News

STEM
The STEM Complex. Image: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum
Reading Time: 13 minutes

The Fulcrum shines a spotlight on Buse Loçlar, Albrightine Orsar, Tarasha Sharma, Mahée Côté and Sam Yee

The University of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) are currently holding elections for four different elected student bodies. This article will look at the races taking place in the faculty of science for the UOSU Board of Directors (BOD).

The UOSU’s BOD has a varying number of student representatives from each faculty who convene monthly to guide the work of UOSU as an organization. The number of representatives per faculty is dependent on the size of each faculty. The positions are unpaid and the main role of the BOD is to vote on motions put forward by the UOSU and be members of a number of union subcommittees. 

The faculty of science has three candidates for three seats: Buse Loçlar, Albrightine Orsar and Tarasha Sharma.

For those who wish to get familiar with the candidates, here are the transcripts from interviews they did with the Fulcrum. All answers have been edited for length and clarity

The Fulcrum (F): Can you introduce yourself in two to three sentences?

Buse Loçlar (BL): I’m currently in my first year of the biomedical sciences program in French.

Albrightine Orsar (AO): I’m a third-year student studying biomedical sciences.

Tarasha Sharma (TS): I’m a third-year biopharmaceutical science student and this past year, I had the honour to serve on the Board of Directors. This year I’m excited to be running again.

F: Can you talk about previous involvements in student life on campus or relevant experiences that would help you in this role?

BL: Throughout high school, I have worked with various student organizations, and also worked with my high school students committee and the Honour Council. At the U of O, I’ve been involved with the Global Medical Brigade marketing committee, was the president of ODrama, as well as on the social committee of MedLife.

AO: I was part of AfriqCan, which helps immigrants from African and Caribbean countries assimilate into Canadian culture. They help create events and foster spaces where there is Black expression, and Black people can see themselves in roles of power. I also work extensively in my church as the syllabus coordinator; I’m in charge of teaching students and making sure that everyone’s voice is heard and represented in the syllabi that I create.

TS: This past year I was an active member of the UOSU Board of Directors. I’ve never missed a meeting and actively voted on topics and issues. I joined and worked on two committees, the scholarship and student life committees. Briefly, I’ve also been involved with the Science Student Association (SSA), as the departmental rep. I’ve managed and helped create several networking events, and allocated resources for students.

F: Can you explain in your words what is the mandate for the role you are attempting to be elected to?

BL: My goal is to represent all Faculty of Science students in the Union and be a voice to every student [in the faculty]. As your representative on the board of directors, my goal is to make our university and our campus equitable and accessible to all students. What I will do is every student would able to reach [me] at any time and whether they think their issue is small, it’s not [to me]. I want everybody to be able to reach me with any of the problems that they’re facing and I will work tirelessly to eliminate them.

AO: The candidate did not answer the question

TS: As a member of the BOD, my main goal is to be doing active work and always be available to students. Something I did last year was establish an Instagram community so that students could easily access me and essentially having students know that the Union is here for you, and bringing their topics and issues to us so that we can help them out.

F: How do you plan on building on the work of your predecessor?

BL: There are many resources available in our university thanks to the students before us, but we have to work for better resources, and it’s one of my main goals. Especially the economic and mental health services, and bettering the existing resources [by] making it more accessible for students. As one of my main goals, I’ll make sure people are able to access these resources and are not afraid to ask for help, and when asking, there is someone or a place where their concerns are met.

AO: The current members of the board of directors in the faculty are currently working on a fund that would help students that are affected by COVID-19, so I plan to build on that. And so there are students who are juggling academic life, social life, and other hardships, which makes it hard in many cases, I want to create a fund that helps those students. It wouldn’t be based on academic merit because our grades shouldn’t define us. [Sam Yee, former BOD for sience] as well met with VP equities [across the faculty] to create a space for Black expression, which is important to me as a woman of colour. So one thing I plan to do is work with clubs like AfriqCan to create those spaces [for Black expression].

