Eli Ridder, Kaela Johnson | Report

“You should vote for me because I tell it how it is and I don’t feel the need to sugar-coat things,” Senate candidate Jessica Lecques told The Avro Post in a wide-ranging interview on Sunday evening, the night before voting started.

When asked why students should vote for the second year Kinesiology major, Lecques noted the several leadership positions she has held on campus that gave her the opportunity to understand “some of the most pressing concerns”.

Lecques, 19, said these concerns “are deeply rooted in areas relating to transparency, communication and quality of student experience” — areas the candidate says she has devised a “comprehensive plan of action to efficiently address”.

“I’m not your typical candidate; I don’t use political jargon or fancy vocabulary to try to sound intelligent or make it seem as though I am saying something important,” she told The Avro Post.

“Before anything, I am a student: I can relate to you and you can relate to me. I understand your concerns and your diverse needs and I will try, to the best of my abilities, to advocate for your opinions even if they don’t necessarily align with mine.”

The Brampton native is running to get one of four seats the University of Gueph-Humber has on the central Guelph campus Senate — an elected body made up of students, faculty and executives that focuses on academics.


Transparency

Second year Jessica Lecques told The Avro Post she understands the importance of being realistic and not making promises that can’t always be kept.

“I think that it’s important to be realistic and not to say things simply for the sake of getting elected. Otherwise, when you are unable to follow through on your promises, your shortcomings take away from your ability to be transparent.”

Transparency is another part of Lecques’ campaign, including communication and autonomy.

“I will ask students about concerns that they wish to see being addressed during the meetings and I will try my best to bring them to the table.”

In order to remain transparent, she proposes to either record Senate meetings if allowed, or keep detailed notes to release for students to access. 

When asked about her stance on tuition cuts and optional student fees that will affect IGNITE, Lecques said that she has contacted the student union about a possible fundraising event to create a tuition fund for low-income students.

“It’s one thing to retweet and share social media posts about enacting a change in your community and it’s another thing to actually occupy an active role to initiate said change,” Lecques said.

“Now that an important opportunity has presented itself, I think that it is more important now than ever that we come together as a community to help our peers who will be affected by this recent policy. “

Lecques’ listed several more platform items she will advocate for if she is elected:

  • More frequent provisions of information sessions regarding graduate schools and their respective application process for undergraduate students of all years and programs.
  • More undergraduate research opportunities and research funding/scholarships, for example NSERC, USRA etc.).
  • Less rigid policies and regulations when establishing clubs, societies and events — for example, increased student autonomy.
  • Propose access to professor evaluations for transparency and accountability purposes.
  • Formal recognitions by the Dean and program heads for academic excellence — for example, a Dean’s Honours List.
  • Propose the addition of electrical outlets in lecture halls which lack them — for example, GH111.
  • Propose the addition of wheelchair ramps to building exits to make Guelph-Humber more accessible.
  • Propose to make second, third, and fourth floor restroom sinks more wheelchair accessible.

It remains to be seen if several of these platform items are actually able to even be suggested by a senator to the Guelph Senate as most accessibility concerns and club rules fall under Humber College and IGNITE.


Full interview

Below is the full text of the interview Jessica Lecques did with The Avro Post.

In whatever length you wish, why should students vote for you? What makes you stand out?

As a result of the numerous leadership positions that I have occupied in the realm of student affairs at UofGH, I have gotten the opportunity to understand that some of the most pressing concerns for our student population are deeply rooted in areas relating to transparency, communication and quality of student experience – these are only a few of the many areas for which I have devised a comprehensive plan of action to efficiently address. 

In whatever length you wish, why should students vote for you? What makes you stand out?

I’m not your typical candidate; I don’t use political jargon or fancy vocabulary to try to sound intelligent or make it seem as though I am saying something important. If something is needed to be said, I will say it in regular language just as I would if I were your friend. I do not perceive myself as being superior to you and I do not expect special treatment. Before anything, I am a student: I can relate to you and you can relate to me. I understand your concerns and your diverse needs and I will try, to the best of my abilities, to advocate for your opinions even if they don’t necessarily align with mine. I think that as a student Senator, integrity is extremely important. It is more beneficial to be candid and forthright about what you genuinely intend to accomplish during your term as oppose to making large and empty promises that are far too complex to tackle. Due to the short nature of the student Senator term, I can’t promise that I will accomplish grand changes within my term like many Senators may have promised in the past and have failed to execute. I think that it’s important to be realistic and not to say things simply for the sake of getting elected. Otherwise, when you are unable to follow-through on your promises, your shortcomings take away from your ability to be transparent. Further, it dilutes the quality of advocacy that you had initially guaranteed and founded your electoral platform on. Since we’re being realistic, I promise to start small. I’ve learned that the secret to effectively implementing change is to tackle issues on a smaller scale and subsequently making your way to more complex goals once you’ve successfully managed to accomplish the smaller objectives. 

