By Jason Herring, March 6 2019 —
Both candidates for the University of Calgary Board of Governors student-at-large position in the 2019 Students’ Union General Election took to the stage for a MacHall forum on March 4.
The forum hosted candidates Ananya Ayachit and Frank Finley and featured questions from current SU president Sagar Grewal as well as audience members.
Both candidates gave an overview of their platforms to start the forum. Platforms can be found on the SU website.
Grewal first asked the candidates what they thought was the most important issue facing the U of C student population and how they would approach this issue as the BOG student-at-large. Finley answered that he thinks cultivating student influence is important, particularly given that both provincial and federal elections will occur during the upcoming BOG rep term.
“We have to make sure that our voices are the loudest in this institution,” Finley said. “We have to be willing to stick our necks out sometimes to understand that people are listening to us and understanding our needs. We’re not just one part of the university community, we are the main part of the university community. It seems silly that we’d be ignored at any point.”
Ayachit responded that the fact that there’s only one undergraduate student-at-large on BOG is the biggest challenge. She says that BOG needs a strong student voice that won’t be quashed by the more experienced board members in the room.
“I want to make it clear that though there are experts on the board who are very experienced in their own fields, in some way or another they’re lacking understanding of student issues on the grassroots level,” Ayachit said. “We need to make sure that we’re diplomatic and giving other board members respect but also that we’re assertive and confrontational when the time comes for that.”
Later in the forum, Grewal asked how candidates would engage with the student body as the BOG student-at-large. Finley said he wanted to use “roaming office hours” and bring students into board meetings. Ayachit said she would consult with members of each faculty’s students’ association to find out what students want.
Grewal also asked the candidates why they’re the best choice for the position. Ayachit argued that she could make use of her large “student network,” while Finley cited his previous experience as this year’s BOG rep as well as on other boards.
After Grewal’s prepared questions was a series of pop-quiz style questions in which each candidate was asked to write their answers on a whiteboard. Both Ayachit and Finley answered every question correctly.
Grewal then open the floor to audience questions. One student asked the candidates how they would approach Aramark, the food service company under contract with the U of C that has recently faced criticism in the United States amid scandals involving food safety and labour practices, particularly in prisons.
“I wasn’t aware of this issue myself so I’d speak to people who are aware of this issue and use that to inform my decisions, as well to other board members to start discussing this and to see if we can find a solution for it through collaboration,” Ayachit said.
“I think it is disgusting that we have a contract with an organization that [violated the law] multiple times in the United States for serving meals that do not meet the bare minimum nutritional requirement by law,” Finley said, adding that the company doesn’t provide kosher options and that their halal options are sometimes improperly prepared.
One audience member asked each candidate whether they had achieved any of their campaign promises from the previous year. Finley spent the last year as the BOG student-at-large, while Ayachit was a SU business representative.
“The important part to remember is that the board position is often an advocacy position,” Finley said, in reference to a review of the Sexual Violence Policy that he says he advocated for but did not happen. “We continue to push to make sure that students are represented.” He also added that he advocated for student space renovations and additional student representation on BOG.
Ayachit said that she started a first-year competition for business students and provided a career workshop for first-year students to help them find summer work or internships.
Voting days for the 2019 SU General Election are March 5–7. Students can vote through their my.ucalgary.ca page or at in-person voting booths.