Photo | Hana Nikčević
The VUSAC Town Hall focused primarily on issues of representation, equity, position of the VPSO and relations with the Deans Office and students. The twelve candidates for commissioner, judiciary, and Board of Regents positions attended the three hour session held in Alumni Hall of Old Vic, where a small crowd of Vic students addressed issues that have been present during this unique campaign period.
Each candidate position, except Board of Regents, ran unopposed, which presented candidates with the unique opportunity to explain their platform without competition. Addressing the lack of opposition, Vic student Chris Knipe questioned the candidates as to what the purpose of Vic students voting in the election was, and why they should not just abstain on the ballot. Presidential candidate Zahavah Kay explained that accountability is the main reason students should vote. Arts and Culture candidate, Blanaid McNally supported Kay by stating the two main reasons to vote: responsibility and accountability. McNally also recognized the strange nature of the situation and the fact that the council should work towards making sure this doesn’t happen in future years.
The lack of a high number of campaigning candidates has left positions open on the council, including VPSO and Sustainability Commissioner. Kay stated that if elected president, she would take on the position of VPSO until it filled in the upcoming year. The lack of a VPSO candidate leads to the lack of a proper transition meeting for incoming candidates. Kay volunteered herself (if elected) as well as any others interested, to run this crucial position, to “ensure in the absence that we have over the summer, we can be well versed in the position.”
The Sustainability Commissioner is also to be left unfilled over the four months of Summer. Vic student Carleigh Campbell asked how the position was to be represented during this period, and after only two candidates spoke on the issue, Campbell posted in the VUSAC Elections Forum group on Facebook that they were unsatisfied with the response. VPI candidate, Artimes Ghahremani, aims to cut down excess printing by reassessing the printing policy for the office. VPE candidate Katie Cohen also addressed the issue by hoping to continue current Sustainability Commissioner, Jamil Fiorino-Habib’s practices. Cohen also suggested working to make clubs more self-sustainable by educating them on sustainable practices.
Student involvement and representation within the council and board was an area of concern for many candidates. Board of Regents candidates, Shailee Koranne, Alexa Breininger, George Wilson, Isaac Khouzam, and Hannah Brennen, all vouched for student representation on the board. Brennen said “ it is a multi-step process. We have to show students where updates are coming from, and let them know how the board works.” Wilson supported Brennen’s statement by aiming to let students know who the board is. Wilson and Breininger stated the idea of hosting more office hours, so people who are not normally engaged in student life can learn about the functions of the board. Khouzam, the current Commuter Commissioner stated that flipping pancakes was an effective way for him to have informal interactions with students.
The stigma of the “VUSAC Bubble” was present in direct and indirect questions asked to the candidates. To dissolve the stigma and draw the line between personal and professional relationships, Kay stated that VUSAC members should be getting out of the office—as there is often a strong pull to stay within the office— and should be letting students know that it is also a space for them. “The fact that everyone on this stage is uncontested shows that students don’t feel welcome,” Kay adds.
Cohen admitted that drawing the line between personal and professional relationships is a big job for the VPI, to which Ghahremani responded that she welcomes confidential confessions from members about how to maintain a professional space.
Equity Commissioner and Board of Regents candidate, Shailee Koranne, specified her desire to work with groups outside of VUSAC, to help find answers to unanswered questions, and create a wider range of representation. Koranne later told The Strand that she does not plan on building her commission based on social location but on qualifications. Koranne states she mainly wants people who feel uncomfortable on campus to feel comfortable. De-gendering the washrooms in the Goldring Student Centre was discussed by both Koranne and Kay.
Spagnuolo, Scarlet and Gold Commissioner candidate, plans to include more “low-energy” events to her portfolio, and also begin including decompression rooms at more “high-key” events, where students with social anxiety can go to feel safe. Spagnuolo also plans to continue the use of Google forms to reserve tickets for highball, but still claimed to “be here to listen to complaints”.
In connecting students with the Deans Office, which has been an issue over the past few years, and visiting issues such as “VikiLeaks,” candidates addressed their plans to rekindle the relationship between the two bodies. Cohen said there should be a better way for students to communicate anonymously to VUSAC, who would then streamline the confessions to the Deans Office. A more legitmate way of filing complaints against the Deans Office, which will consider them in a serious manner, should be in order, Cohen elaborated. Brennen spoke on the current review system that is in place, and it’s ability to to tangible things. Many students did not know about said system. Brennen added that collaboration between VUSAC, the board, and the principles office to get in touch with students is a really good thing, and that they should be looking at what the goal of VikiLeaks is.
The Townhall was drawn to a close by an announcement Taylor Cenac at 9pm. Voting began Saturday March 18th and runs until Thursday March 23rd.