You should vote for me because I tell it how it is and I don’t feel the need to sugar-coat things. If I am unsuccessful in accomplishing something, not only will I let you know, but I will tell you exactly why, followed by a discussion about how we can be successful in the future. 

I pride myself in being able to recognize my strengths, weaknesses and accepting constructive criticism. As well, I am always looking to participate in polite discourse. I always seek out opportunities to become intellectually cultivated and I never pretend to know about policies and situations that I am unaware of simply to appear to be “highly educated” as I recognize that this can cause more harm than good. 

I am a human, just like you, and I’m not perfect and will never pretend to be. This is a learning experience for all of us and I understand that your vote is what will give me the privilege to share this experience with the UofGH community. 

Do you think that Senate is effective despite GH only having four seats on the Guelph Senate?

Due to the lack of communication and transparency between the UofGH Senate representatives and the student body, I do not find myself to be well-positioned to comment on the effectiveness of the Senate. At the moment, I am cognizant that UofGH has been successful in obtaining a Fall 2018 reading week due to participation in Senate meetings. Myself, and I’m sure many other students, applaud this great accomplishment. However, I’m not aware of any other policy changes that have occurred at UofGH as a result of these meetings. As a student Senator, I think that it is crucial to maintain communication with pupils and at the very least provide explanations as to what is occurring during Senate gatherings. Ultimately, this is one of the job requirements and it is something that must be fulfilled. Maintaining communication with the student body that you have been elected to represent is essential if you want positive change to transpire.  

What will you do for transparency with Senate?

I think that this is a fantastic question because it helps to hold elected student Senators accountable in their role. 

I don’t exactly know the structure and format of Senate meetings but prior to attending them, I will ask students about concerns that they wish to see being addressed during the meetings and I will try my best to bring them to the table. If I’m not given the chance to discuss issues which affect the UofGH community, I will still fight respectfully with all of my might. After all, one of the statements upon which I am running my platform on is, “Together, we can put the YOU in UofGH”. 

During the Senate meetings, I will either record (if permitted) or keep track of detailed meeting minutes which I will subsequently release as a PDF document on various social media platforms for the student population to see what was discussed in regard to future goals, policy changes etc. 

After Senate meetings, I will conduct follow-ups with the student population to discuss your opinions and concerns regarding said meetings. Of course, this would necessitate active participation from UofGH Senators as well as the student body in order for this to be effective. Transparency requires communication and successful communication is a two-way street.

What kind of Senator will you be?

I will be a Senator who maintains effective communication and transparency with the student body regarding subjects and content discussed during Senate meetings. I will be a leader for our community and ensure that your voices are heard. I will be a Senator who advocates for you and who compromises when necessary. I will be a Senator who is respectful, open-minded and who understands that my personal views will not always necessarily align with those of the student body that I will be representing, but regardless, I will fight for your voices as hard as I would fight for my own. I will be a Senator who is open to participating in new experiences and actively seeks out learning opportunities to become enriched and well-informed on matters which affect our community. I will be a Senator who is accepting of constructive criticism and actively searches for ways in which we can come together to improve our university experience. I will be a Senator who takes initiative and recognizes that there is a great beauty in the diversity of our student population, and I will positively reflect this in my actions. 

If you are a returning Senator, what do you think you can improve on from the time previous? 

I am not a returning Senator. In fact, this is my first time running for senate. However, I can learn from the experiences of previous Senators. This year is my first time discovering that UofGH occupied 4 seats on the Guelph Senate. It is in the role of student Senators to raise awareness about the purpose and importance of what their position entails and how it is beneficial to the student body. I’ve noticed that current Senators have made promises to ensure quality communication and transparency between the Senate and scholars. But to this day, I have absolutely no idea as to the nature of the subjects that are being discussed during Senate meetings nor when said gatherings are being held. With the knowledge that I have acquired through vicarious experience, I can guarantee you that I will uphold promises that I have made regarding communication and transparency. Moreover, I will provide concrete evidence that I have successfully executed promises or at the very least, attempted to if I am unsuccessful. 

