CSU 2017 Elections: Meet the Candidates

Elections Runs From March 28 to 30

Voting for the Concordia Student Union general elections will run from March 28 to 30.

This article has been updated.

Three slates are running this year, Team Connect, Team Unity and Embrace ConU. Team Connect is the only slate with candidates for every position. An independent student is also running for General Coordinator. All positions are contested except the Sustainability Coordinator. Quorum for the election is 450.
Omar Riaz is a management student in his second year. He’s running as General Coordinator with _Embrace ConU_ Photo courtesy of Embrace ConU

For Embrace ConU

General Coordinator

Omar Riaz

Riaz is a management student in his second year. While in CEGEP, he served as President of the Vanier College Student Association. He’s currently a councilor with the CSU, and has also been on Concordia’s Senate—the university’s highest academic decision-making body—since January.

His slate’s foremost objectives are to push for the school’s divestment from fossil fuels, and to better represent the students from all faculties by collaborating more with Concordia’s faculty student associations. His hope is that doing so will help the CSU become a more inclusive union.

He also wants to advocate more for issues facing international students by making sure that the administration does not try to increase their tuition fees again.
“This is a position that has to be taken on by the greater student population,” he said.

He also hopes to build a better relationship with the administration. “A better way to work with them is by cooperating with them and negotiating with them,” he said, while claiming that the current relationship is tense and conflict-ridden.

Academic and Advocacy Coordinator

Carlos Vazquez

Vazquez is a third year student in the School of Community and Public Affairs. He’s currently serving as General Coordinator of the School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association. He previously served as their Finance Coordinator.

Vaquez says his year at the SCPASA has been good, for the most part. He worked to organize campaigns against the far-right in Quebec, Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval of pipelines, and helped to organize anti-racism workshops.

Over the year he did have some difficulties—ASFA threatened to freeze their budget, for example. They had to campaign against it, but in the end, ASFA allowed them to continue to receive funding.

“Now everything is great with ASFA, we opened a two way conversation,” he said.

If elected, he plans to create more bursaries for women on campus, organize anti-racist campaigns, and continue pushing for the school to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest into green energy, or other sustainable investments.

Because his slate has students with backgrounds in finance and business, he believes his slate will have an easier time deciding where to invest and where not to invest.

Loyola Coordinator

Maria Gabriela Polanco

Polanco is a fourth year student majoring in Psychology. Her past experience in student politics includes her time with the Concordia Caribbean Student Union, where she worked as their VP Marketing since June. Her role there involved organizing events, like their annual Culture Weekend.

She said right now the Loyola Campus is lacking life. Many students, she says, feel that the campus is left out of all the hustle and bustle of the downtown core. She hopes to unite both campuses and open up space at Loyola for events organized by more than just the CSU.

In reaction to the recent accessibility audit done at Loyola, she says if elected she will push to make sure as many places at Loyola can be wheelchair accessible as possible.

Internal Affairs Coordinator

Émilie Leduc

Leduc is a fourth year student in Human Resources, with experience inside of the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association. Right now she’s working as their Executive Vice President, having been their VP Internal Affairs prior. Before, she was the Vice President of the John Molson Sustainable Business Group.

She wants to make sure the CSU better represents the wants and interests of the undergraduate population. “I think there is a lot of funding right now that doesn’t have a direct impact on the students that are paying those fees,” she said.

She’s concerned since many students on campus don’t have a clear sense of what the CSU is or how it can help them, and she wants to repair that. “I haven’t had the opportunity to see what the CSU does for me, because it really doesn’t do much for the JMSB students.”

She says other JMSB students have told her the same thing.

She hopes to focus on funding and making known to students the CSU’s clubs. She also wants to work more with faculty associations on campus, and make the services offered by the CSU better known among students.

Finance Coordinator

Soulaymane El Alaoui

El Alaoui is a second year student from JMSB. In the past, he’s worked with CASA as their VP Events where he helped plan Frosh, their Halloween party and weekly events.

He’s concerned about the CSU’s operating budget, and says it needs a cleanup. One plan is to reduce the pay executive pay of $255,190 per year by around $20,000 so that more can be allocated into funding CSU’s clubs.

He says many things are over budgeted for. For example, $50,000 has been earmarked for cell phones, but only about $12, 000 of that has been used since mid-December. He says some surplus is good, but too much takes away from money that could go to better things.

He also wants to make breakdowns of the CSU’s finances public through the CSU website, so that there can be more transparency between the CSU and Concordia students.

External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator

Ahmed Badr

Badr is a Mechanical Engineering student who’s been at Concordia since 2014. He was an active member of Engineering Concordia, as well as in such groups as the Egyptian Student Association of Concordia, and the Muslim Student Association. Badr is currently a CSU councilor.

“If any minority group or any students have any problems, like hate speech or anything, I want to defend them,” he explained.

He would like to work with undergraduate students in order to help them succeed academically and in their careers. He hopes to do this by communicating with companies to see what they’re looking for, and by getting undergrads in touch with graduate students and professors who can give them advice.

He participated in the protest against international student tuition hikes, and looks forward to working with the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec and other associations to protect student rights.

