UMSU executive candidate interviews

UMSU presidential candidate: Heather Laube

The Manitoban: Why did you choose to run for the position?
Heather Laube: With my current position of vice president (student services), it was kind of the natural progression of things after everything that I learned this year. I just really want to use what was positive, building off of this year to go towards next year.

M.: Any other reasons?

H.L.: The U of M is such a special place and it’s full of so many different people and the culture really inspires me to press on and keep on working for the students.

M.: What experience do you bring to the position?

H.L.: The experience I bring to the position would be my vice presidency of student services this year. I work with over 130 student groups, so I get to experience and interact with a lot of different groups on campus. In previous years I was involved with the alternative spring break to El Salvador, which is co-sponsored by student life and by UMSU.

M.: What does the position of UMSU president entail?

H.L.: I think it’s having strong representation and a strong voice to administration and all levels of government to represent students and to hear what they want to say and what they want to do with their university.

M.: How do you think UMSU can get students more involved in student politics?

H.L.: I think its about engaging students in what they feel passionate about and asking them what they want to do. [ . . . ] You get students engaged by working on what they want you to work on.

M.: How do you feel about running uncontested?

H.L.: Well, I’m really excited that I have a fantastic team that I am running with and that we’re going to work hard at whatever is thrown at us. I think the democratic process will be fulfilled, whether we’re contested or not. I’m just really excited to get out there and talk to students about our platform and about UMSU, and ask them what they want us to do next year.

M.: What do you hope to accomplish if you get elected this year? What are some of your goals and plans?

H.L.: Well, my goals and plans would be what the students would want my goals and plans to be. I’m just really excited to get out there and hear those issues that the students want to be brought up, see what they’re passionate about and really represent the students.

M.: What are the most important issues facing U of M students right now?

H.L.: Probably access to education. Not only am I representing students who are already here and facing challenges, but also the students who are wanting to be here but can’t. That would be one of the top issues for me.

M.: Are you going to continue to support CFS if you’re president? Why or why not?

H.L.: My view on this is that I have worked with some amazing people across the province and across the country and I believe in a strong united student movement to work with issues that are facing students on all levels — local, regional, national and international projects. So, for me, a united student movement is the most important thing.

M.: How are you going to keep voter turnout high, especially in a one-slate election?

H.L.: I’m going to do my best to go out there and talk to as many students as I possibly can, use my experience from last year’s election and work just as hard, or even harder then I did. Because I know the challenges that are faced right now. I’m just going to keep it positive. My team is a hardworking group of people, so they’re going to do the same.

M.: Do you think student democracy could suffer from the one-slate election?

H.L.: I think the democratic process is important, not only in elections but throughout the year, and I really hope students can get involved and see what our platform is about, because It’s still a democratic process between yes and no. So I will talk to as many students as I can and will try to get the word out about the elections and so is the rest of the slate. They’re really positive about what we’re all looking forward to doing.

UMSU vice-president internal candidate: Aisyah Abdkahar

The Manitoban: What experience do you bring to the position?

Aisyah Abdkahar: I’ve been working in UMSU businesses for the past four years at Degrees, and I think I can use that experience. Also, I’ve been involved with the campus community to help address issues for students.

M.: Why is the position of VP internal important?

A.A.: The position of VP internal oversees all UMSU businesses and ensures that all of the services are being brought forth to the students.

M.: What do you feel are the top concerns of U of M students?

A.A.: I think the biggest concern [is that] all students face barriers in accessing post-secondary education. We would like to make it accessible to all students regardless of where they come from.

M.: What are your goals/plans if you’re elected?

A.A.: I would like to expand menu options at degrees and implement a take-out and beverage order line to make service faster for degrees. [I would also like to see] more healthy options in GPAs and IQs and possibly have take-out items made by degrees in places like IQs and GPAs.

M.: How do you think UMSU would be different if you were in office?

A.A.: I’m an international student and I think that it would be good to bring a unique perspective on the executive, as well as from my experience being very involved with UMSU and working in UMSU businesses. I think that my experience will be beneficial to the whole organization in general.

M.: How are you going to get students out to vote for you?

A.A.: We are trying to engage as many students as possible [and we’re] getting more involved with faculty councils, and also trying to tell them about what our plans are and our platform points, like getting better services for degrees and all the UMSU businesses as well.

