Arts and Science Undergrads to Head to the Polls
ASFA Holding Byelections to Fill VP Finance, VP External Affairs and Sustainability, Independent Councillor Positions
Election season has hit Concordia yet again.
From Nov. 12 to Nov. 14, the roughly 18,000 undergraduates who are members of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations will have the chance to cast ballots and fill three of the association’s vacant positions.
And in a somewhat unusual twist for student politics, all three positions up for grabs—VP Finance, VP External Affairs and Sustainability, and an independent councillor seat—are being contested.
“From what I can gather from past elections and the reports I’ve read from past [chief electoral officers], having a contested election as we [do] now seems to be something that doesn’t happen often,” ASFA Chief Electoral Officer Trevor Wilkinson told The Link. “It seems to be something rare.”
Wilkinson said 20 students—mostly arts and science undergraduates, but some from other faculties as well—were hired to work at four polling stations, which will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“We’re keeping them open, I believe, two and a half hours longer than the last byelection we had,” he said. “Will [those] two-and-a-half hours increase voter turnout? I can’t say. It’s something that I’m experimenting with.”
Stefanie Broos and David Ness are both running for VP Finance, while Ivan Makhrov and Alexa Hinves are competing for VP External Affairs and Sustainability. Melina Ghio and Tarik Shukr are the two candidates for the independent councillor seat.
VP External Affairs and Sustainability
Hinves, an urban planning student, said she’s “really interested in student politics,” although she admits she’s never gotten involved in ASFA before beyond attending some of their events.
She told The Link she did an internship at Sustainable Concordia, a group that brings together students, staff, faculty and administrators to deal with environmental issues on campus.
The experience of collecting data on greenhouse gas emissions for the group’s Concordia Campus Sustainability Assessment has helped her better understand the impact that the university has on the environment, she said.
Hinves’s five-point platform promises a reform of the association’s policies in order to require that ASFA actually organize events that promote environmental sustainability.
She also promises more outreach to local businesses in the area around Concordia to pave the way for new sponsorships next year, as well as more collaboration with other student associations.
“I’ve seen that most member associations don’t have a VP Sustainability within their associations, so I want to act as a sustainable ambassador for all these member associations and give them the information [about sustainability initiatives on campus] that they need to transfer on to their students,” she said.
Additionally, her platform mentions the possibility of creating a new rideshare program or promoting existing programs at Concordia to help students who live further away set up carpools to and from campus.
Makhrov who, like Hinves, is an urban planning student, has been involved in ASFA’s social events committee and is a co-founder of an event-planning company in Montreal. He admits he’s more interested in the external affairs part of the portfolio than in sustainability initiatives on campus.
“I believe that there are a lot of things that we might do, but it’s really hard to achieve real progress [on] sustainability,” he said. “I respect the environment and everything, but I’m not really into it. It’s very good that some people are more motivated in this field, and I believe that my job is to support those people.”
He also said whoever is elected VP External Affairs and Sustainability shouldn’t concentrate on just sustainability initiatives.
In addition to raising awareness of ASFA among students, Mahkrov said he’d “create a vision that students actually can do something good, not only for the university itself, but in general for the city,” ensuring that everyone in the Concordia community has “a chance to do their own project.”
“Every student has their own interests and if they don’t share it with others or they don’t know that there is some kind of system that can support their idea or their view, they will not develop [it] themselves,” he said, adding that he’ll support students’ personal projects if he’s elected VP External Affairs and Sustainability.
Ness started his studies at Concordia in the physics department and served as VP Finance of the Concordia Physics Student Association. He has since switched into the university’s geography program.
According to Ness, he’s qualified for ASFA’s VP Finance position because he has experience in the finance industry, starting off as a bond analyst in 2010 and then becoming a stock trader in 2011. He said he’s now working as a consultant.
If elected, Ness said he’d make sure that the “budgetary errors” of last school year’s ASFA executive wouldn’t happen under his watch.
ASFA Talks 2013, a speaker series presented by the student association on March 14, produced what Ness called a “substantial deficit.”
Only $10,900 was earmarked for the one-evening, five-hour event in ASFA’s budget, but the total cost rose to $30,000 and the Concordia Student Union ended up allocating an additional $19,100 towards the event. Tickets were priced at $5 for students and $10 for non-students and only 47 tickets were sold, according to ASFA.
When asked how he’d prevent such situations from reoccurring, Ness said he “would not allow [ASFA’s] president to just go out of his or her way to allow certain breaches in the bylaws to occur, because that should not happen.”
Ness also said there are some more minor examples of mismanagement of funds among ASFA’s departmental member associations that he’d work to avoid.
Broos, a communications student, said she’s always been involved in her school community in various capacities.
“I love working with people, I love creating events and being part of the bigger picture of putting on events for students,” she said. “Based on the skills that I have, I thought that [being] VP Finance would be the best place for me.”
If elected ASFA’s VP Finance, she’ll be responsible for a much larger budget than when she organized different events as a member of various clubs, from Concordia’s Model United Nations club to Dawson College’s student newspaper, The Plant, while she attended the CEGEP.
Broos admits she’ll have to overcome a steep learning curve, but says she’s up to the challenge.
“I have a good sense of [how much] things cost and how much money needs to go to certain things, and I will be able to make good judgment calls because of the experience that I have with organizing events.”
Additionally, she said the ASFA Talks 2013 speaker series held last March—which went over its initial budget by $19,100—wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it didn’t capture the interest of the student body.
“You need to sometimes try things—not to that extent, because they lost so much money, but I’m definitely open to trying other things like that by making sure that I have a good grasp on what students want,” she said.
Melina Ghio is currently working on a second degree, majoring at the university’s Liberal Arts College and minoring in English literature. She said she doesn’t have experience in student politics or involvement on campus.
But Ghio said she’s worked in mortgages, dealing with real estate agents, homebuyers and banks. She sees similarities in the role she’ll have as an independent councillor if she’s elected.
“I think as an independent councillor, the position itself entails making sure that all views are kind of respected equally, from what I gather,” she said.
“It’s a question of fairness, which is also what my experience in mortgages came down to, which is that you have to be fair to everybody. Everybody has wants, everybody has their own agenda, but you have to step back and say, ‘Okay, well, there are rules to follow and we have to make sure that they are properly administered.’”
For Ghio, sitting as an ASFA councillor would be an opportunity to give back to the Concordia community. She said she’d like to create a level of transparency by keeping lines of communication open to students through email and Facebook so that they could speak to her about what they’d like out of ASFA.
Shukr, a student completing double majors in political science and philosophy, did not respond to The Link’s requests for an interview before press time.
“Let’s improve our forum of communication. Let’s ensure that the federation is financially responsible. Let’s make the most out of your money. Let’s ensure that you’re the one benefiting from the federation,” he wrote in a biography that was sent out to ASFA members, along with information on the other candidates, on Nov. 5.
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