NewsStudents' Union

SU Elections 2024: Campus Saint-Jean Forum Recap

The second University of Alberta Students' Union 2024 elections forum was held at Campus Saint-Jean.

NOTE: The Gateway is running a DFU campaign in the 2024 Students’ Union Elections. We will be covering our campaign in a strict environment that strives to promote impartiality, transparency, and fairness. If you’d like more information, please see our statement or Conflict of Interest Plan.

The second forum of the University of Alberta Students’ Union (SU) 2024 elections was held at Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) on February 28. The event was offered in-person and online.

Candidates were given two minutes each for opening statements. Each race was then asked a question by Jillian Aisenstat, the current SU Faculté Saint-Jean councillor and l’Association des Universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean (AUFSJ) vice-president (student life). CSJ students and audience members were then allowed to ask questions directed at specific races.

Here is the TL;DR version of this forum:

  • President: accessibility, advocacy for international students
  • Vice-president (external): CSJ representation, securing funding
  • Vice-president (operations and finance): streamlining, transparency, and cross-campus support
  • Vice-president (academic): translating BearTracks to French
  • Vice-president (student life): accessibility for mental health services and supports in French for CSJ
  • Board of Governors Representative: relaying CSJ student concerns through virtual platform 
  • International Students’ Association: provides services and events for CSJ international students 
  • The Gateway: platforms CSJ-specific issues through reporting

Presidential candidates discuss international students, advocacy, and consultation

michael griffiths presidential candidate CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Michael Griffiths, presidential candidate.

In his opening statement, presidential candidate and current Vice-president (student life), Michael Griffiths, spoke about some of the work he has helped accomplish for CSJ. He mentioned bringing the Zero-Waste program to CSJ, addressing concerns around campus safety, and awarding Résidence Saint-Jean (RSG) $8,500 from the Residence Improvement Fund.

“As president, I want to continue to uphold that collaborative relationship and fight for you. And I have the experience to do this effectively,” Griffiths said.

If elected, Griffiths said he plans to push the university to make BearTracks accessible in French, expand support of Student Representative Associations (SRA), and work with the university to reduce barriers to student governance. 

Presidential candidate, Lisa Glock, acknowledged that CSJ has a large international student population. She said the availability of resources in multiple languages is a personal issue for her as her parents immigrated to Canada.

lisa glock presidential candidate CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Lisa Glock, presidential candidate.

Glock said she has been involved on campus through the Sustainable Development Goals Alliance (SDGA) and Women in Leadership.

“I’m really looking forward to working with you and meeting your needs. Through language, culture, and community building,” Glock said.

Aisenstat asked the candidates what initiatives they had undertaken to alleviate pressures on international students at CSJ, and what initiatives they would undertake as president to continue this advocacy.

Griffiths said because of the cost of international tuition, international students may run into financial hardships. International students are more likely to use the Campus Food Bank (CFB), he said. During his time as vice-president (student life), Griffiths said he has worked with the CFB to try and build capacity. 

Additionally, Griffiths said he worked with the Office of the Registrar to increase the moderate standard of living calculation for the university’s supplementary bursary program. This resulted in an additional $1 million in bursary funding, which international students can access. 

As president, Griffiths said the advocacy he would undertake would be at a “much higher level.” Examples include advocating to the Board of Governors (BoG) against tuition hikes for international students, he said.

“I hope, if I’m sitting on BoG, to really make that a priority for them and ensure that they know the challenges that international students face,” Griffiths said.

Following Griffiths, Glock said that since she has not held a student governance position, she hasn’t been able to work with international students as much as she would like. However, she said the SDGA is an international initiative. Glock mentioned SDG 17 specifically, which she said is based on partnership and her “personal favourite.” 

“I would like to continue that streamline of collaboration when it comes to sustainability. And bring it forth into all other aspects of dealing with international students and working here with people at CSJ.”

Glock said that CSJ students have many different backgrounds and face varied issues. For this reason, she said culturally relevant services are one of the “biggest things.”

