Profile: Jake Itzkowitz

Profile: Jake Itzkowitz McGill University

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McGill Reporter
May 3, 2007 - Volume 39 Number 16
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 39: 2006-2007 > May 3, 2007 > Profile: Jake Itzkowitz
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Newly elected SSMU President Jake Itzkowitz surveys the campus whose 19,000 undergraduate students he will represent. He says, "To make sure that I'm representing everybody...I have to have really big open ears."
Claudio Calligaris

Profile

Itzkowitz's sweet victory

Somewhere in Manhattan, a proud McGill mother and regular reader of the online versions of our student papers, The Daily and The Tribune, packages custom-made M&M's that read "Sweet Victory—SSMU Pres."

The intended recipient of these triumphant candies is her son, U3 Political Science student Jake Itzkowitz, whose Canadian adventure has taken an important turn with his recent election to the Presidency of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU).

Itzkowitz describes himself as a troubleshooter and a workaholic, two traits that will no doubt come in handy as he takes on the immense task of steering the SSMU.

On the heels of his victory in one of the closest elections in SSMU history, Itzkowitz recognizes the importance of uniting the student body.

Taking politics out of the SSMU

Much like his campaign, his presidency will focus in part on "de-politicizing" the SSMU.

"We've got a lot of left-right dynamics on campus that I think need to go," he said.

"There's a lot that we need to focus on just in terms of putting our house in order that we should really not be fighting each other on."

In addition to curbing the squabbles within the student movement, Itzkowitz emphasizes the importance of working on relations with the University Administration.

He feels too much effort is spent on disagreeing, at the expense of finding common ground.

"Part of why I wanted to run is that I feel like [students and administrators] all have the same kinds of goals," he said.

"And if we focus on the stuff that we have in common, we can get a lot more accomplished. Granted there's that 10 percent of the time where we're at odds, but 90 percent of the time, we're all working for a better university.

"When we need to fight, I'll stand up for students and they'll stand up for the Administration and we'll go head to head but most of the time there's stuff that we can fix that we're not doing, because we're so busy bickering about the other 10 percent."

Specifically, he is adamant about seeing the administration follow through on issues identified as priorities, such as space allocation and advising.

Itzkowitz said he plans to "hold the Administration's feet to the fire on the promises in the Principal's Task Force.

Measuring his mandate

Itzkowitz said, "They get mad when I say that because they say they're already doing it.

"But I keep saying that until we see dollar signs and figures next to them, we're going have to make sure that they deliver on these things because those are common goals that we can work on."

Even at this early stage, Itzkowitz has some idea of how he will measure the success of his mandate.

Greater support and enthusiasm for our "athletic and academic stars," the establishment of a "shared learning space" for professors, staff and students, a workable solution to the issue of student representation on the Board of Governors, better relations with faculty students associations, smoothly run elections and a cohesive executive will all be signs of success. He laughingly added, "If the relationship with the Administration is such that when we call for a meeting, they come to the table without kicking and screaming by the time I'm gone, I'll be happy."

Uniting the McGill community

While Itzkowitz's agility in the art of political discourse is obvious, his sincerity is also evident.

He said he plans to put in 70-80 hour weeks working for his large constituency and is enthusiastic about the challenges that await him over the coming year.

Chief among them in his eyes will be uniting this community full of disparate people and opinions and "making sure that I make a real concerted effort to reach out to everybody on campus equally.

"There's only one of me, and I have to represent all 19,000 students that voted for or against me or didn't vote at all, to make sure that I'm representing everybody—which means I have to have really big open ears."

His invitation is a broad and open one: "I'm willing to meet with anybody to talk about anything, provided people are willing to meet with me."

And, who knows, he may even share some of his M&M's.

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