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SU Elections 2022 Q&A: General Faculties Council Candidates Part II

Get to know the candidates hoping to represent their faculties on General Faculties Council (GFC) during the 2022/23 academic year.

General Faculties Council (GFC) is the University of Alberta’s body in charge of making decisions related to academics. It consists of 162 members, including university administrators, deans, professors, and undergraduate student representatives. They meet every month and has subcommittees that meet regularly.

Candidates hoping to represent their faculties on General Faculties Council were announced on March 17. Voting is taking place on March 23 and March 24. This is part two of this article, part one can be found here.

The following interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Faculte Saint-Jean (one seat)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Cirila Bartley

The Gateway reached out to Bartley, but they were unable to provide comment before The Gateway‘s deadline.

Kinesiology, Sports & Recreation (one seat)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Andy Deprato
  • Lionel Liu

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Deprato was unable to provide comment before The Gateway‘s deadline.

Why are you running for this position?

Lionel Liu: Since GFC is the university’s highest decision-making body and is responsible for academic and student affairs at the U of A, I believe a strong voice is needed to speak on behalf of the students against the terrible university governance everyone has been enduring.

What previous experience do you have that would allow you to serve as a good representative on GFC?

Liu: The answer would be pretty similar to the one provided for U of A Students’ Union (UASU) Council. Still, I’d add that I have never been, and I will never be, a rubber stamp licking the boots of those people in the ivory tower, giving no **** whatsoever about the students, student experience, and quality of research and teaching.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Liu: The platform is similar to the UASU Council. I am committed to defending students’ interests. I am ready to be vocal in opposition to tuition hikes and cuts in student services. Isn’t it ridiculous that we have to pay $10 for an automatically generated electronic letter of verification that used to be free? I have had enough of this.

This is a really tough time for students and there are many issues to address. What would your number one priority be while representing students on GFC?

Liu: Advocacy, advocacy, and advocacy. Being in a representative role and alone in a 162 member GFC, I would unite with other similar-minded CFC student council members to form a strong opposition and advocate in favour of the student body in every aspect possible.

Fun Question: Where is your favourite place to study or get work done on U of A’s campus?

Liu: My favourite place to study and get work done is in the social space in Van Vliet Centre, which is to your immediate right side after entering from the entrance facing SUB.

Nursing (two seats)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Cindy Sun
  • Precious Majekodunmi

The Gateway reached out to all candidates, but Sun was unable to provide comment before The Gateway‘s deadline.

Why are you running for this position?

Precious Majekodunmi: I am running for the GFC for the reason that I would like to amplify student voices and enrich their academic experiences. These past few months have been turbulent for students. Therefore, I am committed to advocating for student concerns and working towards making their undergraduate experiences as fulfilling as possible. I want to be in this position so that I can empower the students around me to also raise their voices.

What previous experience do you have that would allow you to serve as a good representative on GFC?

Majekodunmi: My first introduction to student governance was through Stride. The Stride program provided me with a wide range of skills and knowledge that will enable me to effectively advocate for students. I have acquired the skills of public speaking, leadership development, and campaign techniques that will contribute significantly to the role of a representative on the GFC. Additionally, I served as an emerging leader in the Social Changemakers program which has also equipped me with leadership and advocacy experiences that I can apply to the role of a representative on the GFC.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Majekodunmi: My platform focuses on four main points. Firstly, I want to work towards establishing a more connected and collaborative student body. Secondly, I want to promote more student engagement and increase accessibility for students. Additionally, increasing opportunities for networking, socializing, mental wellness, and volunteering. Lastly, I want to work towards a more sustainable campus and ensure that the university’s policies are favourable for students.

This is a really tough time for students and there are many issues to address. What would your number one priority be while representing students on GFC?

Majekodunmi: The issue that would be my number one priority while representing students on the GFC would be to enhance the resources and supports provided to students as these past two years have been tough for students due to the pandemic. All students need stronger support and resources to enrich their academic potential as our switch from online learning to in-person will require readjustment. 

