VPX race pits SU experience against pure enthusiasm

While Abbasi offers a detailed and realistic vision for Augustana Campus, West stirs excitement for the future of student engagement.

Vice-president (external) (VPX) candidates Abdul Abbasi and Logan West voice similar concerns about the accessibility of services for students. However, they contrast noticeably in other ways. Abbasi’s background with the Augustana Students’ Association (ASA) and as a former Students’ Union (SU) councillor underscores a more grounded and elaborate approach to the role of VPX. Meanwhile, while West lacks Abbasi’s intimate familiarity with the SU, her passion and experience from past advocacy work makes her platform exciting. While West takes the edge in spirit, Abbasi offers more elaborate ideas on how to solve the issues faced by Augustana and Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) students.

In his opening statements at the Augustana forum, Abbasi pinpointed the lack of public transit options between Augustana and North Campus. Abbasi discussed two primary solutions for this — either pressuring Alberta’s Minister of Transportation, Devin Dreeshen, for a bus line, or to consider a bus funded by the SU itself. These ideas seem both feasible and beneficial for students. Given that we’re in the province’s capital — and that Dreeshen’s contact information is publicly available — I feel that there’s a good chance the VPX can cause Dreeshen to act, or at the very least get the conversation started.

West agreed with Abbasi regarding the absence of inter-campus bussing, but honed in particularly on the challenges this poses for international and marginalized students. North Campus, unlike Augustana, has access to specialized services. West made a good point that cabs from Camrose to Edmonton are very unaffordable. However, she wasn’t as specific as Abbasi about how she intends to implement change.

Abbasi’s experience as an Augustana student gave him a big leg up in this particular forum. But, West’s charismatic approach is consistent with her past experience in advocacy work, which is where she shines the most. This was present at the CSJ forum as well.

At the CSJ forum, both candidates advocated for extra French education funding in Canada. West stated that CSJ students should be “in the room” during talks with people in government, rather than the VPX “speaking over them,” in order to best represent the campus. Abbasi laid out his intention to “elevate the profile” of CSJ, citing Charter Section 23, which enhanced his point well. If French students in primary and secondary school are guaranteed access to education in their own language, they should be afforded those same rights during their post-secondary education. While both candidates want to expand CSJ-specific student funding, Abbasi’s plan was better developed, outlining his intention to pursue renewals for millions of dollars worth of government-funded grant and scholarship programs — some of which are set to expire soon, he said.

When asked about the first step to get this funding, Abbasi expressed his intent to approach the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) and Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) about French students’ need for recognition. He believes the volume of French students’ voices relies on unity and perspectives from across Canada — which will allow us to “go to the provincial or federal government together,” he said. Ultimately, he continued, “everything you do is with someone, [and] you can’t go to anything alone.” I found this response succinct and powerful, encompassing an effective vision for French students. He has obviously done his research on who we should be talking to about these issues, and his plan to cooperate with them is consistent with his message of unity.

West, however, prioritized attention-grabbing communications to express “how desperate our need for funding is.” She sees this strategy as effective both internally and externally. West suggested that gathering information about student issues in this way will “aid in a stronger impact” when asking for funding. As at the Augustana forum, her enthusiasm was potent. But, I’m concerned with the lack of elaboration on how she intends to utilize this information to secure funds.  

Abbasi’s advocacy priorities have largely been campus-based, especially regarding Augustana and CSJ. West, however, has given more general statements about issues that disproportionately affect students from marginalized groups. As a result, West comes across as trying to be as inoffensive as possible, rather than creating intuitive solutions for students. Her positive disposition markets her as very personable and relatable, but that won’t be enough if she doesn’t have concrete plans to back her up. Accordingly, Abbasi comes across with less charm, but he has so far articulated a more serious and believable vision for Augustana and CSJ.

Between the first two forums, my impression is that both candidates mean well. But, Abbasi has clearly done more research than West. His plans so far have considerably more detail and direction than West’s, whose statements feel somewhat watered down and generalized by comparison. If West wants people to trust in her advocacy, she’ll need more specific plans at the next forums. 

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