Students elect new president

Ivan Neilson to lead SSMU Exec

By Pascal Zamprelli

Last Thursday, students gathered at Gert’s, as is tradition, to hear the results of this year’s Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) elections. Arts Senator Ivan Neilson was elected the next President of SSMU, capturing 50.8 per cent of the 3,631 ballots cast, to his sole opponent Marshall Peters’s 38.2 per cent (11 per cent of ballots were spoiled).

In the only other contested election, two-term SSMU councilor Alexandra Brown defeated Queer McGill Co-administrator Brendan Sullivan for the position of Vice-President (Internal). Rounding out the 2009-2010 Executive will be four acclaimed candidates: Rebecca Dooley will serve as Vice-President (University Affairs), Jose Diaz will be Vice-President (Finance and Operations), Sarah Olle will serve as Vice-President (Clubs and Services), and Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan will be Vice-President (External).

A number of other initiatives were also on the ballot, all of which passed. They included a referendum on changes to SSMU’s General Assembly regulations, renewals of the McGill Undergraduates Student Fund and Athletics and Recreation Facilities Improvement Fund fees, and increases to fees for Student Services, Athletics and Recreation, and the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG). The QPIRG fee increase is subject to some controversy, however, because it passed with only 48.3 per cent of votes cast (46.4 per cent were opposed, and the rest were spoiled). It may be up to the SSMU Judicial Board to interpret the meaning of “simple majority.”

But the presidency is the big prize and was the most closely watched race. Neilson, a U3 student majoring in economics minoring in finance, felt the stress of a hard-fought campaign and the anxiety of waiting for the results dissipate upon hearing the news. “It was a relief to be finally through the process,” he said. “And I was just happy that this was something that I was going to have the opportunity to do.”

During his tenure, Neilson hopes to address such issues as finding ways to get local Montrealers (of which he is one) more involved in campus life, SSMU’s external representation, and the structures governing ancillary fees. As for the team he’ll be working with, “I’m very excited about them,” he said. “We’re a diverse group, and I think that will give us a strong team. Everyone has a different background but we all have a common goal, and we’re all looking in the same direction. We all want to give as much as possible to students.”

Outgoing President Kay Turner also has plenty of faith in the incoming members of the new executive, most of whom she has worked with. “I think that they’ll all be good,” she said. “I’m hoping that they will be able to accomplish a lot.”

Reflecting on her own year as president, Turner said she’s very satisfied with what her team has accomplished, despite how quickly the time passed. “You start the year with so many goals, and you’re lucky if you really only accomplish three or four of them,” she said. “We’ve been lucky this year because we’ve been able to do that.”

Turner offered some words of advice to her successor: “Don’t get so stressed out,” she counseled. “It’s easy to say that, but when you get an unsolvable problem, which you get almost daily, just breathe and think about it. You’re going to be able to solve the problem, and it’s going to be a lot more fun if you don’t freak out while you’re doing it. Try to enjoy it a little bit, because it will be over very quickly.”