The vice-president (academic) is responsible for student advocacy around academics in the university, including governance, program changes, and academic requirements. This means they sit on the General Faculties Council, the highest decision-making body at the University of Alberta for academic issues, as well as several of the council’s subcommittees. The VP academic also oversees student faculty and department associations, and sits on academic committees and working groups.
The sad reality of this uneventful race is its importance. The position will affect students in the most direct way, especially with arts degree requirements changing, but no student felt the need to press the candidates on any matter. This race is akin to this year’s municipal election: There’s a clear winner, it’s one of the most important elections that you vote in, and most people couldn’t give a fuck.
Akanksha Bhatnagar’s platform focused on reconciliation in the classroom, better embracing open educational resources, and advocating for the creation of a student census. Her website was offered in three languages (English, French, and Spanish). Her platform, while detailed and extensive (both the comprehensive and condensed versions being over ten pages), failed to present a clear, simple format that curious students can read. No one other than Students’ Union die-hard will read a ten page plus document on student politics. Where Bhatnagar made up her lost ground here was her performance at the forums, she was effective and pointed in her answers. She was confident in her experience and was able to effectively use that to her advantage. The only place she might have struggled is at Campus Saint-Jean but she made up for it at the Myer Horowitz forum (arguably the more important one). Bhatnagar is the safe choice in this election, as this was her election to lose.
Cristiana Pop’s had her platform focus on supporting accessibility of resources for transitions in student leadership, mental health in the classroom, and reconciliation. Her website was offered in both French and English, and provided her platform in short paragraphs that are easily digestible for students looking for quick answers. Her point on mental health seemed out of place, but she wisely dropped it by the second forum. Pop had average showing in most forums, with the exception of Campus Saint Jean, when she needed to be exceptional against Bhatnagar. It was unfortunate when at the CSJ forum we saw a confident and aggressive candidate in Pop, but by the Myer Horowitz she fell back into the average buzzword resume dump. While she might do a fine job in the position, she failed to successfully put herself ahead of Bhatnagar when it mattered. That being said, Cristiana Pop would be a solid second choice in this election.
Tiffany Bruce had a bullet-point format that easily explained her platform. This is where my praise for Bruce will begin and end. Her platform focused on a mental health hotline, which is not only outside her portfolio but unachievable as well. Her answers focused on sending international students to other schools if it’s too expensive. She said that Indigenous safe spaces need security, but failed to specify who needed protection from who, which left the comment to have problematic implications. Today, I asked her about BA language credits and she didn’t know Arts students had to take two classes of the same language. Throughout this election she been uninformed, uninspired and unsatisfying. How can we trust a candidate who knows so little about the Student Union executive to have a shred of competency in the position? Voting “none of the above” will be a better option than voting Tiffany Bruce.
Tl;dr: If you vote for either Cristiana Pop or Akanksha Bhatnagar, you’re getting a solid VPA for the 2018-19 year. They’re both experienced, effective, and passionate candidates that will handle the position, but Bhatnagar has the presence and SU experience to pull a victory in this ball game. Tiffany Bruce was ineffective in answering any question, and her platform failed to actually address the portfolio of the position. This race, however, was quite boring with no real standout moment. The race failed to connect students to the issues and rally any real excitement for the upcoming year. There was no moment of any real contention. Candidates had nothing to say that held any real weight, as they know most students couldn’t give less of a shit about the position, despite the importance of it.
Goddamnit, Banana didn’t die for this shit.