Student Life Coordinator

D’Ante Hanna

Hanna is a second year student in political science. She’s the Vice-President of the Concordia Caribbean Student Union, and is in a sorority. Her involvement with the sorority, she explains, has allowed her to get direct feedback from students.
Her goal is to hear from students more often in order to tailor to their needs. She hopes to find more interactive and fun ways to get surveys out.

“I’m running for CSU because I feel there needs to be a change within the union in terms of international representation. Being an international student, I think it’s important that the student union represents students from all over the world,” she said.

For Frosh, she hopes to work with different faculty associations, like ASFA, as well as with the International and Ethnic Associations Council. She explained that Frosh lacks diversity, and she hopes that including IEAC will improve that.

“That is my plan to get everyone to come together to participate in [these big events] for new students coming in to see that Concordia is welcoming and we welcome all types of diversity,” she said.

She added that she would like to work on promoting CSU more as she feels that many students don’t know what it is.

Agunik Mamikonyan has four years of experience in student politics. She’s running for General Coordinator, but as an independent. Photo by Kelsey Litwin.

For Independent

General Coordinator

Agunik Mamikonyan

Mamikonyan has four years of experience in student politics. She worked with School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association, Concordia Model UN, and is currently ASFA’s VP of External Affairs and Sustainability. She says she is most proud of her work with the ASFA Task Force. “Every time I come into an association or a federation or a club, I usually leave it better than [what] I started off with. So, I think I can bring a lot to the table,” Mamikonyan said.

She added that she would like to help “balance the team out” and to help everyone in CSU reach their own goals.

“I don’t believe in making promises during campaigns,” she said. “Even more so because this is a non-hierarchial structure, everyone’s their own captain, so everyone makes their own decisions about what they want to accomplish throughout the year,” she said.

She hopes to bring in a seat for all federations and associations, such as ASFA and CASA, for international students with a seat for the Concordia International Students Association. She would also like to rethink and reintroduce the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions motion.

Marcus Peters is running for General Coordinator with _Team Connect_. Photo by Brian Lapuz.

For Team Connect

General Coordinator

Marcus Peters

Prior to Peters current role as the Loyola Coordinator on the CSU executive team, Peters had already been elected to council twice. Now, he’s running to be the General Coordinator as he sees this as an opportunity to push for major change within the university.
If elected, Peters wants to continue the initiatives that the CSU has already been working on. He also wants to start running feasibility studies and will look at giving students access to spaces around campus.

“One thing that has been consistently communicated by clubs, and by fee-levy groups and by students group in general is a lack not only of space, but also accessible space,” Peters said. “That’s something that we as Connect, have prioritized.”
He also plans to continue working on the CSU’s housing project, which is expected to open in the summer of 2018.

Peters believes that the Connect slate has the most collective experience as well as the clearest objectives.

“We have a great team, we have a really good working dynamic, and we have a vision that is a complement of the current direction of the student union,” he said.

Academic and Advocacy Coordinator

Asma Mushtaq

While Mushtaq does not have a wealth of experience in student politics at Concordia, the practical experience she accrued working with marginalized youth in London, has been beneficial to her aspirations in student politics.

“My pathway began as being more vocational than academic-oriented,” Mushtaq said. “I had to liaise closely with agencies and various organizations, public and voluntary, to provide a network of support for the groups I worked with.”

If elected, Mushtaq wants to prevent the rise of international tuition fees and will push for Concordia to become a sanctuary campus.

She added that the CSU would do this “by not cooperating with surveillance agencies, and extending the right to protection and dignity to students regardless of their immigration status in Canada.”

Mushtaq also wants to review the accessibility of student spaces, services, and resources “to ensure that they reflect the needs of the student body.”

“I would say that the relevance of my professional training, recent and past experience and responsibilities, interpersonal skills and campus involvement would be good enough reasons to begin the consideration of voting for me and the platform I am associated with,” Mushtaq said.

Mushtaq also said that she has the ability to handle high level legislature and policy as she has successfully contested and appealed decisions in her capacity as a social worker for an advocacy service.

External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator

Mustafa Bokesmati

Bokesmati’s experience in student groups began with his involvement with the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights group. With SPHR, he organized events, and campaigned on the “yes” side of referendum on Boycott, Divest, and Sanction against Israel at Concordia.

“[It] provided me with an insight on campaign planning and mobilizing the student body,” Bokesmati said.

As the External Affairs Coordinator, Bokesmati wants to continue to fight against international tuitions hikes. Concordia’s Board of Governors tried to increase tuition fees for international students in deregulated programs in December 2016, but it was voted down.

He would also like to advocate for the university to divest from fossil fuels and into sustainable investments.

“I am passionate about topics surrounding human rights, social justice, and equality. I hope that people would see my passion through my commitment to SPHR in the past years,” he said.

Internal Affairs Coordinator

Veronika Rydzewski

Rydzewski is a CSU councilor who sits on their club committee and she is the outgoing VP Internal of the Political Science Student Association. With the PSSA, she has experience allocating budgets to their subsidiaries.
“The experience I have with the [CSU’s] clubs committee is super valuable,” Rydzewski said.