TS: I want to continue my work on the scholarship committee. Right now there’s an increase in financial stress for many students, given the current circumstances. I believe it’s beneficial to have several small to mid-range scholarships than a few highly competitive ones. I will also aim to start with an online scholarship portal on the UOSU website and have these scholarships accessible year-round because we never know when a financial burden is on your head.

F: What often gets overlooked for your faculty? 

BL: This goes for every faculty, not just my own, but even though there are mental health services available, I still think that they’re not quite where they need to be … we need to have more importance on mental health services and also just making the university more equitable … From personal experience, I know how it’s like to feel not wanted because they’re ‘different’ because the environment does not have the [resources] where it doesn’t accommodate you.

AO: What often gets overlooked as a student of colour, I haven’t necessarily felt represented by my faculty, so that’s why it’s important to me that people of colour have their voices heard. And I would say there is a disconnect between the students and the faculty, so I’d want to work on bridging that gap.

TS: Often I believe mental health gets overlooked. As a science student, the stress of demanding deadlines can lead you to define yourself by your grades. I would like to advocate for mental health so that we don’t compete for who’s struggling the most, we should be competing for how our mental well-being is. I think students need to know that we’re here as a voice and we can work with the professors to have a solution because even though they’re trying their best, we need to know when the quality of education is slipping and our mental health is slipping.

F: How do you intend to facilitate communication between students, the BOD and the Executive Committee?

BL: I’m always available, [students] can reach me from anywhere from Instagram, from my cell phone, from my email and I plan to use my social media to be open and easy to reach. I’ll make sure every student who’s reached out to me, all of their problems are heard at the Union and then collectively with all the problems, reach out to the executive committee, and bring all the issues to the table.

AO: I intend to do that by making myself accessible. I asked my fellow students what they wanted to see UOSU do and I got answers. So I think just making myself accessible and even if it’s messaging students myself, I want to be that voice. Just making sure that I’m accessible and bringing complaints, concerns, and ideas to the executive board and to UOSU.

TS: One of the main things I realize is that a lot of time is students are shy to approach the UOSU. So due to the creation of our Instagram, we created a community of students to ask questions and give feedback. One of the things I’d like to try is an Instagram Live, something less formal than a town hall. When students reached out to me and had questions, I was really resourceful and communicated with the execs of UOSU by bringing those topics up during our meetings. 

F: Is there a particular committee you plan on joining and why?

BL: At the moment, I’m open to all parts of the committee and [will] decide where there’s a need.

AO: I would say the Scholarship Committee and develop the fund I had mentioned. I also want to join the Equity Committee. I’ve mentioned that I really want to advocate for my fellow students and I want to promote equity and accessibility on campus. It’s my intent to work extensively with the vice president equities as I prepare to find issues, target them, and hopefully solve them.

TS: I definitely want to join the Scholarship Committee because it’s one of my main mandates. Other than that, I want to also continue on the student life committee, which was also another committee I joined this year. I want to continue and bring more exciting events, and make sure that the events are accessible. One of the things we’ve been working on together as a committee is creating an accessibility guide for events, and I want to be there to make sure that we follow, and have the resources to make sure that our events, especially now that there are online, that we are inclusive and they’re accessible to all students.

F: What is an area that you think the body you are running for can improve and how do you plan on helping to improve it? 

BL: Like I mentioned before, reaching students and access [to resources]. There is a union present but as a first-year student, I didn’t have the resources available or even know what the union was so I had to learn what it was on my own. I realized many students do not know that there’s a union that’s ready to help them or there are these amazing resources available. I feel like we have to improve and to do that, I think we need to advertise the Union and also talk about and genuinely reach out [to students], and also as a whole university.

AO: Just furthering their work. I think they did a lot of things this semester in terms of [advocating for] helping students, like actually getting the pass [or] fail for students. There are things that we can continue to work on like building on better and more accessible mental health services.

