Photo C/O Haley Greene
President Ikram Farah
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.
V.P. Finance Scott Robinson
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.
V.P. Education Stephanie Bertolo
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.
V.P. Administration Kristina Epifano
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.