Bart Soroka: running independently for VP External Affairs
Kazi Mamun: running independently for President
Imteaz Bhuiyan: running independently for VP Operations and Finance
Mike Young: running with Students for Students for Student Affairs
Brooke Paterson: running with Students for Students for VP External Affairs
Mitchell Simpson: running with Students for Students for VP Operations and Finance
Nathan Sgrazzutti: running with Students for Students for President
What makes you a good leader?
Soroka: I think what makes me a good leader is I am really obsessive. Seriously. When I decide that something needs to get done, even if I’m told ‘no’ 100 times, I will find 101 different ways to try to accomplish it, until somebody says, ‘you know what, that one actually works.’ So, I think, my dedication to making sure that what I promise happens, is what makes me a good leader.
Mamun: Last month, 13 of February, I arranged a peaceful human chain in Victoria Park … demanding justice for the war criminal victims in Bangladesh. In a short preparation, I managed to gather around 50 people. In this cold winter, people [were] standing beside me to make this human chain, for one hour, outside. Our voices were heard, and the government of Bangladesh now is in the process to solve this problem. I believe I have this quality to speak for the people working together, while I am beside them, working with them.
Bhuiyan: Currently, I am engaging with so many national and international societies. I have volunteered with Engineers Canada. Currently, I am an executive member of a student club, I am the responsible person for their financial operations. I have been involved with so many societies back home as well. I feel myself as a student volunteer. I won’t say I am a leader. I want to volunteer. I want to help people. I want to talk for people. I want to raise the voice of the students. I want to support students.
Young: I would say the thing that makes me a good leader is that I want to be a servant. I want to serve the students, and I want to help make their lives better. It’s not about getting people to follow me. I don’t think that’s my role, I wouldn’t want that to be. What I want to be able to do is take advantage of what URSU is and what past people have done and then be able to go out and put that machinery to work, to make the lives of students better.
Paterson: I think what makes me a good leader is I’m a good listener. It’s my job, if I’m elected to VP external, to listen to the students, to listen to what they want me to fight for…and what organizations I should be involved in. I haven’t been a part of URSU before. That being said [that] leaves me as an open book, and I’m open to any and all ideas of stuff that I can do, and organizations and people that I can be involved in.
Simpson: I guess a leader for me is leading by action. Not necessarily just going to the Owl, and hoping people follow to bring business there, but actively go out and tell the students, ‘lets go to the Owl tonight, there’s an event there.’ Actively trying to promote it, and not just be this guy who says ‘oh I’m going to do this, oh I’m going to do that’. Lead by example, that’s a leader to me.
Sgrazzutti: To me, leadership, is the sum of all the parts of the people you work with. You can never have a successful leader who just works on their own. It’s about finding people with great ideas, innovation, intelligence, and then finding those ways that people can fit into this huge product, this organization like URSU. Ways that Mitch can be so good at finance and operations, and getting students in the Owl. Brooke is so good with working with outside businesses, Mike knows everything about our constitution, by-laws – literally everything. I think my favorite part of leadership is finding a way to make all these different parts meld together. Like putting it together in a puzzle, to create this bigger organization.
What are some of the issues students want you to be advocating for?
Soroka: The Academic Program Review needs to ensure that we aren’t just slashing classes willy-nilly. We need to make sure we aren’t losing professors in departments like the arts, which have just lost about 100 sessional instructors – which is crazy. I’m sure that the students also want us to make sure we’re including the Women’s Centre, UR Pride, Planned Parenthood for awesome weeks like the 16 Days of Activism, the Sexual Health Week, and all the other great things we can do on campus.
Mamun: Our tuition fee, from 2009 to 2012, it has increased more than 27 per cent. Our international students surcharge it has increased more than 400 per cent. These are some problems…[that] every student shares. The students who use the [gym] facilities – use or not – we pay $76 every semester. So, in a year, it’s more than $200. Another thing is our residence fee, it has also increased a lot in the last few years, and it’s also affecting the outside housing around the university. I would like to work on these issues.
Bhuiyan: The most common issues for so many students is housing. You can see the average cost of housing for a student is $650, on campus housing. Compared to that, if you see on the outside, it’s about $450 to $500, on average. Students are paying about $200 [more] per month excess. Ethnic foods, for the international people [is also a problem.] There is different cultural people who want foods similar to their culture [but] they have to go outside [to get it], and in a busy day, that’s not possible. The tuition fees [are also a big problem] for students as well. This year it has increased up to 8 per cent. In Statistics Canada, you will find that we are paying the second highest in the country. And if you consider it for the international students, the situation is worst than that. Surcharge for international students has increased by 33 per cent this year.
