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SU Elections Q&A: Vice-President (Operations & Finance)

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The Students’ Union has an $11 million budget, and its the vice-president (operations & finance)’s job to manage it. This involves deciding how Students’ Union fees are spent, and working on committees and boards for dedicated fee units (campus groups that are funded by the Students’ Union). They are also in charge of managing and making changes to the Students’ Union’s Building and businesses, including RATT, Dewey’s, L’Express, and the Myer Horowitz Theatre. 

The following interviews have been condensed and simplified for clarity. Full recordings can be heard here:

Donald Straump’s interview has been translated from French.

Why are you running?

Emma Ripka: I’m running because I love university and I know not everyone does which is sad because there are a lot of opportunities on campus and it’s also a very formative period of life. I also realize there are a lot off barriers that prohibit people from getting involved so I think I can make a change via the role of vice-president operations and finance

Donald Straump (Joke Candidate): I want to ensure the voice of francophone minorities because we don’t really have a voice here on the North Campus so it’s at the heart of why I’m running.

Can you briefly explain your platform?

Ripka: The overarching theme of my platform is building community through the different investment projects the SU takes on. My three main points are bearing the torch that previous vice-presidents have left in terms of the bars: ensuring they are running in favour of students and promoting community. Also, that platform point includes the Student Events Initiative because I think students deserve a place to relax and enjoy the arts.

My second platform point is a skill-sharing network. It provides an opportunity for students to connect with others based on interests or skills. If somebody is a photographer and wants to improve their portfolio and a student group is looking for a photographer, it can connect them. It’s a way of building different inter-faculty networks on campus.

Finally, I think it is very important to look at marketing and communications with students because the Students’ Union offers so many amazing services and the average student has no idea they exist.

Straump: In brief, my platform consists of two points. The first one is bringing students back to the French campus because really there are a lot of student on the north campus who have a strong culture and it’s all in English and we don’t have a lot of activities in French, so it’s to have opportunities in French. The second is making English French again. That point is composed of having equal rights for both English or French.

Why should students trust you to manage an $11 million budget?

Ripka: The two key things that make me a strong candidate are: first, I’ve worked for the Students’ Union for a year now as their business promotional coordinator, so I have a pretty good idea of how their operations work. I think that paired with my entrepreneurship experience and my financial knowledge along with leadership skills and trusting the talented people I will be working with is what makes me a trustworthy candidate to do so.

Straump: I have experience with money. I worked as the vice-president (operations) for the Association des Universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean in the past so I have experience there. I will defend the interests of students.

If elected, would you plan to make any changes to RATT, Dewey’s and/or L’Express?

Ripka: Dewey’s and RATT have both seen very large improvements lately in terms of physical renovations and programming. My main focus in terms of the bars is consistency. Right now you can get string fries one day and then thick fries the next day and I think that inconsistency is hard on students, so I want consistent choices for them. In terms of additions, I think it’s very wise from an economical and student needs standpoint is providing alternative menus such as vegan, vegetarian and halal because there are large demographics that fall under those categories.

In terms of L’Express, I think there are going to be many changes. I know with the Student Events initiative they are making a kitchen downstairs, so I’m definitely eager to see what happens with L’Express.

Straump: Yes actually I want to move RATT and Dewey’s to Campus Saint Jean. It’s under my platform to bring students back to the French campus so I’d like to have a bar there. And for L’Express I’d like them to serve only poutine there.

What is your opinion on the Student Events initiative and the Myer Horowitz renovations? How would you manage those projects if elected?

Ripka: I am very supportive of the Student Events Initiative. First from a student wellness standpoint, I think it’s important for students to have somewhere on campus where they can go relax and hang out with friends. But then from a strictly economic standpoint, despite the fact the SU is non-profit, they still need a way of generating a consistent revenue and SU fees are not always sufficient. This renovation project creates a really appealing venue for the greater Edmonton community and that guarantees revenue there.

If this project is not undertaken, it leaves a big deferred maintenance project. The elevator is virtually inaccessible and that is discrimination against students with special needs. Also, if the technology is deteriorating because it’s so old, we would have to compensate via staff members and that increases cost. Economically speaking, it’s a sound investment.

Straump: It doesn’t affect French students really so I don’t support the development for the Myer Horowitz. I’d cancel it and I’d use the money to build SUB on CSJ.

If elected, what deferred maintenance projects would you advocate for the completion of? Why?

Ripka: In terms of SUB, I think the Myer Horowitz is one. I also think overall, something that bothers students, in particular, are the small things. I know there are tons of deferred maintenance in terms of infrastructure and I can advocate on behalf of students to have working water fountains and toilets because let’s be real, there is a shortage of toilets on campus. Surface level deferred maintenance such as that would probably go a long way in appeasing students and catering to their needs.

Straump: I defend the interests of CSJ so it would be all about that campus. The buildings are broken and not good quality we need new buildings to ensure we can have space. 

JOKE: If oil was discovered underneath SUB, how would you monetize it for students’ benefit?

Ripka: As much as I am in favour of diversifying the economy and not being dependent on oil, I think that we could start a student initiative with the geology students and the mining engineers. We could have a pitch-off where students come up with the best idea as to how we could get in there and access the oil because that would be a sound revenue driver for the Students’ Union and a good experience for students.

Straump: With oil, we’d take the opportunity to hire students to explore it, especially francophone students or people who can speak French to extract oil so we can make a profit.

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