It seems to me that the current undergraduate society election taking place (link), which like many bureaucratized “representative” bodies suffers from self-prescribed self-importance yet in praxis reveals to be quite disconnected from its roots, has internally been turmoiled, yet externally invisible. Allow me to call this turmoil an internal collapse – an implosion, if you will.

As an “insider” twice removed from these ongoings, and as a former (and admittedly somewhat disheartened) executive of this very organization which seeks to re-perfuse itself with new or old human resources, I will attempt to describe the following positions and the candidates that seek to champion them. Before this, here’s how I’m voting:

President – No (or spoil my vote)
VP Internal – Jimmy Yan
VP External – Yes
D of Finance – Lois Chan/Aaron Sihota
Senate – Geoff Costeloe
Exec Secretary – Maria Jogova
PRO – Meghan Ho
D of Sports – No
AMS Rep – Maayan Kreitzman (top pick), choose two between Tristan Markle, Maria Jogova, Alex Lougheed and Clark Funnell

Candidates: Michael Duncan (incumbent). Yes/No vote. The role of president is an important one as it involves oversight of all operations of SUS and an influential leadership of the direction the society decides to take any given year. Technically, voters would vote on a candidate whose leadership direction they agree with. Personally I would like to see someone who is interested in moving away from the binary of beergardens and Science Week. While I understand the emotional attachment to both, and while I do not advocate the abolishment of the latter, I do believe the limited energy of the busy executive should be channelled to a more grass-roots connection to students.

This is why I am hesitant to vote yes for Mike Duncan. While I think he is a nice person and very very friendly, sociable and approachable, I fundamentally disagree with the direction he (and the past presidents after the legendary Reka Sztopa) have taken. In fact, I am suggesting that they have not had any refreshing direction for the organization at all. It is all too easy to slip into the automatic pilot mode as president, and simply chair SUS council meetings, attend AMS meetings, and sit on the committees and allow for things to simply take their course. And while it is under Mike Duncan’s presidency that the building came to completion, if it had been Mike Duncan’s leadership during which the planning and referendum of the building’s initial genesis took place five/six years ago, I seriously doubt whether this impacting initiative would have been realised at all.

What I am suggesting, then, is a fundamental uprooting of the structure and operations of the society in order to gain any sort of relevancy to the students. Yes the Ladha Science Student Centre was significant, and it received the administrative support of former president Martha Piper, and the Faculty of Science. But it is not enough.

Do the beer gardens SUS spends countless time and money on cater towards a student group beyond the incestuous crowd of AUS, SUS, EUS, AMS? Do these initials live up to their mandate or do their activity have a tendency to perpetuate the well-being of only this in-crowd of no more than 200 faces total?

The attitude whenever this issue has been raised has been quite constantly: get involved and join us. Become part of this clique. No one will be turned away. I translate: complacency, with the onus on the individual to enter this circle.

What I would like to see is a radical departure from this attitude. What I would like to see is SUS reaching out to students by using its financial and bureaucratic situation to become (gasp) relevant. And this starts with becoming in touch with what a non-SUS, non-student government type student needs.

If I were to disseminate this (and this is just one person’s view), it starts with support structure for a science student’s life. A member of the Commerce Undergrad Society enjoys a rich career resource centre and planning of conferences which broaden the experiences of the student. This to me is a gesture of the representative of a commerce student fetching its constituency an opportunity to enrich their undergraduate student life. But not every undergrad society can afford that kind of overhead fee. But there are substantial things SUS can do to connect itself to the students. For example:

– work very hard at establishing a centralized student resource guide on courses, course planning beyond what’s written in the calendar. I know from a livejournal community that plenty of people want the honest opinion on how to specialize in something, etc. This needs to be approachable, and most certainly beyond WebCT.
– the Science career fair is held every year and it’s mostly successful and helpful. I think it could be improved a lot by advertising it more. It can be bigger and better.
– Teaching evaluations. The undergrad societies have been very very quiet at their level of involvement especially in working with the AMS. Hello here is one thing that most students find important and the Science Undergraduate Society does not prioritize this. If I had to tell an exec about what I cared about more, which would I prioritize you to spend your time on?
– I seem to have a thing against beer gardens. I actually like some – the Chemistry one always attracts grad students, students and profs and is a great social venue for this particular department to connect. SUS beer gardens (held in the SUB/Ladha) are mostly of the elitist/incestuous crowd. That’s why it’s a different story. Unless you get the Associate Deans and the Dean to come out as well, I don’t think there is much value to them.

These are just small suggestions but should not be adopted on their own, without a shift in the general attitude and priority of the society. And no, this should not be all shoved into the VP Internal portfolio. The President, AMS Reps, PR officer, and VP External should be concentrating their efforts on this as well. It’s about allocation of resources and priorities.

I think this would start at an existential discussion of what the mandate of SUS really is and if their activities reflect them. We have seen undergraduate societies which work – Commerce, and the Land and Food Systems for example. They do have the advantage of being small, but they both capitalize on the fact that every member of their society has one thing in common – and that is, they are studying their respective subjects.

