TRUSU General Election 2016 – Candidate Report

We talked to candidates for tomorrow's TRUSU election – here's what they had to say

TRYOU Student Advocacy Coalition Nations United Independent
President Melissa Gordon Brian Chiduuro Suryansh Vats Jeremy Jenvenne
VP Internal Julian Simpson Gagandeep Singh
VP External Amber Storvold Yingqiong Wu Bankal Yashvini
VP Finance Mwansa Kaunda Oluwafemi Akinsanpe Rahul Pujara
Advocacy: Graduates Deepti S. Lobo Yash Thakker
Advocacy: International Chandan Sehgal Anselm Wilson
Advocacy: LGBTQ Caitlin Orteza
Advocacy: Women Sierra Rae Omatsoguwa Sola Briana Guise
Advocacy: Aboriginal Rochelle DelaRonde James-Dean Aleck
Directors-at-Large See all

Brian Chiduuro – President, Student Advocacy Coalition

Chiduuro1For Chiduuro, the most serious issue facing TRU students is that many don’t know that the Students’ Union and the services they offer exist. He said that this is a problem he will work to solve by increasing the support for student advocacy around campus.

When asked how he would address the issues laid out in the TRUSU budget consultation, Chiduuro said that TRU needs to improve diversity in regards to their food services. On bookstore prices and financial aid, Chiduuro believes that the Students’ Union could accomplish much with advocacy, including lower bookstore prices.

“It is all about advocating. That’s the motto for the Student Advocacy Coalition: to advocate,” he said.

Applying for the position of president, Chiduuro thinks that focusing on student advocacy is more important than offering student services.

“I believe the position is more for advocacy. Because it is not about me, it is about the students, and for me as president, I’m trying to make the best experience ever for students,” Chiduuro said.

Jeremy Jenvenne – President, Independent

Jenvenne-1In the past, Jenvenne has had issues with TRU’s counselors, so he hopes to do some work to improve student access to them. He also thinks there is a “lack of unity” on campus in general.

In terms of addressing the issues put forth by the student budget consultation, Jenvenne doesn’t think the union can do all that much.

“I’d try to beat it into their head that they have to understand what a lease agreement is and what free enterprise is,” Jenvenne said in reference to bookstore prices.

“That’s out of the school’s control,” he said. “Things cost money. What do you want me to tell you?”

When asked if his focus would be more on advocacy or student services, Jenvenne said “advocacy doesn’t mean anything” and that he’d focus on student services, again listing counseling and advising as services he’s interested in improving.

Melissa Gordon – President, TRYOU

GordonGordon thinks that the most serious issue facing students is guaranteed course offerings. “Having that guarantee, instead of just scheduling their schedules on a semester by semester basis, they could proactively schedule their courses, like a year in advance for example.”

Regarding the findings of TRUSU’s budget consultation, Gordon pledged to work with facilities to make food service on campus more affordable with better hours.

On financial aid, she wants international students to have better access to financial awards.

To address high prices at the bookstore Gordon said that she would endorse wider use of online textbooks and library copies of course textbooks.

On advocacy vs. services, she said “In terms of the president position it’s more primarily student advocacy. The VP Finance portfolio is more concentrated on student services. In terms of advocacy I think it has a lot to do with outreach and actually talking one on one with students; I think that’s a really effective way of getting the message across.”

Suryansh Vats – President, Nations United

VatsVats said that the most serious issue facing students is a lack of professional and cultural extra curricular opportunities. Vats said that he thinks that most students only show up to school and get through their classes and do not apply themselves to other school activities.

Vats said that prices at the bookstore are the biggest issue highlighted by the TRUSU budget consultation. “I would try to promote the cloud computing stuff especially on the e-books so people can share more and they can be less expensive,” Vats said. Vats said that there should be more food options, and food that fits a student budget should be made a priority. Vats said that some funding given to TRUSU clubs could be used to furnish awards and scholarships instead.

Vats said that he would focus on student services as a way to get students in contact with TRUSU and then open communication about what they need in terms of advocacy.

Amber Storvold – VP External, TRYOU

StorvoldStorvold said that the biggest issue facing students is guaranteed course offerings. “I think it is really important that students are able to graduate on time and not have to not know what courses are going to be offered at certain times,” she said.

