Photos by Mariah Wilson

SU election supplement 2018: vice-president student life

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.

Student Life

The vice-president student life is in charge of student clubs, events like Orientation Week, Frostbite and Bermuda Shorts Day, as well as mental health and overall student wellness initiatives. Pick a candidate who understands all parts of the portfolio and is enthusiastic about campus life.

Assad Ali Bik

If the cliché of a “well-intentioned” candidate describes anyone this year, it’s Assad Ali Bik. Believing that vice-president student life is the most important position in the Students’ Union, Ali Bik believes he can embed himself in the student body to create a unified, inclusive campus. Though his platform is thoughtful, it is inadequately researched.

“I don’t want to be a person that’s locked up in an office. I want to be with the students as much as I can.”

“I don’t want to be a person that’s locked up in an office. I want to be with the students as much as I can.”

Ali Bik is determined to increase engagement and attendance at Dinos games and other student-focused events. He correctly points out that besides hallmark events like the Crowchild Classic and Kickoff, attendance at varsity games is greatly lacking. His strongest suggested approach for increasing attendance at games and fostering Dinos spirit is to create a “hype-squad” who can bolster the crowd to show how fun games can be. Joining hype-squad would grant you no lines for entry to the events and priority seating.

He believes the increase in Dinos pride from higher student attendance at games could spill into other student events, such as fine-arts performances. It’s a lofty goal, which has not yet included consultation with the Dinos or the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Ali Bik’s platform also addresses mental health and student clubs. For the former, he hopes creating an inclusive community could boost the morale around campus along with bringing nap rooms back permanently. He correctly identifies that the SU still possesses the resources from the project’s previous iteration. However, he was shaky on details, such as finding a permanent place for the room and staffing the space. To promote clubs, he aims to implement a “club-of-the-month” system to showcase specific club’s events. How this would be different from current SU promotions of club events via Spotlight Events or calendar sharing on OrgSync remains to be seen.

He also wants to resurrect the Purple Bench Project. The disputed 2015 SU Quality Money project contributed to that year’s entire list of proposals almost being voted down by Students’ Legislative Council and ultimately never took off. Still, Ali Bik wants to expand the idea behind the project to create social places on campus like tables in MacHall where strangers can come together and eat lunch, with laminated rules posted on these inclusive spaces. It’s better than before, but still very questionable.

Ali Bik has a lot of passion for student engagement. However, a seeming lack of preparation in his platform makes him a poor candidate for the position.

Selected Qualifications:

Member of the Ismaili Student Association, 2017–18

Camp Lead peer helper, 2017–18

Member of Presidents’ Consultative Task Force, 2017–18

 

Nabila Farid

Nabila Farid is a strong candidate for vice-president student life. While her platform could use some tweaking, she has a clear idea of what the position entails and what she can bring to the role.

According to Farid, her platform is centred around inclusivity, diversity and engagement. She wants to advocate for more resources and spaces from the university for SU clubs. She also wants to increase the SU’s clubs budget by $10,000 to provide more funding for club events. While this may not be the most original platform point, Farid shows that she has done her research and understands what the over-300 clubs at the University of Calgary need.

“Nobody knows students’ needs better than students themselves.”

“Nobody knows students’ needs better than students themselves.”

Farid’s second platform point is about improving awareness of mental health resources available on campus. She wants to host events and workshops on campus similar to programs at Queen’s University that strive towards stigma reduction and bystander intervention. While some faculty clubs already host mental-health related events, increased attention on mental-health resources should be a top priority of the VP student life. Farid has the right idea on how to go about them.

Farid’s strongest platform point is bringing the Stepping Up program to campus. Current VP student life Hilary Jahelka is working on bringing a modified version of the peer-led dating-violence prevention program to the U of C, which costs approximately $100,000. At Mount Royal University, it is funded by the Government of Alberta. However, Farid says she wants to advocate to the university to fund Stepping Up or a similar dating violence prevention program, in light of recent events surrounding Connor Neurauter. Farid says she can channel the frustration and anger felt by students to advocate to the university for funding, which is an inspiring response to the situation.

As a current SU arts representative, Farid says she worked alongside the other arts representatives on a Campus Improvement Fund application for collaborative study spaces in the Faculty of Arts. She also says she has worked with the dean’s office to host a town hall in March, where Faculty of Arts administration would speak to students and answer their questions.

Farid’s weakest platform points surround inter-faculty events, which have consistently failed in the past. She also admitted to needing to learn more about the Dinos, which falls under the VP student life portfolio. But overall, Farid is a solid candidate for VP student life.  She is competent, qualified and her approach to Stepping Up is admirable.

Selected Qualifications:

SU arts representative, 2017–18

Member of the SU Clubs Committee, 2017–18

Orientation Leader for the Leadership and Student Engagement Office

Helen Wang

As vice-president student life, Helen Wang wants to empower students and unify the campus community. She says her experience as a community advisor to students living in Rundle Hall give her an intimate understanding of student issues. While well-meaning, many aspects of her platform are under-researched and vague.

“I really want to help connect students to everything on campus.”

“I really want to help connect students to everything on campus.”

Wang wants to bring greater awareness to campus resources to help students feel more confident about utilizing them. She plans on doing this by providing more thorough campus tours for first-years during Orientation Week and having ongoing tours available to current students upon request. Her plan on how to build upon tours already provided by the University of Calgary and attract student interest in them lacks details and planning. While her desire to make students feel less intimidated and more confident about accessing campus resources is sincere and important but her approach to achieving this lacks concreteness.

Wang also wants to revitalize Club Matchmaker — a project attempted by the SU in 2014 that suggested clubs to students based on an online survey which was never fully utilized. Admitting to not knowing the program’s difficult history, Wang believes it could thrive with greater investment from SU Clubs, who would be awarded extra funding from an unspecified source for their participation in the program. She also wants to bolster the Junior Executive Program of SU clubs by creating guidelines for specific roles and expectations of junior executives. However, Wang has not yet designed a template or medium of communicating them or indicated having approached club executives on the topic.

As with other candidates, mental-health awareness is important to Wang and is probably her strongest platform point. She wants to further push mental health awareness initiatives — though Wang did not specify which ones. She also wants to add greater depth to prevailing campus discourse around mental health with monthly seminars held at the Wellness Centre. She hopes this will normalize different mental health struggles and resonate with students, encouraging them to seek any needed assistance.

Wang also promises to provide email updates regarding her activity and progress as VP student life. However, it’s unclear why students would be more inclined to read them than the SU mailing-lists they already received.

Wang wants to see students succeed and create a more united campus and her platform has potential but it needs to be more thoroughly researched.

Selected Qualifications:

Community advisor, Residence Services, 2017–18

Vice-president of external affairs and events, Rare Genomics Institute

Campus tours leader, University of Calgary Office of the Registrar

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