This year’s election sees restructuring of executive positions
In the wake of another year of low student engagement and budget concerns, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) has modified executive positions and roles for the next academic year, following a governance review motion at November’s Board of Administration (BOA) meeting.
The presidential candidate for the Solutions slate is fifth-year conflict studies and human rights student Phillipe Garcia-Duchesne, who currently sits on the BOA as a representative for the Faculty of Social Sciences.
According to Garcia-Duchesne, the general idea behind Solutions is to “build accountability.”
“We want to make sure that services are responding to students needs,” he says. “One of the biggest things is increasing and improving the channel to voice concerns.”
He says that they plan to do this through a more comprehensive website and virtual Q&A’s.
He also shares that as a platform, Solutions is highly concerned with mental health initiatives. “We are looking at provincial health standards and hoping to improve the health plan in that regard.”
Garcia-Duchesne believes that his past experience as a BOA member and with campus clubs have prepared him to take on the position of president.
He also hopes to bring more awareness to student services, so that students are able to take advantage of what they’re paying for.
“Representing students at the university has been a big thing for me,” he says.
Rizki Rachiq is a fifth-year economics student running for president of the SFUO with the United slate. Rachiq has served as the federation’s vice-president finance for the past two years and feels that running for president is the next step up. He believes that he has gained experience working with other executives and is confident that he can fulfill the role of extending support to other executives and act as a mediator if elected.
Rachiq also says that he is familiar with the new duties of the position, mentioning the health plan which will be under the president’s mandate. As a part of his platform, he hopes to increase funding for mental health services through the health plan by working with Greenshield, and also wants to work towards getting a Gardasil vaccine covered.
Rachiq explains that he and his colleagues are re-running under the United slate since they still believe in its message from last year.
“United is people I know, I know their work ethic,” he notes, adding that the team is composed of past executive or staff members of the SFUO.
Another part of his platform looks at improving communication with executives, and hopes to implement a system on the SFUO website similar to the U of O’s library system which allows students to book rooms in advance. Rachiq also explains that students will be able to schedule appointments with executives online and see their office hours.
He also mentioned wanting to create a needs-based scholarship for student athletes, an incentive based volunteer program where SFUO volunteers could win up to $500 in groceries through an employee of the month system.
Finally, if elected, Rachiq is excited about implementing Camp Federation, a camp getaway orientation weekend open to all students at the beginning of the year to help them transition into university.
Shannon Berry is an engineering student running for the position of vice-president operations (formerly vice-president finance) with the Solutions slate.
Berry was previously the vice-president finance for the Engineering Student Society, where she managed a budget of $200,000. Her platform focuses on improving profitability for the SFUO and its student-run businesses. Berry plans on doing this by selling merchandise at the Agora bookstore and working with student designers who she says will receive a percentage of the profits. She also hopes to work with Higher Endpoint to create a loyalty program where students can collect points in order to help pay for part of their tuition.
If elected, Berry plans to make the budget more accessible to students through live updates, and an anonymous forum where students can submit their input on budget lines.
As for the new position, Berry thinks “it was a smart change,” and says she can work well with a team of accountants to ensure that the budget is managed properly.
One of the ways she plans on doing this is by having a total contingency fund of at least 10 per cent of every budget. She will also work with vice-presidents social and equity to plan events with the assumption that “whatever can go wrong will go wrong,” and including that in the budget.
Axel Gaga is a biology student at the U of O running for vice-president operations. Currently the vice-president of university affairs, Gaga is running for the new position with the United slate. “Before I leave, I would like to know I left my university better than before and with students that are more engaged and who love participating,” he shares, adding that the main point of the United campaign is to raise school spirit.
According to Gaga, the requirements for vice-president operations are rooted in “improving and optimizing the effectiveness of every project and every budget we have” and he realized this upon entering the position of vice-president university affairs.
As the outgoing vice-president university affairs, Gaga said he “completely revamped the campaign department to make it request based,” adding, “there are meeting minutes so we can be held accountable, I also worked with the Students Rights Centre to improve the way academic justice is done on this campus.”
Gaga also feels that creating the new position was a smart move on the part of the SFUO and feels that if elected he will be able to focus on the budget, and meeting students and federated bodies to make sure that “the information gathered is being related to the team that is crafting the budget” to ensure the money is being spent correctly.
Pamela Bader is a third-year biology student running for vice-president internal, a new position this year (formerly vice-president communications and services) that will focus on the clubs portfolio.
Bader is currently the comptroller general for the SFUO and has worked with Zoom Productions, and has worked closely with clubs in the past. She is also part of the United slate.
The new position will also take on part of a communications role, in matters such as live-streaming meetings, which Bader feels she has experience with through her time at Zoom Productions.
“All our goals whether it’s to increase student participation, be transparent with our budget, or create scholarships, our goal essentially is to bring all the students together and make sure they feel safe together and united like a family,” she says.
Katie Zwierzchowski is running for vice-president internal with the Solutions slate.
Although Zwierzchowski is new to the SFUO, she has club experience as a member of the sorority Delta Delta Delta.
“I have been working with many of the executives with my sorority which is considered a club,” she says.
Zwierzchowski notes that Solutions is trying to get students more involved in the SFUO. “We are trying to repair relations with the students and the SFUO,” she says. “One of my absolute main goals is to bring back funding to clubs.”
She hopes to introduce guaranteed funding for clubs that present a budget. One of her main goals is also to make Zoom Productions more accessible to students. “I’d like to be able to work out a rental system so that students can take out equipment to create promotional material for clubs,” she says.
“I’ve got the background in terms of the clubs system,” she says. “I’ve seen the clubs system from both sides. I’ve seen it as a student trying to join a club, which is not always the easiest thing, and I’ve seen it as a club member working with the SFUO.”
