Meet your 2022-2023 CSU Executive Team

Candidates lay out their priorities for the next school year

The CSU Executive Team is the union’s principal body, and prime representative of Concordia’s undergraduate student population. Graphic Courtesy Back to Basics

The Concordia Student Union’s General Election period is finally over. Polling began on March 15 at 9 a.m. and closed on March 17 at 9 p.m. 

The CSU Executive Team is the union’s principal body, acting as the prime representative of Concordia’s undergraduate student population in front of the administration. Its main roles are to keep the administration accountable and head several student programs. Turnout during last year’s General Election was 4.8 per cent, meaning only around 1,500 students voted.

This year’s ballot included decisions on executive candidates, a senate candidate, and council candidates. The ballot also included referendum questions on faculty diversity, apartheid divestment, student housing, mental health services, and other key proposals made by the union. 

Most candidates for the Executive Team ran unopposed. The Link, along with CJLO 1690AM and The Concordian, spoke to the candidates to learn more about their priorities for the upcoming school year.

Elijah Olise, General Coordinator 

The CSU’s new General Coordinator is urban studies and urban planning student Elijah Olise. He is no stranger to organizing, having been an activist and youth worker for several years. 

“Throughout 2020, I did a lot of organizing of demonstrations, protests, and community educational workshops... We have a tendency as a society to focus on events and what is going on above the surface, but a lot of our problems are due to mental models and frameworks that need to be addressed at the root,” said Olise.

Justice, community, and transparency will be his top priorities when he becomes general coordinator, he said. Whoever sits in this position has the mandate to lead the executive team and be its official representative in matters pertaining to the administration and students’ concerns.

Olise said his goal is to hold Concordia’s administration to task and maintain accountability. “I’m never scared to be annoying when it comes to accountability. Too often, power goes unchecked. People are not held accountable for their actions—especially those who are governing over youth. [...] Schools are not held accountable for their actions. Do they even listen to us?”

Having worked in activist circles, Olise knows about power in numbers. “[The administration] could say no to one voice, and they won’t feel a type of way. But if 100 voices are bothering them, if 10,000 voices are complaining, that’s a different power,” Olise said.

This position  requires dedication and concrete action, he said. “I want to make [the union] more democratic, and let less of that bureaucracy get in the way of real work. I’m really about pragmatic action versus performative action.”

Asli Isaaq, Academic & Advocacy Coordinator 

The role of academic & advocacy coordinator requires compassion, commitment, and an ability to uplift marginalized communities. Second-year sociology student Asli Isaaq believes she is ready for this position.

“Student advocacy comes from student mobilization. I think it’s very difficult for us to advocate for students if students aren’t involved first... I am going to make it a priority of mine to get students who aren’t already involved in student life at least have their ear in,” said Isaaq.

Having had previous experience on the executive committee in her CEGEP, Isaaq is familiar with the inner workings of communicating with an academic administration. At Concordia, she has worked with the Arts and Science Federation of Associations and the Black Student Union on matters of sexual violence and racial injustice on campus.

“There are a lot of passionate and incredibly smart students who are working towards a better campus for all... and that accountability process needs to be a cultural change on all fronts,” she added. Isaaq said her experience in anti-racism initiatives makes her a strong candidate for a role based on advocacy.

Isaaq wants to ensure concrete accessibility on campus. “One of my priorities would be academic accessibility. Having hybrid learning, a Pass/Fail option—COVID is not past us, but the university is trying to pretend as if COVID is behind us,” she said.

Meryem Benallal, Finance Coordinator 

Meryem Benallal, a political science student, will be the union’s next finance coordinator. Having experience in managing her own small business, a painting company, she knows the ins and outs of financial responsibility. 

The finance coordinator’s responsibility is to oversee the CSU’s financial dealings and keep the union accountable to its student body. “As the finance coordinator, I need to be aligned with the members of the CSU, having them agree with where the funds go and how much we’re allocating. That is [about] transparency,” she said.

Many of Benallal’s priorities in this position are geared towards access for parents and vulnerable communities. “I’m a new mom and a student parent full time. I actually know the struggle of student parents at Concordia. I know the financial hardships they might go through. My number one priority this [year] is to fund or ease these struggles for student parents,” Benallal said. Her daughter, Alia, is 11 months old.