Additionally, Glock mentioned that although food banks are one solution to financial shortfalls, there are no campus food banks at CSJ. Also, the CFB doesn’t offer many culturally diverse food options, she said.

“It’s really only a band-aid that needs to be addressed from a ground-up holistic perspective for student issues. Versus just trying to scoop the water out of the boat, as it were.”

During the open forum, The Gateway asked the candidates how they would ensure CSJ is successfully advocated for when a common criticism of the university is that it doesn’t listen to the needs of North Campus students. 

Michael Griffiths and Lisa Glock CSJ forum 2024 presidential race
Lily Polenchuk Michael Griffiths and Lisa Glock, presidential candidates.

First, Glock said it’s important to emphasize the needs of all three campuses in advocacy and that all campuses should work together as a larger voice.

“I want to bring a unified voice that can’t be ignored because if we stand together, our voice is amplified,” Glock said.

Griffiths said that often, CSJ is more successful at advocating to its administration due to CSJ’s smaller bureaucratic structure.

“It’s important to play into that. A lot of times, it comes down to empowering the folks who are already on this campus to work directly with their administration, rather than trying to run things through North Campus and having them get bogged down.”

The Gateway asked the candidates how they would ensure CSJ’s uniqueness is preserved during their advocacy. 

Griffiths said his experience as vice-president (student life) will enable him to uniquely address the concerns of CSJ and the other satellite campus, Augustana.

Glock said one of the U of A’s biggest strengths is its many campuses. She said she’s always thought of North Campus, Augustana, and CSJ as three distinct entities with differing perspectives.

Maya Mohammed, vice-president (academic) of the AUFSJ, asked all the candidates about how they consulted with CSJ students.

Griffiths said his consultation began when he was running for vice-president (student life) in the 2023 SU election. 

“Consultation, to me, is more about actually getting to know the people and the students on this campus and what they need. Not just getting a checklist of the issues that need to be talked about.”

Glock said for consultation, she primarily spoke with a friend of hers who attended CSJ. She wanted to get the perspective of an average student.

“As I’ve decided to run a bit later than my counterparts with a smaller campaign team, my consultations are ongoing.”

-Dylana Twittey

Vice-president (external) candidates discuss representation and funding at CSJ

In his opening statement, vice-president (external) candidate Abdul Abbasi brought up how CSJ and Augustana are often “forgotten about” because they’re both satellite campuses.

“It’s like the SU just takes [Augustana and CSJ] like a commodity instead of [people with] emotions. I want to talk with CSJ and AUFSJ not just for the formality, but to come and talk with all of you to see what your issues are and how we can solve them,” Abbasi said.

He added that CSJ brings forward new perspectives to the U of A community.

“CSJ has 601 students. These 601 students are not the same as [those at] North Campus. These are different cultures and languages.”

He went on to say that he will work with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) to renew funding to CSJ.

“[Funding] was used for innovation of libraries, for sending your teams outside of Canada, and it’s expiring. So I want to work with CASA and CAUS to help us renew that funding.” 

Vice-president (external) candidate Logan West mentioned her French-immersion experience and how there are cultural differences at CSJ and the Francophone community. 

“Having a French-immersion background does mean that I understand the value of having a French culture and how important it is to this campus community. I understand how close the Francophone community is,” West said. 

West said that she wants to talk on behalf of CSJ and not over it, as she’s not experiencing what CSJ students experience. 

“Why would I ever pretend to know more than what someone who goes here every day does? Knowing how much pride you guys have for your campus is very important to me.”

vp external race logan west and abdul abbasi, CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Logan West and Abdul Abbasi, vice-president (external) candidates.

Aisenstat asked the two candidates about how they would secure funding for CSJ and French-speaking students at the U of A.

West said the university should “take pride” when talking about CSJ, as it is one of the only French university campuses in Western Canada.

Additionally, West wants AUSFJ to be “in the room” when having these conversations. 

“Having them in the room, having those conversations themselves with the government to represent themselves and represent their campus effectively. They’re going to be able to speak to it better than us,” West said. 

