The 2016 Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) elections are upon us. Voting will take place Feb. 9-11, at a number of polling stations across campus, locations for which can be found on the SFUO web page. Students will also be able to simultaneously vote on referendum questions during the election period.
The Fulcrum sat down with this year’s candidates to talk about their goals for the upcoming year, so that students at the U of O can make an informed decision when it comes time to head to the polls.
Roméo Ahimakin is the current vice-president of services and communications at the SFUO. He also previously held the positions of interim president and vice-president finance at the SFUO.
Ahimakin says one thing he wants to work on next year is the changing rules at the school’s new 24/7 cafeteria, including the new time limits and backpack restrictions. He said he also wants to “increase comprehensive accommodation policies, and diversify mental health support” for students.
“There’s a whole bunch of challenges that we’re going to face, but I’m confident that if elected I’ll be able to navigate through the different issues and make sure that the students have what they need.”
As for experience, Ahimakin cites his time on the Board of Administration (BOA) and his role on the SFUO executive this year.
Another important theme will be intra-executive co-operation. “It’s about making sure that when we sit around the table, we can do some active listening to the inputs that everybody brings,” he said.
As for what fictional character he most identifies with, Ahimakin answered with the Flash. “I really like him because he can be at different locations at different times to support folks and make sure everything is going well.”
Rizki Rachiq is a fourth-year international economics student at the University of Ottawa.
Rachiq anticipates that on-campus involvement will be an important issue next year. “The biggest issue is to make sure students will participate,” he said. He notes low attendance at the recent General Assemblies, and low student engagement with their student union in general. “I feel students are no longer interested in the SFUO,” he said. “I think we have to focus on what motivates students.”
In the case of a failed healthcare referendum, Rachiq would prioritize the design of an alternate health plan. “I would consult the students on what they would cut if it’s a ‘no’,” he said. “I want the best health plan.”
To make sure the executive works well together, Rachiq stressed the need for effective communication between SFUO executives and students in general. While the SFUO does post meeting minutes following BOA meetings, Rachiq said he wants to publish more information from other executive and committee meetings to keep students informed.
For a fictional character he relates to, Rachiq chose Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. “He’s a leader.”
Tanner Tallon is the current representative of the Telfer School of Management on the BOA.
Tallon said that his job requirements will depend on the outcome of the healthcare referendum. If it doesn’t pass, he said, the “$29-per-student deficit” would be a primary focus for him. His other priority is looking at the student businesses, and “making sure they’re delivering the best service possible to the students.”
As for his relevant experience, Tallon cites his current job as an audit assistant with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. He also said he has experience that will help the SFUO work well as a group. “Working well together really means bonding, and as Community Advisor in residence last year… I got a lot of experience.”
As for which fictional character he relates to, “the first one that comes to mind would be Olivia Pope,” he said. “She always knows how to handle a situation, she’s always thinking on her feet, and she’s always great at coming together with a plan.”
Vice-president services and communications
Francesco Caruso currently sits on the BOA for the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Caruso says one of the biggest issues he will face next year is student engagement. “A lot of students feel disengaged with their university,” he says. He wants to go beyond emails and Facebook, and try new techniques like text message notifications.
As for experience, Caruso cites his current job as communications supervisor at the Pride Centre, and as a tour guide at Parliament.
To ensure the SFUO works well together, Caruso wants to foster a comfortable working environment. “Making sure that all of our access needs are met, and making sure everyone feels comfortable going into work,” he says.
As for a fictional character, Caruso says he identifies with Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones. “She’s cunning, she has a plan laid out, but she also knows that nothing is absolute, and that working with people is how you’re going to get what you want done.”
Nelly Nga Nga
Nelly Nga Nga is currently an administrator at the SFUO. She thinks the experience is helpful as she has already been the first point of contact for many people getting in touch with the organization.
One of her main platform focuses is transparency to ultimately improve the relationship between students and the SFUO. Nga Nga says she thinks one of the reasons voter turnout may be low is because students can’t relate to executives.
Nga Nga says the key to success within the executive team in this position is communications first, especially when a PR crisis arises.
“I would have definitely just had a meeting within the executives, this is what we’re going to say and we’re not going to make any comments here after. That’s it. You make one statement, you let it go,” she said of how she would have initially dealt with the recent media frenzy over the cancelled yoga classes.
As for her favorite fictional character, “I would say Olivia Pope… I love how just powerful she is on her own.”
Luxi Mathi is a computer science student at the University of Ottawa.
Mathi said one of her biggest tasks if elected will be maintaining the clubs system, and organizing events, for example for Black History Month.
“It’s just about taking things one step at a time,” she said. “I think it’s just important to stay positive.”
As for experience, Mathi says she’s worked extensively in roles that involve working with and performing outreach to people, through her roles as an event organizer, Ottawa 67s cheerleader, and makeup artist at Sephora. She also said her job at the Ottawa courthouse was beneficial. “I dealt with all kinds of people, helping them fight for rights,” she said.