M.: How do you feel about running uncontested?

A.A.: I really value healthy competition, but I think that even uncontested we will still continue to engage students and get everyone involved, because ultimately we are the student representatives here at U of M.

UMSU vice president external candidate: Sheldon Gardiner

The Manitoban: What experience do you bring to the position?

Sheldon Gardiner: The fact that I was on UMSU this last year, and being on the Government Relations committee and the Student Group Funding and recognition (SIGPAC), I’ve learned fairly well how UMSU works. In terms of my education experience, I’m working right now on my third degree. I’ve been on campus for a while now so I’m pretty familiar with a lot of students and what students are hoping to get out of UMSU.

M.: Why do you think that the position of VP external is important?

S.G.: I believe the VP external position is important because working with the government and working with administration in terms of a better experience for students on campus and making post-secondary education more affordable to students is important. That’s one of the main things as VPE that I think is most important. Also, getting messages out to students. The communication aspect is vital. The membership needs to know what is going on and good communication is vital.

M.: What do you feel are the top concerns of U of M students?

S.G.: All students face barriers accessing post-secondary education. One of the biggest is financial. I really want to help work toward ensuring that students receive high quality, accessible education — for all students. I think this can be achieved through adequate funding from our provincial and federal governments, so working towards that, I think, is important.

M.: How do you plan on getting students to go out and vote for you?

S.G.: For this election in particular, because we’re one slate it’s going to be a challenge but I think we’re up for it. We’re treating this as any other election and we’ll work really hard to get as many people as possible to learn what students want. We really want to engage our ideas and get people involved with the union that way. [ . . . ] Having open dialogue will get people out to vote. It is a challenge and that’s one thing I hope we can continue on.

M.: What are your goals/plans if you are elected?

S.G.: Lobbying the government and working with them as well. I think communication goes both ways. Lobbying is one thing but you have to have the open dialogue with them as well in terms of really listening and hearing what people have to say, and that goes for the administration as well. Getting that message from the students [ . . . ] and keeping the message going back out to them as well, I think part of doing that [ . . . ] is expanding UMSU Vision — utilizing some of the existing TVs. Really expand UMSU Vision and taking that to Bannatyne campus and possibly inner city campus too would be a great way to help communicate the message out to students.

M.: How do you think UMSU would be different if you were elected?

S.G.: I really want to strive to be a strong advocate for students at the administrative level and all levels of government. I really want to address all forms of discrimination on campus and develop more sustainable strategies for transportation to the U of M and ensure that students get a really high quality, accessible education. Again going back to communication, really listening to what students want to say and working with their messages as well.

M.: How do you feel about running uncontested?

S.G.: Having competition is a good thing. I am going to work just as hard as if I had competition for this position. That’s the main thing. I’m here to work just as hard and talk to as many people and listen to as many people as I can to do the best that I can in terms of being a student representative.

UMSU vice president student services candidate: Matt Hepner

The Manitoban: What experience do you bring to the position?

Matt Hepner: A couple of years working on student councils, — I’m going to bring that to the table. Organizing events, getting people out and involved is kind of where my strengths lie.

M.: Why do you think the position VP SS is important?

M.H.: Student groups are huge to get people involved on campus. Student services takes control of that and help give the students what they need to organize — rooms, space, you name it.

M.: What do you feel the top concerns are of U of M students?

M.H.: The biggest one is probably access to education. As UMSU works for the students, if they can’t afford to be a student, then we’re kind of missing something there.

M.: How are you going to get students out to vote for you?

M.H.: Just keep moving forward, just really getting out there and really trying to engage the students, talk to them and see what they want. Make sure there is that connection between this slate and the students.

M.: What are your goals or plans if you’re elected?

M.H.: I have a couple of events planned for the students, one thing that I really want to work towards is trying to get inter-faculty competitions going, just try to liven up the spirit, maybe get some pride in individual faculties and have some fun and meet some people while you’re at it.

M.: How do you think UMSU would be different if you were in office?
M.H.: Not really too different. The current council is very exuberant, fun and passionate and I seem to bring all of those qualities to the table as well. I enjoy people and I like being involved.

M.: How do you feel about running uncontested?

M.H.: It’s just going to make us really bring forth what the students want, really focus on the key areas that students need and want and then bring that forward, again really keeping that connection between the council and students.