It is irresponsible, ignorant and regressive to presume that any given Science student would enjoy or find value in the activities of SUS. So it needs to undergo a critical reflection. I am unsure if someone already programmed in the normative system is able to achieve this paradigm shift to make the huge leap to take the society into a direction that is closer to the student that is aiming for a BSc.

Other positions:
VP Internal – this position is largely academic and therefore (in my biased opinion) a very important one. The only person who I see a little serious in grasping the scope of the position is Jimmy Yan.

VP External – Jamil is the sole contender, and as this is a slave-driving position (organizing Science Week) and he’s had exposure to the heaps of work he’ll be facing, I wish him all the best.

D of Finance – Out of the three contestants Lois Chan, Vishal Hiralal, and Aaron Sihota, the two candidates who stand out are Lois and Aaron. Lois seems very discontent with the current performance of the executive (for reasons l
isted on her write-up), while Aaron is harping on his ideas to be transparent and create a student initiative fund. I quite like the idea of a student initiative fund, but I question the dedication he will put in to create this. Having spoken with people who worked with him in the past, it seems as though he’s had an unpredictable performance record (being sometimes there, often not) and being much more concerned with stacking his resume for his medical/law school application. So we have here a candidate who has a pretty platform but with questionable dedication, and an angry platform with more reliable dedication. Your pick, people.

Executive Secretary – at first glance Maria Jogova and Alex Lougheed’s platform points seem identical: more transparency! Minutes timely posted online! they both scream. Luckily, both have websites. Alex, a current exec of SUS, has been on AMS Council and has done little to impress me. To his credit he’s shown up to council and committee meetings, but he has said little at council that shows me he has the visionary strength, leadership and passion to live up to his platform. He has, however, paid attention to how AMS Council is run and thus his platform from his website mirrors its operation through the creation of an oversight committee and having execs paid for their turnover and their year-long term. He is also looking to survey students and reform the executive portfolios. While I am unsure of his competence and ability to do this, I sense that he is the type of person who will try to do his best. I am unsure of how tactful and effective he will be, however, given his arrogance and ego displayed quite frequently, which has surmounted into a tension within the current executive. There is a fine line between being radical and repulsive, and I question how far he is leaning towards the latter.
Maria’s platform is rich with fresh ideas. The following I find quite appealing – “Draft an official Equity Policy- because one does not yet exist… there is no official policy for dealing with people who are purposefully offensive, or say derogatory things that are based on race, gender, age, etc. Granted, this isn’t a huge problem, but this is a project I would like to undertake (regardless of whether I am elected or not)”. She also lists the measures she has taken currently in trying to keep her constituency (Science One students) informed of SUS business. I find this encouraging and am therefore excited for her potential to do more. Alex already is an AMS rep and exec, and he has shown little results this past year. Maria has been quite active within a limited position to do so, and shows huge potential. Their platforms are quite similar, so my vote goes towards Maria.

Senate: Geoff Costeloe.
Diana Diao is a nice and quiet person, and my problem lies in the latter. I have seen her do nothing this past year while her position as PR officer of SUS has been one where she could have done LOTS. The lack of visibility of SUS lies largely on her shoulders. Martin Sing’s platform is a bit vague. From Geoff’s write-up he seems to have an informed and sensible angle. I want to pass my torch off to him.

PR officer – Meghan Ho. Lawrence and Meghan are the only ones who submitted a write-up on time, and out of the two Meghan seems more competent, excited and experienced. Easy.

AMS Reps – I’ve valued the dedication and involvement of Tristan Markle this past year, and his alternative voice which is much more progressive than Council’s. I fully admit I subscribe to his views, but my endorsement of him reaches beyond political ideology. He has offered a valuable perspective to the table which has been critical and grounding.
Maayan has been a favourite budding student politician of mine. Her blog is ridiculously entertaining and more importantly well informed. While I disagree with her stances politically at times, I respect her reasoning and have no doubt she will be an excellent councillor.
It’s noteworthy that I have seen Clark Funnell attend AMS Council meetings more than once, and this makes me believe he will take the position seriously.
Alex Lougheed has the experience, but as mentioned above, has added little valuable discussion at meetings (if any).

D of Sports – Hello, write up please? I’m voting No because I have no idea who you are.


17 Comments so far

  1. Alex Lougheed on March 14, 2007 9:34 am

    “Alex already is an AMS rep and exec, and he has shown little results this past year.”
    As an AMS rep, I could have spoken up more in council, but I feel a lot of my time is better spent debating things that come up in committee, before those motions come to council. If I do not disagree with the spirit of a motion, I will put my faith into the committee that drafted it and not debate what essentially boils down to the semantics of it.