To ensure the executive works well together, Mathi said “it’s important to not only believe in your own value, but not criticize other people for their own opinions.”
As for which fictional character she identifies with, Mathi chose Harvey Specter from Suits. “He’s a bold character, he does his job and he’s really passionate about it,” she said.
Diyyinah Jamora is a communications and political science student at the University of Ottawa.
Diyyinah says that if elected for the upcoming year, the first issue she will address will be the clubs system. “There’s not that much support for a new club that’s starting.” She says that she wants to streamline the system for funding clubs. Another problem she plans to alleviate would be combatting discrimination on campus. “I want to focus on what unites us,” she said.
As for experience, Jamora cites volunteering with the International House on campus, and involvement with advocacy campaigns like food justice and sustainability when she was in high school, facilitating social justice workshops in Vancouver, and founding the field hockey club at the U of O.
To ensure the executive work well together, Jamora suggests a more open dialogue. “If there’s ever an issue, my philosophy is not to bottle it up but to address it right then and there,” she said.
As for a fictional character, Jamora says her favorite movie is Legally Blonde, and she y identifies with Elle Woods. “I’ve dreamed of going to law school, my favorite colour is pink, I really love chihuahuas, I work at the Department of Justice.”
Diyyinah Jamora is a volunteer at the Fulcrum.
Morissa Ellis is currently the events coordinator at the Women’s Resource Center. She says she has actively been involved with many equality issues relating to women, race, gender, consent and much more.
If elected, Ellis hopes to address the unfairness and disorganization of the clubs system.
“I think the first thing would be looking at clubs, ensuring that they get their subsidies faster as well as room booking, because from what I’ve heard it’s a very big problem,” Ellis says.
One of her main focuses during her campaign is extending inclusivity to all students, like Francophone students who she says need to be included in more conversations.
Ellis says she wants to improve the accessibility and inclusivity for all groups, such as more family friendly events for students with children, and giving a voice to international students. She also intends to work alongside the vice-president of university affairs as a gender inclusivity coordinator to make the campus a more trans-inclusive space.
As for her favorite fictional character, “I really want to say that I’m like Viola Davis from How to Get Away with Murder just because like she handles everything,” Ellis says. “It’s a very intense workplace, she’s dealing with a lot but she manages with a really good team.”
Hadi Wess is the current vice-president social of the SFUO.
Wess said that big issues for next year will be campus spirit, but also social justice issues and mental health awareness. He wants to facilitate a number of workshops next year for students to become engaged in a wide variety of topics. “The approach I’m taking this year is looking at what the students want and trying to cater to them.”
As for experience, Wess cites his current role as SFUO vice-president social, as well has his role as president of both the Italian club and Arabic students association, as a student ambassador of Arabic studies, and as assistant coordinator for the residence resource centre.
To ensure the executive works well together, Wess said they must find common issues. “As long as we have a united vision, I think that’s all that matters,” he said.
For which fictional character he relates to, Wess found it easy to choose Waldo. “When I organize big events, it’s always fun for people to try and run around and find me.”
Chloé Hayes is an engineering student and is currently the vice-president social for the faculty of engineering. She says they have a very successful system in place that produces high quality events, and that she wants to bring that system to the SFUO.
Hayes says there are many issues around the SFUO’s current method of promoting events, saying posters are not an effective way to reach students. She wants to create a webpage on the SFUO website that would host calendar events from clubs, FED bodies and student organizers. Applicants would submit their event with required criteria to the SFUO webpage and Hayes would review and approve it.
“Everyone has their own Facebook page but after a while you get drowned in too many, but I know if we had one place for all this information we gather it would be so simple,” said Hayes of the idea.
As for her favourite fictional character, “I like Belle from Beauty and the Beast,” said Hayes. “I identify a lot with Belle, being a very studious person, I like reading a lot.”
Vice-president university affairs
Vanessa Dorimain, who studied world history and politics at the U of O, is the currently vice-president of university affairs at the SFUO.
Dorimain is expecting one of the biggest challenges of this position to be transit closures around campus due to LRT construction in the coming year. “Lees station was closed this year, there’s been a lot of changes to the route and so next year they are saying that over, I think, this summer or next fall Campus Station is also supposed to be closing.”
While the Confederation Line website does not indicate in its plans that campus station will be closed indefinitely, it does say that construction for the U of O LRT station is set to begin in Spring 2016.
Dorimain says as she is already in the position she has spoken with OC Transpo and intends to have their staff available here when the closures take place to help students navigate.
“Getting into this position takes a lot of work because you’re trying to figure out exactly how to mould this into your own and so now that I’ve already done that I feel like next year it’s going to be a much smoother ride,” she said.
Dorimain also mentions the team dynamic that is required in such a small working group, and highlights two members joining their positions later on as one of the reasons for difficulty this past year. She says she hopes as the team is assembled at one point this coming year the same issues won’t arise.
When asked which fictional character she relates most with, Doriman chose Storm from X-men. “I think that she’s a very innovative and sassy character and so I feel like that’s something I bring.”