Photos by Mariah Wilson

SU election supplement 2018: vice-president academic

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The Students’ Union election is right around the corner and every year the Gauntlet puts together the fine SU election supplement that you’re holding in your hands right now. The supplement is made to inform students of who is running, what they hope to do if they’re elected and who we think is most likely to actually accomplish their goals.

We cleaned up the office, put on some clean shirts and invited all candidates with eyes on executive positions to make their case for this year’s election. After a five-minute platform pitch and a 10-minute question-and-answer session with a panel of Gauntlet staff, we put together these snack-sized profiles to help inform students on the election candidates.

It will be an interesting year for all incoming SU representatives. In early 2018, a long-awaited resolution to the MacHall ownership dispute was put forward, with the SU to take management and the University of Calgary to take ownership of the building on May 1. The need for a strong student government that’s ready to represent students’ interests on the Joint Liaison Committee — the committee that will be responsible for any future developments in MacHall — is more necessary than ever. In addition, Elizabeth Cannon has announced her resignation and will be on her way out on
Dec. 31. This rare combination offers the potential to set a new status quo for relations between the
SU and administration.

We’re well aware that election time isn’t a joy for everyone. It’s impossible to walk to class without getting every meme-riddled election poster seared into the deepest parts of your brain and you’re probably not paying attention to every classroom pitch ahead of your morning lectures. While it can be annoying, SU elections have a significant impact on all U of C students whether you’re here for several more years or not. Electing competent officials to represent the student body deserves at least a day’s worth of attention every year.

Once you’ve read the Gauntlet candidate profiles, check out our endorsements and take the time to review every candidates’ platforms for yourself. We’re happy to help present you with as much information as we can but the choice will always be yours. Every platform is available on the SU website and every candidate is available during the campaign period to answer your questions themselves, so don’t hesitate to ask them anything.

So what next? Well, park yourself down and give this a read, then make sure you vote from March 6–8. You can vote online through your student centre or in-person via ballot boxes across campus.

Academic

The vice-president academic is responsible for improving the academic experience and promoting undergraduate research. Their job mostly consists of sitting on committees, meeting with various members of university administration and administering programs like the Teaching Excellence Awards and Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Omer Mansoor

Omer Mansoor’s well-crafted platform and his experience as an SU science representative make him a viable candidate for the vice-president academic role. While his platform would benefit from further research, his ideas are logical and comprehensive.

“I definitely have the passion and work ethic to advocate for students on campus.”

“I definitely have the passion and work ethic to advocate for students on campus.”

In addition to advocating for more scholarships on university committees, Mansoor wants to create five additional SU-funded scholarships for students, which would emphasize holistic traits and leadership experience over academic merit. While his consultation with current vice-president operations and finance Ryan Wallace indicate that this platform point may be more than just lip service, scholarships incur benefit for a limited number of students at a relatively high cost.

Mansoor also wants to expand the SUPER Work program, which provides a wage subsidy for students earning a less-than-competitive wage during the summer to those working in degree-relevant positions. Mansoor wants the existing SUPER Work program to incorporate more research subsidies rather than creating a new fund. Aside from marketing SUPER Work to researchers, he did not clarify how he would go about this.

Mansoor’s most questionable platform point is advocating for the integration of more research-based components in senior courses. This will be difficult to communicate to department heads as it might require extensive re-working of courses. Mansoor also couldn’t correctly identify either the registrar or the U of C’s vice-president research — a cause for concern for a candidate wanting to take on the academic portfolio.

Mansoor also wants to introduce a visual or performatory component to the Undergraduate Research Symposium, which would certainly make the URS more accessible to students undertaking research not conventionally presented on posters. His experience on the URS working group suggests that he is familiar with the issues plaguing the symposium and ways to fix them. Mansoor’s familiarity with current work on Open Educational Resources, as well his intention to increase awareness and aid for students applying for research awards are both timely proposals that would serve students well.

When asked about current vice-president academic Tina Miller, Mansoor said that he valued Miller’s consultation with Student Legislative Council and students on the academic and research plans launched earlier in February. He also recognized that her initial goal of creating an undergraduate research database is a hefty task that likely won’t be accomplished in his year, showing that his expectations for the role are realistic and attainable.

Mansoor’s experience as a science representative and his solid platform make him a safe choice for vice-president academic.

Selected Qualifications:

SU science representative, 2017–18

Member of the Undergraduate Research Symposium Working Group, 2017–18

Faculty of Science Academic Appeals Committee, 2017–18

 

Jessica Revington

With a well-rounded platform and plenty of poise, Jessica Revington is a strong candidate for vice-president academic. She has a sound understanding of issues within her portfolio and articulates them with confidence.

“I have the confidence to sit down at tables with administrators and make the hard ask when students’ rights and academic needs are at stake.”

“I have the confidence to sit down at tables with administrators and make the hard ask when students’ rights and academic needs are at stake.”

A central point of Revington’s platform is that she wants to be easily identifiable for students as the Students’ Union’s VP academic. She plans to do this by meeting with faculty clubs, visiting classes — particularly those which she identifies as especially difficult and ones with swathes of first-year students — and using a D2L shell to send messages directly to students. Each of these communication methods seem reasonable and would be effective in sharing SU resources to help students.

Undergraduate research, and specifically the Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS), comprises another big component of Revington’s platform. She wants to shake-up the URS in a number of ways, the biggest of which would be adding oral presentations to the symposium. It’s a more-than-reasonable proposal that would allow students from more faculties to exhibit their work, given that research symposia at other post-secondaries also often allow the format.

Her other undergrad research proposals aren’t quite as significant, but they are all valuable, achievable ideas. She wants to publish an undergraduate research introduction on the SU’s website, which she argues is more feasible than developing an app or a database, as some past VP academic candidates have proposed. She also mentioned making rubrics for students’ URS abstracts available to them and introducing research workshops.

The standard points that make up a VP academic platform — open educational resources, advocacy for resources like journals and bursaries — are also present in Revington’s platform, but seem more like afterthoughts. That’s hardly a bad thing, as those initiatives have become staples of the VP academic’s portfolio and it’s clear Revington is more concerned with new ideas than paying lip service to things she’d already be expected to do.

Revington’s desire to perform academic outreach is reflective in her platform — it’s clear she wants the role to be active, not passive. She said that she’s spent a long time thinking about the VP academic position, and it shows. She’ll be able to build relationships with both administrators and students that will be valuable in the coming year.

Selected Qualifications:

SU nursing representative, 2016–2018

Undergraduate research assistant at the Alberta Children’s Hospital

Teaching Excellence Awards, Quality Money committee member

Correction: A previous version of this article made an unsubstantiated assertion that SU scholarships often go to SU members themselves. That statement has since been removed. The Gauntlet apologizes to its readers for this error.

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