Feds elections: Meet your candidates

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Feds executive team is getting a reboot for their next term. Feds General Elections are set to start at 10 a.m. on Feb. 5 and last until Feb. 7.

There are four roles up for grabs: VP Operations and Finance, VP Education, VP Student Life, and President. The following students are candidates who are working to better student experiences, life, clubs and services at UW in their own ways.

Vote for your representatives at vote.feds.ca.

VP Education

Matthew Gerrits, Re-election

I chose to run for this position because being in this role this year has shown me the amazing things that advocacy can achieve. There are a lot of projects still in motion, and government relations are going to be critical this year. I think my ability to hit the ground running is going to be a big asset in working on these projects.

Some of my bigger on-campus goals this year are 1) Pushing for a campus-wide syllabus repository, which would require buy-in from each faculty to expand on a system currently in development under Math. 2) Establishing a campus advisory group on academic advisers. If the Student Success Office doesn’t agree to make an advisory group, although I think they would, it could be a group that Feds puts together itself. 3) Campus guidelines on verification of illness forms/accommodations for mental illness. I will make sure that these become enforceable university guidelines rather than just a best-practices document. I think the biggest issue would have to be the recent government announcement on post-secondary education fundings. To tackle the OSAP issue, I would make student financial aid the top Feds priority on federal advocacy. What I would do differently, federally, is be open to compromise to move the tax credits from non-refundable to refundable.

Continuity is hugely important in this role. There are still ongoing projects related to my predecessor, for example, a permanent fee governance model for the co-op fee, and changes to teaching evaluations on campus. I’ve already hired a staff member dedicated to the Centre for Academic Policy Support. Upcoming changes will focus on more outreach to students and more use of formal submissions on provincial and federal budgets.

See Matt’s full platform at vpedmatt.com.

Fayza Ibrahim, Team Gold

I have chosen to run for VP Education because I believe education should be accessible. Having worked with the Federation of Students as a promotional representative, I have learned more about students’ needs, as well as the barriers in place of attaining education. I want to be able to make real change for our campus and set a precedent for a better future.

I have three major goals for the term. First, I am advocating to all levels of governance in Canada to help reduce financial barriers in education. Second, I plan to advocate for our students to receive open educational resources. Finally, I want to aid students in receiving more support from their instructors regarding any concerns to their mental health and well-being. I believe an important issue to address is mental health of students. It is important for students to be aware of the extent of what their Feds health plan covers externally, pertaining to counselling and psychiatric treatments. Additionally, I believe that we need more programming in place that address sustainable self care.

I would like to continue involvement with OUSA as previous executives have. I want to contribute to reviving student engagement on our campus, through a more interactive and collaborative experience.

I firmly believe that if students see their ideas incorporated on policy platforms, they are more likely to be engaged.

VP Student Life

Amanda Fitzpatrick, Team Gold

Throughout my undergrad I have worked to advocate on behalf of students to make our campus a more accepting and equitable place. I believe my experience as Glow coordinator and my other various volunteer roles on campus have given me insight into student needs as well as knowledge about initiatives already running on campus. Most importantly my passion for inclusion and accessibility will be assets in this role.

One of my main goals is to ingrain equity and sustainability into how Feds runs. Working together with the services to create more collaborative events as well as support them to reach their goals will be a huge priority.

Student mental health has been one of the main focuses of [Team Gold’s] platform. One of the ways I wish to combat this is by creating a comprehensive student life/mental health resource that matches students with all of the clubs, services, and resources that are available on and off campus. By narrowing down what is applicable to each student it will be less intimidating to search for resources and participate in student life.

One objective the current VPSL started up that I would like to continue is the coordinator committee. I think it would be incredibly valuable to improve communication between services and work on more collaborative events. However, due to the different types of services that Feds offers I think it would be helpful to have separate committees for operational services and equity services.

Tomson Tran, Team Ignite

I want to give back to student life and help it evolve for the best of the students. Every day I see the impacts of how student life changes their experience here at UW.

Throughout my undergraduate studies, I have accomplished so much by being involved continuously.

