every faculty society to discuss their needs, but due to low turnout, this did not go as he planned.
Although food security was a big point on his year plan, Deshpande did not pursue it as strongly due to McMaster Hospitality Services working with other student groups to make campus food more accessible.
Deshpande did make strides with respect to supporting Indigenous students on campus, by actively working with Indigenous groups such as the Cooperative of Indigenous Students and Alumni.
Deshpande also made sure to submit budget recommendations to both the university and the municipal government, thus ensuring students’ needs may be reflected in their budget discussions.
Deshpande worked with Chukky Ibe, MSU (president) and the Student Community Support Network coordinator to create neighbourhood assistance programs and make students more aware of bylaws. Deshpande did not complete the landlord wiki project this year, but states that the incoming vice president (Education) simply has to create the website.
Deshpande also regularly advocated on the municipal level and fulfilled nearly all aspects of his year plan regarding municipal affairs. He has worked with the Ontario University Student Alliance to ensure students vote in upcoming elections and has created a plan for his successor.
When it comes to federal and provincial advocacy, Deshpande took an active role, whether that be by advocating with OUSA to create policy papers, pushing a mental health strategy, attending the Canadian Alliance of Students conference or lobbying with Adovcan.
D’Souza’s year plan largely focused on creating new forms forms of revenue for the student union and re-evaluating aspects of its business units.
D’Souza successfully added a cafe to the TwelvEighty space, although this project was pushed back from its initial open date multiple times. With that said, the Grind, the café he opened, has consistently turned a profit since its opening. D’Souza also wanted to add online ordering to TwelvEighty, but had to halt this project as it proved to be too expensive.
D’Souza also reassessed TwelvEighty club nights, which were plagued with low attendance in years past. D’Souza cancelled poorly-attended club nights to free up the space for other rentals. His efforts yielded a 40 per cent decrease in overall costs and 10 per cent increase in attendance per club night. D’Souza has also begun expanding the number of premium events offered to students.
In addition, D’Souza focused on creating more experiential opportunities for McMaster students. The MSU now has a seat on the Hire@McMaster campaign, a campaign set to launch at the end of April to encourage the hiring of McMaster graduates. The MSU will ensure that this campaign is connected to MSU clubs to broadcast employment opportunities to as many students as possible.
D’Souza also planned on creating a sponsorship and fundraising package to be given out to any MSU service undertaking fundraisers to support plans. This was delegated to the associate vice president (Finance) and was set to begin in the first semester, but is still being completed.
D’Souza also held workshops for club leaders to teach student leaders how to effectively budget and estimate costs associated with events, and these will continue in the coming years.
D’Souza expanded the MSU budget fair to have multiple locations on campus in order to increase transparency concerning the MSU’s budget spending.
D’Souza stopped his plans on creating a discount card for MSU members after having discussions with the advertising wing of the MSU and decided there would be a better way of offering students discounts and deals not already offered in the MSU Almanac or MSU Student Survival Guide.
D’Souza is also having ongoing conversations with the Graduate Student Association as he evaluates the MSU Child Care Center. He is currently exploring the possibility of creating a child care bursary with the GSA.
D’Souza also helped implement the Presto U-Pass, converted Frost Week to Life After Mac and completed a wage review for all part-time employees.
Ibe had 12 objectives in his year plan, each of which had its own set of projects, many of which he achieved during his term.
Of the projects under his first objective to “Open Up the MSU”, Ibe was only able to expand the Student Life Enhancement Fund to include the ideas of previous MSU presidential candidates and host MSU open houses. The majority of the projects stalled because they were not a priority or they lacked the correct infrastructure to complete.
With respect to accessibility, Ibe has worked with the MacPherson Institute as they research best practices for professors and has had meetings with the President’s Advisory Committee to Building an Inclusive Community to discuss the creation of an accessibility policy.
In order to reduce campus waste, Ibe worked with campus partners to run electronic waste drives. He was not, however, able to expand the green container program, due to a miscommunication with McMaster Hospitality Services.
Ibe has also worked with the MSU general manager to optimize student technology by having conversations with University Technology Services. He also helped launch TechLit Week, an awareness campaign meant to teach students how to effectively use and dispose of technology.