Though Storvold stated that the issues laid out by the budget consultation would most likely go to student caucus, she did identify some solutions. “I think working with Aramark would be a really good idea, trying to get extended hours, different pricing options, maybe healthier options as well,” Storvold said of food services.

Storvold thinks the Students’ Union should be encouraging students to buy their books online. As for financial aid, she said that the best move would be towards a “grant system” instead of the current “student loan, interest-based system.”

When asked if she supported a recent move to split from the national union by CFS’s B.C. unions, Storvold said decisions still need to be made before she takes a solid position.

Yingqiong Wu – VP External, Student Advocacy Coalition

Wu-1Wu said that the biggest issue facing students on campus is difficulty finding co-op opportunities and experience in the workplace.

In response to the issues identified by the TRUSU budget consultation, Wu said that food service could be improved by bringing outside business, particularly those that serve traditional international food, to campus. Wu said that although the prices at the bookstore may be difficult to change, the union could lobby for more book rentals and secondhand book sales. Wu advocated helping students negotiate both bank loans and paid co-op positions in response to student concerns with financial aid.

The VP External acts as TRUSU’s liaison with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). When asked if she supported a recent move to split from the national union by CFS’s B.C. unions, Wu said “if you know more people you get more opportunities for all our students. It’s not only about B.C., if you know many different students from many different universities, they can provide us more opportunities.”

Mwansa Kaunda – VP Finance, TRYOU

KaundaKaunda said student food service is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

“We need a variety of food services and more options. As we know we once had a huge cafeteria and then we took the cafeteria away,” Kaunda said.

Kaunda said that in order to tackle bookstore prices, the Students’ Union would have to work with administration.

In order to address the issue of financial aid at TRU, Kaunda thinks that the Students’ Union should be working in cooperation with the university to set up an endowment or a joint fund between the Union and TRU.

Kaunda says the position of VP Finance is essential. Despite the position almost being eliminated at the last AGM, he believes that the VP Finance role would be safe in the future, saying that he hopes the next VP Finance will get the chance to sit on a committee more suited to their role.

Oluwafemi Akinsanpe – VP Finance, Student Advocacy Coalition

Akinsanpe believes that the biggest issue facing students at TRU is the lack of awareness of student services. “A lot of students complain about the food bank and behind these issues is the fact that a lot of students don’t know that these services exist,” he said.

Akinsanpe said that fixing problems within the Students’ Union’s finances could remedy the other issues.

“I think there is still a lot to be done, in terms of looking at TRUSU’s expense lines. In a lot of expense lines I can see where we can reduce costs, take the excess and put them into issues where we can really affect the lives of students,” Akinsanpe said.

Akinsanpe believes that the position of VP Finance is an essential one and critical to any organizations dealing with large amounts of money. As VP Finance, he will work to reduce costs within the Students’ Union in order to allocate funds to where they are needed most.

Gagandeep Singh – VP Internal, Student Advocacy Coalition

Singh-2Singh said that the most serious issue facing students is that they are out of touch socially with each other. Singh particularly stressed the divide between domestic and international students.

Singh said that he would improve food service on campus both by extending hours of service late into the night and consulting directly with students on what kinds of food they want.

Singh said that he wasn’t sure what needed to be changed to improve the financial aid system or bookstore, but said that involving students in the decision-making process is important.

When asked what type of entertainment events he would bring to campus if elected VP Internal, Singh said that he would focus on events that would connect international and domestic students.

Julian Simpson – VP Internal, TRYOU

simpsonSimpson said that the most important issue facing students is the lack of guaranteed course offerings which the candidate said were causing students to be unable to graduate on time.

“The bookstore prices are ridiculous. What I’m hoping is to outreach to faculty to try to move towards open textbooks or publically-resourced textbooks, also working with the library to get reserves for those textbooks,” Simpson said. Simpson said that food service on campus could be improved by adding more locally-sourced, vegetarian and vegan options and creating competition with Aramark. Simpson said that a lack of clear communication between financial aid and students is the cause of a lot of problems.

When asked what kind of entertainment events students could expect to see on campus if they are elected, Simpson said that they would work to integrate the VP Internal’s other portfolio, head of the equity committee, by using entertainment events to educate students on issues of “systematic oppression” on campus.