For the past three years, I have been involved with Feds as a Councillor, as a Board member, and am lucky to witness still and take part in knowing how complicated student life is. Within AHSUM I’ve grown from a Councillor to now being the President.

Next, as a Senator, I was able to advocate for students at the highest educational governing body. This led to monthly reports with Provost Rush, previously known as Dean Rush, where we would discuss faculty and university-level changes. As well, on Senate, [I advocated for] passing policies to improve the experience of sexual assault and harassment survivors on campus.

One of the main goals I will be focusing on with my team is mental health and wellness.

We would love to change the discourse of mental health and wellness here at UW. Asking for help should not be the last resort. Resources should be more apparent and accessible to everyone.

This would involve lobbying  Question, Persuade, and Refer training for all University staff and faculty as well as student leaders.

Then, we would want to expand the network of mental health support to the university community to further improve the treatment of students.

With Team Ignite, one of our main goals is to help with mental health and wellness. We understand that this is a problem all across Canada. Together Team Ignite can better support students here at UW in this avenue.  What I would focus on in my individual portfolio would be the following: stronger support for MATES (Mentor Assistance Through Education and Support), student leaders, and finally, community building on our campus.

My predecessor, Savannah Richardson, has been focusing on improving many relationships on campus. I would continue to strengthen the ties within Feds and the university. She has taken many initiatives to visit the Satellite campuses and to hear their concerns.

I wish to make sure all parts of Feds feel supported and continue to strengthen those relationships.

VP Operations and Finance

Joshua Mbandi, Team Gold

 

I chose to run for Feds as VP Operations and Finance because I realized Feds was becoming increasingly disconnected from the needs of students, and I wanted to help solve that, and other issues including lack of student engagement and a disconnect between the leaders in Feds governance bodies and the student body. I believe I have the necessary balance of managerial capabilities, Feds governance experience, and a connection to the student body though my involvement with various clubs that will allow me to effectively accomplish the tasks Team Gold believes should be achieved.

As VP Operations and Finance, I will oversee the Bombshelter revitalization with an increased and expanded emphasis on student consultation and commercial viability, and seek to ensure that the new Bombshelter space is renovated with expanded student input and consultations on what the new space should include, as well as work with the necessary internal and external partners to expand the food options on campus.

I will work with my fellow execs to protect funding to vital Feds services like MATES/Food Bank, and the Womens’ Centre while seeking to ensure these services continue to be responsive to student needs as well as work with the necessary partners including the VP Student Life and General Manager to improve the financial management of Feds clubs by instituting online forms submissions, online reimbursements for clubs, as well as streamlining processes around club’s management to ensure operational effectiveness and responsiveness.

I believe protecting and enhancing funding to vital mental health resources provided by Feds services, like peer support services and the Food Bank, are vital.

I will work to protect funding for Feds services from cuts, and ensure they’re able to provide the necessary peer support and mental health assistance services that they provide the student body, as these services are necessary to student life.

I believe the current VP Operations and Finance deserves the necessary credit for working with councillors to bring forward the referendum on a legal aid service that would provide students with vital legal aid services that are desperately needed. I believe students deserve legal protection against the predatory practices of housing companies. As VP Operations and Finance, pending the approval of the referendum, I will work to ensure the legal aid service is effectively implemented and available to students to ensure they have access to vital legal support.

Seneca Velling, Team Ignite

I believe in the power of making change. Over the last two years I’ve worked hard to represent science students as a science councillor and increase engagement. I’d like to bring the same spirit to my work as VPOF.

I want to do a deep-dive review into [the] $169/term mandatory non-refundable student services fee which funds CCA, Health Services, Counselling Services, Athletics & Recreation, the Writing Centre and more. I will work to make budgets public and release more information to students.

Team Ignite will conduct a review of the environmental practices of Feds and the societies to create a sustainability report and set improvement benchmarks and make sure the university is meeting their strategic targets. I will ensure Feds phases out all styrofoam from use, and minimizes single-use plastics. I will also work with the university to expand the collection of organics for composting and expand the Sustainable Campus Initiative’s campus garden and farm spaces. [I also hope to create a] student soup kitchen for excess food from Feds, the societies, and UWFS businesses.

