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Final Forum VII: A Last Stand at Lister

Drug safety and student engagement

Presidential candidates quizzed on naloxone kits at residence forum

Presidential candidate Shane Scott

While the presidential race wasn’t given the same amount of attention it got in past forums, some of the questions at the residence forum brought new issues to their attention.

One question came from arts councillor Alannah Piasecki, who said she had to deal with three almost deadly drug overdoses during her time as a senior resident assistant in Lister, and that Residence Services doesn’t allow student staff to carry naloxone kits.

Candidates Shane Scott, Ilya Ushakov, and Reed Larsen expressed shock when they heard Piasecki’s question.

Presidential candidate Ilya Ushakov

“I’m going to be honest, I had no idea that was a restriction,” Scott, who is the current vice-president (academic), said. “And the fact that it’s 2018 and we’re talking about an opioid crisis across North America and that’s actually a rule blows my mind.”

Likewise, Ushakov, who is the current vice-president (student life), said he’d not personally heard about this rule, but wasn’t surprised.

“Residence services have tons of policies that harms students,” he said. “I’d love to hear their reasoning because they better have a good one.”

Presidential candidate Reed Larsen

Larsen said he was “just as flabbergasted,” and suggested the Students’ Union could try to tackle the issue themselves, or take it to other levels of university governance.

Engagement was also a theme with the questions directed to the candidates, as they were asked how they’d engage with residences and how they’d increase transparency in the Students’ Union during their term. While both Scott and Ushakov said they’d meet with residence associations, Larsen suggested a “fun idea.”

“Executive should spend a night in every single residence just to know what it feels like to live in a room that’s this big, on a foam mattress this thick,” he said.

– Nathan Fung

The rights of residents

Vice-president (external) candidates talk residents’ rights

Vice-president (external) candidates were only asked one question at the residence forum.

vice-president (external) candidate Adam Brown

A student asked candidates what their plan is to approach the issue of shared residence tenancy rights. Currently, University of Alberta students living in residence do not receive any rights under the Alberta Residential Tenancy Act.

Adam Brown, a candidate and current president of the Campus Saint-Jean faculty association, said the previous vice-president (external) Reed Larsen (who is now running for president) didn’t do enough to improve this issue. Brown said he wants to ensure the Students’ Union website offers residents the resources to help them know what rights they have.

Vice-president (external) candidate Jimmy Thibaudeau

“I will go to the government and keep pushing to get this done,” Brown said.

Jimmy Thibaudeau, a candidate and current education councillor said the issue of residents’ rights requires more traction. He said he’d bring residence issues to the media to try to get government action. Thibaudeau also said he would advocate to the government to have students living in residence qualify for an exception under the Residential Tenancies Act, like seniors living in shared nursing homes or people in mobile homes.

“This is a big problem,” Thibaudeau said. “Why can’t we make this exception for students?”

Vice-president (external) candidate Esther Thieba

Candidate and current vice-president (social) of the Undergraduate Psychology Association Esther Thieba shared her personal experience of living in residence for four years. She said speaking with Residence Services is “impossible.” She plans to collect more student data before moving forward on the issue.

“My residence experience is something that will really serve me,” Thieba said. “I will be fighting for us… residents.”

– Adam Lachacz

Students frustrated over new BA

The vice-president (academic) candidates responded to student concerns

The vice-president (academic) race was quiet at the residence forum, with only one question being asked over the course of the evening.

Vice-president (academic) candidate Cristiana Pop

The candidates covered common ground in their opening statements, with Akanksha Bhatnagar and Cristiana Pop reiterating platform points about advocating for the use of open educational resources and collecting student demographic data, while Tiffany Bruce repeated her plan to incorporate a 24-hour general mental health hotline.

The single question asked at the forum concerned the Bachelor of Arts renewal. Students already in the BA program were under the impression that they would not be rolled into the new BA, the student asking the question said, but in a recent email have found out that they will be included in the new curriculum. This means many of the courses they took as requirements are no longer necessary to their degree. The student asked how the candidates would help frustrated students.

