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Elections 2019

‘I tell it how it is’: Senate candidate Jessica Lecques

Senate candidate Jessica Lecques.

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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.

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Campus

IGNITE announces Shay Hamilton as North VP

Speculation is over.

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IGNITE, the student union representing those enrolled at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, announced Shay Hamilton on Wednesday as the new vice president for North Campus.

In posts shortly before noon, IGNITE shared a photo of the executive team in front of a sign for “The Backyard” on campus. It ends speculation over who the new executive was.

Earlier this summer, it was revealed that Simran, who was elected in the spring 2019 elections for the coming academic year, had quit due to personal reasons.

IGNITE’s Board of Directors, made up elected students, decided to unanimously approve a process to hire a new vice president ahead of September.

Executive Director Ercolé Perrone told The Avro Post earlier in July that when Simran stepped down, the Board had several options to replace her or choose to leave the position infilled.

The Board could have held a by-election or panel interviews starting in September, a process that would have required election resources and candidate approval from the Board of Governors. The candidate would not have likely been in place until mid-October with this process.

With significant changes such as the Student Choice Initiative and financial cuts by the province impacting campus this fall, a decision was made to get an executive in place with haste, Perrone told The Post.

Hamilton joins President Monica Khosla, Guelph-Humber Vice President Megan Roopnarine and Lakeshore counterpart Ryan Stafford.

The Post has reached out to Hamilton for comment. ■

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Elections 2019

Poor turnout could mean high opt-out: Student activist

‘The numbers speak for themselves,’ Hannah Derue says.

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Staff | Report

Low voter turnout in the 2019 IGNITE elections show apathy around the student union that could result in many students choosing not to fund it to save when optional student fees come into play this fall, student activist Hannah Derue said on Friday night.

Derue, who co-founded the Pre-Medical Society at the University of Guelph-Humber and has been involved in campus politics in the past, weighed in on the election results, citing students’ inability to get to the polls.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Derue wrote on Twitter, saying “voter apathy got us the Student Choice Initiative, and now it’s given us an electorate voted in with only 24.5 per cent of the student population voting.”

“If IGNITE can’t get students active as their most fundamental services are put on the province’s chopping block, IGNITE better prepare to have students opting out in droves.”

The government under Premier Doug Ford in January announced the Student Choice Initiative which will allow students to opt-out of funding certain aspects of campus with their fees that accompany tuition.

National student organizations, student union governments and campus publications across the province have condemned the move, saying it threatens the existence of unions and the services they offer.

Monica Khosla was re-elected to the IGNITE presidency on Friday evening, beating challenger and Board of Directors member Margarita Bader by 330 ballots.

Link:IGNITE to Fight to Survive

She has been criticized for what some call weak transparency efforts but also praised for solid efforts towards a more accessible campus. Khosla largely vowed to improve on her last term without adding many new ideas.


Candidates respond

The Avro Post has reached out to several vice presidents-elect and directors-elect for comment on the low voter turnout and a few of the former candidates and newly elected soon-to-be representatives responded.

“I’m hoping for the best,” Vice President-elect Megan Roopnarine said in response to questioning regarding voter apathy concerns leading to students opting-out.

“I know many students are involved with IGNITE if not through the election season then through fun events or services like insurance,” she told The Avro Post.

Newly elected Board Director Camila Ruiz Tacha said that her opinion is “that students are free to voice their opinions on things”, explaining that if opting out of the student union is an option they desire, then that is a choice they want to make.”

“I am a board of director and I will not force anyone to make a decision they are not comfortable with,” Tacha added, noting that despite the voter turnout decrease, “there are individuals who are truly into their school politics.”

These students are more likely to engage and speak up about issues on campus as well as keep IGNITE funded, the director-elect explained, believing that they will “speak up about government grants and what change IGNITE will make with having a new team.”

On the low turnout, Dilshan Marasinghe told The Avro Post that he hopes there will be larger turnout next year and “student will see that the main reasons these elections take place is to help brighten their unique experience in campus and make it as comfortable as possible”.

Ameem Rahman, who ran for the Humber College North Campus vice presidency, said that, in his opinion, he believes that voter apathy in the election will translate to students opting out of funding IGNITE.


Image of elections conference from The Avro Post. ■

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Elections 2019

Monica Khosla is re-elected, others win IGNITE positions

The 2019 election results are announced.