Fun Question: Where is your favourite place to study or get work done on U of A’s campus?

Majekodunmi: My favourite place to study on campus would be the John Scott Library. It is a quiet and great place for studying. The Scott Library has a lot of windows, so it gets a lot of natural light, which is very inviting. On the second floor of the building, I sit at a spot with glass windows on the roof. It is very soothing for me to watch the clouds move, as it helps to clear my mind and allows me to refocus. 

Pharmacy (one seat)

The following candidate is running in this race:

  • Hubert Piatkowski

The Gateway reached out to Piatkowski, but they were unable to provide comment before The Gateway‘s deadline.

Science (seven seats)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Charvi Dhamija
  • David Lee
  • Daniela Carbajal Velez
  • Devshri Lala
  • Mobashhir Khan
  • Mohit Sinha
  • Prateek Bahrani
  • Rana Sunjog Singh Thind
  • Simran Dhillon
  • Vedant Vyas

The Gateway reached out to all candidates but Bahrani, Thind, and Vyas were unable to provide comment before The Gateway‘s deadline.

Why are you running for this position?

Charvi Dhamija: I have a keen interest in advocating for students, and running as a councillor in GFC will allow me to be a voice for thousands of students. Furthermore, in my opinion, being involved in student governance is service – this lets you give back to the community in numerous ways.

David Lee: Throughout my undergraduate degree, I have been involved in multiple different student groups and initiatives, actively supporting my peers with a passion for making university doable and enjoyable for everyone. Having experienced a myriad of interactions coming from my responsibilities, this year, my fellow students’ needs and concerns came to my attention. Consequently, I started to recognize the importance of individuals that speak and act for students to have their messages properly seen, heard, and understood by the university. As an advocate for students, I intend to become part of this amazing initiative through this opportunity!

Daniela Carbajal Valez: As someone who sat on council for another faculty and now a student in science, I want to offer opportunities for students to be represented on council. I want to run because there is a gap between science students and the council. I want to hold monthly meetings as well as write reports for all science associations so that not only they know of what is happening on council but also so they can voice their opinions to be represented on council. I am running because I am passionate about representing students and I want to cultivate a space for students to feel heard and represented.

Devshri Lala: I am running for this position again because I know that students are frustrated and they deserve better. The pandemic has not been easy for us, especially as university students. We are seeing constant tuition increases, budget cuts, and changes to mode of learning that are all putting the quality of our post-secondary education at high stakes. I want to be the voice of students and advocate for their needs.

Mobashhir Khan: I want to run for this position because I am interested in advocacy and in working for the welfare of the students. Being a student myself, I know what students want and what they are suffering through, and I want to bring about changes that would help them.

Mohit Sinha: I am running for this position to raise student voices in the council and bring forward the changes students need.

Simran Dhillon: I have spent the entirety of my degree working to address your needs and understand the concerns most important to you. Throughout my past two terms on both council and GFC, I have witnessed immense wins but also some cracks within our own infrastructure that contribute towards poor representation and consultation with the student body. I want to use my experience and knowledge from my past two terms and improve undergraduate student representation at our university. I hope to work collaboratively with our faculty association, as well as departmental associations, to improve student governance at all levels. Likewise, ensure that the council is transparent in its resolutions and its processes to create a more welcoming system for all students. These are just a few of the ways I hope to improve student advocacy within my role as a UASU and GFC councillor — however, I know that with my experience the work is not done and I am excited to see what is next!

What previous experience do you have that would allow you to serve as a good representative on GFC?

Dhamija: I have been involved in student governance since my first semester at the university. I am the vice-president (external) elect at the International Students’ Association (ISA) and a member of the Office of the Registrar’s Student Advisory Committee. Some of the work that I have done at ISA includes working on the ISA Fee (ISAF), I-Card, and advocating for international students. In the student advisory committee, I provide feedback and input on various activities and initiatives that directly impact students.