Following West, Abbasi said he wants to “elevate” and “renovate” CSJ’s profile for the government to show how much it means to students, and the importance of the “unique perspectives” coming from CSJ.

Abbasi intends to collaborate with other French universities in Canada to renew the funds previously provided by the Government of Canada. 

“We can go tell [the government] ‘hey, this is important,’ [as] the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that you need to provide education in both official languages all over Canada,” Abbasi said.

To Mohammed’s question, both said they met with Aisenstat to learn more about CSJ issues.

West also consulted with her cousin, a recent graduate from CSJ, about her experience.

“It was really great to connect and understand the issues that CSJ faces on a day-to-day basis. And how some of the issues that North Campus deals with, CSJ deals with in a disproportionate manner,” West said.

-Lale Fassone

Vice-president (operations and finance) candidates explore connections and bilingual support

In opening statements, Levi Flaman, candidate and current vice-president (operations and finance), reinforced his focus on SU partnerships, such as U-Pass. 

levi flaman CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Levi Flaman, vice-president (operations and finance) candidate.

Flaman said if re-elected, he would take a look at streamlining the application and renewal process for student groups, so they don’t get “bogged down and their applications shot-down halfway through the year.”

As well, he would work to provide bilingual student group training, and update and translate student group resources into languages other than English. Finally, Flaman said he would work to reassess the transfer payments between North Campus and CSJ so the AUFSJ can provide services at CSJ.  

Speaking in French, vice-president (operations and finance) candidate Joachim Bony raised similar concerns about accessibility to services for CSJ students and transparency between campuses.

Joachim Bony
Macy Wong Joachim Bony, vice-president (operations and finance) candidate.

“I want a bilingual financial report for all students at CSJ and the university, to allow them to know what the SU is doing with their money,” he said.

Bony added that as vice-president (operations and finance), he would address maintenance concerns at CSJ.

“One of the most obvious signs of the neglect at CSJ by the university is a lack of respect for our infrastructure. I will do what is necessary to solve this problem.”

Sithara Naidoo, the SU’s deputy returning officer, asked how the candidates will bridge the “important connection between student life and the operations and finance portfolio.”

To mend this connection, Bony said he will “create a permanent liaison and a long-term stable relationship that provides continuity in allowing CSJ to tackle the challenges they face.”

Flaman promised to co-ordinate more with CSJ, and attend more “meetings with CSJ beyond just showing up to fun events.”

Later, The Gateway asked the candidates if they had plans for a SU business at CSJ. First, Flaman raised concerns with how this would work.

“We don’t own or operate the building, so we’re at the whims of the leaseholder,” Flaman said.

He explained that a project of this size would take many years to complete, and would be highly dependent on CSJ. Flaman thinks it is unlikely this can be done in his term, but that he can at least set his successor up for success. 

Bony then mentioned that CSJ handed over control of its main bookstore, Le Carrefour, to AUFSJ, and that since AUFSJ doesn’t have any experience running businesses, the SU could assist them.

“I believe that it’s only natural they should look up to their big brother, the SU, to support them in making sure their business is run successfully.”

Flaman did not answer Mohammed’s question.

“I’m the vice-president (operations and finance) here,” Bony said.  “So that makes things easier.”

-Declan Carpenter-Hall

Vice-president (academic) candidates aim to translate BearTracks to French for CSJ students

In her opening statement, vice-president (academic) candidate Layla Alhussainy said that she is the vice-president (internal) of the Organization for Arts Students and Interdisciplinary Studies (OASIS). As well, she sits on the General Faculties Council (GFC) and Council of Faculty Associations (COFA). She said that “every campus, faculty, and student deserves to be represented equally.” 

layla alhussainy CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Layla Alhussainy, vice-president (academic) candidate.

Alhussainy’s platform focuses on affordability and accessibility, she said. She also mentioned efficiency, transparency, and compassionate inclusivity as target areas. 

“Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) should not be an add-on, but a foundation in everything,” Alhussainy said. “It should be lived, not performative. We must eliminate barriers [to education] and enhance accessibility.” 

Next, vice-president (academic) candidate Farah Elgaweesh introduced her academic background, saying she is currently a student in the faculty of nursing, and has worked as a research assistant in the faculty of medicine and faculty of science.

“That has exposed me to the academic concerns of students from three different faculties,” she said. 

farah elgaweesh CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Farah Elgaweesh, vice-president (academic) candidate.

“That is why I decided to run,” Elgaweesh said. “I want to make sure that students feel represented, heard, and that their voices are taken into account when making major decisions.” 

After consulting with CSJ students, Elgaweesh found that many people took issue with BearTracks lacking a French translation. As such, making BearTracks available in French is stated on her platform, which is also available in French. 

According to Elgaweesh, offering a French translation for CSJ students would “alleviate the burden on academic advisors.” 

“CSJ has only one academic advisor that works part-time. And that is not enough — especially in times [such as] class registration, and times where students need a lot of support,” Elgaweesh said. She said the translation would help “address the root causes” that lead students to seek academic advising services. 

“By repressing these issues, we can better support these students and ensure that we have enough academic advising for everyone.”

In a question directed to both candidates, Aisenstat said that translating BearTracks to French has been on “numerous platforms for years now, [but] has yet to be accomplished despite being the main point of many campaigns, and often the only academic point relating to CSJ specifically.” 

Aisenstat asked the candidates if they’d approach the issue differently, and if they think it’s important. 

academic race farah elgaweesh and layal alhusainney CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Farah Elgaweesh and Layla Alhussainy, vice-president (academic) candidates.

Elgaweesh repeated that translating BearTracks to French is in her platform, especially considering the “technological advances” that are available. 

“Having a Francophone campus, there’s no excuse for us to not have BearTracks translated in French. At least [not] the permanent parts that don’t change,” Elgaweesh said. This would ensure that CSJ academic advisors are “free to accept a higher number of students who are dealing with more individualized issues,” she added. 

In response to Aisenstat’s question, Alhussainy said that digital accessibility is a major component of her platform.

“I plan on utilizing my experience and familiarity with GFC and COFA to advocate for these issues,” Alhussainy said. “And just talking about it is not enough. They need to be addressed in a timely manner. This has been a concern for a long time, it’s not something new.” 

To Mohammed’s question, Elgaweesh said that during her consultation period, she met with CSJ student executives to “learn more about the experience from the lens of a student who goes to CSJ.” 

“It’s really important for me … to not just lead based on my experiences and based on what I’ve seen because I am from North Campus,” Elgaweesh said. “One point that was really highlighted to me was the importance of the sovereignty of CSJ.”

“It’s really important to draw that fine boundary between representing [CSJ], but also not just talking over them and repressing their ability to express themselves from their own points-of-view.” 

Alhussainy chose to not answer the question.

-Aparajita Rahman

Vice-president (student life) candidates discuss accessibility and student supports for CSJ students

In his opening statement, vice-president (student life) candidate Adrian Lam virtually discussed student supports, community building, and diverse representation as his main platform points. He recognized community building as being specifically important within CSJ, he said. 

“My main campaign point revolves around community. Coming from Augustana, community is a very integral part of who we are here and I’d love to see that just the same at CSJ with your involvement in the Francophone community,” Lam said. 

Following Lam, vice-president (student life) candidate Renson Alva highlighted several platform points including improving residence, in-person office hours, and accessibility to French resources and supports. 

renson alva CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Renson Alva, vice-president (student life) candidate.

If elected, he plans to use the Residence Improvement Fund and the Campus Recreation Enhancement Fund (CREF) to improve facilities at CSJ, he said. 

“Utilizing CREF to look into those facilities and ensure that your recreation facilities are top-notch, just like [at] North Campus,” Alva said. 

The candidates were asked by Aisentat how they will “work to make services and programs more accessible for CSJ students.” 