UMSU vice president advocacy candidate: Murat Ates

The Manitoban: What experience do you bring to the position?

Murat Ates: Well I had a lot of success in the residence community. As a residence advisor and a senior residence advisor I had developed a lot of unique programming in the residence community for which I received the programmer of the year award and I was invited to the rez life conference in London Ontario. I have a lot of experience there, advocating for students one on one as well. This year I had a little bit of chance to take that to campus as a whole as UMSU’s volunteer coordinator. I’m really just looking to take it even further and represent students in the entirety of the U of M campus.

M.: Why do you think the position of VP advocacy is important?

M.A.: There are two major reasons: [ . . . ] the VP advocacy works on committees and with administration to help put into place academic policy. For example, we can now see our exams after we write them. That came through those committees. As well, VP advocacy is able to provide resources for students in crisis situations, so it’s important that we look after all of our students on campus.

M.: What do you feel are the top concerns of U of M students?

M.A.: I think the top concern is access to high quality and affordable education. It’s important that we create a campus where education is of the highest possible quality and that it’s accessible to all of the students, who want and are able to come.

M.: How are you going to get students out to vote for you?

M.A.: Our goal through the election period is to get out there and engage as many students as possible. I know that’s one thing that was done really well last year. A lot of people in a lot of buildings engaged students one on one and I really think it’s the one-on-one interactions that get people interested and engaged in the process as whole and in UMSU as a whole so, to repeat myself, it’s the one-on-one engagement that gets people interested in the process.

M.: What are your goals or plans if you’re elected?

M.A.: Our goals with Moving Forward are definitely to create a campus where the education is of high quality and is accessible to all students. We want to move the campus in a greener direction. We also want to work with admin and parking facilities and all those organizations to create affordable and sustainable transportation for students, however they’re getting to school.

M.: Do you have specific plans for your position?

M.A.: Plans related to VPA include planning how-to workshops across campus and looking into the viability of an UMSU related job fare. I want to expand and continue to support the UMSU Speaker series, which is a really engaging program already. To add, there are two academic policies that I would really like to look at — one is extending the fee payment deadline in the second term, which would give a lot more flexibility for getting the courses that you want and for avoiding late fees in the second term. I would also like to work with admin to make sure were getting our exam schedule earlier in the year.

M.: How do you think that UMSU would be different if you were in office?

M.A.: I think that my strengths come from a passion for the community that I’m involved with, I had tremendous success in the residence community, as I mentioned, really because I loved that community. I was very engaged in it and, as time went by, I developed a passion for the campus as a whole. A lot of my strengths revolved around getting to know and engaging students.

M.: What do you think about the fact that you’re running uncontested?

M.A.: You know, I have a lot of confidence in our moving forward team, so I was actually a little bit disappointed. The more people that are involved in the election, the more students on a whole will be engaged and the higher the voter turn out could be. That said, our goal has always been to get out there and have those one-on-one interactions and engage students as much as we possibly can in the amount of time that we have.

Two candidates: Women’s Rep

UMSU Council Women’s Representative candidate: Balin Arte

The Manitoban: Why are you running?

Balin Arte: I’m really passionate about women’s rights and human rights in general. I am a woman and I know what prejudice is, and I feel like that has made me a better person, made me a stronger person and one with more ambition. I just want to be a voice because voice is really important.

M.: What are the biggest challenges your community is facing?
B.A.: Really getting a voice out there and just being taken seriously as women and having the issues being taken seriously and having women know they do have a voice and they do have representatives that they can come to if they have any problems.

M.: What sort of methods will you take to ensure that women on campus have a voice?

B.A.: Well I’m really big on communication, so I’m outgoing and I like to just get into groups of people — people that I think need to know they have this voice, particularly women — just trying to get to know them and know what their problems are. Just be really open to any concerns they might have and just try and communicate. As long as people know there is someone out there, they’ll be sure to come.

M.: Do you have any specific goals or plans for your position?

B.A.: Just to put more knowledge and communication out there, and make sure that people know, because I know that a lot of people don’t know that they have a women’s rep. I would just really love it if every single women on this campus — every student and staff — would know there is this position here and I could help if elected.

M.: Why should people vote for you?