[We] are pushing to create a tenancy and rental database like a UW Flow type website accessed through CAS-login for rating off-campus housing, tenancy corporations, and landlords to increase awareness about predatory groups and see other students’ experiences! I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kurt on a number of things this past year — from increasing accessibility of services like UPASS for part-time students with disabilities, to ensuring student consultations determine the direction of the Bomber, to making sure all corporate budgets get vetted by a student committee (the budget and appropriations Committee) — I intend to continue these projects when elected. On UPass specifically, I am very excited for the part-time student UPass referendum. If that passes as VP Operations & Finance I will be overseeing expansion of the service.

I intend to push for all commercial operations budgets to be public and vetted by the budget and appropriations Committee. I think more diligent review, approval, and long-term planning is essential to make sure Feds is a viable, successful, and forward-looking student advocacy organization for years to come!

President

Simon Grigg, Team C-Soc

I chose to run because I had enough nominations. I am the ideal candidate because I was eligible to run.

My primary goal for the term is, for the fifth time, try to get through Infinite Jest. I’m not sure that it’s possible, but I’m going to try.

We have too many Feds services. I will tackle it by merging Feds services with each other.

The current Exec is trying to merge MATES and the foodbank.

I’m going to take that one step further and merge each service with another service.

Unlike my predecessors, I will make trying to read Infinite Jest a priority. Expect updates on my attempts to read Infinite Jest.

Simran Parmar, Team Gold

I would like to use the skills that I have developed as a promo team member to reconnect Feds Governance with the student voice.

Our entire platform has been formed through student consultation to ensure we are tackling the issues which require the most amount of attention. We have also met with both Feds and university staff to understand the process behind fulfilling our promises and ensuring our plans are feasible.

The disconnect between Feds governance and the student body and the overall disconnect between faculties across the University is an immense issue. It is time for us to create a greater unity amongst this campus.

As president, I will be highly focused on continuing the previous executive team’s work on mental health.

Our team would like to have more diverse [mental health] counsellors hired and a better matching system between students and counsellors. We will try to fix some of the upstream issues because we all know that it is better to prevent an issue before it occurs.

Micheal Beauchemin, Team Ignite 

I chose to run for the President position in Feds because I like working with students. I am incredibly passionate about helping people, and well-organized. I have developed an appreciation of and desire to do advocacy work for students, with respect to academics, mental health, social life, and more.

For the 2019-2020 year would like to expand the student mental health support network to the community and embed support within the student body. I would like to lobby the government for more mental health funding to the Region of Waterloo to support the system and enable it to support referrals from the university better.

Students have a right to access information on how their fees are used. This can be accomplished by providing a secure environment for students to view sensitive information. Also, I would like to generate opportunities for engagement between students and their representatives and governing bodies, and encourage good working relationships between staff and student representatives.

The most important issue facing UW students right now is a feeling of social exclusion and the mental health issues that arise from that. The same also occurs in reverse, with the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. I find that there’s often not discrimination against people with mental illness, but rather that these people will stigmatize their own experiences, even if they are very tolerant and understanding of other people’s situations.

I can bring this forward to the Committee on Student Mental Health, to the more than 70 peer support groups on campus, including Feds’ own MATES, and exert pressure on the university to reform its practices (including a review of Policies 70-72 to make them serve students better and treat them as more than miscreants). I also want to encourage the SSO and counselling to run more question, persuade, and refer, more feet on the ground, and mental health first aid training, and to target student leaders (like Society exec, O-Week leaders, and Peer Mentors) for these. I am really excited to continue to represent students and their concerns. I will also take an active role in sharing information from the committee with students. My predecessor made other things a priority but I will be prioritizing the student voice on this and other committees. An example of something I want to change from my predecessor is the executive structure. Right now, it’s treated as a horizontal hierarchy, but that just leads to accountability issues, so if I’m elected the VPs will report to me as the president.