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Eli Ridder, Melissa Lopez | Report

Monica Khosla was re-elected to the presidency of IGNITE on Friday night with 52 per cent of those that voted on the president ballot, winning again with a majority.

Though President Khosla gained more than last year percentage-wise, she had just 300 votes short of the ballots she got last year, beating challenger Margarita Bader by 330 ballots in favour.

Megan Roopnarine won the University of Guelph-Humber vice presidency and candidates Erika Caldwell and Julia Ciampa elected to the two Board of Directors seats the university has in the student government.

Vice president-elect Roopnarine told The Avro Post after the results were announced that she will be pushing for more Guelph-Humber representation and working on the overcrowding issue.

“Being a Guelph-Humber student I know what it’s like to feel disconnected from Humber and I know that our population as a student body is growing for sure so I want to make sure we’re tackling those things,” said Roopnarine.

For North Campus, Simran won the vice presidency and Dishant Passi, Eden Tavares, Neto Naniwambote and Shawayne Dunstan were acclaimed to four seats on the Board.

Ryan Stafford is the vice president-designate for the Lakeshore Campus and Asiya Awan, Camilia Ruiz Tacha and Stephanie Fallico were acclaimed for the Board as the only candidates for three seats.

Navnit Sidhu — the first ever candidate running for an IGNITE position from Orangeville Campus, has been acclaimed to the Board of Directors, expanding its original size from nine to 10. There has reportedly been representatives in the past from Orangeville to the former Humber Student Federation.

There was a total of 7,811 votes out of 31,929 who were able to fill out a ballot, marking a decrease of 3.81 per cent in comparison to the last election — representing 24.49 per cent of the student population.


‘Continue transparency’

Khosla told The Avro Post in an interview after the results were announced one Friday that she worked hard on her campaign and that she will “continue to be transparent in her second term.”

“Whether it’s bad news or good news I really am honest with students and I think that’s something they appreciate because we’ve seen what’s been happening in other schools with the lying happening with other presidents,” said Khosla referring to the Ryerson student union budget scandal.

“I’m not like that, if there is bad news I’ll let you know if there’s good news, you’ll definitely know that as well but I don’t shy away from anything because there is nothing to shy away from.

“I’m open to having any type of conversation at anytime,” she added. Khosla has ignored requests for comment and interview from The Avro Post since coming into office.

Khosla largely vowed to continue her accessibility work and advocating on behalf of students on a range of issues during the campaigning period, even indicating several times that she would not change much about IGNITE.


‘Courage’

On her loss, Margarita Bader said she “put in my best effort and tried to communicate the changes that I hoped to bring to Humber. Things don’t always go the way we plan them to, and this is definitely a huge learning experience for me.”

“This will in no way keep me from pursuing other opportunities,” she continued, saying that “all the candidates did an amazing job regardless if they got elected today and each indvidual will go on to do great things because it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like that.”

Bader gained 48 per cent of the ballots that did not abstain in the vote for president, garnering the support of 3,465 students across Humber College campuses and the University of Guelph-Humber.

Many candidates across several campuses, including Erika Caldwell and Ameem Rahman, among others, gave their support to Bader during the heated campaign.


By the numbers

President

3,795 – Monica Khosla

3,465 – Margarita Bader

551 – Abstain

Vice President, North

1, 778 – Simran

908 – Ekmjyot Sohal

658 – Jason Hyatt

415 – Ameem Rahman

363 – Abstain

305 – Dilshan Tharusha Marasinghe

Vice President, GH

426 – Megan Roopnarine

267 – Saffiya Lulat

245 – Carmen Duong

Vice President, Lakeshore

1, 381 – Ryan Stafford

836 – Ostap Pavliuk

179 – Abstain

Board, North (Acclaimed)

1,288 – Dishant Passi

1, 217 – Shawayne Dunstan

1,093 – Eden Tavares

442 – Neto NaniwamboteA

Board, GH

368 – Erika Caldwell

201 – Julia Ciampa

172 – Afifa Abbaszadeh

136 – Drake Foo

55 – Jim Hung

42 – Abstain

Board, Lakeshore

1, 088 – Camila Ruiz Tacha

605 – Stephanie Fallico

488 – Asiya Bashir Awan

215 – Abstain


More details to follow. All images from The Avro Post. ■

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