B.A.: Well, I think because I’m a first-year student, I’m coming from a different city — I just think I can bring a lot of fresh perspective on the school. I could give a real critique on how the system is working, and how it’s not working, and with that perspective I can really determine where the problems are and do my best to try and fix those problems.

M.: How do you feel about being one of the reps that is running against someone?

B.A.: I feel like when you only have one candidate you only have one voice and one opinion and one perspective so it’s kind of sad that they don’t have more variety. I’m really happy there is someone running against me, because at least if people can’t identify with me, they can identify with her, and I know her really well and she’s a great person, and I’m a great person and we’re both great people and we’re both perfect for this position.

UMSU Council Women’s Representative candidate: Jennifer Black

The Manitoban: Why are you running for this position?

Jennifer Black: Recently this year, I’ve decided to become more active in volunteer work and student politics. I started volunteering for the Women’s Centre and Kelsey, the current Women’s Rep, mentioned that no one was running for the position yet, and I decided that I didn’t want it to go unfulfilled. When Bilan decided to run I decided to run anyway because I thought it would be a good experience.

M.: What are the biggest challenges your student community is facing?

J.B.: I think the biggest challenge affecting the community is coming from within the community. I think that there is a lot of apathy towards women’s activism. Feminism kind of has a bad name right now. A lot of people will say, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equal rights for women,” [but those are] the same things. Feminism kind of has a negative connotation to it.

M.: How do you plan to approach this issue?

J.B.: I think just raising awareness, getting the ideas out there, getting my face out there, constant vigilance and always spreading the word.

M.: What plans or goals do you have if elected?

J.B.: Honestly, for specific goals, none particularly other than rising up to what my community asks of me.

M.: Why should people vote for you?

J.B.: I think people should vote for me because I think I’d do a really good job. I’m really outspoken. I’m not afraid to say what’s on my mind, but I also am good at having an objective opinion and not letting my own personal feeling affect the way I make decisions.

M.: How do you feel about being one of the reps that is running against someone?

J.B.: I think it’s awesome, actually. My entire campaign has been aimed towards inciting interest in student politics. I think it sucks that some positions are not going to be filled this year. I wish more people were running against me.

UMSU Council Students Living with Disabilities Representative Candidate: Bryan Douglas

The Manitoban: Why are you running?

Bryan Douglas: Well, I’ve known about the position for quite a while. I know some of the previous reps, Larry Baillie and Gabriel Pelletier. I felt that it was time that I stepped up and tried to do something for the community that I’m a part of. I’ve been part of student councils before and I felt it was the right time to make the change over to the larger council and a completely new perspective of university life

M.: What are the biggest challenges facing your student community?

B.D.: [ . . . ] We’re more segregated, more a grouping of students that have the same kinds of issues — either physical, psychological or mental disabilities — and we work underneath the umbrella of Disability Services. We don’t really have a student group per say. I have never really seen someone saying, “I identify with being a disabled student,” that way. So hopefully, one of the goals I’m trying to create this year is trying to create a little bit of a community among us. [ . . . ] I’m hoping to talk to the community at the luncheon and a couple of these other events to get an idea of what they expect from disability rep this year.

M.: Do you have any specific goals for this position?

B.D.: Just allowing disabled students to have the best voice on UMSU council that I can possibly give them. I’m not looking to put any personal things into this year. I’m just going to do it just purely for the students. I’m a disabled student and I’d just like to be able say I have a voice on UMSU this year, for the school and for the students.

M.: Why should people vote for you?

B.D.: Being a student with a disability on campus, [and being that] there is no other candidates running against me, to vote no on this would leave the seat vacant and that would be a detriment to disability students having a voice on UMSU Council. So it would be quite nice to be elected onto council this term to assist those students.

M.: How do you feel about running uncontested?

B.D.: I would have liked to run against somebody. It would have been an interesting thing having two people from the same community, especially a community like ours that has never really had a contested election. It would be nice to have someone running against you, so you can try and pit ideas, because with it being a community as it is, there are not a lot of people who identify themselves in the way of political streams. I wish, if it was possible, I could have run against the Right Honourable Steven Fletcher, who is a disabled person who is in politics, and it would have been an honour to have the chance to have gone up against someone of that caliber in an election like this.

Two candidates:
International students’ rep

International student representative candidate: Samuel Idowy

The Manitoban: Why are you running for the position?

