Student government: post analysis of the board of directors debate

FullSizeRender-2After rescheduling due to inclement weather, February 26th marked another opportunity for student engagement, as the candidates for the Board of Directors (BoD) faced their peers to answer important questions about their qualifications. It quickly became clear that some clarification was necessary; questions regarding the purpose and function of the BoD were posed. Common questions such as, ‘what is the most important role of the BoD?’, ‘how is it different from SMUSA or the Board of Governors?’, and the relationship of the BoD to the administration were discussed.

The Board of Directors is responsible for reviewing the executive branch of student governance – SMUSA, and its President. They can initiate and plan policy which guides the direction of the SMUSA President, and the chair of the Board also sits on the Board of Governors with the President and the Saint Mary’s administration, at the highest level of governance on campus. In short, the BoD is quite literally a director – they direct policy and act as mediators between student representatives and university administration.

Some, but not all, candidates were able to answer tough questions. It is difficult, when running in an election campaign for university governance to understand, “the rules of the game” as guest speaker Graham Steele put it. Students cannot be expected to understand every aspect of campus-specific university governance before being inducted into it – perhaps that is partly the reason for student disengagement in university politics. Still some candidates, such as current BoD chair, Bryan Rice and SMU-Q president Kirsten Paula, were able to provide comprehensive answers to tough questions such as “in what ways can the BoD defend student interests in the face of pressures from administration?” To this question, Rice revealed that the student judiciary is currently working on a memorandum to “formalize our (the BoD) relationship with the university”. Paula responded with a declaration of cooperation between the two bodies, but not at the sake of student rights: “the students are not 100% controlled by the university … We do have a standard for advocating for students; things like … making sure that the students feel empowered to go against the university, if that is the right decision.”

Other candidates also seemed surprisingly well-informed, such as Erika Macdonald, who supports the Mend the Gap campaign for encouraging female leadership, worked under two different provincial legislatures, and stressed transparency as a value of her campaign. It was was equally surprising that although certain candidates were not privy to background information, they answered strongly; Mohammed Madokh cited the importance of remembering the BoDs role in representing students at policy meetings and demonstrated a working understanding of bureaucratic governance.

A question was asked about candidates’ future plans regarding relationships with CASA (Canadian Alliance of Student Associations) and Students NS, who work in tandem for the rights of students provincially and nationally. All candidates expressed a desire to continue good relations and support for the organizations, while Rice recounted his experience on Parliament Hill, lobbying with CASA.

All of the candidates running for the Board of Directors showed genuine dedication to representing student interests; the BoD is not a glamorous job. Those who ran did not run for fame or popularity. Some had clear advantages, but all had great courage, and The Journal wishes each of them good luck on March 3rd and 4th, when students will cast their votes.

For more information on CASA and Students NS, visit their websites:

http://casa-acae.com

http://studentsns.ca

By Sandra Hannebohm

Inside the presidential debate: Meet the candidates

image It’s election time again at SMU and the 2015 presidential debate on Tuesday February 24th at 6:30 in the McNally Main Theatre was a chance for students to find answers to questions about multiculturalism, school pride, and food quality. The debate opened by introducing the three candidates: Amali Armony, Preston Matthews, and Ossama Nasrallah. Candidate introductions were then succeeded by a speech from current SMUSA President James Patriquin, who described the four referendum questions upon which all voting students will be asked to decide, Tuesday March 3rd and Wednesday March 4th, regarding the student U-Pass, an additional summer U-Pass and two international programs – including the eight year tradition of SMU sponsorship of one refugee student to study on campus annually. For more information on the referendum, click here: http://smusa.ca/governance/elections/

Candidates were given one minute and thirty seconds to answer a set of pre-determined questions regarding their strengths and weaknesses, priorities and motivations, followed by an open question period in which students asked the candidates questions about the condition and future of SMU. A range of major concerns about life for international students at SMU were addressed, bringing attention to the fact that about 30% of the student population is international. Also importantly, questions were asked about the variety and nutrition of food provided by Aramark at the Dockside Dining Hall and the student building cafeteria. There was also concern about the introduction of a ‘fall break’ in the first term of the school year, (between September and December) within the next two years for all universities in Nova Scotia. Perhaps most importantly, in light of recent issues between the student administration (SMUSA) and the university administration, students asked about how the Presidential Candidates would reverse the decline in school spirit, and how the relationship between SMUSA and the administration can be mended in the interest of serving students needs.