To improve the off-campus experience, Ibe helped create a off-campus community advisor program and restructured SCSN to improve its outreach. It should be noted that this program was not popular this year, but McMaster Residence Life plans to rectify this by reducing the fee associated with it.
To promote better governance, Ibe launched the McMaster People Project, a project aimed at promoting students to run for an SRA position.
To continue to support student communities, Ibe also introduced an MSU clubs loan portal to decrease the financial burden of clubs executives. He also worked with the clubs administrator to hold a recognition night for MSU clubs.
Ibe also launched his Caring Communities Network project this year and hopes to see it continued under new leadership in the coming weeks.
He has also worked with campus partners and OUSA to lower the cost of textbooks and increase the number of open education resources available to students.
Ibe has also made strides to address food security by working with the Mac Bread Bin director to create a grocery delivery system, which he hopes will be operational in the coming months.
At the Student Representative Assembly meeting on Nov. 26, the SRA and Board of Directors voted to send the Ontario Public Interest Research Group fee to referendum in January 2018.
The McMaster OPIRG fee referendum will come in the wake of the vote at the University of Toronto, which occurred in November 2017 but failed to meet quorum. It will also follow the referenda held the University of Waterloo in 2016 and at Queen’s University in 2012, where students voted to eliminate their OPIRG fee.
OPIRG is a province-wide organization that advocates for environmental and social justice. The group consists of chapters at 11 universities in Ontario. By facilitating free training workshops for students and funding working groups, such as the McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance, OPIRG supports grassroots activism.
Currently, McMaster students pay a $8.07 OPIRG fee, which has been included in the ancillary fees since 1995. While students can opt out of paying the fee, they may only do so by visiting the OPIRG office.
While the McMaster Students Union has not re-evaluated the OPIRG fee in the past, the Assembly has scrutinized how it has been allocated.
In November 2017, the SRA finance committee called for the impending referendum in light of OPIRG McMaster’s failure to sufficiently advertise the opt-out option.
While the McMaster Students Union has not re-evaluated the OPIRG fee in the past, the Assembly has scrutinized how it has been allocated.
In particular, in December 2016, former MSU vice president (Finance) Ryan MacDonald reported to OPIRG that the Assembly was concerned about the fact that $145,000 of the $180,000 OPIRG funding was supporting administrative costs rather than working groups.
MacDonald also noted the Assembly’s interest in making the opt-out option available online.
At the Nov. 26 SRA meeting, Brett Cox, a representative from OPIRG, noted that in September 2018, the OPIRG opt-out will be moved online and that OPIRG will increase its working group funding by $50.
The SRA ultimately voted in favour of sending the fee to referendum. The ballot will contain three options: preserve the $8.07 fee, reduce it to $5.50 or eliminate the fee entirely.
MSU vice president (Finance) Daniel “Tuba” D’Souza, who proposed the $5.50 option, explains that this number is not arbitrary.
“This fee reduction would allow OPIRG to continue functioning in a similar capacity, providing funds for one to two permanent part-time staff members in addition to a significant portion of their current funding for programming and working groups,” said D’Souza during the Nov. 26 SRA meeting.
Nevertheless, Jonathan Patterson, another OPIRG representative, highlights that this option would be problematic, resulting in the reduction of one OPIRG staff member.
Sahra Soudi, OPIRG volunteer and former board member, also believes the organization should not be sent to referendum, particularly in light of the rise of conservatism at the university.
“The skills I gained as an OPIRG board member have actually helped me and how I organize on campus as an activist as the co-president of the McMaster Womanists,” said Soudi. “OPIRG supports these groups and social justice initiatives. Without OPIRG, I’m afraid our campus will not be the same.”
The SRA voted in favour of endorsing the $5.50 fee option.
“Overall it seems the SRA thought the $5.50 option would be a way to maintain OPIRG and their services while reducing the amount that students contribute,” said Helen Zeng, SRA Speaker.
The campaign period for the referendum will start on Jan. 14, and polling will be open online from Jan. 23 to 25.
As the News Editor, I have made the executive decision to cut the McMaster Students Union board of directors report card we typically print in the last issue of the Silhouette before the exam break. Instead, we will print a check-in where we consider how far the board has come with their year plans.
In previous years, the Silhouette published report cards where the staff evaluated the work the board has done so far in their term. As a part of this team last year, this process was fraught with issues.
