Voting for the University of Regina's Students' Union (URSU) bi-elections will be taking place on Monday and Tuesday.
With the campaigning period coming to an end and the two candidates – Nathan Sgrazzutti and Tyler Gray – running a quiet and calm campaign this week, The Carillon took a few minutes to speak to the two candidates about the hopes, challenges and experiences they foresee on the road ahead.
The Carillon: Tell us a little about yourself.
Sgrazzutti: I am involved in a ton of different things around the campus. I started out as a fine arts student. I've got a huge interest in theatre and performance – stuff like that. Music, singing – I love all that stuff, it's a huge passion of mine. I also play on multiple rugby teams around the city, and I'm also trying to get a cougars rugby team started up here. So, that's kind of a weird opposite – you know. I've worked at The Owl for a little bit, that was really fun. I like to get to know people. I've been working at restaurants ever since I was old enough to work, so talking to people is always fun. Aside [from] that, I work with the university and I host orientation…I am an ambassador.
Gray: I am a fourth year student in the Faculty of Arts – I am studying human justice with a concentration in human rights and social justice. I like to be active. I am married. My wife and I like to get out and go for bike trips and stuff like that – kind of earthy, organic. I like to play sports. I play in the ultimate frisbee league in the city…in the spring and summer, I play hockey in the winter. The nerdier side of me is that I guess I like to read theory and policy, and think about how to make the world better from a justice stand point. [That is] kind of my self, in a nutshell.
The Carillon: What motivated you to run for this position?
Sgrazzutti: I ran for the president position in the general election last spring, with a great group of people – a group of people that I really respect, and I like working with. A majority of them actually got in and have been working on URSU. Even though I wasn't elected I sat in on many of the board meetings and I've been to the senate meetings and senate hearings and I've just continued to stay involved. And, when this opportunity came, I saw it as a second chance that no one ever really gets, and I thought – you know what, this is a sign for me, this is something I need to go for.
Gray: I felt like last year, URSU as a whole got caught up in partisan politics, and instead of the organization representing students it served ideologies. So, if you were on the left, you tried to make it work for left-wing people. If you were on the right, you tried to make it work for right-wing people, and I felt like it was a poorer representation of what the Students' Union should be, based on their mandate. So, I was motivated by looking at their mandate [and] seeing that it was suppose to be focused on meeting the economic, social, and cultural needs of all students, and I weighed it against what I'd seen in the last couple of years, and didn't like the comparison.
The Carillon: What are some of the issues you'd like to work on, if elected?
Sgrazzutti: With the budget already being set and everything already being set, things that I'd like to work on are staff relationships, faculty relationships, my standing and the standing of URSU itself – in the community, in the administration, and especially [with] the students. Right now, if [the students] know about URSU, they've got not so many nice things to say about it because it didn't go so well in the past, but there are good things that we do, and there are good things they should know about. So, I think, taking that six months [as] a building period, and saying "hey, we didn't do well last year, [but] we're going to work up towards it, we're going to get ourselves back on our feet…here we are and here's what we can do." And a president is exactly what you need for that. A strong president, a strong speaker…[to] represent the decisions that are being made. I'd like to see it be a good, strong building phase….In order to build something great, you need to start slowly.
Gray: I would like to work on some of the same long term issues that have been there. I mean obviously, we have to continue to work on dealing with parking problems, we've got to find a way to manage tuition costs, we've got to find a way to work with the city or the university to create some vacancies so that people can live. Really, I want to work on making the university affordable for students, but I also want to really work on making sure that student's degrees are applicable and that they're supported in their studies. I think that those are two things that a lot of times, they get overlooked for the sake of bigger projects that maybe are a little bit more public. But, I really care about whether or not students feel like they got their degree and it was a degree that was valuable to them from an educational standpoint, and one that helps them as they leave university.
The Carillon: What challenges do you think you will face as president? How do you plan to tackle said challenges?
Sgrazzutti: A huge challenge, of course, is going to be that short amount of time that I'll have. Six months is barely any time to get anything done. And, I know that people would expect a huge platform on ideals and thoughts and beliefs. From the very get-go, I always knew that being a president would mean representing decisions made not only by URSU itself, but by the students. Being elected halfway though the game like this, with the budget already set, with everything already decided, it's going to be challenging because those decisions have been made without my input. Now, I have sat in all those board meetings, and I am aware of those decisions – which is a huge [bonus] to me, and a huge help to me, and that's something that I am glad that I did. But still, being able to step in and saying "okay, these are the decisions made, no I did not have a choice in it, no I did not have a say," but I need to explain why we did it, and I have to explain…this was our thoughts behind it, this is why we're doing it. And, that's all going to have to fit into about five months, because that first month is going to be hopefully me scrambling around like a chicken with its head cut off, wondering what's going on with everyone, getting filled in, meeting people, etcetera. But, a huge thing for me is that I hope to continue…I hope that when spring comes this upcoming year, I'll be able to run for re-election, and that six months that I spent this year will turn into already having great working relationships, already having a good base, and then being able to create something great.
