SSMU – the Student Society of McGill University – is the largest student body at McGill University and its function is to represent undergraduate students from all McGill faculties. While election period for SSMU Executives starts today, a lot of controversy surrounds one of the candidates to SSMU Presidency – Chris Bangs – and Ameya Pendse – a Bull & Bear writer.
The Political Bouillon obtained an exclusive interview with Ameya Pendse (featured photo).
Chris Bangs was also contacted by The Political Bouillon but refused to be interviewed and did not offer any comments. In a private message, he said that he would try to answer our questions, but so far, no response was provided. We invite Chris Bangs to send The Political Bouillon a response to this interview and provide PB readers with an explanation for the controversy.
Political Bouillon (PB): Can you tell me a little bit about your background including your stance on the tuition protests of last year?
Ameya Pendse (AP): I’m a second year political science major and was President of the RVC Council last year. I am also a member of the delegation team for IRSAM. I was originally against the tuition increases last year until doing more research and realizing that McGill and the other Quebec universities are severely underfunded. I was also against the student strikes and the attempts to block students from attending class last year.
PB: Could you explain how this current controversy with Chris Bangs began?
AP: On his campaign’s official Facebook page, Bangs encouraged questions from students about his platform. I asked him three questions: about his role and position on the red square movement, about the tuition protests of last year and about the proposed AUS Strike Fund. He responded to each of these questions in a roundabout way, and told me that I could ask him a follow up question.
I was shocked that a candidate for such a high office would delete questions about an issue of this magnitude.
PB: Did you ask him a follow up question?
AP: I wanted to ask him to justify his actions as caught on video a year ago, during the tuition protests. The video portrays Bangs and a number of other protesters forcing their way into a classroom, where they disrupt the lecture by banging on drums and shouting slogans. My question was: As president of SSMU, you’re going to be hearing a variety of opinions that you don’t agree with; but as president of SSMU, I believe fundamentally that you have to respect all opinions and hear them out. So my question to you is: when you decided to go into that room and disrupt the class, after the strike failed, do you think that you went against a student’s individual choice and right to go to class? Don’t you feel like you disrespected the students’ choice and opinion concerning the strike?
PB: And what was his response?
AP: He did not respond, instead he deleted the question. I originally thought that perhaps the question did not get posted due to a technical glitch, and so I re-posted it. The question was deleted again. After attempting to post the question a third time, this question and my previous three questions were all deleted and I was blocked from posting in the group, or even searching for it.
PB: Who were the admins of the group with the ability to delete posts?
AP: Chris Bangs is the only admin meaning that he must have deleted the questions.
PB: How did you respond to Chris deleting the questions?
AP: I was shocked that a candidate for such a high office would delete questions about an issue of this magnitude. I decided to write an article for The Bull and Bear outlining what had happened.
PB: Did Chris Bangs respond to this article in any way?
AP: The article was posted on his campaign’s Facebook group. Again, he did not provide an answer to my question about his actions. He says that he supports the democratic decisions of students, but does not explain why he felt that it was okay to barge into a classroom after the AUS democratically voted against striking.
PB: As a student voting for the next SSMU President what do you expect from the candidates and what do you expect from the next head of the student body?
AP: A transparent administration starts with a transparent campaign. He (Chris Bangs) is picking questions that he likes and deleting questions that he doesn’t like. You don’t have that luxury as President. You can’t deal with the questions you like and discard the one’s that you don’t. And if he’s shutting people out for simply asking a question, then what is he going to do when he is President? The fact that he can win is disturbing. His response shows that he either doesn’t want to own up to his actions or that he wants students to think that they never happened.
PB: Thank you for your time Ameya.
AP: Thank you.
Disclaimer: The Political Bouillon has no affiliation with and does not formally support any of the candidates to SSMU presidency
The interview was conducted by Matthew Cressatti, on behalf of The Political Bouillon.
(Featured photo: Viola Ng, Creative Commons, Flickr)