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SU Elections 2022 Q&A: Students’ Council Candidates Part II

Get to know the candidates hoping to represent their faculties on Students’ Council during the 2022/23 academic year.

35 student councillors serve on Students’ Council. Elected councillors are expected to consult and represent constituents within their faculties. Councillors meet at Students’ Council meetings every second Tuesday to discuss and vote on bylaws and policies, and work with various committees and boards.

Candidates hoping to represent their faculties on Students’ Council were announced on March 17. Voting will take place on March 23 and March 24. This is part two of our Q&As with council candidates, the first part 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:

  • Gabriela Soto

The Gateway reached out to Soto, 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: I wanted to run for this position because I would like to bring a positive impact on my faculty and represent the interests of the students in my faculty.

What previous experience do you have that would allow you to serve as a good UASU councillor?

Liu: I have involved myself in student governance and student leadership for quite some time. I have been an undergraduate councillor of the ISA since June 2020 and have been elected the undergraduate chancellor in February 2021. I was elected co-vice-president (finance and marketing) in this February’s ISA elections. I was also a U of A Senator for 2020-2021 and was a part of the Senate Student Mental Health Committee. In the turbulent times and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was a fierce advocate along with the ISA for lecture recording and removal of participation grades for international students who were mostly studying in very different time zones. I joined the SU’s Campus Policing Policy Committee, working with newly elected and outgoing SU executives and representatives from other interest groups to find a solution for a safer campus. 

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Liu: I will attend all meetings and speaking in the interests of the faculty, deal with the students’ academic and student life concerns (e.g. fast-track event application process and standardized lab assessment protocols), push for more SU funding for new sport and recreation facilities (e.g. outdoor basketball courts, a room for board games) to support Golden Bears and Pandas, free drop-in activities, and the intramural leagues, and keep in touch with KSR students and the KSR Students’ Society. I will respond to emails and be open for communication (on social media, texting, and in-person meetings).

This is a really tough time for students, and there are many issues to address. What would your number one priority be as a UASU councillor?

Liu: My number one priority would be to actively consult with the constituents that I would be representing. More often than not, students feel that their elected representatives “disappear” after being elected. Sometimes students don’t even know who is representing them. This is unacceptable, especially since we are in a period of uncertainty and instability, and it is why over 80 per cent of students don’t even bother to vote in the elections. I would often talk with students and the KSR Students’ Society to have an idea of what is going on and what students are thinking about everything. I would also set up a Google Form and post on social media to collect opinions from students.

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 (one seat)

The following candidates are running in this race:

  • Eyasu Yakob
  • Ibukun Ojo

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

Why are you running for this position?

Yakob: I am running for UASU councillor for the Faculty of Nursing because I believe my experiences in various advocacy and leadership roles on campus have given me the skills necessary to serve as an effective representative for all nursing students. Now more than ever, we need a strong voice on the SU who will be committed to championing the concerns of students in our program, and I would be humbled to fulfill this role and be your voice on council!

What previous experience do you have that would allow you to serve as a good UASU councillor?

Yakob: I have earned lots of valuable experience from my involvement on campus that will translate into success as a Students’ Union councillor. For instance, I have taken on leadership roles within student groups like the University of Alberta Debate Society by being elected executive, a position that involves regular consultation with the members I represent, making it a similar role to a Students’ Union councillor! I also have experience engaging with student governance on campus which has allowed me to familiarise myself with the responsibilities and work of a councillor. My attendance in Students’ Council meetings this year and participation in the 2021 Students’ Council Mentorship Program have equipped me with the skills for success necessary for serving as UASU councillor!

Could you briefly and concisely describe your platform?

Yakob: If I were to briefly summarize my platform, it would revolve around the two core themes of accessibility and advocacy. I firmly believe councillors have an obligation to stay engaged with the students in their faculty and I pledge to stay accessible so that the concerns of nursing students can be addressed. I will also prioritise advocacy as a way to bring greater awareness of student issues and encourage policymakers to enact changes for the benefit of our student body. 

This is a really tough time for students and there are many issues to address. What would your number one priority be as a UASU councillor?

Yakob: My number one priority as a UASU councillor would be to expand on the advocacy work being done to bring greater attention to the issues affecting students at the University of Alberta. Students are faced with a whirlwind of challenges with exceptional tuition increases and access to mental health support on campus being just a few of the issues that need to be amplified to reach the ears of the public and those in power. I firmly believe that attaining greater visibility to these concerns will go a long way towards achieving policy change that will produce a better learning environment not only for students within the Faculty of Nursing, but for the entire university community.

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

Yakob: I love studying in ECHA! The building has plenty of study spaces to take advantage of and its direct connection to the LRT system makes for easy access in Edmonton’s cold and icy winter months. Additionally, it is easy to get something to eat or drink with ECHA’s Starbucks and the Tim Hortons just across the street in the Katz building.

Science (seven seats)

  • 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 Lala, 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 on Students’ Council 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 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.

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. At a time like this, your voices and concerns deserve to be heard and I hope to voice them and triumph solutions that best fit your needs. 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 UASU councillor?

Dhamija: I have been involved in student governance since my first semester at the university. I am the vice-president (external) elect at the 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 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 SU 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. 

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 personally 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, been a member of numerous student organizations across campus involving world health and the opioid epidemic, and I am 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: Restoring student trust in student governance through collaboration by consulting with students and writing biweekly reports for science associations, involving science students before decisions are made in council by holding monthly general meetings to discuss issues with science students, and working 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. 

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: working to create more paid student jobs in SU as well as 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 to strategize and implement greater student consultation and engagement on pertinent student issues as well as planning events, working to create a better student experience by engaging with students and directly bringing those concerns to council. Furthermore, 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 as a UASU councillor?

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 the faculty association or the SU cannot accomplish effectively. Hence, regular consultation with both the faculty association as well as the 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. 

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 as not all students feel safe attending classes in these conditions and some students are stuck in their home countries as well.

Sinha: The 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!

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!

UPDATE: This article was updated on March 24 at 12:44 PM to include an editor’s note on Sinha previously being removed as a Students’ Union councillor.

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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