The Cadre | UPEI

Candidate Interviews: SU President

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By: Elizabeth Iwunwa

The SU elections are this week, which means that students have some important decisions to make. To help with that process, the Cadre reached out to both Presidential candidates; VPSL Nathan Hood and Science Rep Emma McDermott. We asked each candidate three identical questions to gage their views on several issues, along with one personalized question for each.

The SU is often seen as an isolated and elite social club. How would you address this?

Nathan:  I do have the number point of of points on my platform that are targeted towards that. One of them include restructuring council. Right now, I would say you do have a lot of people who are already engaged or lot of people who have friends who are on council and to some students who may not be a part of that group, that could be feeding into the idea that the SU is a clique. Another problem is that we don’t really take time to think about how students  perceive us. From the communications perspective that is something we’ve never really looked into. So it’s problematic. I think we can still make progress in that area. I think there are ways that can incorporate more students to make it less like a special group of people. One of the things I one of the things I’d like to do is to set up an inspiring innovation found. So right now the real power to make change in my view, lies with the executive or someone in the organization with funding like the NIFT committee which focuses on new initiatives.  The problem is that you put all that power into one committee that basically tells everybody everybody else no you can’t change, you can come up with new initiatives so they don’t and you stifle growth. We can’t grow as an organization because there are so many people with ideas to improve the organization, but we’ve basically ignored them because we don’t provide resources and we don’t try we don’t really encourage them to come in.

So I guess to summarize, I want to restructure council. I’d like to make it smaller. Of course this would have to be a consultative process, it’s not something I want to just do overnight. And I want to look at our brand and see how we are perceived by students because that’s going to impact how they interact with us. I also want to put resources aside so that if people have ideas and want to grow the Student Union,  if they want to make the Student  Union be more inclusive, they have the ability to do so. I don’t think effective  representation is tied to a number. We have over twenty people on council and not everyone contributes and part of it is that you just have this big group and how we supposed to have discussion? When people elect someone to represent them they don’t want someone who wouldn’t be there and say anything. They want someone who is going to be active and provide representation and their insights. I think you can actually get more bang for your buck if you reduce the amount of people because now you’re expecting them to do more.

Emma: I think the Student Union presence is a big thing. I personally love to be present at events, I attend a lot of things probably more than school work should let me but I think that executive and council members should have it in their job description to continue to be present at events and to communicate with students.  We should be at trivias, we should be at the sport games, we should be at the diversity weeks that are happening. We should be at those events.

What is your opinion on advocating for divestment and non-academic advocacy issues?

Nathan: It is certainly an interesting issue and there a lot of schools that are looking into it. Mount Allison would probably be the biggest example. I think it’s great that students are coming to us with their concerns and issues they’d like us to address.  I am very interested to see what the policy will come out as. I think that’s great and I think it’s something we have to encourage. I think that’s almost the first step in a long path and I’m very excited to see that. If the students are very passionate about it and we have a  large backing from the students I think we should be advocating on it as long as it still remains within the scope of the organization.

Emma:  I think it depends on what the students want to see. As for divestment, the students brought that forward. They were interested in it, they wanted to see it. So if the student interest is there, we should definitely take the time to at least research them and determine if it is a suitable option for the Student Union to pursue.

How would you ensure that the interest of students from all faculties are represented?

Nathan: I think the way it works right now is pretty good. We have faculty reps but it’s interesting to think because while we do have a lot of representation from these faculties, I think there are student groups that may not be as well represented by the Student Union. I think international students for example have one rep on council but you have almost thirty people on council. So you have very limited international representation, despite the fact that that makes up twenty percent of the student body and that’s a demographic that is continuing to grow.  I think we’ve been slow to address that.

Emma: I think that’s well represented right now with our council. We have so many councillors for each faculty depending on how many students are in the faculty. And I love that  representation because then there’s more chances are councillors to be able to communicate with their students. If there was only one councillor for eight hundred students then they would have a harder time meeting with each other students compared to if there were three councillors for eight hundred students. So I think our council as structured does provide that difference of opinions from all the different faculties.



Q: The president’s job is to oversee an executive of equals, requiring diplomacy and cooperation. How does this square with the reputation of the Nate Hood show?

A:  I think the biggest misunderstanding about the Nate Hood show is that it was about me, which wasn’t. The idea was that if executives it could be ambitious with their portfolios, they can achieve an incredible amount of things. So for example how is I able to create VolunTinder, the  volunteer matchmaker that has almost 1000 matches? How was I able to create the first year education program which is the second of its kind in Canada? How was able to improve the bottomline on events this year? How was I able to work on a Society Strat plan which we’ll be releasing this year, it’ll be first of its kind in Canada. Because they tell us that if you’re an executive you can only work on so many things, that you can only get so much done. I don’t buy into that. As the President, the culture I want to set with the executive is you can accomplish a lot but you just have to believe that you can accomplish lot. I think Dana has been a good President, he’s always been someone who encourages you to do more and do more and that’s the culture I want to have within the executive. You can accomplish so much more if you believe you can. I’m very glad I’ve had this year as VP Student Life because I can continue to work with the person in that portfolio to grow it because I think there’s a lot of fertile ground there. And when I say they,  I mean the culture within organization. There are people who think that and it’s not their fault. Culture is kind of subconscious, you don’t really recognize that you’re doing this but that’s what it is. Culture is a social construct, if you build up culture, you can also to be deconstruct it and create a new one.


Q: Some have criticised the Council for a lack of effectiveness. As a councillor, what can you point to in your record that shows an ability to innovate and implement?


A: We held regular office hours as Science Reps for the past two years but we just stopped doing those only because a lot of students weren’t showing up. It was on Friday afternoons,  poor timing but that’s the only time that worked best this semester. So they aren’t in effect this semester but we have had office hours in the past. I’ve also been involved with Street Team where I was in charge of managing bulletin boards in Duffy and the library. I’ve also been at the majority of all the Student Union events to talk to students and I like to talk to the people in my class to keep them updated on what we’re into. I think the SU has done an excellent job with innovative ideas this year. The focus for my campaign is looking at the little things. I want to improve collaboration with different groups on campus such as the IRO, Athletics, Diversity Office, Student Affairs and hold collaborative events. One of my favorite events that was held was a championship game last year. The Alumni Office was there and they had scarves and they were passing them out and we were all in the Wave beforehand and then we went to this game together. It was really awesome to see the collaboration between the alumni and students. So I want to see more events like that with the different offices on campus.