Here’s my opinion based my own speculation for why you should not vote for Marina Banister in the 2017/18 University of Alberta Students’ Union election and here’s why I was going to cast my vote for Bashir Mohamed. The same opinion and speculations that suggest why you should not vote for Banister are my reasons why I am going cast my vote for Banister.
Mohamed initially had my vote solely on the portion of his platform for action to launch a comprehensive study of childcare on campus with stakeholder groups such as the University administration, students, and staff. My mum was in college, working a job, and raising my sister and myself (this was in the early ‘90s). I get it: being a single parent while attending a post-secondary institution sucks. Moreover, my mum did it and I’m certain many other single parents can accomplish post-secondary goals too with or with Mohamed as SU President.
As one commenter brought up on The Gateway’s “SU Elections Q&A: President,” there’s a possible conflict of interest with Marina Banister serving as the 2016/17 SU Vice-President (Academic) and running for SU president because Banister has family ties to Banister Research & Consulting Inc. (an Alberta-based, full-service management consulting firm) — the business is owned by Linda Banister (Marina’s mother). In a Peter Lougheed Leadership College (PLLC) Scholar/Staff Working Group meeting minutes document, dated Oct. 20, 2016, the same time Marina Banister was VP (Academic), PLLC Year 1 & 2 Scholar Forum Representatives were anticipating a survey in which “scholars will be contacted with a survey or a request for an interview by Tracy from Banister Consulting regarding their experience thus far.” Basically, Marina’s mother’s business was hired to ask some people some questions about the PLLC.
While Banister was the SU’s Vice-President (Academic) and remaining “passionate about making governance accessible and transparent which means informing and including students in important decisions,” her mother’s consulting business was contracted/hired by the PLLC. This is where the conflict of interest may be. Marina Banister is supposed to be representing the academic interests of all the students of the U of A all the while Banister Research & Consulting Inc. is profiting off of the U of A and surveying PLLC scholars for the purposes of a report.
In a telephone call made to the firm and a follow-up call from the firm on Mar. 7, 2017, Banister Research & Consulting Inc. said the report in question has not been submitted to the client (the PLLC), that the research is owned by the client, and Banister Research & Consulting Inc. declines to provide any additional comments at this time.
I contacted the PLLC via e-mail on Mar. 3, 2017 for an interview regarding the survey Banister Research & Consulting Inc. has performed. The PLLC, in what seems like an automated e-mail reply, said they have been receiving a high volume of emails recently and will try their best to get back within a day, which hasn’t happened yet.
When asked for a comment on the potential conflict of interest, Marina Banister had this to say: “Banister Research is separate, irrelevant, and not affiliated to my position on the SU or my candidacy. Therefore there is no conflict of interest.”
At this time, I cannot determine if a conflict of interest exists between Marina Banister and the research and reporting being performed by Banister Research & Consulting Inc. on the PLLC scholar experience. And I cannot determine, since the report from the firm has not been released yet nor have they disclosed when the release date will be, if there will be an ongoing conflict of interest if Banister get elected as the 2017/18 Students’ Union President.
I suspect that there is something shady about all this. The PLLC is not saying much; Banister Research & Consulting Inc. will not say anything to protect the research owned by their client (the PLLC); and there is still no report, yet.
I find it a little disheartening that the other SU Presidential candidates (Mohamed and Donut) have not done enough on their part during the campaign to raise constituent awareness to this potential conflict of interest.
There are a few things that could be true (or not) of the alleged conflict of interest I am suggesting:
- There is no conflict of interest as there has been no investigative action (as far as my knowledge is concerned) by the SU against Marina Banister.
- Marina Banister is really good at student politics, as this conflict of interest was never uncovered during any of the 2017/18 SU election campaign debates/forums.
- I’m completely out of my mind suggesting that there even is a conflict of interest in the first place.
I’m going with a combination of 2) and 3): I’m out of my mind and this alleged conflict of interest has yet to be properly addressed in a manner that was transparent and accessible for the greater U of A student population to see.
Marina Banister may or may not have known that Banister Research & Consulting Inc. is involved in an external review and survey of PLLC scholars. Although I suspect the Marina Banister knew, at some level, that her mum’s firm was involved with the PLLC.
If, as a SU election constituent, you have high personal political ideals and desire a person to be in student government who is admirable in their past accomplishments and is honest and forthright: vote for Bashir Mohamed. He has all of the former — he cares about the child care on campus. If, as a SU election constituent, you like people who are expert politicians first and foremost, vote for Marina Banister.
All opinion articles are the views of respective writers, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of The Gateway.