Lee: During my time spent at the U of A, I have had a variety of unique experiences on campus that instilled a holistic set of skills, knowledge, and perspectives inside me. Currently, I am a science mentor in the faculty of science, a research assistant in an engineering research team, and working with InfoLink. I also volunteered with Week of Welcome, was a teaching assistant in a language course, and have served multiple student clubs as an executive. In addition, I am now confident in speaking to a large group of people or people of different ages, genders, and ethnicities in a calm and professional manner. I firmly believe that my experiences, together, will enable me to serve the best interests of students!

Carbajal Valez: I have served on council where I created reports and presentations for my faculty throughout my term and brought Augustana issues to the table. I have also served as the vice-president (student life) for my previous faculty, now the president of the Latin American Students’ Association (LASA), as well as working with the Students’ Union as a senior peer advisor. In the positions I have held I have ensured my constituents are always informed on what is happening, so you can trust your vote is backed by experience and shows commitment to representation. 

Lala: Throughout my short academic career, I’ve had the privilege of representing science students at the UASU this year and at GFC for the past two years. These experiences have allowed me to understand our university and the needs of science students even better.

Khan: I was a councillor at the ISA in Fall 2020. I have been working for the welfare of students since January 2021 as a director at the ISA and have been dealing with student issues. Working at the ISA has given me a sense of what students want and what their problems are, and I feel it will benefit me greatly as a councillor when I am representing the students’ problems.

Sinha: I am your current GFC and SU councillor for this year as well as serve as vice-president (communication) of the ISA. In my role, I have worked to successfully advocate for more scholarships and bursaries, online learning models during COVID-19 as well as have put forward student voices in many other discussion and agenda items of GFC and SU.

Dhillon: I have been a councillor and GFC representative for the past three years of my degree — committing almost the entirety of my degree to understanding council and GFC and the cracks within our own infrastructure. I have also worked on building relationships with my faculty association to address the largest problem I believe student governance often faces and that is proper student engagement and consultation. I have taken part in both a research term and internships where I have understood the greater necessity for improved access to these opportunities in career development. I have also been a member of numerous student organizations across campus involving issues including world health and the opioid epidemic. I am also the CEO of a startup that is working to create innovative solutions to address the opioid epidemic through the advancement of chemical techniques and direct consultation with vulnerable populations. I believe that I have the knowledge, experience, and drive for innovation that would allow me to catalyze positive change for our faculty and students. 

Editor’s Note: Sinha was removed as a Students’ Union councillor as of August 26 2021 through a DIE Board Hearing due to low council meeting attendance.

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Dhamija: If I get elected as the councillor, some of the areas I plan to work on include, but are not limited to: advocating for a better overall Science Internship Program (SIP) experience for students, ensuring regular communication with different department associations as it will help us understand issues and concerns that affect the students in those departments, and holding drop-in virtual sessions for students and conducting frequent surveys to receive feedback on the services being provided to them.

Lee: I would like to make efforts to advocate for protecting our courses, hybrid classes, and anything else that needs to be addressed to better our university experiences, such as scholarships and mental health/academic resources!

Carbajal Valez: Restore student trust in student governance through collaboration by consulting with students and writing biweekly reports for science associations. Involve science students before decisions are made in council by holding monthly general meetings to discuss issues with science students. Work with other faculty councillors to discuss common issues as well as work with the Augustana and Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) councillors to address issues with current and transferred students. 

Lala: Some of the things that I would like to accomplish if I am elected would be to advocate for hybrid learning, to increase funding in areas such as undergraduate Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research and innovation, to support more science scholarships and bursaries, and to diversify health and wellness support that are more inclusive and equitable. I am hoping to achieve this by working with students, fellow councillors, various faculty associations, and the Students’ Union executives.

Khan: I am planning to advocate for all and any problems faced by students and stand with them in every situation as their representative. My main agenda is to advocate for hybrid options in more courses and exams, as many students do not still feel safe attending classes in these situations. Also, I will push for no tuition fee hikes, job fairs and more mental health events.

Sinha: This year I am running with the following agendas which I being a veteran councillor believe would be achievable in my term with your support: advocate for increasing business activity on campus resulting on more on-campus jobs, advocating for assignments to be integrated into courses through means which would not require access codes, more accessible mental health resources, advocating to get all cultural holidays recognized and celebrated at our university, and a better tuition model for international students.