If she’s elected her main goal is to protect and expand student spaces around campus.

Rydzewski would also work with the Loyola Coordinator to increase club space and promote clubs on the NDG campus.

Another one of her goals is make it easier for clubs to get reimbursements from the CSU when they spend money on events.

“I can bring valuable knowledge and experience to the team and to the union,” she said.

Loyola Coordinator

Alexander Milton

As a councilor with the Arts and Science Federation of Associations and the CSU, Milton has experience in student politics. He also currently sits on the CSU’s Loyola committee.

“I have a great understanding of how the executive body completes both their day-to-day work and long-term goals, as well as the expectations of Council with regards to both,” Milton said.

If he’s elected, he said he’ll continue to work on the projects started by the current Loyola Coordinator, Marcus Peters, which include renovations planned to the Hive Cafe at Loyola.

He also would like to work with the executive team to help CSU clubs promote and expand to Loyola, as well promote and host events on the Loyola campus.

Additionally, he plans to expand the mandate of the Loyola Coordinator by taking on other projects.

“I plan to expand and protect currently existing student spaces on both the SGW and Loyola Campuses, considering renovations will be occurring on both,” Milton said.

Sustainability Coordinator

Devon-Ellis Durity

Durity has been involved in sustainability projects in Concordia for some time. Durity was a social media intern with Sustainable Concordia, and was the resident artist with the Sustainability Action Fund. He has also been involved in projects regarding waste management.

Durity also sat on the board of the SAF, reviewing project proposals.

If elected, Durity would push the CSU to continue to divest from fossil fuels and invest in sustainable practices.

Durity would also like to educate students on waste management in Concordia and in Montreal to ensure that students are more educated on how to recycle products.

Finance Coordinator

Thomas David Bashore

Bashore was a CSU councilor before he was elected to replace the Finance Coordinator that resigned in November 2016. He is running again as Finance Coordinator because he’d like to continue working on projects that he’s already started.

One of the main projects he wants to work on is coming up with a quicker way to reimburse clubs when they spend money on events. The current system has been in place since 2009, and Bashore believes that it is inefficient.

He’d also like to revamp the CSU website and to include infographics and videos to explain and break down the CSU budget, and how clubs are allocated money.

“I think that my objectives of transparency and efficiency are in line with student interests so kind of both qualifications and objectives,” Bashore said.

Student Life Coordinator

Leyla Sutherland

Sutherland was the Student Life Coordinator for the Fine Arts Student Alliance from 2013 to 2015. She was also a CSU councilor during the 2015-2016 academic year. As the Student Life Coordinator, Sutherland oversaw FASA’s orientation.

If elected, Sutherland wants to redesign the CSU’s website with an eye on making it easier for Concordia’s students to find resources and services that exist at the school.

“This will support many of our other goals as a team by increasing the transparency and communication to students.” Sutherland said.

Sutherland will continue to organize both the fall and winter orientations, adding that she would like to implement training for orientation leaders on how to use naloxone kits—a medication which reverses the effects of a drug overdose—given the rise of fentanyl in party drugs.

“I am very experienced in similar roles and structures, and am coming into this election with a clear plan to continue past initiatives as well as incorporate new strategies,” Sutherland said.

Eddy Kara-Karkissian is running for General Coordinator with _Team Unity_. Photo courtesy of Dean Voutos.

For Team Unity

General Coordinator

Eddy Kara-Sarkissian

Kara-Sarkissian was on the Board of Directors of the International and Ethnic Association Council, and is in his second year as president of the Concordia Armenian Students Union.

“There is far too much isolation at Concordia, there is preferential politics being played at the CSU and I believe that the CSU should be a student body for all, representing every student,” he said.

Kara-Sarkissian said his priority would be improving Concordia’s Health and Dental Insurance plan. Addressing the fact that the current CSU is already in the process of changing the plan, he said that “no matter what new plan is crafted, we will ensure to always seek new ways to improve it.”

He would also like to implement online voting for CSU elections in order to “bridge this divide that exists at Concordia.” He explained that doing so would allow more students to vote. He would also like to collaborate with clubs more to address their needs, which he feels have been neglected. He added that if elected, they’ll implement a “social transparency plan,” where students would have access to online chats and kiosks so they can have their questions and concerns addressed on an interactive platform.

He would also like to clean the washrooms in the Hall building, by using student janitors, as well as outside contractors.

Internal Affairs Coordinator

Amina Chemssy

Amina Chemssy is a second year student, currently majoring in both Human Resources and International business.

She was secretary of the Armenian Association, and is currently the VP Finance of Israel on Campus.

She would like to improve communication with clubs, and to work on gaining access to student space for them, by sitting on boards and working with the university.

She also hopes to change the budgeting process for clubs. Rather than looking at their seniority, she thinks budgeting should be relative to the reach of their projects.

As she was campaigning, she felt people underestimated her because of her age and experience.

“I would say that everything’s relative in life, I mean I have the experience that I, at my age, should have.” she said.

A correction has been to the story. Ahmed Badr was incorrectly named ‘Ahmed Badr Mustafa.’ The Link regrets the error.