CSJ forum reveals which VPOF candidate is listening to students

Bony is grounded in student needs while Flaman struggles to engage with students.

Students’ needs should be at the forefront of the candidates for vice-president (operations and finance) (VPOF) minds. The 2024 Students’ Union (SU) Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) forum made it clear that this is the case for Joachim Bony. Levi Flaman, on the other hand, showed he is still out of touch. While Bony has an obvious advantage — he is the VPOF of the association des universitaires de la faculté Saint-Jean (AUFSJ) and a CSJ student — Flaman should have still put in the work.

Flaman’s ideas and answers to questions didn’t address specific issues to CSJ students. As a result, I was left wondering if he even knows what those issues are. If Flaman wants a chance in this race, he needs to engage with students from all campuses. So far, he hasn’t done that.

During his introduction, Flaman voiced and recognized the importance for student group training and resources to be available in French at CSJ. But, that isn’t enough.

While language is a barrier for the SU’s transparency at CSJ, it’s only a starting place — not the end-all-be-all of CSJ students’ needs. Providing bilingual training and resources is the bare minimum at a university with a French campus. What Flaman needed to focus on is that CSJ students lack access to many SU services for reasons beyond language. Unfortunately, Flaman failed to address this adequately. 

During open forum, candidates across all races were asked how they consulted with CSJ students. Flaman had the opportunity to share how he consulted and connected with students at CSJ, but didn’t take it. Choosing not to answer this question points to a bigger issue. When given the opportunity to further engage and connect with students, he actively chose not to. His silence left me wondering if he didn’t have an answer because he didn’t consult with CSJ students at all. But, I guess we’ll never know, since Flaman didn’t tell us.

In stark contrast, Bony consistently showed that he is already engaging with students. He did this throughout the entire forum, not only when specifically asked about it. Any and all statements Bony made centered around CSJ students’ needs. I’m skeptically optimistic that Bony will be able to stay consistent with student engagement throughout the campaign, even when it doesn’t directly concern his own campus. 

Refreshingly, Bony seemed to have a clear idea of how services could be improved at CSJ. The Gateway asked if either candidate had plans to bring an SU-run business to CSJ. The possibility of opening an SU business as a way to represent CSJ’s culture and to bring in revenue has been brought up in past elections. Neither candidate endorsed this idea, but Flaman offered no alternative while Bony had a real vision for change. 

For example, Bony mentioned CSJ’s bookstore, Le Carrefour, which is currently owned by AUFSJ. While Le Carrefour shut down in 2015, reinstating the bookstore might be a better use of funds than establishing a SU-ran business on CSJ. This is a sentiment shared by Bony, who emphasized Le Carrefour as something to support.

Bony is clearly listening to CSJ students, rather than assuming the same things that work for North Campus will work for CSJ. Additionally, Bony mentioned maintaining open communications between the SU and CSJ throughout the forum. If put to use, these liaisons could play a huge role in supporting services at CSJ.

These relationships with CSJ would make directing resources to the right places more efficient. The execution of this isn’t clear at this point, but the intention and purpose is. It offered much-needed clarity to Bony’s plans, while Flaman offered vague non-answers. 

As a CSJ student and the VPOF for AUFSJ, Bony’s personal and professional connection to the campus made it far easier for him to engage with CSJ students. Flaman undoubtedly had more work cut out for him than Bony did, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have done the work. He isn’t as familiar with CSJ as a North Campus student, but he didn’t seem to try to connect with the campus beyond attending the forum.

However, Bony didn’t show the same engagement and familiarity at the Augustana forum as he did at CSJ. Consequently, he wasn’t able to offer any concrete plans for that campus. Going forward, I hope he is able to have the same student engagement across all campuses — not just his own. Both candidates still need to show that they can engage with students, whether or not it’s easy for them. 

Flaman said the VPOF is an “internal position,” which is nothing but a cop-out. The VPOF’s responsibility is to manage the SU’s budget, which has direct impacts on the services students need. If he sees it as a strictly internal role, it’s because he’s not engaging with those outside of it. This isn’t an excuse for his lack of engagement with CSJ students either. While it would have taken more work for him to connect with CSJ students, he should have made a better effort. A potential VPOF needs to show they can listen to and work with students and the other executives. Flaman’s excuses looked weak next to a candidate like Bony that is willing to engage.

It’s unclear if Flaman made any effort to engage with CSJ students, and next to Bony, it looks bad. What is clear is that if Flaman wants to keep up, he needs to find a way to connect with students. Until he does, he will continue to make Bony look like the better, more-engaged candidate. But, Bony needs to maintain his advantage by continuously engaging with other groups on campus, in the same way he did for CSJ.

Leah Hennig

Leah is the 2024-25 Opinion Editor! She is in her first year studying English and media studies. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting, and missing her dog while drinking too much coffee.

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