Dhillon: I want to utilize my knowledge and experience to create a tangible platform that addresses students’ concerns and that does not let them down at the end of my term. This includes improving access to research opportunities found throughout campus, working directly with our faculty association (ISSS) to strategize and implement greater student consultation and engagement on pertinent student issues as well as organizing events, and working to create a better student experience by engaging with students and bringing those concerns to council. I want to improve access and knowledge of our services and initiatives to ensure students are reaping the benefits of their fees. Finally, I want to work on Finance and Audit Committee to complete my current work of improving the financial management of our faculty associations and services to ensure your money is being spent in ways you actually need and want.

This is a really tough time for students and there are many issues to address. What would your number one priority be while representing students on GFC?

Dhamija: My number one priority would be consultation with faculty and department associations. Each department in the faculty of science has its unique issues, which can’t be generalized with all the other departments. They have a level of reach and involvement with their members that cannot be accomplished alone by the GFC effectively. Hence, regular consultation with both the faculty association and departmental associations would be my number one priority, so every issue is covered.

Lee: My number one priority this year will be protecting and even possibly expanding our course options as
many of them are undergoing suspension by budget cuts, threatening students’ rights and freedoms to
pursue studies of their interests!

Carbajal Valez: Actually listen to students. I have met many amazing science students with great ideas to address issues currently impacting us but they are not given any opportunity or space to communicate this. By providing this opportunity, I hope to give these students and their ideas a platform in order to address the many issues we face. 

Lala: My number one priority as a councillor for the upcoming year is to advocate for and implement hybrid learning opportunities within the faculty of science.

Khan: As I described in my platform, I am planning to advocate for all problems faced by students. If I have to state a number one priority, I would say hybrid options in more courses.

Sinha: Student needs are constantly changing with the environment as we may have seen with COVID-19 and so, the priorities will need to change as well throughout the year. However, what I can say is that my number one priority will always be students and I will always be available through my Instagram (@mohit_for_gfc_su) to meet and talk about student issues throughout the year.

Dhillon: Consultation and engagement — in order to create solutions for students I want to bring students into these conversations by creating better mechanisms for student engagement and consultation. In order to do this I will continue the work I have been doing throughout my term in improving the relationships between myself, as a science councillor, and ISSS in order to feasibly work to create solutions to this issue. Right now we need someone who knows how to navigate and create solutions and I know I can be that representative for the faculty of science!

Fun Question: Where is your favourite place to study or get work done on U of A’s campus?

Dhamija: Definitely Cameron Library or SUB!

Lee: My favourite place on campus to study is undoubtedly ECHA! In particular, for me, ECHA is a lifesaver because I am easily distracted at home and the type of student that retains information most effectively by reading materials out loud!

Carbajal Valez: I enjoy studying in ECHA and SUB. Although I enjoy ECHA a bit more because of Starbucks!

Lala: My favourite place to study is Rutherford Library. 

Khan: I mostly complete all my work in Cameron Library! I just go there with a few of my friends and get work done as soon as possible so I am free in the evening and can relax!

Sinha: My favorite place is Rutherford library as the hub is very close to grab a snack whenever needed!

Dhillon: I spend close to 90 per cent of my time in SUB working on projects, studying, and just generally getting tasks done. With that being said, I truly believe that with every year I find a new study space that I fully commit to. So where I will study next is completely up in the air!

Correction: This article was corrected on March 24 at 8:28 p.m. to state that there are eight General Faculties Council seats representing students in the faculty of science. An earlier edition said there are seven seats. The Gateway regrets this error.

Areeha Mahal

Areeha Mahal was the 2021-22 News Editor and previously served as a Deputy Arts & Culture Editor and Deputy News Editor. Additionally, she is a second-year Biology and English student. When she’s not learning the Krebs cycle for the millionth time, Areeha enjoys stargazing, baking pies, and listening to Bob Dylan.

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