Young: We hear a lot of issue. I would say that parking would be first. Not maybe in terms of importance, but in terms of something that students complain about a lot. When you’re paying two, three, four hundred dollars for parking every year, and you can’t find a spot, that’s very aggravating. Secondly, is the academic program review. The academic mission of the University is central to it. It is the reason this university exists. And when academic programs are being deleted, removed, or changed we feel that’s a bit of a problem. The last thing would be sustainability both in terms of finances, and in terms of environmental stuff.
Paterson: I think I will speak more so to the student issues that really effect VP external. I think one of that is the lack of community involvement and student involvement. Whether that’s people not attending the Owl, people not trying out for their student societies, people not wanting to be involved in the U of R. That’s something I really want to work on.
Simpson: I would love to say that there’s just three issues, but unfortunately that’s not the case. We have a bunch of issues. Food is the first one, for students here on campus. Also food for international students coming here isn’t great. Tuition and housing costs is another really big issue. Parking – no one wants to wake up an hour early just to find a parking spot. Building a student community where the students want to come out to the sporting events, they want to try out for the drama team…It’s about building on that and continuing the growth in all of those.
Sgrazzutti: I think the number one thing for me that I want to work on is the student apathy that’s affecting campus. The easiest and best way for a union to show strength is through it’s membership. If we have 13,000 students actively involved in the issues that effect them day to day…that’s going to be the way we can come together and actually force that change. And if we get that apathy to disappear entirely, that would be a huge thing for this organization.
There seems to be a lack of student engagement and participation in student politics. Why do you think that is? How do you plan to get students excited about important issues?
Soroka: In the last two years, I have run on slates for the University of Regina Students’ Union. This year, I decided to run independently, and it’s incredibly difficult to run independently. Everybody you’re running against has way more resources, everyone you’re running against has an entire team out there, dedicated to getting themselves votes. I think that there are people who would love to run for the students’ union, but just can’t because they have this huge monolithic wall of people that would be standing against them when they’re just trying to be on their own.
Mamun: What I found as the most important problem is students don’t know what URSU is doing. If you see last years elections, we have less than 10 per cent votes. So, even though we are saying URSU is representing 13,000 students, it’s not. My main goals will be involved with the students. Students should have some time when they can talk to the executives. They don’t need an appointment or anything like that. We should have a talk every month, just for a few hours, so we can listen to them. If we know their problems, if we stand for them, if they see we are talking for them, I believe they will be involved.
Bhuiyan: This year, if you see the [election] candidates, there are so many positions acclaimed. Students are not interested, so I am really interested to work on that. Probably one of the best ways to do that is we can organize an event. Even as a general meeting, or something like that [where students can talk with us,] and we can figure it out, why they are not interested in the student politics. We have to let them know what services URSU can offer, what can URSU do for them. It’s not a place where you will only go for buying bus tickets.
Young: Right now our elections by-laws says you have a 7-day nomination period, and then a 14 day campaign period. We would add an additional 7-day period before that for which to advertise the upcoming nominations. We’re going to put that in to try to up student involvement. The second thing is since the CFS referendum, that caused a lot of student political turmoil…and people got super involved. Prior to that, there wasn’t really a big issue like that on campus, people didn’t get involved as much. So, I think the way to do it is advertise the nominations that are upcoming, and the second thing is find the issues which students care about and let them know they’re happening.
Paterson: I’m a marketing major and we’re simply not marketing it strong enough that we’re having these elections. We need to push people to get involved in our school. So I think advertising is one thing. I think also, we need to build on, as Mike said, getting these issues that are going on known. If we are advertising these, and letting people know about that, it’s going to really push students to want to get involved. Another thing I think to focus on is look on a small scale. I actually noticed with a lot of student societies that they’re having the same issue [with engagement] that we are school-wide. If we can’t get people to be involved in a small society, how can we get them involved in a grand scale?
Simpson: To be honest, I’m just going to agree with Brooke right there.
Sgrazzutti: I think this is an attestment to the ability that’s created by having a slate…these lines of acclimation…wouldn’t have even happened if the four of us were not actively going out and asking students, ‘are you interested in getting involved? Are you interested in representing your society?’ Students who are within the students’ union each year, it’s their duty to make sure that there are people coming up after them. If we continue to do this ‘one year, stop, restart. One year, stop, restart,’ nothing’s going to get done. Having the ability to go search and say, ‘yes, please run. I will work with you. I will help you in this campaign,’ that’s a definite way of getting students involved.