Gray: Well, I think some of the challenges we're going to face is finding ways to use relationships that are outside of the Students' Union to work for students. I think a lot of times people think that we need to take this very oppositional stance or we dig our heels in. And, just from some of the conversations I've had with outside community organizations and governments, our relationship isn't necessarily the best with them. So, I think the biggest challenge will be finding a way to make sure that we can build relationships, network with people that we need to help meet the needs of students, but making sure that students' needs don't get sacrificed for the sake of building those relationships.
The Carillon: Why should students vote in this bi-election?
Sgrazzutti: In general, everyone needs to have a voice. That's the beauty of democracy…no matter how many people you know, how many followers you have on Twitter, how many friends you have on Facebook, your vote is one vote, and so is everyone else's. Everyone's vote is so important, and everyones idea is so important. In an election, especially [this] one that's very quiet…I think it's really going to come down to people who decide that they need their voice heard. And, if you think that your decision or your belief needs to be heard, you need to vote.
Gray: Students should vote in general because if students don't participate it is very difficult for the Students' Union to truly meet student needs. I think if students engage and understand that URSU is there to help them – education wise, with economic stuff, with social stuff, and just the overall university experience – I think that if students understood that, and understand that, they will vote and they should vote.
The Carillon: Why should students vote for you?
Sgrazzutti: I believe I am the better candidate for a couple of really obvious reasons. The first off being is that I am young, and I am willing to do the work, and I have the time to do the work required to make URSU into something great. Not only that, [but] a major weakness for the Students' Union is the one year term. We don't even have that, we have a six month term that we are running for right now. But…that six month term can be created into a legacy of terms, where things can actually be done. You can't do very much in a year, much less six months. And, I am able, and I am wiling to stand here and say "If I make it in this six months, yes I will be running again, yes I will be continuing with my work, yes I will continue to keep doing these things." Secondly, I have great working relationships with everyone on URSU already. I have a complete understanding of what they are working towards. I helped write the slate, I helped write the ideas that they're pushing for, and the ideals that they're working on. So, I think that me stepping in would be a lot easier, and a lot less friction will be created by having me step in, than having someone completely new with their own ideas, and their own things that they are pushing. Although there are things that didn't happen that I would like to see happen, most of the things that did happen, I am very happy about, and I am very happy about telling the students about. And then, third and last, I've sat in on every single board meeting so far – except for one, I think, or two – which means I know, [and] understand what's going on.
Gray: I think students should vote for me because I bring a maturity to the table that isn't offered, maybe, by anybody else. Just some life experience that I've walked through. I bring, I think, leadership to the table and the ability to build strong relationships, but also I bring, I think, the ability to stand on the principles and the mandates that the Students' Union has. So, I feel like I offer strong representation for students that will benefit them in the short and in the long term, by building those relationships, but won't cost them by giving into a bunch of demands from the outside pressures.
The Carillon: Do you have a special mantra or favourite quote you like to lead by?
Sgrazzutti: Well, I've written on the bottom of all my posters "Drive, Diligence, and Determination", which are three things that really get to me. There's actually one that even stands out to me even more that I didn't want to toss on my posters because I use it so many times anyways. [It's] "Community, Class, and Commitment". Community is the most important thing and it comes foremost in my mind. Class is the idea that no matter what, you hold yourself to the standing that you would want others to hold you to. And commitment is that commitment to the first two, and the commitment to your life and making things better. So, I think community, class and commitment would be that saying. It's also for my club team, so I didn't want to toss it on posters because they'd be like "oh, come on man, you stole that," but it is really something that I live by.
Gray: Right off hand, not really. I think what really stands out to me in this exact context is reading that line in the [URSU] constitution that we have that states that we are here to meet the needs of all student. And, I think a lot of times people are really bad at being able to step back from what their personal experience, and personal beliefs and personal passions are, to recognize that there is needs that are out there for students that might not mesh with those things. So…in this candidacy I am really trying to make sure that I put down my personal perspective on things and make sure that the decisions that I make and the things that we do at the Students' Union are the things that are in the best interest of all the students that attend the University of Regina, and not just the select few who happen to agree with me on any given issue.