The Imprint Officer Debate took place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday in B1 271. Key issues that the three presidential candidates discussed include improving student engagement in WUSA, helping student-run services, and addressing mental health issues on campus.
This year’s candidates are Nick Pfeifle (Renew), Arya Razmjoo (United), and Rafaeel Rehman (Independent).
Pfeifle, in his fifth year of nanotechnology engineering, aims to create fundamental governance changes within WUSA, include as many students as possible, and improve the transit network. His advocacy experience stems from being the engineering student senator and sitting on several WUSA committees.
Razmjoo is in his second year of legal studies and communication. His campaign advocates for goals including fundamental changes in WUSA to make it representative of all faculties, pushing diversity, increasing support for clubs, and helping create a better social atmosphere on campus.
Rehman is in his third year of legal studies and has no previous advocacy experience with WUSA or other governance structures, but detailed in his opening statement that he’d like to address the lack of protections that co-op students have, and to take action to address the persistent issues students face with getting housing.
On the topic of improving student engagement, Rehman emphasized the importance of giving more autonomy to student organizations, which will “give them freedom to speak and do what they actually want to do.” He also mentioned that there is a lot of distrust between WUSA and the student body and in order to improve it students need to know the reasoning behind decisions. Pfeifle agreed with Rehman but also mentioned that in order to improve transparency between WUSA and the student body, getting rid of cabinet conferences should be prioritized because students can’t watch them. Razmjoo, United’s presidential candidate, responded in turn that WUSA needs to be more involved in orientation and meet more students. He also suggested that there needs to be more reports available to students about what WUSA is doing.
Candidates were then asked about how they view student run-services in WUSA and what they would do to advocate for them. Rehman said that these services should be able to advocate how they want and going through WUSA for permission is “ridiculous”, while Razmjoo maintained the importance of having a good relationship with student-run services and said that improving advocacy for these services starts with sitting down with students and offering a hand to help. Pfeifle expressed that empowering these organizations is crucial especially since there are “a lot of restrictions”.
Mental health issues on campus have been another major concern for students, and candidates were asked about how they would address these issues. While Rehman advocated for health services on campus to improve with their wait times, and for students to lean not just on the university but on each other, Pfeifle said that there are enough therapists on campus and we should focus on root causes like academic issues. Razmjoo added that there needs to be adequate funding for therapy services, stating that we need to invest in areas of mental health.
When asked about what part of WUSA’s 2020-25 long range plan they would spend the most time working on in office, Pfeifle and Rehman agreed that the plan did not seem to be an effective model, with Pfeifle stating that its creation amidst the governance restructure in 2020 led to “adher[ing] to a sunk cost fallacy”. Rehman added that the parts of the plan he would focus on include improving campus accessibility by increasing connections between students as well as providing protections for co-op students and around housing. In contrast, Razmjoo stated that the plan was effective and that he would prioritize fundamental change, especially in the HR department, and help WUSA gain institutional independence to prevent hiring shortages. He also added that the newly-elected board would write a new long-range plan.
The candidates were also asked to talk about the specific goals that they would have for their time in office, addressing both pre-existing and new initiatives. Rehman stated that his goals are to improve campus accessibility, create a shift on how we view disabilities, increase consideration of various abilities, hear disabled student voices, and “drive home changes to the physical barrier level”. Rehman also wanted to see “an institutional-wide effort towards actionable change” regarding housing, specifically making note of director Jeff Zhu’s “commendable changes”. “Everyone likes Jeff,” Pfeifle agreed.
One of Razmjoo’s specific goals was getting the Bombshelter Pub (whose former space is currently used as a student lounge) back up and running, stating that WUSA has enough funding to do so. He also hoped to create a presidential fund which he said would help clubs gain more funding and reduce the amount of red tape they have to go through, as well as create a student centered caucus with student senators. Though Pfeifle critiqued his goal of creating a caucus, stating it is unnecessary and not an effective use of resources, Razmjoo maintained that the caucus would give the student senators more support from WUSA, and create a united senate to push back against the university, as “more unity is never a negative”.
Pfeifle’s main goals centred around setting WUSA up for success in the future, staying “less official” with policy, and improving accessibility on campus, including a move away from salting (which he said acts as a major pollutant, the toxicity of which impacts accessibility by damaging the paws of service dogs) and to help with train issues (in response to GRT reducing the frequency of the ION at certain times).
The voting period for candidates begins Monday, Feb. 12 and closes Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 11:59 p.m.. Students can vote at vote.wusa.ca