Alva plans to increase CSJ’s access to the SU Club Granting Program, he said. He also mentioned additional support for CSJ students using BearsDen, given that the website is not available in French. 

“We [could] do a tutorial in French for you folks on how we can let student groups and other associations on CSJ access the club grants program, so that they can make programs for you here,” Alva said. 

Following Alva, Lam focused on improving accessibility services to CSJ students. He expressed interest in working with Anne-Jose Villeneuve, CSJ’s EDI director, to improve accessibility. 

“I definitely would like to potentially set-up meetings in the future with [Villeneuve], along with students at CSJ [and] the students on AUFSJ to learn more about the issues regarding accessibility of services,” Lam said. 

During open forum, The Gateway asked the candidates how they plan on extending mental health services to CSJ, given that many students have to go to North Campus for mental health supports. 

Alva hopes to increase funding for mental health supports and resources available to CSJ students. 

He wants to “ensure that we have folks over here [that] we’re supporting, providing those mental health services in French, [and that we’re] able to meet the diverse needs of folks over here, as compared to going to North Campus.” 

Following Alva, Lam discussed the potential for implementing a program called Inkblot that was recently adopted at Augustana Campus. Inkblot is a virtual therapy service that allows students to receive mental health support online. 

“I do think it would be a benefit to students, not only on CSJ, but [also] on North Campus because … students [can] find those mental health services that are more applicable to them,” Lam said. 

In response to Mohammad, Alva mentioned consulting “the trifecta, which is students, residents, and [AUFSJ leaders]” to identify issues affecting CSJ students. 

“I’ve been here and listened to [residents] on what are some of the issues that they’d like to see addressed,” Alva said. 

Following Alva, Lam said that consultation is an integral part of the vice-president (student life) role because they have to be “the most connected to all the students at our individual campuses.” He admitted that his consultation was “not as exhaustive as [he] would have liked due to complications as an Augustana candidate.” However, he said he had met with Aisentat and Joannie Fogue, former president of AUFSJ and vice-president (student life) of the SU. 

“Consultation is an ongoing process and it’s something I want to make sure is an essential part of my job if elected as your vice-president (student life),” Lam said.

-Peris Jones

Board of Governors representative acknowledges CSJ financial concerns, develops connecting platform for students

In her speech, Board of Governors (BoG) candidate Adrien Lam said that her lack of a French background “doesn’t diminish [her] commitment to advocating for all students. Including those from the Francophone community.” 

Lam received a Chinese bilingual education in school, and said she “understand[s] the value of a bilingual education.” In addition, Lam condemned CSJ’s lack of federal funding, although it is the “only Francophone campus in Western Canada.” 

“It is very frustrating … that you all have to rely on short-term funding from the federal government on top of severe budget cuts,” Lam said. “It’s concerning that without a stable funding solution, [CSJ’s] future financial security is at risk.” 

adrien lam
Macy Wong Adrien Lam, Board of Governors representative candidate.

According to Lam, despite BoG representative being an “overlooked role,” she aims to take students’ concerns to decision-making bodies who “address key issues like tuition, campus development, and long-term goals.” 

Lam intends to create a virtual platform to receive student concerns from all three U of A campuses. Students can anonymously provide feedback, which she aims to relay to BoG members. 

“I understand that many students have shared ongoing concerns about budget cuts, funding, and even the shock of potential relocation in the past,” Lam said. “Preserving our French campus in Western Canada is crucial. Not only for the cultural and educational diversity, but also enhancing our job opportunities nationwide.” 

Aisenstat said CSJ students often feel overlooked in comparison to students at other U of A campuses. She asked Lam how she would ensure that CSJ is “seen as an asset to [the] U of A, and BoG.” 

Lam replied that the main point of her platform stemmed from when she found that CSJ’s concerns were “lumped” with those of Augustana campus. 

“The reason why I’m planning on developing my platform is because it separate[s] the three [campuses],” Lam said. “They’re all of equal importance when they submit their anonymous feedback to our survey.” 

