Larson wins SSMU presidency in a cakewalk
Takes 60 per cent of the vote
By Neale McDevitt
Katie Larson was the big winner of Friday’s Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) elections, prevailing in the race for SSMU President over Chris Bangs. Despite the fact all three student newspapers endorsed Bangs going into the election, Larson won by a wide margin, taking 59.5 per cent of the vote against Bangs’s 40.5 per cent. Voter turnout for this year’s election was 29.1 per cent – almost identical to last year’s participation rate.
Larson attributed much of her success to her campaign strategy to personally meet and talk to as many students as possible. “I focused mainly on doing classroom announcements and talking to as many students on campus as I could,” said the president-elect. “Since I ran on a platform about representing students, I made a point to sit down and talk to students around campus. I prefer talking to people rather than at them, and found it valuable to be able to talk to students in groups of two or three about why I was running and my ideas for next year.”
Of the six races for positions on the SSMU executive, the one for President was the most compelling, pitting Bang, often an outspoken critic of the administration, against Larson, who has been portrayed in the student media as more conciliatory.
“First, I can’t say that I haven’t been critical of the administration at times either. However, I have had three years of experience working as a SSMU Councilor, with SSMU groups, with clubs and with funding and with my Faculty Association. These experiences have led me to meet with a variety of people in the administration from people at the faculty-level in music all the way up to the Provost, Deputy Provost and Principal,” said Larson. “Through these interactions it is clear to me that although students and administration disagree, it is important to target criticisms to the source and make an effort to understand the reasons behind decisions being made. Even though we as student leaders may not always see eye-to-eye with the administration, a mutual effort to understand both sides of the issue has been most productive.”
Larson’s win wasn’t the most one-sided of the evening. Tyler Hofmeister garnered 71.7 percent of the vote en route to his election as VP Finance and Operations. Hofmeister beat Thomas Kim, who received 28.3 per cent of the vote.
The closest contest of the night was for VP Internal, with current Arts Undergraduates’ Society VP External Affairs Brian Farnan eking out the victory over Julia Kryluk by a razor-thin margin of 3.6 percentage points.
In another tight race, Joey Shea was elected VP University Affairs with 52.1 per cent of the voted compared to 47.9 per cent for her opponent, Sam Gregory.
A pair of executive positions went to candidates who ran unopposed. The position of VP Clubs & Services went to Stefan Fong, with 88.5 per cent approval, while Sam Harris was elected VP External with 89.3 per cent approval.
Although the 2013-14 SSMU executive is just a few days old, Larson is looking forward to working with the other members. “I am excited for the executive next year,” she said. “What I have seen so far is that they are excited and willing to learn. I was impressed with the amount of work I saw during the campaign, and I am confident that they are going to be as committed as myself next year.”
With the elections behind her, Larson is gearing up for what looks to be a busy mandate beginning in the fall. “One of my main objectives is to tackle some big academic issues such as the availability of course evaluations and academic advising. The conversations around these two issues have been going on the entire time I have been here, and I am excited to put the ideas I have heard into actionable plans,” she said. “Additionally, I would like McGill to seize the opportunity to promote equity and community on its campus. This is a more general statement, but something McGill should be putting time and effort into if it wants to stay as a relevant and unique place for all students to want to come to study.”
Referendum questions regarding increasing the Athletics fee and the Student Services ancillary fees both passed. These fees will now be indexed to inflation. The questions regarding the creation of a McGill Writing Centre, the creation of a SSMU equity fund and the SACOMSS fee renewal also passed.