Funding for mental health initiatives is one of Benallal’s biggest concerns. “The pandemic has been hard for a lot of students. Reallocating funds towards easing out financial hardships… like the mental health of students. We have all felt our mental health decline in the pandemic... Having projects on campus that unite students can make the repercussions of this pandemic easier on their mental health,” she said.

Of the referendum questions being asked on this year’s ballot, those concerning CSU fee-levies, apartheid divestment, and mental health funding are all strongly supported by Benallal. She urged students to vote in favour of all of these causes.

“I’m never scared to be annoying when it comes to accountability. Too often, power goes unchecked. People are not held accountable for their actions—especially those who are governing over youth…” — Elijah Olise

Fawaz Halloum, Internal Affairs Coordinator 

For third-year history student Fawaz Halloum, Concordia students’ return to campus is a golden opportunity for systemic improvement and student life revitalization. He will be taking on the position of internal affairs coordinator. 

This position entails working with the CSU clubs and maintaining secretarial tasks for the union. Halloum has a lot of experience in Concordia’s student club life. “My mission as internal affairs coordinator has to stem from my experience as a creator and a leader of a student club on campus... It was one of the most successful clubs on campus,” he said.

Halloum is a founding member of the Concordia Mycological Society Club and also has experience with the Concordia Moot Law Society. He knows what good internal leadership looks like. “Given that I had to deal with two different internal affairs coordinators, I got a feel of what is being done right and what can be done better.”

During his mandate, Halloum wants to get students involved. “I truly hope to see more engagement from CSU clubs in experiential learning opportunities. I have a plan to create a specialized fund for internships for [certain] clubs... I also want to create a fund for journals,” he said.

Married to Finance Coordinator candidate Meryem Benallal, Halloum has spent the past year taking care of his baby daughter. The pair plans on tackling their roles in the CSU as they do in their parenting style: with trust and cooperation.

Sean Levis, Sustainability Coordinator 

Sean Levis, is a fifth-year philosophy student  who will be the CSU’s next sustainability coordinator.

The sustainability coordinator’s job is to ensure that the practices of the CSU are sustainable in every aspect, including but not limited to social, political, financial and environmental sustainability. In collaboration with student groups and the university, the sustainability coordinator applies the CSU’s Ethics and Sustainability Policy which includes statements on food, research, climate and waste.

Sean Levis first got involved with student organizing when he had moved to the Woodnote--a CSU student housing initiative--two years ago, where he joined its finance committee. He is the current treasurer of the cooperative.

Levis hopes to bring institutional sustainability to the CSU by proposing changes to the relationship between the union and faculty associations, strengthening their connection.

“The councillor positions in the CSU need to be democratically connected to faculty associations they represent,” said Levis. “As of now, my understanding is that they have the ability to vote on behalf of the faculties they represent but there is no accountability system.”

Levis cited issues in voting in the past where there was incongruence between the stances of councillors and the faculty associations in their program and one of his main focuses will be in addressing this problem of representation.

Sabrina Morena, Loyola Coordinator 

Third-year human relations student, Sabrina Morena, will be the next Loyola coordinator for the upcoming year. Born and raised in Montreal and having spent most of her Concordia experience at Loyola, she hopes to represent what she feels is a neglected campus.

As Loyola Coordinator, her job would be to oversee the CSU’s presence at the Loyola campus. This would include making sure that the best interests of students are represented within the CSU and the university, as well as providing promoting services in that regard.

“[When I was at Loyola] there was just a lack of CSU presence as well as a lack of student life and engagement,” Morena said. “When you tell people you go to Loyola, they give you this look of dread. It’s not somewhere where people willingly want to go, they just go there to do their classes and leave.”

She hopes to address this by implicating the CSU in Loyola more and prioritise the campus by funding the students there. Morena explained how there is a need for food options on campus, renovating buildings, increasing accessibility and dealing with shuttle bus issues, the latter being her primary priority.

Harley Martin, Student Life Coordinator

The only position for which more than one candidate was running for was that of student life coordinator. The two contenders were political science and history student Harley Martin and kinesiology student Nathaniel Ouazana. Martin has been unofficially elected.

The role of the student life coordinator is to serve as a primary point of contact with faculty associations and organize the CSU’s major campus events like Orientation. Martin did not  reply to any of Concordia’s student-run media for an interview request when prompted.

The Link will be providing election results for every position on the ballot once the results are made official, including the seven significant referendum questions.