Sola Omatsoguwa – Women’s rep, Student Advocacy Coalition

Sola-1When asked what the most important issue facing students on campus is, Omatsoguwa said that tuition and food service were serious issues. “Most of the food are snacks and sometimes students really need healthy food,” Omatsoguwa said. She also said that she advocated getting local restaurant businesses to set up locations on campus.

Omatsoguwa said she is interested in negotiating with TRU to get more textbooks available in the library, to help alleviate the financial burden on students.

Omatsoguwa said that she thought that encouraging businesses to furnish more grants and scholarships for students would help relieve the strain on the financial aid system.

“I have engaged with an issue of disrespect for females by the male people and I have heard a lot of complaints from fellow ladies like me,” Omatsoguwa said. She went on to say that the solution to this problem is more education that women should be treated as equals and not looked down on or disrespected by male students.

Sierra Rae – Women’s rep, TRYOU

RaeRae said that guaranteed course offerings are the most important issue facing students because when required courses are not scheduled it forces students to prolong their studies.

Rae said that she would handle the issues highlighted by the TRUSU budget consultation by working with Aramark to improve food service offerings for students who have dietary restrictions, preferences or allergies. Rae said she was in favour of greater use of online textbooks to help alleviate cost burden on students.

Rae said that, if she is elected, she will try to create a safe and inclusive environment for women on campus. “It’s important for us to have safe spaces, to be inclusive and for TRUSU to have an open door policy.” Rae also pledged free feminine toiletries available at the TRUSU member services desk and promotion of fields such as physics and engineering which have historically had low female enrolment.

Brianna Guise – Women’s rep, Nations United

GuiseAccording to Guise the most serious issue facing students on campus is the lack of an on-campus social life. “Without a social life where you can meet other students and start creating a little community, it’s going to impact them in the long-run. Not only their happiness, but if they do choose to stay at TRU.”

Guise said she would promote alternatives at the bookstore such as e-textbooks and online resales. “For food quality, we would go talk to the current food provider and see if we can negotiate a different contract and try to lower prices. Trying to eat healthy on campus is not always possible. Guise said that the financial aid system could be improved by making the online application system more user-friendly.

If elected, she would work to ensure that women are treated equally and taken seriously, particularly in the trades. Guise said she would try to create opportunities for women to empower each other whenever possible.

Caitlin Orteza – LGBTQ rep, TRYOU

OrtezaOrteza said that the issues that her slate is most focused on improving are equity on campus, transit service to campus, guaranteed course offerings and improved food services.

In response to the budget consultation issues, Orteza said that she was interested in improving affordability, hours of service and where on campus food is being sourced from. Orteza said that she was unsure of how to handle the issues of bookstore prices and financial aid, but said that the issues were important because it was brought to the union directly by students through the budget consultation.

When asked what the biggest issue facing LGBTQ students on campus is, Orteza cited a study by National Coalition of Antiviolence Programs as evidence that protecting LGBTQ students from violence is an important task for TRUSU. Orteza stressed the importance of awareness and education in protecting LGBTQ individuals.

James-Dean Aleck – Aboriginal Rep, Student Advocacy Coalition

AleckAleck said that financial issues are the most important issues facing students at TRU. “It always upsets me knowing how expensive it is for students to come get an education here,” Aleck said.

When asked to address the three most pressing issues according to the recent TRUSU budget consultation Aleck said that bookstore prices, particularly art class supplies, nearly made him broke in his first year. “There has to be some sort of compromise so that we can have cheaper books and cheaper supplies so that we can keep up with our classes,” he said.

Aleck said that the most important issue specific to Aboriginal students is keeping Aboriginal culture alive on campus. “I strongly believe that our culture is in danger of being forgotten,” he said. Aleck said that he would work to promote his own, and other First Nations cultures if he is elected.

Rochelle DelaRonde – Aboriginal Rep, TRYOU

DeLaRondeDelaRonde is most concerned about course offerings. “There are some courses that aren’t offered throughout the whole year, and if students don’t plan properly they can be held back to graduate for a semester or sometimes a year,” she said.

While DelaRonde has no real solution for the issues laid out in the TRUSU budget consultation, she has promised to work hard in helping address these issues.

“I’m new to this, so I’m just really here to learn – to help best serve students and to make these changes happen,” DelaRonde said.

