Photo by Mariah Wilson

SU VP Student Life candidates talk mental health, sexual violence at pre-election forum

By Tina Shaygan, March 5 2018 —

The three candidates running for the position of vice-president student life in the upcoming Students’ Union general election met on March 1 to discuss their platforms and answer questions by current VP student life Hilary Jahelka and the audience.

Assad Ali Bik, Nabila Farid and Helen Wang began with brief opening statements outlining their platforms and priorities if elected to the position.

Ali Bik said his platform centres around engaging the campus community with the Dinos and club events. He added that he plans on creating a ‘hype-squad,’ which would foster greater attendance at Dinos’ events. Farid said her priorities are increasing clubs funding by $10,000 and submitting a Quality Money application in order to fund Stepping Up — a dating violence prevention program. Wang said her platform is focused on increasing accessibility and students’ knowledge of existing campus resources.

Jahelka asked the candidates which one of the 26 recommendations from the University of Calgary Mental Health Strategy the candidates would be most excited to work on. While Ali Bik and Wang could not name a specific recommendation, they said they were focused on improving mental health of students.

Ali Bik said he would be excited to promote attendance of mental health-related events.

“As you can tell from this crowd, I can get people places,” he said.

Farid said she would be most excited to create a centralized website or pamphlets that describe mental health resources on campus, which falls under recommendation 1.5 in the Strategy.

Jahelka also asked how the role of VP student life can help survivors of sexual violence. Wang responded that support for survivors is essential.

“We should give them as much support as needed but respect that everyone copes differently and not push something on [the survivors],” Wang said.

Farid said she wanted to work with U of C sexual violence support advocate Carla Bertsch to come up with ways to support survivors at the U of C. Ali Bik said he wanted to learn from Jahelka in this area.

“I believe all the great work you have done I can learn in the transition period,” Ali Bik said. “Any idea I can bring forth will always be second to all the knowledge you have in this area.”

Other questions at the forum regarded improving the clubs system, increasing engagement and the recently implemented Indigenous Strategy.

Ali Bik said he plans on incorporating practices like smudging in events like Stress Less. Wang said she wants to advocate for more spaces on campus where Indigenous practices can take place and Farid said events such as Diversity Days should be valued and promoted more at U of C.

Regular questions were followed by a speed round that included questions regarding SU programming that falls under the VP student life portfolio, which SU staff member VP student life works closest with and which committees the VP student life sits on.

An audience member asked Farid and Wang what work, if any, they have done to support survivors of sexual violence on campus. Both candidates said they spoke to the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education (CASE) on Campus Club and would include the club as a key consulting partner for future plans.

“I plan on working with [CASE] closely to make sure resources are available and I know they’re approached by vulnerable people and want to make sure they have resources they need,” Farid said.

Ali Bik was also questioned on how his platform point regarding ‘club of the month’ would be different from the existing club spotlight platform.

“How many of you know what club spotlight is? Because I don’t and neither do most people here,” he said.

Wang was questioned on how her proposal of bringing back Club Matchmaker — a program that would utilize a quiz-style software that would match respondents to SU clubs, which never fully took off — would be feasible. Wang said she would set incentives and deadlines for clubs to update their description on OrgSync as she thinks many are outdated. Farid was also questioned on how she plans on increasing funding for clubs by $10,000, to which she said that she plans on utilizing extra revenue from MacHall.

About 50 students attended the forum. Voting days for the 2018 SU general election are March 68. Students can vote through their my.ucalgary.ca page or at in-person voting booths. The Gauntlet’s SU election supplement for VP external can be found here.

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