First and foremost, the report card style unfairly favoured the vice president (Education) and vice president (Finance), as they are able to easily prove they have completed aspects of their year plans.
The vice president (Administration)’s job focuses on supporting employees and handling the day-to-day problems of the union, while the president focuses on long term projects. These are often difficult to prove and would result in lower marks relative to other board members, something I did not appreciate about the report card format.
In addition, we often run into gaps in knowledge that often cannot be filled without causing issues for those we ask. It is unfair of us to ask MSU employees to go on the record and speak against their superiors when their term is not yet over, but this was often what we had to do to confirm the board’s job performance. It was rare people would feel comfortable speaking out on the record, and I would not expect them to do so.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the report card format was a fantastic way to jolt the board to work harder toward their goals and bring attention to their successes and failures. But grading the board would either imply one board member is better than the others, lack the information needed to be accurate or ask people to disparage their superiors on the record. None of these are ideal but unless we can address each of these concerns, the board’s report card will always fall flat.
With this in mind, the board has to start addressing some of these concerns on their own. There should be a formalized system for MSU employees and members to address their concerns and then publicize this feedback. As paying members of the MSU, people deserve to know what the board is doing during their terms.
To their credit, the board does relay information about their work to the public via social media and their weekly President’s Page in every issue of the Silhouette. But without an open and anonymous forum to discuss the success of their work, it will be difficult to analyze their work.
The check-in will focus on what the board has done and hopefully this will spark a discussion about whether or not the board has achieved enough since their election.
I have a question for the 2016-2017 McMaster Students Union Board of Directors: how much time did any of them spend in the Pulse?
Shockingly, adding a gym fee to everyone’s student fees means that more people are actually going to go to the gym. The spacing problems associated with this would be evident to anyone who has ever walked past the Pulse sign-in desk.
The Pulse is always packed at 6 a.m. when I go. It is packed at 11:30 a.m. when our Arts & Culture Editor goes. It is packed at 6 p.m. when our Photo Reporter goes. No matter when you try to squeeze in a workout, you’re squeezed in with more bodies than you thought could occupy the treadmills, deadlift platforms or studio.
I could spend my word count rehashing the gripes of anyone who has spent time at the Pulse this year, but it’s really just the most current example of a larger issue on campus.
There is a trend among cohorts of the board that they undertake a large project they will likely not see to completion. We saw it in the 2014-2015 academic year when Teddy Saull’s “Perspectives on Peace” gesture was launched in March 2015 only to seemingly fizzle out after his term.
We saw it when the 2015-2016 board, spearheaded by Ehima Osazuwa, advocated for the implementation of all-genders washrooms. This has only begun to come together as of this fall, which is over a year since he left office.
And we saw it with the 2016-2017 board, who pushed for the Student Activity Building without having to consider the growing pains-style consequences of that referendum’s details.
Burnout is an easy feeling to understand, and this is especially true for university students. I can understand why, after a tiring year, the board would desire to leave a legacy at the institution they’ve worked hard to change. But to students, this can be interpreted as pursuing vanity projects on their dime.
As someone who has struggled with elements of the gym for a long time, I appreciate the previous board’s intention to make the Pulse a more inclusive environment. But the increased crowds no matter what time you go, unless you’re one of the few who make use of their extended weeknight hours, does nothing to quell those negative feelings.
The slight animosity towards those impeding on your personal space at the gym is a horrible feeling, especially when it’s probable that they are working out before dawn to avoid crowds, just like you. Given that first years will not see the opening of the Student Activity Building until the latter part of their third year, promising increased space three years from now is of little comfort to most of the student body.
The quick-fix pop-up Pulse, set to open in one of the auxiliary gyms after the fall reading week, may make me eat my words. Frankly, I doubt it. Even if it is successful in diverting some traffic, it will stand that last year’s board never worked out how you’re going to work out for the foreseeable future.
Ryan Deshpande, vice president (Education), acts as a voting member of the Student Representative Assembly and Executive Board and as an ex-officio member of all other McMaster Students Union committees. He is also responsible for chairing the Academic Affairs Council, developing external lobbying strategies and spearheading MSU policy concerning municipal, provincial and federal politics.