In simple points, what is your platform?

I possess a great fervor for the areas of professional and academic development, student autonomy and extracurricular opportunities as I believe that these are essential components for student success both on-campus, and long after scholars have graduated and entered the workplace. Having occupied positions as a peer mentor, UofGH student ambassador, co-founder of GH’s first Pre-Med society and KinSoc representative, I have gotten the opportunity to learn about the dynamic relationship between students and university faculty and the concerns that arise as a result of these interactions. With your help, I would like to be granted the privilege to develop a vital network between pupils, campus organizations and faculty to facilitate connections between students and the resources that they covet to enhance their university experience. If elected, my goal is to ensure that the voices of students are heard and to bring students a few steps closer to being able to implement decisions that will allow them to exercise their right to student autonomy. The following are only a few of the areas that I plan to advocate for: 

  • More frequent provisions of information sessions regarding graduate schools and their respective application process for undergraduate students of all years and programs. 
  • I propose the creation of a space that encourages scholars to discuss thought-provoking and controversial topics in a respectful manner that is grounded in intellectual discourse and that is free from malicious comments.
  • Propose Wi-Fi improvements in residence buildings so that students living on-campus do not have to disburse additional funds in order to benefit from stronger and faster Internet connections.
  • More undergraduate research opportunities and research funding/scholarships (ex. NSERC, USRA etc.).
  • Additional scholarship opportunities for all programs and all years of study based on academic excellence, community involvement (both on and off-campus) and display of transferable skills.
  • Less rigid policies and regulations when establishing clubs, societies and events (i.e. increased student autonomy).
  • Propose a full-text repository of UofGH’s midterms and final examinations from the last 5 years. From UWaterloo, “[Students would] use this as a resource better aid [their] success with examinations by gauging [their] level of knowledge of the course by studying exam-style questions that are relevant to [their] course materials”.
  • Propose access to professor evaluations for transparency and accountability purposes.
  • Formal recognitions by the Dean and program heads for academic excellence (ex. Dean’s Honours List). 
  • Propose the addition of electrical outlets in lecture halls which lack them (ex. GH 111 etc.)
  • Propose the addition of wheelchair ramps to building exits to make UofGH more accessible.
  • Propose to make 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor restroom sinks more wheelchair accessible. 

Is there anything else you would like to say? What else would you tell students about why they should vote for you?

My hair has volume, but your voice speaks louder. On February 11th – 15th, make your voice heard. #LoudHairLouderVoice Together, we can put the YOU in UofGH. Should you have further questions regarding my platform and the ways in which I plan to work with the student body to represent you as a member of Senate, please do not hesitate to contact me at: jlecqu01@guelphhumber.ca 

Additionally, do you have any stance on what you would do as a senator regarding the tuition cuts and optional student fees that will affect the IGNITE student union and the Central Student Association at the University of Guelph?

I have recently contacted IGNITE to propose a fundraising event to help develop a tuition fund for low-income students whose post-secondary education is currently being jeopardized by the tuition cuts introduced by the Conservative government. Post-secondary students already have so much to worry about and whether they will be able to pursue their education due to their financial situation shouldn’t be one of their concerns. 

It’s one thing to retweet and share social media posts about enacting a change in your community and it’s another thing to actually occupy an active role to initiate said change. Now that an important opportunity has presented itself, I think that it is more important now than ever that we come together as a community to help our peers who will be affected by this recent policy. As I have stated numerous times during this interview, I don’t have all of the answers pertaining to how to tackle every situation but, I am more than willing to collaborate with students who will be affected by these cuts to determine the ways in which we can provide them with the appropriate support that they need. This is a team effort so if anyone has any suggestions, I’d be glad to discuss with you.


Image supplied by Jessica Lecques.

Written by Eli Ridder

Eli Ridder is a freelance journalist. He founded The Avro Post in October 2017. He writes for Breaking911 and Guelph Politico, among others. Feel free to connect at ELIRIDDER@ICLOUD.COM or at ELIRIDDER.CA

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