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Louie Villanueva

SU election supplement 2016: vice-president student life

Every year during reading week, the Gauntlet puts together a Students’ Union election supplement to inform students on who is running, what they plan to do if elected and who we think is best for the job.

We invite all executive candidates to our office for a five-minute platform pitch and a 10-minute question and answer session. Our panel of Gauntlet staff picks apart their platform and grills them on some of the key issues they will face if elected.

This year more than ever demonstrated the importance of a competent student government. The MacHall ownership dispute between the SU and administration put student issues at the forefront of campus debate. Rather than caving in, the SU stuck to their guns and fought the university tooth and nail. Had we chosen incompetent leaders during last year’s election, the outcome might have been very different.

We understand the SU election can be annoying. Posters cover every possible inch of wall space during the campaign period and costumed candidates come to your classes to beg for votes. It can seem juvenile, but that doesn’t mean the outcome isn’t important. The SU’s decisions affect the student body as a whole, and it’s crucial we elect capable officials with our best interests at heart. And you can’t properly judge a candidate on a goofy poster or 90-second classroom visit.

Once you’ve read our reviews, look for our panel’s endorsements. These are the candidates we feel would do the best job if elected, based on their interview, platform and previous experience. But don’t just take our word for it. Every candidate’s platform is on the SU website, and most candidates make themselves available during the campaign if you have any questions.

And of course, don’t forget to vote March 1-3. You can vote online through your student centre or in person via ballot boxes in MacHall. 

The Gauntlet will release our reviews of the candidates throughout the week. All reviews, along with our panelists’ endorsements, will be published on Thursday, February 25 in print and online.

Student Life


The vice-president student life is in charge of events like Orientation Week, Frostbite and Bermuda Sports Day, as well as whatever wacky rooms the SU dreams up. Pick a candidate who understands all parts of their portfolio and is enthusiastic about campus life.

 

Zehra Buzreba

 

Zehra Buzreba has a fine-tuned grasp of social life at the University of Calgary. She understands the difficulty of meeting new people and the problems loneliness can lead to. She’s clearly enthusiastic about these issues, but her ideas lack precision.

“If this campus wants to reduce this feeling of loneliness it has to focus on the students who need it the most.”

Buzreba wants to reallocate Students’ Union events funding to host weekly events in the MacHall courtyard so students always have something to do. She says this idea, along with cleaning up the U of C’s poster boards, was inspired by her time at SAIT. It’s a decent idea, but logistics will be tricky and getting students to actually pay attention will be even trickier.

Buzreba has been involved with a large variety of clubs and organizations on campus. She was a host for NUTV, as well as a member of the Women in Leadership club and the Mustard Seed U of C. Buzreba said she feels like “more of an everyman” as a result. She thinks the SU needs to target students who need it most, not those who are already engaged. This is an excellent approach to the portfolio and all student life candidates should keep it in mind.

Boosting Dinos pride on campus is another of Buzreba’s main platform points. She said other post-secondary institutions in Calgary support their varsity teams more than the U of C. She plans to integrate Dinos swag into SU giveaways and prizes. Buzreba also wants to get Dinos players out promoting their own games. People have been trying to raise attendance levels at Dinos games for years, but outside of events like the Crowchild Classic and Kickoff, that effort has largely failed. There is little reason to believe Buzreba’s approach would be any more successful.

She also critiqued some of the gimmicky approaches to mental health issues on campus. Thankfully, this year’s student life candidates haven’t proposed any wacky rooms. At the same time, Buzreba’s solution of hosting more events doesn’t seem like it would help students all that much either.

Buzreba expertly diagnoses some of the U of C’s issues. Unfortunately, her cures could be better thought out, and she came across as nervous during the interview. If she hones some of her ideas and remains as enthusiastic, watch out for Buzreba next year.

Selected Qualifications:

Assistant Director of Events for Alliances in Marketing
Host for NUTV

Austin Campbell

 

Austin Campbell is an eager candidate for the position of vice-president student life, but his lack of experience and limited knowledge of his own platform points make him unprepared for the job.

“I want to bring my own ideas to the table because I think they’re mostly pretty unique.”

Campbell’s platform focuses on implementing a start-of-year party called Community Unity, a partnership with American business Terracycle and the creation of faculty-specific social media communities.

Campbell hopes to have live music and art at the centre of his Community Unity event. Other candidates expressed similar ideas for back-to-school gatherings, but compared to his competitors, Campbell’s understanding of the logistics for such an event was sorely lacking.

He has some relevant event coordination experience, but didn’t have a concrete plan to ensure the success of Community Unity.

Campbell also wants the SU to partner with Terracycle to recycle commonly littered items like cigarette butts as a form of revenue. He says the initiative is important because one cigarette butt can contaminate eight litres of water. Campbell seemed enthusiastic and passionate about green initiatives, but was shaky on most of the details.