Deshpande’s year plan emphasized the need for improvements to McMaster’s exam schedule policies and increased campus accessibility for students with disabilities. Deshpande also proposed sexual violence prevention training for students and the creation of a syllabus repository for undergraduate courses.
Over the last few months, Deshpande has laid the necessary groundwork, establishing numerous committees and working to ensure that sexual violence prevention is an Ontario University Students’ Alliance priority.
While successful on some fronts, many of Deshpande’s ambitious plans hinge on McMaster’s willingness to adopt them.
“Exam schedule changes will hopefully happen this year, as I am putting forward recommendations as the university reviews their policy this summer. The syllabus repository will require a coordinated effort across all faculties, though hopefully by the end of this year there will be something created that can later be filled,” said Deshpande.
Deshpande’s platform also consists of detailed municipal, provincial and federal advocacy plans. Some of these include increasing the MSU’s presence at Hamilton city council meetings, introducing landlord rating and licensing systems for off-campus students, supporting OUSA advocacy and lobbying the government to remove the two per cent funding cap on the Post-Secondary Student Support Program for Indigenous students. Deshpande has also started writing OUSA’s Indigenous Students policy and collaborating with a federal advocacy group that lobbies on behalf of undergraduate students’ needs.
Daniel “Tuba” D’Souza, vice president (Finance), is responsible for overseeing the MSU’s finance department. His role entails budgeting, providing advisory services to business units, service units, the board of directors, Executive Board, and the SRA, chairing the Silhouette Board of Publication and developing initiatives that improve the MSU’s fiscal status quo.
In his year plan, D’Souza proposed the creation of a new TwelvEighty, which would offer students affordable gourmet food and specialty beverages.
After receiving a capital allocation from the SRA and fast-tracking the logistics of the project, over the last few months, D’Souza was able to implement his most ambitious platform point. While developing his proposal, D’Souza noted the old TwelvEighty’s decline in food sales and low club night attendance.
To boost sales, D’Souza will be implementing an online ordering system wherein students can pay via phone and pick up food on the way to class. To increase club night attendance, D’Souza proposed that club nights be limited to popular dates and each club night be given a unique theme.
The new TwelvEighty, with the addition of a café and study spot, is expected to open towards the end of October.
“For the first time ever we will be having five large concerts in the month of September and have completely revamped our club nights with a change in frequency, change in music and the addition of themes,” said D’Souza.
Two other projects at the forefront of D’Souza’s agenda include a large-scale consultation plan for the new Student Activity Building, plus a “McMaster Student Economic Engagement Strategy” aimed at outlining the ways in which the MSU plans to engage students in experimental and professional development opportunities.
As MSU vice president (Administration), Preethi Anbalagan is responsible for serving as the Vice-Chair of the Executive Board, Deputy Speaker of the SRA and voting member of the SRA and Executive Board, bridging the gap between the SRA, the Executive Board, and part-time managers and ensuring that adequate training is provided to PTMs and committee chairs.
In her year plan, Anbalagan emphasized improvements to SRA, PTM and associate-vice president support and training. She also stressed the importance of the creation of an employment equity statement and better navigation of human resources issues.
For Welcome Week, Anbalagan promised to strategically plan themes, expand bystander intervention training to a larger student audience, run pre-Welcome Week events in areas of high commuter population for off-campus students and integrate the SRA and other campus services into Welcome Week.
This summer, Anbalagan invested a generous amount of time into training over 50 paid employees and preparing for Welcome Week.
“Now overseeing our strategic themes, I’ve spent quite a bit of time event-planning and connecting with campus and off-campus partners to coordinate and plan unique events and messaging that fall within the realm of mental health, sexual violence prevention and response and alcohol awareness,” said Anbalagan.
As the MSU’s President, Ibe is the primary spokesperson for the student union. He chairs the Executive Board, board of directors and the Presidents’ Council, serves as an active voting member of the SRA and the Executive Board and represents the MSU to McMaster, Hamilton and government organizations.
In his 2017-2018 year plan, Ibe highlighted 11 key objectives; the first consisted of a strategy to ensure that MSU’s interests are aligned with those of its student constituency. His other primary objectives showcased the need for improvements to textbook affordability, the off-campus experience, food delivery, student communities, partnerships between student societies and the wellness centre, campus accessibility for students with mobility restrictions and Wi-Fi access on campus.