Delaronde, an Aboriginal student herself, said that she’d work to make TRU’s campus a more acceptable place for Aboriginal students. DelaRonde wants Aboriginal students, who often come from rural communities, to feel at home.

“I’d like to see Aboriginal students getting out more and seeing what TRU really has to offer. Because sometimes they come here from rural areas and sometimes it can be tough,” DelaRonde said.

Yash Thakker – Grad Student rep, Student Advocacy Coalition

ThakkerThakker said that the biggest issue facing TRU students is rising fees: “There are a couple of departments where the rise in fees is more than the rise of inflation in Canada.”

When asked to respond to the top three issues identified by students in the recent TRUSU budget consultation, which are bookstore prices, financial aid and food service, Thakker said that bookstore prices are unacceptable, and far more expensive than in his home country, India. Thakker recommended that some of the TRUSU budget for events where food is served goes towards providing grocery store coupons to students and that more academic performance-based grants be provided.

Thakker, who is already the graduate student representative for the School of Business and Economics, said that the scarcity of internship and co-op opportunities is the most serious issue facing graduate students.

Deepti S. Lobo – Grad Student Rep, TRYOU

Lobo“I think that not enough positions for the courses are available. Sometimes when you want a course, they don’t have enough seats and that becomes an issue because students really want to take up that course,” Lobo said when asked what she thought the biggest issue facing TRU students is.

When asked how she would address the three most serious issues identified by students in the TRUSU budget consultation, Lobo said:

“We are planning to do a lot in terms of food services, because right now the students who stay up til midnight, when they want to have a quick bite, they have nothing.”

Lobo also said that the other two major issues, bookstore prices and financial aid, would require further research, particularly studying other universities.

Lobo said that a lack of job placement opportunities is the biggest challenge facing graduate students.

Chandan Sehgal – International Rep, TRYOU

SeghalSehgal said that food services and course offerings are the most serious issues he plans to tackle if elected.

When asked how he would handle the issues presented by the TRUSU budget consultation Sehgal said that extended hours and more diverse options would improve food service on campus. Sehgal said that international students should have greater access to the financial aid system.

Sehgal said that a lack of pre-planned course offerings is the most serious issue facing international students. He said that a lack of pre-planning has forced him and other international students to extend their student visas.

Anselm Wilson – International Rep, Student Advocacy Coalition

WilsonWilson said that the gap between international and domestic tuition fees and the fact that tuition is rising faster than inflation are the most serious issues facing students. “If there is a deflation in the economy then student fees should be lowered as well,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that he would use changes to the food service on campus as an opportunity to make international students feel more welcome by offering food from their home countries. Wilson suggested promoting online textbooks or another alternative to the high prices at the bookstore. Wilson said that encouraging local companies to offer scholarships and paid internships to students would improve the financial aid system.

Wilson said that isolation is the most serious issue facing international students. Making an effort to integrate domestic students into international club events is the solution Wilson proposed to the issue of isolation.

Kshitij Khadikar – Director-At-Large, Student Advocacy Coalition

KhadikarThe most serious issue on campus for Khadikar is how expensive course fees are for international students. Khadikar believes the rate at which internationals are charged compared to domestics is unfair.

When asked about bookstore prices, Khadikar said that professors should be able to charge students for the content used in a book for a specific course via Moodle or Blackboard, instead of buying a hard copy.

On financial aid, Khadikar said that students should be prioritized by how heavy their course load is in a given semester.

“In regards to food services, I have heard a lot of complaints from students, especially international students, who believe that they are not being represented enough when it comes to cuisine,” Khadikar said. He believes his work within the Students’ Union could make international cuisine more accessible.

When asked what committees he would like to sit on, Khadikar said that he would work best within the equity committee, where he could give marginalized groups on campus a voice.

Michael S. Zaitlin – Director-At-Large, TRYOU

ZaitlinZaitlin said that the biggest issue facing students right now is guaranteed course offerings. He thinks that students should be able to graduate on time, instead of being held back a semester by one course.

As a TRUSU member who helped conduct the budget consultation survey, Zaitlin thinks that the issue of food service can be dealt with by working in cooperation with Aramark. “We need to find a way so that Aramark and students can work together, such as being able to have bake sales or even other work-arounds with Aramark as students,” he said.

When asked about bookstore prices, Zaitlin said that the Students’ Union, the bookstore and TRU faculty should work together towards achieving a fairer pricing system for students.