Lam said an algorithm will “filter” the most important student concerns. She would then bring these issues up at BoG meetings.

Lam also mentioned she would boost student engagement for her platform by getting in touch with CSJ’s student clubs to create a committee, and “get some traffic for [the] website.” 

“I do have plans to … eventually commit to having the students on several clubs join us for a little committee,” she said. “We can hopefully make three different campuses have smaller committees for student engagement, outside and inside of campus. So that their voices are equally represented.” 

In response to the question from Mohammed, Lam said that despite “having entered the race a little late,” she has reached out to many different student groups. 

“Not just on North Campus, but other campuses as well. Just to get a perspective of what the students are facing,” Lam said. 

Finally, Lam said that if she is voted in, consultations will be available on her platform. 

-Aparajita Rahman

International Students’ Association will “enhance the international community [at] CSJ” with fee, co-president says 

Aiman Saif, co-president of the International Students’ Association (ISA), presented the ISA’s referendum. 

Aiman Saif ISA CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Aiman Saif, ISA co-president.

The ISA’s proposed faculty association membership fee (FAMF) is $5.00 for full-time undergraduate international students and $2.50 for part-time undergraduate international students, per fall and winter semester. The fee would apply to all U of A campuses for a three-year term. It would not apply to off-campus students in co-ops and internships. Students may opt-out of the fee. 

According to Saif, the FAMF goes toward providing international students with programs and services, like discounts for local vendors through the International Students’ Benefit Card (I-Card). In addition, Saif said the FAMF also provides students with academic supports, health and wellness workshops, and events, such as the ISA’s Welcome Program. 

Saif said she was excited to work with CSJ to “enhance the international community [at] CSJ.” This includes getting feedback from CSJ students by including them on the ISA’s council. 

“In previous years, we could not do that because the fee that was collected was not enough to fund events on CSJ,” Saif said. “But, this year we are happy to have the CSJ representative on our ISA Council.”

-Aparajita Rahman

The Gateway commits to publishing CSJ guest columns in semesterly print newspapers

Kevin Theriault, The Gateway campaign’s volunteer manager, presented The Gateway’s referendum in French. 

The Gateway’s dedicated fee unit (DFU) would go toward reporting on campus news at the U of A. The proposed fee is $2.64 per fall and winter semester, and $1.32 per spring and summer semester. Students would have the option to opt-out. The fee would start from fall 2024, and continue for a five-year term.

the gateway CSJ forum 2024
Lily Polenchuk Emily Williams, chair of The Gateway Student Journalism Society, and Kevin Theriault, The Gateway’s campaign volunteer manager.

Theriault highlighted The Gateway’s endeavours to “platform [CSJ] student voices” through outlets such as Le Mouton Noir, a guest column written and published fully in French. In addition, he mentioned that The Gateway has “demanded clear answers about funding for CSJ campus,” through its reporting on the 2023 provincial budget. 

“Because we know that CSJ students don’t get their fair share,” Theriault said. “When reporters cover the budget again … we intend to continue to ask these important questions.” 

If successful in passing the fee, Theriault said The Gateway would “do more to fill in gaps in [its] coverage” concerning CSJ. For example, the media outlet would commit to further outreach, as well as publish CSJ guest columns both online and in its print newspapers.

-Aparajita Rahman

Lale Fassone

Lale Fassone is a second-year student studying media studies and linguistics. She served as the Deputy Arts and Culture Editor in spring 2022. When she isn’t procrastinating her mountain-high workload or when not trying to learn yet another language, she can be found potentially working, writing, reading, or eating strawberries while watching the same rom-com over again.

Peris Jones

Peris Jones is the 2023-24 Deputy News Editor at The Gateway. She is in her third year, studying Media Studies and English. In her free time, she loves going to the gym, shopping, and watching movies with her friends.

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

Dylana Twittey

Dylana Twittey is the 2023-24 News Editor. She is a second-year student studying history. In her free time, she enjoys watching 90s Law and Order, cooking, and rereading her favourite books for the fifth time.

Related Articles

Back to top button