TS: I want to make sure that we have more areas and more avenues of communication. We just want to not let them know that you know we’re here to help you out, and we’re here to advocate for you. So, in terms of improvements, communication, making it easier, and just more available.

F: If you’re elected, by the end of your term what’s the one thing you would like to be remembered for?

BL: I want to be remembered as a friend, as someone who’s there for [students]. Whenever they need, even just to talk and make sure [someone] actually cares. I’m doing it so that we, as a community, can all grow and so all students can have a better experience.

AO: I want to be remembered as the BOD member [who] advocated for students. It’s really important to me because, in my earlier years, I felt so underrepresented, so I want to make sure that people who feel that way can say that I really represented them and listened to their issues. I wish to be remembered as a member who represented the voices of the underrepresented.

TS: I would like to be remembered as being someone who is always there for you. That I’m someone that you can rely on, approach and have someone you know that I’m going to be there to listen.

F: Why should students vote for you? 

BL: I have experience working in student councils and with students from different backgrounds. Also being an international student, I think I’ll bring an important, valuable, and necessary point of view to the BOD when talking about problems and conflicts. Just as a person, I’ll fight tirelessly to overcome any issue brought up to me. 

AO: I’m very passionate about the role and very passionate about helping people. I’m passionate about wanting to listen to people and solve their issues in any way the BOD will allow me to. I will work hard to continue the positive changes that my predecessors have put in place and be an effective member of the BOD. 

TS: I already have the experience as my previous experience as a former member of the BODs. I’m familiar with all the workings and that way I can advance concrete action plans to improve their experience at the U of O.

————————

The U of O senate has one student representative from each faculty. The U of O Senate is responsible for setting educational policies and dealing with academic issues.

The faculty of science has two candidates for one available seat: Mahée Côté and Sam Yee.

For those who wish to get familiar with the candidates, here are the transcripts from interviews they did with the Fulcrum. All answers have been edited for length and clarity

Fulcrum (F): Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

Mahée Côté (MC): I’m from New Brunswick and I’m studying biomedical science at the [U of O]. I’m really, really passionate about science ever since a very young age, and I’ve always been someone that is really driven and has great entrepreneurship abilities. I’ve been really, really interested in politics lately and I feel like that has something to do with COVID-19. 

Sam Yee (SY): I’m a third-year student in biomedical science with an option in science policy and a minor in Indigenous studies. I’m passionate about equity, social justice, public health and helping others. I currently work remotely with Dr. Laurie Chan’s toxicology lab, in the biology department on a project on mercury in wildlife species.

F: Can you talk about previous involvements in student life on campus or relevant experiences that would help you in this role?

MC: I’ve created a nonprofit, independent organization called Tomorrow’s Mind, that has a focus on biomed and I’ve gathered some students because I felt like the workload was getting a lot for many science students. Many of us want to get a lot of extracurriculars, so I wanted to build a society to help students find extracurriculars, without having them feeling pressured or charged.

SY: Probably the biggest thing is I’m currently a member of the BOD representing the faculty of science, and I have been involved in that capacity since May 2020. I’m also a board member of Pulsar Collective, which is a nonprofit that advocates for gender equality in STEM; I was director of equity and inclusion with that organization, two years prior to joining the board. I was also on the Science Student Association as a first-year [representative] when I was in my first year and I’ve been a 101-Week guide with them.

F: How will you work on making the student situation better during COVID-19?

MC: I learned that in many countries that are more advanced, they are talking a lot about the approach of involving more art actually into a student’s life, to better their mental health. I was thinking of the innovation in bringing art, to help students’ mental health. [In addition] I’ve been thinking about that since the pandemic started, dependencies and addictions among the student demographic has increased. I think that we should help in the direction of getting more resources for dependencies and addiction for students.