While Zaitlin isn’t quite sure which committee he would like to sit on yet, he said that he is willing to help wherever he is needed.

Tatiana Gilbert – Director-At-Large, TRYOU

GilbertGuaranteed course offerings is the most serious issue at TRU for Gilbert and one that affects her directly. “There are no computer science courses offered in the summer. So it is just a little bit frustrating, considering we are paying all this money to be here,” she said.

Gilbert said that she’d work to lower the prices at restaurants and food services around campus while petitioning them to stay open later.

“I’m not too sure how exactly we could help with bookstore prices because that is something that is set, under my assumption, by the school or by the publisher. But I’ll definitely look into that, for sure,” she said.

On financial aid, Gilbert wants to be able to create scholarships and bursaries for students who aren’t able to apply to them, specifically with the help of clubs. If TRUSU gave clubs the ability to establish their own methods of funding, Gilbert believes more students would be helped.

Aboud Bawazir – Director-At-Large, Student Advocacy Coalition

For Bawazir, the most important issue facing students is one of family. He believes that the families of students should have more accessibility to services, such as TRU’s clinic. Children of students should be able to get the same benefits, he said.

In response to the budget consultation issues, Bawazir said that diversity and pricing were the two biggest problems with food service. Both issues, he believes, can be handled through advocacy.

“As for bookstore prices, there should be a second option, if you wanted to buy the latest edition or the previous edition,” Bawazir said.

While Bawazir isn’t sure how he’ll handle financial aid, he said that he will assist the Students’ Union in addressing the issue if elected.

Bawazir would sit on any committee within the Students’ Union, though he is particularly interested in serving on the equity committee. He said he’d push for more services for families of students at TRU.

Gunveet Singh – Director-At-Large, TRYOU

SinghSingh said that more course offerings particularly in the summer is the issue he is most interested in changing. Singh proposed an advance course planning system that would allow students to register for courses more than a year in advance.

Singh said that he would work to improve food services by extending hours and improving affordability and diversity of food offerings. Singh said that international students should receive more information about applying for scholarships and grants while they are still in their home country. According to Singh the issues with the bookstore could be solved by creating a forum for students and bookstore officials to communicate directly.

Singh said that he was most interested in sitting on the entertainment committee if he is elected. “It’s not just fun, you can also talk about what changes you want to bring to campus,” Singh said.

Humayra Haq – Director-At-Large, TRYOU

Haq“I think right now the most important issue being faced by students, in my point of view, is the course offerings. So basically there are some mandatory courses that students need to graduate, we need to have those courses offered at all times,” Haq said.

Haq said she would try to work with Aramark to increase the hours that food services are open and attempt to make the return and buyback policies at the bookstore more fair for students. She would also look into the financial aid system more if she was elected, but isn’t sure about what needs to be changed.

Haq said that she is most interested in assisting with the entertainment committee because she had already served on it as a member at large. “I have a huge background of how the entertainment committee works and what they do, so I’m highly excited to be part of the team again.”

Laura Santamaria – Director-At-Large, Student Advocacy Coalition

SantaMariaSantamaria said that the biggest problem facing students on campus is the lack of awareness of students’ union programs. “When they have specific issues they don’t know who to address it to,” Santamaria said.

When asked how she would address the issues from the TRUSU budget consultation, Santamaria said that even though it is difficult to influence the original price of textbooks, she would lobby for cheaper used books in the bookstore. Santamaria also said that her biggest concern for food services is the lack of healthy choices and the high prices. Santamaria said that the financial aid system is too focused on domestic students.

Santamaria said that she was the most interested in participating in the campaigns committee in order to foster awareness of students’ union initiatives.

Cole Hickson – Director-At-Large, Student Advocacy Coalition

hicksonHickson said that rising student fees are the most serious issue facing students.

When asked how he would handle bookstore prices, financial aid and food service, the issues highlighted by the TRUSU budget consultation, Hickson said he would improve food options for students by supporting the on-campus food bank. Hickson described the price of textbooks as almost immoral and said that his slate would progressively and angrily advocate against price gouging.

When asked which TRUSU committees he was most interested in sitting on if he is elected, Hickson said that he was most interested in whatever committee or other duties that could help alleviate the financial burden on students.