It’s a unique idea, but it’s hard to see how the economic benefits would be anything but marginal. The initiative is also not within the vice-president student life portfolio, something Campbell admitted himself.

He also plans to strengthen the campus’ sense of community with online spaces moderated by SU faculty representatives for students in each faculty to communicate with each other. Campbell says the project would launch in time for the fall semester and estimates that “at least half” of students would sign up.

The idea is dated and out of touch with currently-used social media communities on campus. He also mentioned wanting to start a “Humans of UCalgary” page, but was unaware that the page already exists and has over 1,500 likes.

Campbell cited mental health issues as the biggest issue facing students. It’s a valid answer, but surprising given he did not mention mental health initiatives during his platform pitch.

Campbell is definitely enthusiastic — he’s attended more Student Legislative Council meetings than any of the other candidates. A couple of his ideas are interesting but none are fleshed out enough to seem feasible. Compared to others running, Campbell is a poor candidate for vice-president student life.

Selected Qualifications:

Assistant operations manager with non-profit BassBus Arts foundation
Event manager for Grow Calgary Urban Farm

Graham Duff

 

Graham Duff’s diverse platform and pride in the campus community makes him the ideal candidate for vice-president student life. His platform is well-balanced between fun events and student engagement.

“You’d get to start on a fresh note, meet new people and have a good community building event.”

Of all of the candidates, Duff’s platform is one of only two that includes building support for the Dinos. His focus on athletics represents an aspect of campus life several other candidates neglect. Duff hopes to connect students to the Dinos during Orientation Week by incorporating their brand into O-Week swag. Although it’s dubious whether this initiative will get more students out to Dinos games, it’s a good start.

Duff also wants to introduce MegaDen — an orientation week event that would combine the Den and the MacEwan concert space for the year’s first Thursden. When asked about the possible downsides, Duff was prepared for any pitfalls, including cleanup, damages and special events liquor licensing. He was clear on the details and prepared to discuss the logistics of hosting such a big event.

Duff hopes to build benches at the bus loop with a Quality Money grant and advocate for better food labelling services in MacHall to distinguish kosher and halal options from other food items. While the benches will likely be more difficult than he suspects, it’s an obvious and welcome solution.

Duff’s platform mentions undergoing a review of mental health services on campus. Although this doesn’t seem like much of a plan, it’s more realistic than providing buzzword solutions to mental health issues. Duff was realistic about the difficulties of appropriately improving mental health services on campus and had a plan that could improve mental health services in the long term.

Duff’s greatest strengths are his research and knowledge of the student life portfolio. His platform points are viable and thoroughly thought out.

Selected Qualifications:

• Former chair of the Dinos Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
• League Coordinator on the U of C Intramural Sport Council

Patrick Ma

 

Patrick Ma’s second shot at running for  vice-president student life shows he learned from our criticism last year. Ma’s sophomore platform is more coherent and sensible than it was in 2015, though it lacks some of the passion and energy that used to set him apart.

“Focusing on the future of students would greatly improve student peace of mind.”

While his goal to restructure club funding would be a welcome change, his plan to spotlight clubs in an email newsletter is irrelevant. And though his proposed Pizza Day sounds fun, Ma appears to have done little research on how this idea would actually be implemented or what its benefits are.

His ideas for supporting students are much stronger. Ma’s plan to increase networking opportunities for graduating students is just as smart as when he proposed it last year, and his proposed audit of physical accessibility on campus could result in dramatic quality-of-life improvements for physically disabled students at the U of C.

Ma’s goals surrounding mental health also feature some strong ideas. He wants to work with the SU Wellness Centre to find and address the biggest sources of stress for students. Doing so could be useful in developing a more comprehensive mental health strategy, but more specifics on the plan are needed. His idea for revamping destress kits is similarly lacking in detail.

Ma enlisted the help of former vice-president student life Jonah Ardiel in running his campaign this year, and it shows — for better and for worse. His platform is packed with sensible ways to improve the student experience, but the way Ma talked about them felt rehearsed. He recited much of his online platform word for word during the interview. Initiatives for non-club focused student engagement were also lacking, especially when compared to last year’s platform.

Ma only seemed genuinely excited about his proposed Pizza Day, which was also his least organized idea. If he wants to succeed in this position, he will have to learn to blend this enthusiasm with thoughtfulness.

However, these are small criticisms compared to last year. Ma has improved in almost every way, and is now a serious contender for vice-president student life.

Selected Qualifications:

Current psychology department representative for the Faculty of Arts Students Association
Co-creator of the Mental Health Alliance

 

Read our reviews of the presidential candidates here

Read our reviews of the vice-president external candidates here

 

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