Despite only three of the 19 elected positions being contested, the TRUSU all candidates forum was full of passionate candidates and heated debate. Approximately 70 students turned out to the event, a number that included all but one of the 22 students running for a union position.
Equity and advocacy
“Safe spaces” was a frequently mentioned topic by the candidates for the equity committee and Caitlin Orteza (SAC), candidate for vice president equity. The consensus of Orteza, women’s representative Saprina Chandi (PA) and LGBTQ+ representative Dale Drozda (SAC) was that there is a need for an “equity center” on campus to help those represented by board advocacy positions feel comfortable and safe while at TRU.
Orteza was adamant to include more disadvantaged groups such as student mothers and the disabled. Orteza and Drozda both want to have the conversation on gender neutral washrooms advanced by the union and administration, with the goal of having those washrooms implemented as soon as possible. Chandi expressed the need for a stronger sexual violence policy to be passed as soon as possible.
Women’s representative candidate Emiko Ohama (SAC) was did not attend the forum due to flight delays returning from New York, where she was attending the United Nation’s Commision on the Status of Women youth forum, according to co-candidate Cole Hickson (SAC).
Aboriginal students’ representative James-Dean Aleck (SAC) said he plans to hold Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his word of aiding aboriginal students via the Post Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP), funding meant to benefit aboriginal students nationwide that the Trudeau government, according to Aleck, “has failed to follow through on.”
Campaigns, old and new
Candidates in all positions stressed the importance of campaigns such as the World University Service Canada student refugee program and fossil fuel divestment initiatives to progress the TRUSU commitment to both student life and green initiatives. Both candidates for the positions of president, Tatiana Gilbert (SAC) and Matt Eriksson (PA) and vice president external candidates Cole Hickson (SAC) and Zeru Asress (PA), reinforced their dedication to these campaigns with examples of how they’ve worked on them, and promised their continuing support from the student union.
The debate between vice president external candidates turned into a struggle of club versus union, when the candidates were asked how their experience could help them fulfill the duties of their position.
Hickson, a director-at-large with the union this year, talked about his experience with both clubs and the union and said that he is a “passionate and effective candidate able to serve the union the best.”
Asress, who is involved with clubs on campus, spoke of his experience with various clubs and how it has affected him in a similar way.
Asress said he wanted to reform the union from the inside, to improve accountability and effectiveness, and that being part of TRUSU doesn’t provide an “edge” over others and that an outsider’s view is valuable.
Both VP external candidates expressed a desire to work more with other campus unions CUPE and TRUFA, and hinted at the possibility of working with other B.C. school unions to learn and share ideas. In his closing remarks, Asress referred to the incoming TRU-approved parking system as a “class based system” and stressed the importance of creating a student-satisfying system to replace it.
The battle for the presidency
The president’s position debate was fiery as well, with Gilbert saying that every system can be improved, and that she will strive to improve in every way possible.
Eriksson criticized the political culture of TRU, saying “the [TRU] administration and [TRUSU] have done very little to improve political awareness on campus, and I intend to change that.”
The candidates were presented with TRUSU’s budget consultation poll results identifying food choices, student awards and bursaries, study spaces, classrooms and rising tuition costs as the five issues most important to TRU students. Both candidates stated the equal importance of all five issues, and referred to various campaigns in place to address them. On food choice, Eriksson expressed his unhappiness with the new food truck program, saying it “isn’t enough to take down Aramark.” Summarized in his closing remarks, he said that the university “shouldn’t sacrifice its integrity in order to turn a quick buck,” referring to the divestment campaign he’s been involved in.
Gilbert said she was excited about the potential to work for the students, emphasizing that it’s “your university, your life and your future.”
Are you not entertained?
Students should look forward to a more exciting back-to-school BBQ at the beginning of the year, if Richard Abankwa (SAC) wins a seat as entertainment committee representative. Sporting a black fur coat and cracking jokes with fellow candidate Usra Gohar (SAC), both emphasized the importance of love, happiness, fun and de-stressing for students throughout the year. Arts students should be particularly excited, as they intend to hold exhibitions of student artwork on various occasions.
Time and place
Voting will place in the TRUSU lecture hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 22 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 23. More information on the candidates can be found on TRUSU’s website.