The first round of debates took place in the UCU. Photo: Anchal Sharma.
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Thirteen candidates discuss plans for next year in restructured positions

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, and Thursday, Feb. 1, candidates for this year’s general election for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) went head to head in the annual debates.

The debates saw a restructuring this year, being moderated by the federation’s executive coordinator Vanessa Dorimain and president Hadi Wess. In previous years, the debates have been moderated by representatives from both campus student newspapers, the Fulcrum and la Rotonde. The positions for this year have also been restructured, following a governance review motion at the Nov. 5 meeting of the Board of Administration (BOA).

President, VP internal, VP equity

Wednesday’s debate saw candidates for the positions of president, vice-president internal (formerly vice-president services and communications), and vice-president equity.

Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, who is re-running for the position of vice-president equity on the United slate, discussed the need for more resources for marginalized students. Caroline Lu of the Solutions slate shared her plans for equitable education, while Pamela Twagirayezu, an independent candidate, focused on bolstering campus mental health services.

In terms of campaigns, Twagirayezu shared her hopes for a new and improved sexual violence campaign, Lu discussed an event similar to iWeek hosted by the International House with the focus being on diversity and inclusion, and Moumouni-Tchouassi talked anti-racism, decolonization, and child-minding for student parents.

When asked how they would manage the high level of stress associated with the job, Moumouni-Tchouassi explained, “you always have to be accountable to the work you do and stand by these decisions. I do what I do because I love what I do.” She explained that so far she has managed the stress “in having an amazing team by (her side) and by making sure we all support each other because we are united.”

Lu, who currently sits on the BOA as a representative for the Faculty of Sciences, shared her experiences with mental health issues, and her goal to create a positive working environment for elected representatives of the federation.

Katie Zwierzchowski, a candidate for vice-president internal from the Solutions slate hopes to compile a list of all resources and services available to students, and publicize it, saying that she hopes to reinvest more in these services.

“No matter what obstacle and challenge you face, at the end of the day it’s worth it,” said her opponent Pamela Bader, who is currently the comptroller general of the SFUO, and is running on the United slate.

Both candidates for president had strong statements regarding their slates’ positions. Philippe Garcia-Duchesne, who sits on the BOA as a representative of the Faculty of Social Sciences and who is running with Solutions said, “you have 23 million reasons to vote for me—this is the number of dollars the student federation receives from students each year.”

In contrast, current vice-president finance Rizki Rachiq, who is running on the United slate, said that “(his) platform is not just focused on solutions, it’s actions,” in reference to the name of his opposing slate.

VP external, VP operations, VP social

Thursday saw candidates for the positions of vice-president external (formerly vice-president university affairs), vice-president operations (formerly vice-president finance), and vice-president social.

“There are too many tragedies on this campus,” said Paige Booth, a candidate for vice-president external on the United slate, regarding a new mental health campaign, who also discussed tuition hikes, increasing study spaces on campus, and an alumni mentoring program that matches current students with U of O alumni to help them build better work connections.

Booth’s Solutions opponent Matthew Boulden, who sits on the BOA as a representative for the Faculty of Social Sciences, shared plans for increased funding for the university by rewriting the budget, educating students about their academic rights, and shorter wait times to see academic advisors.

“At the end of the day, students are the ones who fund and operate the SFUO,” said Boulden.

Adam Ha, vice-president social candidate for Solutions, hopes to push for increased transparency of the executives, and increased engagement with federated bodies and students across campus to better meet their needs and plan social and philanthropic events.

His opponent from United, Faduma Wais, said that the U of O lacks school spirit and therefore hopes to bolster it through initiatives such as a winter week and more sporting events, such as a soccer tournament.

For current vice-president university affairs Axel Gaga, now running for vice-president operations with United, his priorities include an e-commerce platform where students can purchase products and merchandise from the SFUO businesses online and an SFUO expenses tracker, so that students are aware of where money is being allocated.

“I’ve accomplished all I wanted to as vice-president university affairs, now I want to bring this to vice-president operations. I want your opinion…united, we can accomplish more,” he said.

Shannon Berry of Solutions, running against Gaga, shared plans for year-long profitability of the federation’s businesses to increase club funding, student merchandise, and more accountability and transparency.

On the topic of general assemblies (GAs), which have only met quorum once since their inception in 2014, Booth discussed increasing online outreach and using monthly town halls as a means to promote the assemblies. Wais shared incentives for attending, such as scholarships or free coffee, while Boulden said that students need a reason to come, and thereby educating them on what happens when a motion passes at the GA is critical to increasing student participation.

As for making the U-Pass affordable for students, Gaga said he has received the budget and has told the City of Ottawa that students are unhappy with the costs. When asked by Boulden about merging the U-Pass with student cards, Gaga continued that he has been working on this, and aims for it to be in effect next year. Berry agreed with merging the two cards, and wants to maintain negotiations with OC Transpo to give students the option to opt-out of the bus pass, or make them available for part-time students.

One issue that was raised was roundtables for federated body executives; Booth shared making the agenda available in advance and increasing online presence through the use of livestreams and social groups. Boulden said he would attend federated bodies’ GAs to get their input on the functioning of the SFUO, as well as include federated body vice-presidents academic in workshops and matters related to students’ academic rights.

Gaga asked Boulden, who sits on the BOA as a Faculty of Social Sciences representative, why he did not attend campaign meetings, nor invite students. Boulden responded saying that he had been excited to work on the Fight the Fees campaign and hoped to continue working on it, but was not made aware of follow-up information, and thus hopes to change that if elected.