The candidates and their platforms:
* Immediate health care coverage for international students
* Add students-at-large to every committee to address lack of representation and provide leadership opportunities.
* Provide transitionary courses by advocating to Senate and working with VP Academic.
* Address current lack of transparency between university administration and students and provide greater control on where fees are being spent.
* Create more study spaces with longer hours, especially on weekends.
* Implement a Happy Campus Act, ranging from better smoking areas, snow clearing at better times, longer meal hall hours, disposal systems for electronics, and better building access.
* Implement programs to help students transition to the real world, teaching budgeting, resume building, and finding jobs.
* To be available and open to ideas students have to enhance their experience at StFX.
* Make the Students’ Union accessible through social media and weekly updates on initiatives taken, in order to keep the U accountable to students.
* Renew interest in raising the Mi’kmaq flag and gender neutral bathrooms as well as other inclusivity initiatives along with greater representation within council in order for students to feel included, safe, and valued.
* Mental Health, by working with the StFX Mental Health Society, will be a prevalent topic year-round, and students will be further educated through continued dialogue on campus in order to curb remaining stigma against mental illness.
* Interdisciplinary degrees instituted for students to stimulate their multiple interests and become well-rounded, capable Xaverians.
* Begin a fund for students who may not be able to afford their textbooks.
* Have the Students’ Union be more accessible to students by hosting events/office hours in places other than their offices.
* Begin promotional campaigns promoting campus resources such as society ran tutorials, tutoring services, etc.
* Host events for students and faculty to voice successes/concerns happening on campus and in classrooms.
* Work with VP Residence Affairs to promote social drinking in common areas to reduce binge drinking.
* Push for professors to receive Mental Health First Aid to integrate awareness into the classroom.
* Restructure and improve Bring in the Bystander Program and its training. Create a small team to train staff at the Inn, house Presidents and Vice Presidents, Residence Assistants, campus security, and students at large.
* Interdisciplinary degree options to be available in Human Kinetics and Bachelor of Business Administration.
The first Students’ Union debate on Thursday, January 12th, attracted a large crowd of students eager to hear the platforms presented and ask the candidates about topics they feel are important to the StFX community.
In the running are Annie Sirois and Phil Elzein for President, and Rob Haswell, Tiffany MacLennan, and Patrick Panet-Raymond for Vice-President Academic of the Students’ Union.
Hosted by The Xaverian Weekly, each candidate spoke for two minutes about their platforms, mentioning three to four pressing issues that they felt were the most important to them. Questions were then asked by The Xaverian Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief, Emily Keenan, then the floor was open to the audience to ask questions to the candidates.
Each candidate was prepared and professional, and delivered a two-minute long opening statement to introduce his or her platform. Annie Sirois spoke first of her experience with the U throughout her two and a half years at StFX. As VP External this year, she was able to draw from her experience from both this and previous years to provide realistic goals that touched upon international students, transparency within the U, and better leadership opportunities for students. Throughout the debate, Sirois effortlessly used her real-life experience to relate to the needs of Xaverians and how she wishes to improve campus life should she be nominated.
Phil Elzein took a different approach to the debate and conveyed his excitement to learn, despite not previously being involved with the U. Each question was answered with enthusiasm and he continuously thanked the audience. Through his experience in business, Elzein is a self-proclaimed “people person” and feels that the best way to represent the student body is to be engaged with all Xaverians. He focused on improving study spaces, courses that help students prepare for ‘real life’ after graduation, and his own Happy Campus Act, as detailed above.
As for the candidates running for Vice President Academic, Rob Haswell, a third year political science student without any experience with the U, was well-spoken and sure-footed when speaking of transparency within the U, inclusivity for all – specifically by continuing initiatives like raising the Mi’kmaq flag year-round and gender neutral bathrooms – and introducing more interdisciplinary degrees. Sitting calmly in his seat, he exuded a sense of purpose, despite only deciding at the last minute to run.
In fact, all three candidates, Haswell, Tiffany MacLennan, and Patrick Panet-Raymond, decided only days before the first debate to put in their application for VP Academic. The application had been re-opened after a lack of response from students and, once asked about their motivations for applying, each candidate stated that they felt that the re-opening was the sign they were waiting for.
Panet-Raymond is an Entertainment Coordinator with the Students’ Union and wants to take advantage of the small class sizes and ‘family-like community’ to focus on student safety through reducing binge drinking and restructuring the Bring in the Bystander program. In regards to mental health, the HKIN student wants to make mental health first aid training available to faculty and staff. Panet-Raymond was nervous yet outwardly confident and charmed the audience with a few jokes and quips throughout the night.
Tiffany MacLennan is unique both by being the only girl running for VP Academic and by being a second-year student, as opposed to the rest of the candidates who are in their third. The chemistry major made a distinctive point in that she would make ‘office hours outside of the office’ mandatory in order for students to feel more comfortable addressing members of the U. MacLennan, with her impressive leadership experience both with the U and other organizations, wanted to ensure, like other candidates, that leadership opportunities were provided for students.
Each of the candidates were asked ten questions ranging from how to have better representation of marginalized groups to what, in their eyes, is the most pressing academic concern on campus. Although Sirois appeared to be the most prepared out of the five candidates, the other four answered most of the questions comfortably.
In comparing the candidates running for President, there was a stark difference between Sirois and Elzein.
As each question went across the table, Elzein would stand, laugh, thank everyone for coming, and exclaim persistently that running in the SU election was the best part of his year. Due to his lack of experience with the U, he did not always have the perfect answers but made up for it in charisma.
Sirois, current VP External of the Students’ Union, never lost her composure and came to the debate with apparent facts, preparation, and experience. She was able to add legitimacy to statements other candidates had made and dispute rumours that were brought up by the audience. Sirois’ presentation skills and ability to articulate points were clearly highlights of her first debate.
The dichotomy between the two candidates made for a thrilling debate as Phil’s enthusiasm countered Annie’s polished responses. The audience eagerly kept up with the back and forth as the two played off each other throughout the night.
While the VP candidates were not as vastly different as the two running for president, the three students clearly had different goals should they be elected. MacLennan comes with the most leadership experience and thrives off her experience as Society Coordinator for the U. She originally put in her nomination for president yet withdrew it once going over the position in detail. She felt that the nominations re-opening was a clear sign for her to participate in the election, even though having one less year at StFX might make a difference.
Panet-Raymond felt confident in his social skills and connections with his professors and his passion about mental health and Bring in the Bystander came across regardless of a few stumbles along the way.
Haswell was calm throughout the entire debate, even when faced with tough questions. He prides himself on being an outsider without any preconceived notions of how the Students’ Union runs. Although this could potentially do more harm than good for his campaign, Haswell is certain that he can bring a fresh mind and new ideas to the U.
Compared to previous years, the first debate of the Students’ Union election was an enormous success with a packed room and students eager to cheer on their peers. Based off the event, it is evident that both the presidential and vice-presidential elections are becoming large discussions on campus. The Xaverian Weekly will continue to cover the elections as well as the final result in the coming weeks.