Each candidate proposed their plans for improving representation of international students at the university. Preston Matthews focused on improved events, while Amali Armony and Ossama Nasrallah pointed to strengthening societies at SMU. When asked, ‘how will you integrate international students at SMU?’ Matthews suggested alcohol free events to accommodate the diversity of religious affiliations that characterize our international students population. Presidential candidate Nasrallah asked the question, “why is there only one International Night each year?”. He was suggesting a plan to have weekly or monthly International Nights complemented by better marketing for societies. Amali Armony placed special importance on society empowerment for international students, pointing out that strong societies represent student interests.

All candidates acknowledged a significant decline in school spirit among Santamarians over the years, revealing the mystery of how to improve student engagement on campus. Suggestions ranged from society empowerment to improved events, tying in closely with the problem of accommodations for international students.

The candidates motivations for running in the election all included dedication to SMU and understanding its students. Armonys’ motivation also included a strong dissatisfaction with the past demonstration of the university administrations’ ability to take advantage of SMUdents. Although he chose not to run in the bi-election at the beginning of the year, he was motivated to run in this election by his more recent experience working for SMUSA and dealing with the administration of SMU. He believes that by using this experience, he is now the right man for the job of fighting for students’ interests.

Matthews’ main platform included opportunities for first year students and the inclusion of international students in the culture of SMU, as well as improving services provided by Aramark. Some of his priority issues as President would be the removal of the debit fee at the cafeteria, and the inclusion of vegan options at Dockside. He cites his dedication as a Santamarian, a track and field athlete and a loyal ‘people person’. He believes that his ability to seek out and understand students is what sets him apart from the other candidates, as an employee of Aramark an attendee of many campus events, and his academic proficiency.

Nasrallah’s campaign also centers around student engagement, as well as the relationship between students and SMUSA, citing a ‘missing bridge’ between the two. He states that although he is a first year student without much experience in university politics, he has gained life experience by managing his fathers business and interacting with a variety of people from a range of different backgrounds professionally and casually.

One question which seemed to stump every candidate was, ‘why was there so much student pride in the past, but not now?’ Answers varied from generational differences, student ‘standoffishness’ and embarrassment regarding the chant scandal of 2014, but all answers were preceded by genuine confusion and wonder, suggesting that it has been a question each candidate has been wondering for some time.

For more information on the candidates, click here: http://smusa.ca/candidate-bios/
Although the presidential debate has come to a close and election will soon occur, students are still encouraged to go out and meet the election candidates and seek answers to the questions which they deem crucial to the improvement of the university and student body as a whole.

By: Sandra Hannebohm and Makenzie Way

Popularity Contest or Election Campaign?

The election season sprung into life over the past few days and the campaigns will continue until the 4th of March when Santamarians go to the polls to choose their new executive. However, questions about the culture and process of electioneering at Saint Mary’s University have been raised. How are we choosing our candidates? Are we choosing our candidates based on their popularity or on the basis of their actual capability to take up the task of being representative of the whole student body? We seek to remind Santamarians that the student leadership platform was created to allow students to be able to have a voice on the issues that make their student experience profound, empowering, and pleasant. These positions that students are elected into, are positions of service and selflessness. Our leadership should be consistent and committed to addressing the plight of students. The student leadership that we elect is representative of the caliber of students that the University produces. If we foster a culture of mediocrity and cronyism we will fail to uphold the integrity that has defined Saint Mary’s as a highly reputable institution globally, as can be seen by its global appeal.

On the question of representation, it is surprising that we have fewer female candidates running for office. Is it that we do not have talented and confident young women capable of participating in student leadership? We refuse to entertain such old and incorrect misconceptions about the caliber of female student at Saint Mary’s, some of our best local athletes, society leaders, and innovative entrepreneurs are females that were educate at this very institution. This is a call to all the inspired and ambitious women within the Saint Mary’s University community, if you do not stand and be counted, who will? The pace to empowerment depends on all of us.