Vice-president (academic) candidate Akanksha Bhatnagar

Bhatnagar said she was surprised the Faculty of Arts decided to roll current students into the new BA, as she has worked closely on the BA renewal for the past few years. She said all that can be done now is to make sure that prospective students know the requirements of the new BA, and that the only thing students could do is apply for an appeal if they feel they were graded unfairly.

“We have to focus on what the BA can do for students coming in,” Bhatnagar said. “It offers them so much flexibility, so I’m very supportive of the BA renewal.”

Pop, who is currently a councillor with the Campus Saint-Jean faculty association, said communication around the new BA has been poor, and that if the Arts faculty association had been stronger, this confusion could have been avoided.

vice-president (academic) candidate Tiffany Bruce

“This is definitely something that I will work towards changing in the future, and I know I will be able to do a good job if it,” Pop said.

Bruce, a third-year science student, agreed with Pop about the communication around the BA renewal being poor. She suggested that in the future, academic advisors could be informed about upcoming program changes in advance. This way, advisors could let students know about these changes so they can plan their academic career accordingly. She also echoed the sentiment that not much can be done for those who have already taken courses that are no longer requirements.

“We just have to make sure that advising is there and that students coming in are well-aware of all the course requirements they need,” Bruce said.

– Andrew McWhinney

Fulfilling the legacy

Vice-president (operations & finance) candidate gets drilled about platform

After appearing in the last three forums, joke candidate Donald Straump/Jesse Benoit did not attend tonight’s forum, leaving the focus on the current Students’ Union business promotional coordinator, Emma Ripka.

Ripka began by asking students if they know what their $46 in Students’ Union’s membership fee goes towards. Answering her own question, she claims no one does and said the Students’ Union lacks proper communication with students.

“With communication I think it’s important we recognize it’s a two-way street,” Ripka said. “Not only for the Students’ Union to communicate what services they offer to students, but it’s’ also important for student voices to be heard.”  

vice-president (operations and finance) candidate Emma Ripka

She then provided the example of more vegan and vegetarian options and Dewey’s and Room at the Top in response to students needs.

Like at the International Students’ Association forum, Ripka catered her opening statement to the crowd by highlighting her experience with residence associations through her current position. She said residents’ voices are important because they spend the most time on campus and with that in mind, she wants to listen to every residence association and see what they want from Students’ Union businesses.

A heated question from the audience asked Ripka if her platform differed from current vice-president (operation & finance) Robyn Paches or if she was only focused on continuing his legacy.

Ripka recognized the similarities between her platform and Paches’ promises and said that due to the realities of the position, it’s impossible to finish many projects within a year. However, she pointed out a “huge difference” between her and Paches’ platforms: deferred maintenance.

“Robyn ran on deferred maintenance whereas I have chosen not to because I believe vice-president (external) would do better with that.”

She added that many of her platform points are tangible within the one-year term, including the creation of a skill-sharing network.

“I know it’s ambitious, but there are aspects of it that can be completed within my term,” Ripka said.

– Khadra Ahmed

On repeat

Undergraduate Board of Governors representative candidates reiterate their platforms

Board of Governors representative candidate Yiming Chen

It was a quiet forum for the Board of Governors representative candidates as no questions were directed to their way.

Yiming Chen, a candidate and first-year international student, began the forum with the same opening statement as the last few forums. She also said she wants to reduce residence rates and eliminate meal plans.

“Leaders are learners,” Chen said again.

Board of Governors representative candidate Levi Flaman

Candidate and current open studies councillor Levi Flaman mentioned students’ disapproval with the proposed Lister meal plan and questioned if Aramark can provide the diversity students need in the meal plan such as halal, kosher, and gluten-free options.

“Administration has shown that they are receptive to the needs of Aramak, but it is time they start giving a shit about what you want,” Flaman said.

– Khadra Ahmed

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