“I’ve seen that there is room for improvement on both sides and I know that I can bring something to that.”
Caroline Lu is a third-year chemistry student and is running for vice-president equity with Solutions. Her platform is composed of three central ideas: promoting inclusivity and positivity on campus, increasing advocacy through education of equity related issues, and bringing better resources and services to students.
Lu is currently in her second year on the Science Student Association as the chemistry representative and represents the Faculty of Sciences on the BOA. Lu says that being a part of various minority groups has helped her understand how intersectionality affects how students live their lives and hopes to put her personal opinions aside when representing the student body.
If elected, she hopes to implement an open door policy, “where (students) can say anything they want (and) don’t fear any consequences from what they say.”
She also shares that she likes the new roles that fall under her position such as clubs and campaigns, as most are equity based.
Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi is running for re-election for vice-president equity with United.
Moumouni-Tchouassi has been involved in activism within Ottawa for several years, and is particularly passionate about black activism and rights.
“I’m excited to have the VP equity role without clubs,” she says. “Because advocacy work takes up so much time. Without clubs, I will be able to be fully devoted to advocacy work this year.”
Moumouni-Tchouassi has been a student on campus for five years and feels that she knows exactly how this university works and “how it is letting down its students.”
She is also the racialized representative for the Canadian Federation of Students at the National level.
“United as a whole, we’ve all been involved on this campus for a while,” she says. “So we are all very experienced working with students and other universities.”
Pamela Twagriayezu is a fourth-year social work student running for vice-president equity as an independent candidate. She is the president of her federated body, ADESS, and has worked as a community outreach coordinator, a victim and witness specialist agent for the minister of the general attorney, and at the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre.
Twagriayezu’s reasoning for running independent of a slate is to prove that she can work with whomever comes into power.
“When you get elected as an official you’re representing students, and a lot of times when people run with slates they’re running with people they know that have aligned ideologies. At the end of the day, I’m there to represent those students, those marginalized folks that don’t have voices,” she shares.
Twagriayezu’s platform is based on accessibility, visibility, and equity, and she wants to work towards improving the policies for accessible learning physical or otherwise, as well as the policy on sexual violence to ensure that survivors and victims are protected.
She also wishes to implement gender neutral bathrooms if elected, and wants better access to female hygiene products.
“I’ve seen how our student union hasn’t always best represented my needs as a black woman and how I can better serve people in that role as VP equity,” Twagriayezu explains.
Twagriayezu also wants to find outside financing for the SFUO and wants to see more student engagement next year both with employees and ensuring they have the right training, and the students who use the services they provide. Her platform is about including marginalized students like francophones, Indigenous students, and international students, and working with the vice-president operations to create a scholarship for those who identify within such groups.
Paige Booth is a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Social Sciences running for vice-president external with the United slate. The new position will replace vice-president university affairs and will absorb all of its responsibilities barring campaigns (except the one to lower tuition) and the U-Pass. Booth has worked as a receptionist for the SFUO in the past, and is currently the human resources assistant.
She feels this experience has given her the chance to navigate the internal structure of the federation, and see how it operates. Booth’s platform prioritizes mental health, and if elected she hopes to implement a 24/7 in-person mental health service that will be accessible to all students.
“If we can have someone on the phone in an office, 24/7 why can’t we have someone on campus?” she asks.
Booth feels confident in other members of her slate as well, claiming “we know the structure of the organization,” and that the new positions make it easier for executives to get more done and be more productive as a cohesive team for the students.”
Matthew Boulden is a third-year political science student running for vice-president external on the Solutions slate.
Boulden has worked as a page in the house of commons, and is currently co-president of the New Democratic Party at the U of O, as well as a representative for the Faculty of Social Science on the BOA.
Boulden feels his time as a page gave him hands-on experience with how government works, and that his time on the BOA gave him insight into the SFUO and helped him become familiar with the administration. His platform is rooted in targeting tuition hikes, and making students aware of their academic rights. Boulden also wants to increase student engagement within the university by holding regular town halls and communicating with students.
“There are a lot of people who might know about the SFUO and have opinions on the SFUO and often it can be a conversation that can be focussed on problems,” he says. “(Solutions) wants to change that.”
Adam Ha is a communications student and is running for vice-president social with the Solutions slate. Ha is currently in his second year as vice-president social for the Communications Student Association, and feels his skills from this position will translate to the broader range of students as vice-president social on the SFUO.
Ha has volunteered for 101 Week in the past and believes he has the experience needed to plan for this event. That being said, he hopes to create a wider range of events for students throughout the year, focusing on diversity. This includes bringing in comedians, hosting open mic nights through student businesses, talent shows, and sporting events. Ha says he wants to change the way the SFUO has run in the past, by budgeting responsibly so that money is put into things and situations like overspending on ELE Fest don’t repeat themselves.
Faduma Wais is a fourth-year student running for vice-president social with the United slate, having been involved with the SFUO for the past three years. “When I got the opportunity to see what it’s like on the outside as a volunteer… seeing the events they’ve pulled off in the grand scale, this is something I was keen on doing throughout my time in university,” she says.
She has helped organize 101 Week, and participated in Black History Month Galas. Wais is currently working with the SFUO Campaigns Department.
Her platform is based in increasing school spirit and a sense of community on campus, which she hopes to do by working with Sports Services to create more events for students. She also wants to ensure that events include students of all ages, and groups.
Wais believes that her time with the SFUO has given her insight into how it operates and what needs to be improved. She feels that United can make changes on campus as they “bring a unique approach and perspective” from having worked together in the past.
“The experience of working together makes it easier to be fluid in the work that we do,” shares Wais. “This is the time we need to make change and it all starts with one united voice.”
Voting for the 2018 SFUO general election takes place Feb. 7-9. at polling stations across campus.