Lastly, as we approach the election on the 3rd and 4th of March 2015, Santamarians need to be aware and proactive in choosing their leadership. Let us vote for candidates that are truly genuine, honest and have a track record of engagement especially on knowledge of issues that the majority of Santamarians care about.

By Tinavapi Kupakuwana

Love is Love Campaign: A Retrospective Look

Once again Saint Mary’s University and SMUSA, coordinated and put on the Love is Love campaign. This years campaign was ran by Vice President of Events and Programming, Kaitlyn Sobey, who is quoted as saying that, “the love is love campaign is about supporting love equality, and aims to provide a voice for all people, no matter who they are, or who they love.” Although the campaign hosted a variety of events including an all ages Valentine’s making party and Mean Girls Trivia; the campaigns biggest events were the LGBTQ + Ally Training, and the Get Real Love Pub.love is love

Saint Mary’s hosted Cape Breton Aids Coalition member Madonna Doucette as the guest speaker during both of the LGBTQ + Ally Training seminars. During the event Doucette discussed the meaning behind the LGBTQQIAAP2S acronym, while also offering tips on how to be respectful to members of the queer community and what it means to be a true ally.

The campaign finished off with a love-themed Open Mic nicknamed the Get Real Love Pub, which was held at the Gorsebrook. Students were encouraged to write meaningful messages of what love means to them in exchange for a Love is Love t-shirt and pin. All volunteers and event coordinators could be seen sporting neon pink Love is Love hats, which were being sold for $10 during the event. With the 2015 Love is Love campaigns’ completion, the student union can only hope that students are more aware and encouraged to support the equality of love during the  Valentines day celebrations, and of course for long after that.

By Makenzie Way

An all-around win for the Huskies in the 2015 Tom Strong Night

The 2nd annual Tom Strong Night took place on February 4th, 2015 at the Halifax Forum where the Saint Mary’s Huskies and the Dalhousie Tigers laced up their skates to raise money for the leukemia and lymphoma society.  A year ago the Huskies faced the Acadia Axemen during the first Tom Strong Night, and although SMU faced a 5-2 defeat both teams still came out winners after raising an outstanding $20,000 for the cause whose inspiration holds a special place in the hearts of the Saint Mary’s community. The Huskies assistant coach Tom Lee who has been fighting Mantle cell lymphoma since 2008 is the inspiration behind the Tom Strong Game, but the proceeds raised affect much more than just this local icon. All sales, including ticket sales and 50/50 donations support the leukemia and lymphoma research which attributes its time to finding a cure for those 110,000 Canadians, including Saint Mary’s own Tom Lee, living with or in remission from blood cancers.

tom Strong During this years preparation for the game Dalhousie Tigers player Kendal MacInnis, whose older brother survived lymphoma, collected donations of $73 to match his jersey number, resulting in a total of $4,218 raised by him alone. Although the Huskies beat the Tigers with a score of, 7-1, they worked together to raise $13,948 during the Tom Strong Night and both teams deserve to be recognized for their efforts and sportsmanship on and off of the ice.

By Makenzie Way

‘All out’ tuition protest shows students are all in

 

 

All out protest

                Photo credit: Sydney Jones for Metro

On Wednesday, February 4th, Haligonian students marched in the streets to demonstrate their frustration with tuition increases and funding decreases. Students from Saint Mary’s University, Dalhousie University, University of King’s College, NSCAD and Mount Saint Vincent University stood up in a way that one student describes as unusual; “It’s not often that students outside of Quebec actually stand out for their tuition” says Rhiannon Gilbart from Dalhousie University. Indeed, it seems that students from the highest taxed provinces are more willing to protest for their interests.

Nova Scotia’s combined tax rate (PST, HST, GST) is 15%, while Quebec’s tax rate rests at 14.97%, making the two highest tax rates in Canada. The difference, however, is that the provincial tax for Quebec is almost 10%, while the sales tax for Nova Scotians is what makes up most of the 15%. In this light, it is no surprise that students of Quebec feel entitled to protected, cheap tuition provided by the government. Since the provincial government taxes its citizens more than other provinces, students expect that their tax money will protect them from tuition increases by the province. It is surprising then, that Nova Scotians are now calling upon the government to address the commercial tax pressures that are making student life increasingly difficult. Perhaps the spur to action is also partly due to the uniquely large population of international students in Nova Scotia, who pay more tuition than domestic students, yet pay the same sales tax.

