Know your candidates!
While voting this week make sure you know the candidates platform
On Thursday March 12, the University of Regina’s Student Union (URSU) held its all-candidates meeting. During the meeting, the candidates made speeches and answered questions from students.
Matt Mutschler, the sole candidate for Vice president of operation and finance, delivered a speech outlining his plan for URSU in this coming year. His top issues were accountability, transparency and strengthening URSU. To increase accountability, Mutschler says he “will monitor inflow and outflow of cash [and] keep all source documents for transactions.”
On the topic of transparency, he believes the board and students need to be better informed about finances. Mutschler plans to release finances on a quarterly basis, or, if possible, every month. Strengthening URSU lies in communication, according to Mutschler. He is committed to managing internal concerns so that the president can be the face of the organization.
Maria Aman, candidate for vice president external (VPE), highlighted her work for URSU as women’s director. Aman says URSU feels untouchable to many people. Her plan is to increase the food offerings to include fair trade, gluten free, and halal needs. Aman would like to see Welcome Week include more non-drinking events. Finally, she believes Mental Health Week funds should be used to create a peer support system for students, as the counselling service is not sufficient to service all students.
Lynn Barber, fellow VPE candidate, believes her passion can help rebuild URSU. Barber pointed out a disconnect from students and believes “URSU must educate students on the service it provides.”
Brooklyn Orban, candidate for VPE, stressed her volunteer spirit and hard work ethic developed living on a farm. Orban wants to see URSU engage in more social justice and cultural events. The students’ union, she says, “needs to be a voice for the students” by advocating lower tuition increases.
Jason Gagnon, candidate for Vice president of student affairs (VPSA) pointed out that students run URSU through their fees. He said that if elected he would “make sure every student sees a value for their money.”
Fellow VPSA candidate Jermaine McKenzie said in his speech that student democracy has “withered while tuition rose.” Saskatchewan has the second highest tuition and McKenzie believes that if our students don’t get involved, we could see the highest tuition. He advocates for greater cooperation between post-secondary institutions to lobby for lowered tuition.
Devon Peters, who is running for re-election as URSU’s president, focused on his past and future at the university. Peters said he has been involved since he was 18 with various not-for profits. URSU, when he took power, was “even worse than he imagined.” While in power, he wrote new policies and addressed management issues. Peter’s plan involves investing in student spaces like the Owl, increasing funding to student societies, and hiring a member to advocate on issues such as tuition and parking.
Daniella Zemlak, who is also running for presidency, believes we need a strong university community. Drawing upon Harvard, Zemlak says that community and connections are key. Her plan involves creating a stronger presidents advisory committee, and to listen for students ideas. She concluded by saying “passion is contagious” and that she felt she could inspire others.
After a short break, candidates entertained questions from the student body.
VPSA candidates were asked what their biggest issue was. Mckenzie stated that he supported UPASS and that it represented an opportunity for students to effect change.
Gagnon said that URSU needs to run “an awareness campaign so students can take advantage of all services.”
Next, they were asked how their prior involvement can aid them as VPSA.
Gagnon pointed to his service on the V-team and Frost Week to show his connection to students.
Mckenzie pointed to trips to China and a cultural understanding, which would aid in connection with international students.
The final question asked how each candidate could interact with diverse groups.
Mckenzie again stressed his international experience and his involvement with the Pakistani community playing cricket, while Gagnon noted his involvement with Campion college, his work with English as a second language students.
VPE candidates were asked first how they would deal with the commuting crisis.
Aman stressed promoting the car share service, Barber stated she would ask what students felt they needed, and Orban offered an approach of both educating on current services and asking for student feedback.
Next, VPE candidates were asked whether they agreed with the removal of slates.
Orban wholeheartedly agreed, saying “its not fair for a single person to run against a group.”
Barber said that there were cons to not having slates including “personality clashes” and could she the merits of slates.
Aman agreed with their removal, saying that “the best individual should be chosen.”
Finally they were asked what made them the best candidate.
Aman highlighted her work with various clubs and non for profit organizations, Barber felt that her year of experience as a staff member of URSU gave her insight into what needed to be fixed, and Orban said that her farming background made her a hard worker and that she would bring her “teaching philosophy to the student’s union.”
Presidential candidates Peters and Zemlak then answered several questions from students. The first question asked what the candidates had done so far.
Peters said that he was the first year with a true positive budget, while Zemlak felt her legacy was working with students.
Next, they were asked how they would approach sustainability.
Zemlak stated she wanted to revive a sustainability line in the budget and put funds from mental health week into mental health services.
Peters pointed out that the budget line for sustainability was transformed into the RPIRG organization that promotes sustainability on campus and that promoting UPASS and bike repair as well as other alternative transport were his goal for sustainability on campus.
Then, candidates were asked what work they had done with international students.
Peters noted he was the first president to meet with international students societies outside of campaigning and said he supported increasing funding to these societies.
Zemlak pointed out that her house has housed international students since she was 6 years old.
Candidates were then asked about their thoughts on UPASS.
Peters said that, “if it passes, I will do all in my power to ensure UPASS is a reality by 2016.
Zemlak favoured letting students who created UPASS have authority in how the UPASS is implemented.
The next question asked if each candidate supported paying honorariums for student senate.
Zemlak said that it was not part of her platform but that student jobs are a priority.
Peters explained that he included this on his platform because he felt students would be more engaged if compensated for their work on student senate.
Voting for URSU elections takes place from March 16-19 2015.