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Photo by Mariah Wilson

Three SU presidential candidates talk mental health, SU misconceptions at forum

By Ashar Memon, March 6 2019 —

Three of the four candidates vying to be president in the 2019 Students’ Union General Election faced off at a forum in MacHall on March 4.

Harrison Montgomery, Jessica Revington and Quinn Stevenson answered questions from current SU president Sagar Grewal. Renzo Pereyra could not attend due to a class conflict, Grewal said.

After delivering their platforms, Grewal asked the candidates what they think is the most important issue facing the SU and undergraduate students. Both Revington and Stevenson said they believed mental health was the biggest issue. Montgomery said that the biggest issue facing the SU “is that they misrepresent information to students.

“I think that’s the biggest problem because since the SU represents the students, the only way they can know what the SU is doing is if the SU is honest with them and gives them the whole picture in a way they’ll understand and care about,” Montgomery said.

The candidates were also asked candidates to speak to one of their platform points and how they plan to execute it.

Montgomery, speaking about his goal of lowering prices at SU-run food vendors, said he would work with the management of those vendors, review their budgets and change their business models. Stevenson said he would focus on emergency resource funding and speak with SU staff and University of Calgary administration to help students in difficult circumstances. Revington spoke about her platform point on lowering SU fees. She said she would review the SU’s budget and evaluate the SU’s existing programs and services.

“I will actually create a plan for over the next 10 years to slowly decrease the $32.50 you pay into the SU to make sure that you’re getting the most value for your program and your services at your time here on campus,” Revington said.

Grewal then asked what one issue the candidates think that governments have not addressed and should be prioritized when advocating with the lobbying groups the SU is a part of.

Revington said she would work with acclaimed vice-president academic Kevin Dang to make sure increased government funding for Open Educational Resources becomes a priority for the Council of Alberta University Students. Montgomery said that governments don’t address vendors at universities, which he said shouldn’t be allowed to charge higher prices for food and supplies. Stevenson said he would like to advocate for federal government funding for mental health through the Canadian Alliance of Students’ Associations (CASA).

“We do need federal funding and funding from any government body we can,” Stevenson said. “Using my seat on CASA, I would do my very best to make sure that mental health actually does become a priority for CASA, because if our peers are suffering and they are not getting the best out of their university education, this absolutely has to be on the federal mandate and we absolutely need more funding to make sure these students are accommodated.”

A recurring theme during audience questions was dispelling myths about the SU and the organization’s perceived effectiveness among students.

Revington said she wants to consult existing student groups and work with faculty representatives to dispel myths about the SU. Stevenson said he wants to encourage elected officials to hold roaming office hours. Montgomery agreed with the idea of roaming office hours, adding that he wants the SU to present information more clearly to students.

Current SU vice-president student life Nabila Farid asked Montgomery several questions. Among other questions, Farid asked Montgomery how he plans on decreasing prices at La Taqueria despite its slim profit margins. Montgomery said in response that he wants to correct inefficiencies in staffing.

“Even if we turn that business back into being profit-neutral, it’s not going to impact the SU significantly,” he added.

The forum lasted just under one hour. There were about 40–50 people in attendance.
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. View all candidates’ platforms here.



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