A question is raised here: is it the governments responsibility to relieve the financial pressures of student life? University is the institutional breeding ground for educated members of society. Students are the members who become investors, business owners, and tax payers.
Increases in subsidies and decreases in tuition are investments in the future of a province and a nation, but only the students themselves can lobby to prove this point. It is up to the students of Nova Scotia to cultivate an awareness of this position.

By Sandra Hannebohm

Saint Mary’s names new President

image2

Wednesday, February 4th marked an exciting day for Saint Mary’s, as a Town Hall style meeting welcomed the new administration president, Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. At the same public meeting, students and faculty bid farewell to Dr. Dodds who served Saint Mary’s for 15 years.

Together with the board of governors, a search committee, and a renowned search consultant, the candidate was said to be chosen based on university by-laws along with student and faculty input. A questionnaire was emailed to students in April 2014 and the board of governors were asked what they believe to be the essence of Saint Mary’s University. Concerns were raised from the Faculty Union about the search process being closed and unfair, to which the future President responded with “hopes of collaboration”, “collegial governance”, and “listen[ing] to each other”.

Some of the input provided by the Saint Mary’s community about the qualities they would like to see in the next president included key words such as positive, open and transparent. Input about the qualities of Saint Mary’s which the community hoped to see perpetuated were equity, diversity, engagement, family, internationality and accessibility.

Dr. Summerby-Murray expressed a keen interest in continuing and enhancing the unique niche of internationalism which the school has carved for itself, and was impressed with previous efforts to reach out to the community through public classes such as the one taught at the new Halifax Regional Library. It was also declared that he intends to finally claim the title of Most International School in Canada, pointing to our increasing population of multicultural students, higher than any other university in the country. When asked ‘what are the immediate challenges you face as the new president?’ Summerby-Murray responded with: funding, and the very meaning of a university. The future president sees an important social contract between universities and society. In his view, we are “so well placed” to ask the question of why universities exist and how they can challenge society.

We can expect the recently inducted President to implement his vision for the future of Saint Mary’s when his term begins July 1st, 2015. However, contention between the Faculty Union and the administration may lead to legal action resulting in a search for alternative candidates through a more open process. The future of Saint Mary’s seems to depend on what the community finds most important – a good President, or a fair process for finding one?

By Sandra Hannebohm

The SMU Journal is back and rejuvinated……

The Saint Mary’s University Journal is officially back after a long absence. We would like to start by thanking all Santamarians who have been patient whilst we were away. We would also like to acknowledge the tension between SMUSA and the Journal, which was created due to budgetary issues and the unfortunate departure of the Editor-in-Chief. During our respite we have been able to iron out these issues and create a new vision for the Journal. As the new Journal executives we are happy to re-assure Saint Mary’s students that news and events will be covered consistently and accurately. We look forward to creating and maintaining positive working relationships with SMUSA and the Saint Mary’s University community as a whole.image1

The Journal is dedicated to continuously being autonomous and independent in its covering of news and events. Although closely tied to SMUSA, we are not ourselves part of SMUSA. We always gain by working together, but we are separate bodies capturing the student voice with similar intentions. As the new team at the Journal we envision giving students a voice to articulate and express their concerns about how to create a positive student experience. The Journal will continue to be a platform for celebrating excellence within our community and to keep students engaged with the campus communities which make us an internationalized school.

We open our doors and social media platforms to all Santamarians past and present for positive, respectful and innovative contributions especially those that are meant to provoke our intellectual engagement as students. Our aim is to inform and entertain the students who compose the Saint Mary’s population so that they can regain a sense of unity that was once substantial and has since dissipated.  Our aim is also to cultivate an understanding of our position as students in the power dynamic of the university.

The new year has begun with exciting developments. To begin with, the conformation of the Saint Mary’s University President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray, whose achievements and research exploits are true reflection of the wealth of experience that he is bringing into the university. We want to welcome you Mr. President! We would also like to thank Dr. Colin Dodds for his dedicated service over the past 15 years.

By Tinavapi Kupakuwana