First and foremost, thank goodness Reed Larsen’s posters are better than last year. This improvement alone gives him a leg up, and he knows it. That in combination with him being the only veteran of Students’ Union executive elections, Larsen already has an advantage against his opponents.
He has established himself as the cool and collected Vice-President (External) candidate, and he has been able to present himself in the professional manner that implies. He has considerable experience on Students’ Council as an arts councillor, where he worked on the nuts and bolts of policy and accounting through different committees.
Yet, Larsen seems to be more focused on internal issues than external ones in some cases. His most prominent platform point focuses on providing better education to students regarding housing. He continues on this promise by advocating for a Tenancies Act from the provincial government.
Also included in his platform are points on changing the terms of international students’ study permits, reducing tuition, rezoning areas immediately surrounding campus for more student friendly housing, and much more. It’s better to have too much on a platform than too little, but the scope of his platform is simply too big and unrealistic. Larsen has qualities both wanted and needed in the VP (External) role, but, if elected, both Students’ Council and the student population would need to keep him in check to ensure he doesn’t stray too far off the beaten path.
Ankur Pandey is very enthusiastic about running for the Vice-President (External) position. At each forum, he borderline yells his platform points and responses. A drama professor would be proud of his ability to project. He also boasts his experience, which is extensive. He has worked in several governments across three provinces in Canada. In the past three years, he has worked as a correctional peace officer in Alberta. These connections, experiences, and his ability to firmly and confidently are his best qualities as a candidate in the Vice-President (External) race.
A key point in his platform is his overwhelming support of international students. He is unwavering in lowering international student tuition, improving residence options for international students, and providing better channels for international students to fight back when they are mistreated. One might say he caters too much to international students, forgetting that domestic students still make up about 80 per cent of campus. But Pandey is incredibly passionate about improving the quality of life for international students. If there’s any reason for him to be considered legitimate, this is it.
However, he has misstated statistics and facts about the University of Alberta at forums, showing that his experience has not taught him everything he needs to know. And when asked questions, he usually reverts to vague points about both continuing the good work of the Students’ Union and changing how poorly the university treats international students.
Between his brash attitude, full dress, and narrow platform, Pandey would normally be considered a minor inconvenience to the other candidates. However, he has shown his ability to adapt throughout his campaign. For example, he changed his posters to make him seem more approachable after his original posters with the “peace officer” look seemed a little ominous. He has been proactive in his outreach by talking to students and changing his adverting to fit his target population. He also is in strong support of international students at a time in university politics when international students are valued more in the eyes of students and the university than in previous years. By themselves, none of these traits qualify someone to run for VPX. But, with all of them together, Pandey has made himself to be a formidable candidate.
Often affectionately referred to as “Jimmy” throughout the campaign, James Thibaudeau is an underappreciated gem in the Vice President (External) race. From the very beginning, he has been rock solid in his stance on mental health funding. Each forum, he ensures that everyone knows he will work to increase funding for mental health resources. Especially as far as Counselling and Clinical Services goes, he ensures he will secure funding.
However, he is flimsy on things he isn’t sure about, and there are quite a few of those. And as the VP (External) race has evolved, he has failed to adapt. He’s got the experience; he is currently the Education Students’ Association’s Vice President (External). He’s made valuable connections in his role there. His conviction is his weak point, and conviction is absolutely crucial to any executive position, let alone VPX.
Students’ Union VP (External) seems like an easy transition for Thibaudeau. His knowledge is comprehensive and his resources are vast. But to reach an executive position, Thibaudeau needs more experience and gravitas to properly reach and represent his constituents. He has enormous potential in the future, but to elect him now would be like throwing a child in a pool to teach them to swim. He’ll drown.
Lisa Zhang has shown development throughout her campaign. At the Peter Lougheed Leadership forum last week, she portrayed a version of herself that was too flexible and malleable to be considered for Vice-President (External). However, at the Campus Saint Jean forum, she improved by being more assertive in manner and bringing hard facts to support herself and her platform. By the Myer Horowitz forum, she seemed much more confident than she did initially. This development over the course of the campaign has tested her, and she has become better for it.
Her strongest platform point is strengthening university relationships with employers and the government to assist students in finding jobs during breaks, for semesters, and after graduation. Zhang also wants to focus on improving the Summer Temporary Employment Program for students. This is a huge concern for students entering, attending, and graduating from post-secondary, so Zhang has that appeal in her candidacy for VP (External).
She has also gained endorsements from several groups and students on campus. These are coming from students and groups who don’t normally participate all that heavily in student politics. What’s even more is that these endorsements are coming from people solely creating endorsements for Zhang and no one else. This gives her a considerable edge.
Yet, Zhang is not suited for the role of VP (External) at this time. She has developed internally to a great degree over this campaign; that much is clear. However, she does not yet possess the confidence and knowledge of policy to fully articulate the opinions of the Students’ Union to outside bodies. She could potentially thrive in Students’ Council, learning the intricacies of governance and acclimating to the climate of student governance. But, unfortunately, she just doesn’t possess the skills to lead at the executive level quite yet.
Reed Larsen should win this race. His platform points are nice and lofty, although unrealistic. He should win because of his individual personality traits and his connections on Students’ Council. He’s been active on Students’ Council for the last year. He is well acquainted with many of the other candidates in other races, not to mention the current Students’ Union executives themselves. In addition, he has the assertiveness, enthusiasm, and patience to be able to negotiate externally and internally for the SU. Despite what his platform may or may not say, these criteria are what will help Larsen perform well in his role as Vice President (External).