“I am proud to have played a significant role in ensuring improvements to wireless services are student centred and more student input is provided through the UTS governing board and student satisfaction surveys,” said Ibe.
This summer, communicating with the Student Wellness Centre and The Student Wellness and Education Lower Lounge, Ibe has been working to implement the McMaster caring communities network and localize health and wellness service to student communities. His food delivery program, which will allow students to order affordable food to their student houses, is expected to be in full force as of September.
While meeting with deans and associate deans, Ibe was able to discuss affordable courseware, early adoption of course materials, open educational resources and the off-campus experience.
“There is a broad consensus from all parties that improving support for off-campus and international students are overdue,” said Ibe.
On April 1 and 2, incoming Student Representative Assembly members voted in the new McMaster Students Union vice presidents. Preethi Anbalagan was elected for vice president (Administration), Daniel D’Souza for vice president (Finance) and Ryan Deshpande for vice president (Education). The newly elected vice presidents will be joining president Chukky Ibe on the 2017-2018 Board of Directors.
For the first time, the entire Board of Directors belong to a marginalized minority, something reflected in the focus on diversity and inclusion in all the vice president-elects’ platforms.
Anbalagan’s platform includes multiple points about how to support the SRA, part-time managers and associate vice presidents employed by the MSU. Among the points that stand out is the centralization and accessibility of resources.
She plans to increase accessibility to resources for the SRA and make herself more accessible by centralizing information pertinent to both groups. She hopes that the shared resources will foster collaboration between members with similar platforms and goals. She also plans to focus on helping SRA members stand up for their opinions, plans to run skill-building workshops for SRA members to work on strengthening their voice.
Anbalagan also plans to initiate a summer conference style orientation for part-time managers and the SRA. The orientation will replace the existing MSU Retreat.
Another major focus for Anbalagan is safety on campus. She wants to create a formalized online training module for how to contribute to a safer campus and to expand bystander intervention training to more reps and students on campus that will be running large Welcome Week events.
Off-campus students also have a place on Anbalagan’s platform, as she plans to pilot events and social gatherings in areas of high commuter population prior to welcome week and to increase visibility of campus services and the SRA during Welcome Week.
D’Souza’s platform complements Anbalagan’s programming for off-campus students well, though this is more of a minor point for D’Souza. Instead, D’Souza plans to focus on affordable food and space, experiential work opportunities and diverse programming and outreach.
D’Souza plans to address two longstanding campus issues that students care about: space and affordable food. D’Souza hopes to convert the unused space at TwelvEighty to create a joint restaurant and lounge and coffee shop similar to the model other universities already use.
D’Souza also plans to cut some of the most non-profitable endeavours of TwelvEighty’s expenses, such as some Thursday club nights that have been poorly attended in the past. D’Souza hopes to use the free nights and decreased cost of renting TwelvEighty to encourage diversity programming. As for food, D’Souza wants to stock Union Market with fresh groceries through Farmstand during non-operating days in the summer and fall and an outside source in the winter.
D’Souza plans to foster a partnership with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce to increase opportunities for students in chamber events and local business. He hopes to use the MSU job portal to advertise for these jobs. D’Souza also emphasizes bystander intervention training and stresses that his goals for diverse programming and the potential use of the John Hodgins Engineering building field for on-campus concerts will not come to fruition unless this training is in place.
Deshpande takes an evidence-based approach to his main platform points, which are education, safety, diversity and food security.
After seeing the data from the Academic Services Review survey, he plans to lobby for revised exam scheduling and to enforce the assessment ban through an anonymous appeals process.
Among his points are podcasted courses and extended library hours, although Deshpande was not specific in how he would approach these points. Additionally, Deshpande will tackle the syllabus repository that students passed in the January referendum.
Deshpande also plans to lobby for accessibility, focusing on advocating for the university to use deferred maintenance funds to increase physical accessibility on campus. He also plans to work with Ibe to improve bus shelters and Wi-Fi on campus and increase the number of gender-neutral washrooms. Deshpande plans to revisit the conversation about an Indigenous course requirement and to advocate for Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe flags on campus. Similar to his fellow vice presidents, Deshpande wants to push for all undergraduate students to be trained in sexual violence prevention during Welcome Week. He also plans to lobby for expanded OHIP and UHIP coverage to include healthcare costs associated with a response to sexual violence.
