GSAÉD election candidates at a debate on March 15. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Graduate Students’ Association election to take place March 22-24

The Graduate Students’ Association (GSAÉD) will hold its elections from March 22-24. It will feature candidates for the seven GSAÉD executive positions, as well as candidates for seats on GSAÉD’s Board of Directors.

As all of the executive candidates are running unopposed, their election will be determined by a yes-no ballot.

Last year, only one position, University Affairs Commissioner, saw any competition, while the rest were decided by yes-no votes. Races for executive positions saw between 85 and 88 votes each.

There will also be a referendum question asking if full-time graduate students in a summer session should contribute $192.70 for a full-time summer U-Pass. The SFUO and GSAÉD have yet to determine what requirements students have to meet to be considered full-time summer students.

Stéphanie Bacher – Equity commissioner

Stéphanie Bacher is running for equity commissioner, one of the two new executive positions. She is currently completing her masters in international development and beginning a PhD in political science next year.

Bacher says that she feels many students are not participating in GSAÉD and hopes to change that by consulting the different groups that she feels are currently excluded, as well as increasing the organization’s transparency.

She says this push to increase transparency may be her greatest challenge next year, as it hasn’t been done in a long time. Bacher says the elections weren’t well publicized, and intends to focus on increasing online visibility and pursuing better language equality for GSAÉD, like ensuring written material is properly translated.

“To see that groups that weren’t involved before are starting to just have some interest in the GSAÉD and to know a little bit more about what it does, human rights, about different resources—that would be my main goal,” said Bacher.

As for experience, she is a first-time candidate for a GSAÉD role but has worked with several non-government organizations involved in democracy and human rights.

While there isn’t any fictional character she identifies with, Bacher says in real life it would be Eleanor Roosevelt for her involvement with human rights.

Matthew Lafrenière – Finance commissioner

Matthew Lafrenière is running for finance commissioner for the third year in a row.

A PhD student in chemistry with a Telfer undergraduate diploma, he says not only does he have the institutional knowledge but also the benefit of a finance background.

Lafrenière says there is still work to be done with regards to the financial organization of GSAÉD, and main challenges ahead will revolve around GSAÉD-owned businesses, like Café Nostalgica, being able to provide services effectively.

While this will be his last year as an executive, he hopes to improve engagement before he leaves. Lafrenière says that while graduate student involvement on campus is quite high, voter turnout is low. In addition figuring out how to get more graduate students engaged within the organization itself is an issue to address.

“I think the first step forward is really kind of surveying our students, getting an idea of kind of what they want us to do and then moving forward from there, and I think it’s absolutely critical,” said Lafrenière.

Lafrenière says while it’s okay to disagree on topics, it’s not okay to be disagreeable within the executive group, and keeping an open dialogue is an important part of collaborative work for next year.

As a big Star Trek fan, he most identifies with Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who he describes as having a strong, moral underpinning.

Kawtar Jaanid – Student Life Commissioner

Kawtar Jaanid is running for student life commissioner, and is currently completing a masters of communications.

Jaanid says she has around six years of experience in the field including volunteering, internships and working at event planning agencies. She currently works as an international student mentor at the university’s international office and feels her background in communications is a strength for this position.

“I think student life is all about communication,” said Jaanid.

As an international student herself, Jaanid says she hopes to make a difference in the experience of international students to ensure they feel more involved in the university lifestyle, and that their voices are heard.

“I would love to have events for them and then bring them together with the Canadian students,” she said.

As Jaanid is already familiar with the other candidates running for positions, she says she is looking forward to working with them and describes herself as a team player, working with a group of 14 mentors from different backgrounds in her current position.

Jaanid says Arya Stark from Game of Thrones would be her choice for a role model as a fictional character, because she’s smart and tough.

Lindsey Thomson – External Commissionner

Lindsey Thomson, a masters of counselling psychology student, is running for external commissioner.

Thomson said a big issue she hopes to tackle next year is international student issues, especially health coverage. She said she’ll focus on dealing with municipal and provincial government to get international students on OHIP. “There will be a lot of lobbying to be done.”

She also wants to improve international student tuition. “My biggest goal is to get a freeze on their tuition, because that’s totally unregulated,” she said.

Also, Thomson wants to host a TEDx (independent TED talk) event next year, focusing on graduate issues and research. “It’s a big, big project that I’m really excited for,” she said.

As for previous experience, Thomson has filled the role of external commissioner since it was vacated in October. “I’ve had a really great opportunity to do a lot of student advocacy,” she said. “I want to be able to continue that work, and work for grad students.”

As for which fictional character she most identifies with: “My immediate response was to say Superwoman,” she said. “Because she does a lot, and I find that I’m constantly multitasking and having to take on a lot of responsibilities.”

Victor Hatai – University affairs commissioner

Victor Hatai, a masters in mechanical engineering student, is running for university affairs commissioner. “I’ve been here for just two semesters, but I think it gave me enough time to get to know their services and resources,” he said.

There are a couple of issues Hatai would like to address next year. One is better co-op opportunities for graduate students. “There are many co-op programs for undergrad students, but not enough for grad students,” he said. He expects that implementing these co-op programs will be his biggest challenge next year.

Hatai said he also wants to focus on international students. “I’ll try to bring to light some issues for international students this year,” he said, noting that he is an international student himself. “In terms of services that are provided (to international students) here, I think there’s room for improvement.”

He noted that international students often come from a different educational background, and that it should be taken into account.

As for a fictional character he identifies with, Hatai chose Rocky Balboa. “The best thing about him is he never gives up,” he said.

William El Khoury – Internal commissioner

William El Khoury, a masters of engineering student in chemical engineering, is running for internal commissioner.

El Khoury’s experience includes volunteering with several committees last year, including social and university affairs. This encouraged him  to get more involved and El Khoury says while he considered university affairs commissioner, he chose to run for a position that was more straightforward and internal.

As internal commissioner, El Khoury says his platform mainly focuses on keeping better records and meeting minutes within GSAÉD, as well as making sure the organization is transparent and efficient. Another big focus is ensuring students, especially international ones, are benefiting from the money they contribute.

“They are serving the universities with those research projects, with everything that they do they are actually helping out the country so they actually deserve these benefits and they need to know what the university is offering them,” he said.

 El Khoury, a self-described Potterhead, says he most identifies with Sirius Black of the Harry Potter series.

“I have to say Sirius,” he said, noting his loyalty and his habit of “doing the right thing.”

Warsama Ahmed – Resources Commissioner

Warsama Ahmed, a civil engineering masters student specializing in waste water treatment, is running for the newly formed resources commissioner position.

As a staff member of GSAÉD for over a year and a half as an administrative assistant, Ahmed says he’s acquired the experience necessary to improve the organization. Before returning to his studies, Ahmed managed a team of 15 employees while working for the World Health Organization.

As for his greatest challenges this year, Ahmed says with the creation of two new positions, bringing the executive board from five to seven, testing this new model is a big one, as well as increased student intake and whether they might need to hire more staff to deal with the influx.

“We’re changing the whole structure of the GSAÉD,” he said. “So they took out tasks from the student life commissioner and the internal commissioner and they created this new position.”

His main goals for the upcoming year focus on environmental sustainability and trying to reduce the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the association’s resources. As this position is also responsible for Café Nostalgica, Ahmed intends to increase its catering capabilities.

Although he doesn’t identify with any fictional characters, Ahmed does like Jon Snow from Game of Thrones and Kvothe from the book series, The KingKiller Chronicle.