author: john loeppky | editor-in-chief
By, by, by, elections / Jeremy Davis
Two presidential candidates confirmed
On Sept. 28, University of Regina students’ email accounts were greeted with an email regarding the upcoming by elections. In it, interim URSU president and current VP of Student Affairs, Jermain McKenzie, sung the praises of the political process.
“As the President of URSU, you would gain experience representing students on our campus, throughout our province, and beyond. Be instrumental in shaping the future of your Students’ Union and drive URSU’s mission to ‘provide students high quality supports, services, opportunities, and advocacy, to ensure that all students have a fun, safe and healthy University experience.’”
“Already got a job and a whole lot of classes? Want to hold the new President and other executives accountable? Consider a position on the Board of Directors! You can represent students at the UofR, Campion College, Luther College, La Cité, and the First Nations University of Canada by being a Director. The time commitment is less, but you can gain valuable insight and provide meaningful input – input that can benefit all URSU members. Use your passion and perspective to enhance the university experience of others at the U of R by getting involved in the URSU 2018 Fall By-Election!”
The one position many students are keeping their eye on is that of President, recently vacated by Haris Khan. Two candidates have confirmed their nominations for the position, the runner-up in last year’s contest, Matt Fedler, and former VPSA Shawn Wiskar. The nomination period closes tomorrow, Oct. 5 with campaigning running from Oct. 9-16 and voting on Oct. 17 and 18 via UR Self Service.
Senior political science student Matt Fedler said that his campaign revolves around three issues.
“Developing a concrete strategy around the rising costs of education and addressing what that looks like in terms of lobbying, campaigning. Building a sustainable campus, so looking at perhaps a composting program at the U of R, something I talked about in my previous campaign was the indigenization of the university. I know the university itself is addressing that, or has a policy that they’re going forward with, so working in that direction with URSU as well.”
Wiskar, also an arts student, said that his focus is also multifaceted.
“I’m choosing to run for URSU for a multitude of reasons. Since departing URSU, from an exterior perspective, not knowing the internal workings of it, it seems to be on a collision course with several really bad instances and it has a public perception of being embroiled in controversy constantly, and I think the matter of that is that you’ve seen the president leave, you’ve seen several board members quit. I think that I can bring some trust back to the organization, as well as an element of stability. The other reason is that there’s a lot of unfinished work I left that I feel my successor has left on the table and is ignoring.”
URSU executive’s hours and availability have been a consistent sore spot for the organization and Wiskar acknowledged that he would be completing his practicum while also applying for the role. He said that he would be working on “flexible hours” in order to meet those demands, much the same as McKenzie has reiterated that he has worked hours outside of what would normally be demanded in order to fulfill the needs the students, shifting schedules as needed.
Fedler said that one of his lessons learned from his previous campaign was “more of a focus on classroom talks as opposed to tabling. Coming to the students instead of expecting them to come to you.”
In terms of indigenization, Fedler focused on making sure to acknowledge.
“Working with Indigenous students, the Aboriginal Students’ Centre, First Nations’ University, we’re very lucky to have that resource here at the U of R and as a young Métis man it’s an important issue to me and incorporating Indigenous traditions and teachings, elders, knowledgekeepers, things like that, and incorporating that more into the students’ union and the university as well.”
“One thing that I had in mind was to commission a comprehensive research study on the rising cost of education, so tuition, student loans, textbook costs, stagnating wages… using that to inform a broader strategy in terms of addressing the media, planning events, getting the students engaged, and adequately pissed off when it comes to the statistics and the continued rise of tuition.”
Both Wiskar and Fedler talked about the controversies currently facing URSU in terms of governance. Fedler said that he would bring a fresh perspective as a former NDP candidate.
“I was at the town hall just the other day and toxic environment, I think was the term used when it comes to URSU. I have experience working in politics. I haven’t been involved as much in URSU, so I come at it with a clean slate and an unbiased perspective that I think will allow me to bridge whatever divides there may be.”
Wiskar brought forward his approach, should he take the position, while acknowledging his respect for all three current executives, given their past interactions. He closed by talking about the union’s image.
“It’s time for URSU to grow up and it’s time for URSU to be something that students can respect, no matter who they are.”
Oct. 5 will also see an all-candidates meeting an hour after the nomination package deadline of Oct. 5 has passed.
An extended version of this story will appear online and will be updated as the by-elections develop