SY: I think what I would do is continue advocating for academic policies that support students’ mental health and flexibility during the pandemic because we all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has been really hard for a lot of us, especially students. I think that the academic policies that the Senate passes need to reflect student’s needs, whether that’s mental health, equity, and financially as well.

F: What often gets overlooked for your faculty?

MC: It’s not acknowledged, but how much harder it is for students that are not from Ottawa to actually get here and do the same [thing] as everyone else. No one’s really talking about it, but how it can be hard to be young, arrive in a new city, or people are arriving from new countries to study science, which has a big workload. I’ve been talking with some [professors], and as soon as they know that you’re not from here, or at least from my experiences, you’re not taken seriously.

SY: I think mental health is a big one for science. I think there’s something that’s kind of unique to science is that there’s almost this culture of extreme competitiveness. Everyone’s trying to get into grad[uate] school or med[ical] school, or any other professional school, so there’s just this ultra competitiveness between students and that has a really huge effect on all of our mental health. And so, I think academic policies are going to have to address mental health, flexibility, and kind of get at those core reasons as to why students might be more inclined to be stressed out and during the pandemic, especially.

F: Can you explain in your words what is the mandate for the role you are attempting to be elected to?

MC: The senate is a lot about making academic decisions and talking about politics. It’s a lot of people who come together, representing their faculty and contributing their final decisions on specific cases. Everyone should elaborate their point of view, share recommendations, and also in the best interest of the university. I think that the Senate is really about bringing what you’ve got, in terms of respecting our policies and how it works, but also staying really impartial.

SY: I’m running to represent the faculty of science on the student Senate. The Senate as a whole passes academic policies, most recently the pass [or] fail policy. They create or abolish programs. When faculties want to make changes to course requirements, that’s something that the Senate would pass.

F: What is an area that you think the body you are running for can improve and how do you plan on helping to improve it?

MC: Helping is my main objective. I thought a lot more about politics and making more connections. The Science Students Association (SSA), for example, is creating better relations, more transparency, making sure that everything is in good democracy that’s for sure but I’ve been mostly interested in health because of the pandemic. …

SY: A big thing for me and my campaign is looking at elections, and how student representatives are elected to bodies such as the Senate and the BOG. One of the things I’m campaigning for is electoral reform. The bylaws on the U of O website still say SFUO and UOSU has been our student union for the past two years. So I think the student senators need to get together, there has to be someone with the political will to update these bylaws for how these governance bodies elect students to them because I don’t think it’s been made a priority so far and I think these elections need to be made more accessible and more democratic. Additionally, part-time students can’t vote or run or volunteer in Senate or BOG elections. I think that that’s a huge disenfranchisement right there, I think part-time students deserve to have a say in who represents them.

F: If you’re elected, by the end of your terms what’s the one thing you would like to be remembered for?

MC: I would like to be remembered to have really, sincerely cared. That people know that I wasn’t sitting doing nothing and that I sincerely did my best to fix things I said I was going to fix.

SY: I’d say, known as someone who wasn’t afraid to reach out, who wasn’t afraid to make her voice heard and amplify the voices of others. Someone who is always willing to reach out and help others.

F: Why should students vote for you?

MC: I’m a hard worker, I always give 100 per cent, but also I’m really someone that is able to acknowledge mistakes and learn. I’m someone that is inspirational and really sincere, so people would actually know that if I’m doing something, I’m doing it because I really want to do it. And because I really want to represent everyone, I want to represent the interests of the community … I really want to bring more wellness, more health into everyone.

SY: I’m highly experienced in student governance, I have a strong understanding of how the administration works, of how UOSU works. I think my experience on UOSU and the connections I’ve made, and really my ability to reach out to students, are some of the greatest assets that I have in order to make university politics more accessible to students [and] more understandable because there’s not a lot of transparency. We need people who are willing to talk to students and bring those voices into rooms, where the older adults are, and I’m not afraid to use my voice to advocate to amplify the voices of others.