Deshpande’s food security platform point includes the implementation of a food security analyst, readily available allergy information, increased Kosher and Halal options and improved local food opportunities.
The incoming vice presidents all have platforms that complement each other and their president-elect, promising a cohesive board of directors set up well to succeed in their upcoming term.
This article has been updated to correct a platform point of Daniel D'Souza. Originally, we wrote that D'Souza's potential partnership with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce would provide opportunities for the SRA. In fact, the partnership could provide opportunities for all undergraduate students.
Ryan MacDonald’s role as vice president (Finance) comprises the standard duties of overseeing the MSU’s budget, providing financial insight and some advocacy work.
Clarity and transparency have been points of focus over the course of his term thus far; MacDonald has made efforts to break down dense financial jargon into understandable monthly statements that may be accessed through the MSU website.
In addition, he hosted an MSU Open House event on Nov. 28, which gives the chance for students to talk to Board of Directors and SRA in a Q&A manner as they break down student fees and possible changes for the 2017/2018 budget cycle.
“We want to create a way where people can provide input, but in a way that is easy to use and students aren’t afraid to be able to speak up and say what they want to.”
MacDonald has without a doubt taken full advantage of his freedom in day-to-day activities to develop numerous projects with the student financial interest in mind. From revamping the TwelvEighty Business Plan, to evaluating Clubs funding, HSR Presto negotiation, Emergency Bursary and many more, Ryan has gone above and beyond with project planning and execution.
One of his largest projects this year was Homecoming. The concert package set a record with the third largest revenue driven by any campus concert in the province. Due to the Homecoming event, Campus Events had its best performance financially in at least the last five years.
While the vice president (Finance) is typically involved in advocacy, MacDonald has shown remarkable interest by serving as a delegate for the recent Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance general assembly. On top of this, he was published on the OUSA Ancillary Fees Policy Paper, which discussed topics such as standalone ancillary fee protocol, transparency, student control and fair cost sharing.
MacDonald’s record is blemished with the recent incidences involving the Exclusive Club Card. As per his memo on the ECC referendum, MacDonald claimed there was no opt-out period for the card. In fact, there was an opt-out period. MacDonald retracted that statement.
As the union’s Chief Administrative Officer, Shaarujaa Nadarajah’s role is mainly focused on maintaining and supporting the day-to-day operations of each MSU service.
Currently, Nadarajah only holds check-ins with part-time managers once a term and during the each service’s peak usage, meaning each PTM meets with Nadarajah a few times throughout the year for half-hour meetings discussing the strengths and weaknesses of their service. PTMs may ask for more proactive check-ins, and Nadarajah has highlighted that some PTMs have asked for this.
Nadarajah also holds monthly meetings with all SRA caucus leaders in order to help them fulfill their platform, meaning that SRA members are also being supported in that respect.
While it makes sense to move attention to peak usage months, having one official meeting per term means that PTMs are only meeting with their direct superior a handful of times throughout their terms and places much of the onus of support on PTMs themselves. Thus, Nadarajah has offered adequate, but not exceptional support to PTMs and SRA members.
With that said, Nadarajah has done a commendable job fulfilling her platform, by restructuring SRA training, clustering services’ trainings and debriefs and running workshops to aid people outside of the “MSU bubble” apply for positions with the MSU.
In addition, Nadarajah plans on implementing a blended learning format to SRA training mimicking the format of Welcome Week training, where SRA members may learn the more bureaucratic aspects of their role through online modules, and focus on professional development during the weekend retreat held in June.
Nadarajah has also made strides in making various MSU services more accessible for the general public, by implementing workshops and information nights for individuals to come and reach out to PTMs, something that often hinders people from volunteering with various MSU services.
Nadarajah has taken on other projects, such as sitting on the space audit committee, which took a look at the way MSU space is allocated, which occurred during the summer. The final audit found that the Maroons did not need an office, and re-allocated that space to Maccess, as well as shifting the distribution of storage space for services in the MSU committee room.
Nadarajah has also been involved with various campaigns in order to support various SRA members.
It is clear that while Nadarajah may not offer exceptional support to her staff, she has made efforts in other administrative areas to better the union and has been proactive in the McMaster community.