Photos courtesy of MSU Communications Officer
The McMaster Students Union board of directors released their year plans on July 16, 2019. These documents outline what the vice president (Finance), vice president (Administration), vice president (Education) and President intend to change and/or accomplish for 2019-2020. The year plan also reviews the benefits and drawbacks of each point made to reveal the long-term implications that could come with their implementation.
Josh Marando, MSU president
Marando’s year plan begins by tackling everyday student life by proposing changes to TwelvEighty and a renovation of the McMaster University Student Centre third floor enclosure, which has largely gone unused, through the addition of a Student Lounge. This is intended to help accommodate McMaster’s growing student population, which has reached over 23, 000. The obstacles that this project faces include funding. With that being said, he is determined to meet the expectations and needs of students.
“Not only is this year plan meant for you to be updated on what I will be working on and [am] hoping to accomplish this year, but also it is a mechanism through which I can be held accountable to the pillars and platform [that] I was voted on by the student body.”
On top of the question of financing, another main concern is that construction may disturb the average student’s everyday life. While Marando’s year plan highlights the MSU MUSC surplus fund as a potential source of capital for renovations, it is unclear whether renovations will become a hindrance. In addition, a capital budget request last year has already been approved to renovate Clubspace, which could overlap with the MUSC third floor project.
In terms of student finances, Marando laid out an objective for a more timely and direct distribution of the Federal Tuition Tax Credit, a government initiative meant to support graduates for a six month grace period after they have finished school, and to eliminate tuition late fees. He advocates for students to be able to access their tuition tax credits when they are in need of it for their tuition and for credits to be given to students as upfront grants. He anticipates potential issues in the future to include government influence, which could result in grants being removed in an attempt to cut costs.
Marando’s plans push for better campus maintenance this year through upgrading larger lecture halls and making McMaster more accessible. While he acknowledges the extensive work that needs to be done for coordinating accessibility on campus, there is already an accessibility audit being performed to help to inform a Campus Accessibility Master Plan.
To support the health of students on campus, Marando plans to add more personnel to the Student Wellness Centre and to help students with booking appointments by introducing an online system. In the wake of sexual assault allegations amongst the Maroons, he is also attempting to address issues of sexual violence on campus by recommending that a Trauma Specialized Counsellor be housed in the SWC and, on a wider scale, for prevention and response mechanisms to be incorporated in large school events.
As an Arts and Science graduate, the arts were a significant part of Marando’s platform; he called for support for the arts at McMaster, both in terms of funding and in adding more performing arts spaces, in order to contribute to the creative scene on campus.
Sarah Figueiredo, vice-president (administration)
Sarah Figueiredo’s plans revolve primarily around part-time managers. In her year plan, she calls for a more comfortable environment for PTMs by finding a way to facilitate smoother transitions into their roles and creating opportunities for these MSU leaders to foster a sense of belonging and support.
In the long-term, Figueiredo plans to streamline the vice-president (administration) role over the next three years by connecting with VPs from other universities and reviewing the responsibilities that come with their positions. She hopes that this will make the role more specific and consequently, more sustainable.
Shemar Hackett, vice-president (education)
Shemar Hackett zeroes in on two areas that his platform seeks to prioritize: accessibility and affordability, both of which require multiple physical and financial changes.
He plans to increase on-campus funding to contribute to the academic success of students with accessibility needs. In the same vein, he intends to lobby to MPPs and city councillors to reallocate city-wide funding towards his goals. For the MPPs, he wants to work on a provincial policy paper so as to delineate the barriers that students with disabilities face.
Like Marando, Hackett places focus on sexual violence support. He intends to increase awareness and make policies more survivor-centric, hoping to make the student body more aware of the services and protocols available to them. He has a similar approach to mental health support, planning for a more holistic review of student wellness on campus as well as advocating for more student support during the exam period.
He seeks to protect students from unfair bylaws and to help them with holding their landlords accountable. Furthermore, he plans to run a waste management campaign and to advocate for a better transportation system.
Regarding the provincial government’s choice to allow students to opt out of ancillary fees, he intends to run a campaign to illuminate the services that the MSU provides to McMaster students, the majority of which are reliant on funding received through these fees.
In addition to Marando’s call to eliminate late tuition fees, Hackett plans to work on training TAs, implementing an automated waitlist for course registration and standardizing breaks for classes two to three hours long.
Alexandrea Johnston, vice-president (finance)
Alexandrea Johnston’s year plan puts a spotlight on business units across campus. Union Market will be gearing up for a rebrand. Compass, after losing its partnership with Metrolink, is in need of a solution to mitigate this loss, which Johnston plans to do by reducing its hours of operation. TwelvEighty and The Grind are both under renovations for their infrastructure and systems. The details of these renovations include introduction of a TwelvEighty to-go menu.
Johnston is also participating in a campaign to educate students on the Student Choice Initiative. She plans to prioritize both financial and operational transparency in the MSU as part of the SCI campaign. This is to better inform students on where their ancillary fees go.
In the wake of the SCI, Johnston plans to streamline budgets for clubs while improving club support and championing larger campus events. This involves both Underground and the Silhouette, as well as Welcome Week reps.
The year ahead
Many components of the year plans illustrate the impact that the SCI and broader provincial funding changes will have on student affairs. As always, financial feasibility is a concern. The amount of money available to pursue the year plan initiatives without external sources of funding is, unfortunately, limited. As the year unfolds, the board of directors will be faced with many decisions to navigate changes that will befall the MSU.