Samuel Idowy: I see it’s a place where I can really, really help. I see a lot of opportunities where things can change, and I can be the agent of change.

M.: What sorts of issues do you see facing your student community?

S.I.: Number one — and the most pressing one — is tuition fees, and the other one is the shorter work permit, like off-campus work permits and the barriers of six months and the fact that you have to work six months to get a work permit. The third thing is that we don’t really get represented in council meetings, [because] we don’t really have a student body that represents us as a whole.

M.: How are you going to approach those situations?

S.I.: The main strategy is just to push harder and to lobby in the council meeting, make sure you’re present at council meetings and try and get a lot of support from the student body and see how we can push through.

M.: How do you feel about being one of the few people who is running against someone?
S.I.: I feel like it’s a challenge I have to step up to.

M.: How do you plan to do that?
S.I.: Campaign harder and bring better strategies.

M.: What are some of your goals or plans if you get elected?

S.I.: Yeah, I just said some of it and they include creating an international student body because the student body right now is kind of fragmented. We have the Kenyan, the Indian and the Chinese separated, my main plan is to create a body that will be like an umbrella to include every organization so we have a stronger voice and we have one voice.

UMSU Council International students representative candidate: Chansa Gondwe
The Manitoban: Why are you running for the position?
Chansa Gondwe: I’m running because I want the international student body to be brought together, that’s the main reason I want to run. I feel international students at the school are a bit too divided, and I want to run so I can bring them together.

M.: What sort of issues do you see facing your student community?

C.G.: There are various challenges actually. First of all, being in a foreign country is one very big challenge. For instance, there are so many difficulties that we face living on campus during holidays. Pembina Hall is closed because everyone goes home, like to their families, but they don’t take into account that some international students may not have family here and that poses a problem. Fair enough — we’re supposed to have money to take care of our needs, but that’s a dinning hall, so that’s one of the problems I feel we face. [Regarding] scholarships, I feel like in certain facilities the playing field is not even. International students bring in a lot of money to the university, so then giving them scholarships — I feel that [administration] might feel that it’s like cutting down on income or something.

M.: How do you feel you’re going to approach those situations?

C.G.: I think the first thing that we need is a voice, and I will be that voice. I’ll try to bridge that gap between the people that give out the scholarships and the international students. I feel like I will be able to talk to them and address our issues, because maybe they don’t know this is an issue for us. Also employment — international students are confined to twenty hours a week and its very hard to get a job on campus. I feel that international students should be given a bit more priority to get jobs on campus because they have that limitation where they cannot work off campus if they don’t have work permits.

M.: How do you feel about being one of the few people who is running against someone?

C.G.: I think, for me, that is even more challenging [and] I love challenges. [ . . . ] If I was running uncontested, it would have been easy. I wouldn’t really have to show people that I deserve to be in that position, that I deserve to represent them, but if I’m running against someone it makes me think about a lot of things. I think it’s very good to have someone running against you.

M.: What are some of your goals or plans if you get elected?

C.G.: The one thing I really want to get done is bring international students together, because I feel we go through a lot of the same things. We may be coming from different countries, but we go through the same issues. And also, I want to provide accurate representation of the international students with the UMSU executive and let them know what the international students are going through and be part of the decisions that effect international students.

Aboriginal student representative candidate: Clayton Thomas
The Manitoban: Why are you running for this position?

Clayton Thomas: I’m running for it so I can act as a voice for Aboriginal students on campus.

M.: What are the biggest challenges facing your student community?
C.T.: Tuition fees, enrollment in education [and] troubles with accessing education.

M.: What plans or goals do you have if you are elected?

C.T.: Promote awareness on issues, mostly education, and other issues that affect our Aboriginal community as a whole. There are many issues.

M.: How do you plan to reach out to students?

C.T.: Maybe hold events to bring people together so they can be exposed to culture, cultural events, cultural teachings and let local talent come in to demonstrate their talent.

M.: Why should people vote for you?

C.T.: I think I have some experience to hold this position as I am a past member of the Aboriginal Students Association — my event-coordinating experience and with council. I recently got promoted to vice-president. We represent the same group, so I would be doing a lot more of the same thing that I’ve been doing these last couple of years.

M.: How do you feel about running uncontested?

C.T.: I would have liked to see some competition, some more people going for this position, but it looks like maybe we didn’t have those people at the time.