    I would not venture even close to saying that I have shown little results in my capacity as social coordinator this past year. My duties as outlined by code were fulfilled orders of magnitude above and beyond my predecessor. Keep in mind, I came into the job a third into the term, and it blind sided me, so a luke-warm job is to be expected. Cold Fusion was a huge, far under-budget expense, and while the Social account was over budget, my beer gardens were modeled after my predecessor’s. I also tried to shift the focus of the SUS social portfolio away from beer gardens, as demonstrated by the social plan I drafted for council near the beginning of my term, and by my code push to oblige a first-year to sit on the social committee.

    Further to that, if you were to read over council minutes and executive committee minutes (currently not posted online, another fault of the society), you would see I was a driving force of change to our faltering society. When constant intra-executive discussions of raising SUS’s student fees came up, who do you think was the voice of opposition, to the point of saying we should either not exist, or lower student fees?

    I ended up turning on the current executive because they (as a group, not the individuals) openly laughed and disrespected both the voices of change and drive for our society (myself and Matthew Naylor) and retarded any possible progress we could have made on any front. For instance, half way through our term one of our councilors came to the executive with the idea of an executive review committee. Discussion came to executive committee and I am still upset that I was absent for this meeting, because Naylor, who was a strong supporter of this councilor, ended up having his opinion disrespected (so I have heard from a councilor that was in the room adjacent). There are numerous incidents on this front, so as a result they lost our collective respect. To deal, one of us ran away to the parent organization, and the other simply began to undermine them to get change underway.

    As it currently is, SUS does not warrant existence beyond the Ladha Centre. Something I hope to change, first by empowering council, because currently they have no practical say into the affairs of the society, by uprooting the executive portfolios to something we actually need (because, as you have noticed, the PRO portfolio as is is ineffective… well so are others), by fixing the consistency of our code, and arguably most importantly, holding the next executive’s feet to the fire, as so SUS does not have another failed year.

    I am hopeful for the next executives. I have already talked to some about initiatives such as:
    – Making our budget more comprehensive (for instance, descriptions for the various accounts)
    – Getting rid of superfluous spending: a radical alteration of form The Guide [the original The Guide had one primary purpose: teaching evaluations, which we lost], and a re haul of our dying paper, The 432)

    It’s unfortunate that these meetings are private Gina, because you’d end up noticing we’re on the same side here.

  2. Alex Lougheed on March 14, 2007 10:02 am

    Further to that, I feel you have misrepresented some of my platform points:
    – I do not wish to pay SUS executives. I wish to grant them an incentive for fulfilling a turnover report, where currently there is no incentive. A marginal sum of money (of the order of $30-50) seems to be reasonable for what is supposed to be a comprehensive, essential, document.
    – Maria and I have been in talks about supporting one another’s initiatives, so regardless of outcomes, an equity policy (something needed–for instance see our recent turmoil over Just Desserts awards [I got us an extension because the original selection process was ad-hoc and inequitable])

    Lastly, I do not appreciate personal attacks, especially about internal affairs from an “‘insider’, twice removed”. As a fellow scientist Gina, you can appreciate the importance of data, then theory, in that order exclusive. Thanks for the critique regardless. It’s further indication for the next executive that change is needed.

  3. Gina Eom on March 14, 2007 3:41 pm

    I don’t take sides Alex. What concerns me the most is your binary mentality of antagonism-agonism. I am unsure if the grudges from this year will be resolved and transformed into productive progress with persistance of these attitudes. I did look up SUS minutes online (and found only two), and the executive reports in the 432.

    All the best in the elections.

    PS. I think the scientific method you try to refer to is hypothesis based on observation, data, causal explanation and reproducability.

  4. Matthew Naylor on March 14, 2007 6:19 pm

    Perhaps saying you don’t take sides is innacurate, given that you … endorse people. But, this was a good expose regarding the internal problems in SUS.

  5. Maayan Kreitzman on March 14, 2007 7:50 pm

    I just want to make the satement that I’m freaked out by what happens when I type the old web-adress into my browser. But, having shed a virtual tear for Elections Insider, I want to congradulate both Gina and Tim on continuing the blog under it’s new title. It really means alot.

    Specific to this post, first of all, thank you for the support.

    I think you brought up the core of the issue with self-selected voluntary student societies. They purport to represent and serve all students (and are definitely funded by all students), but in truth, most of the benefits of the society can only be redeemed if you become part of it’s orginization. Thus, the leadership serves itself. This is not to say that involvement should not be encouraged, and that participation shouldn’t enrich your experience, just that wider appeal is necessary. Your suggestions about course evaluations and a better career fair as programs that have wide appeal a great. Social events are maybe a bit harder to open up from the “insider” base. With the new building though, there are opportunitites for outreach. Comfy couches will do what a million PR campaigns can’t – we just need to capitalize on it.

  6. fish on March 14, 2007 9:00 pm

    First of all, thank you for your half-endorsement!

    Upon reviewing my write-up I agree with you that it’s, uh, full of rage. I can no longer to make changes to it now, but I do keep my blog kind of up-to-date with discoveries and discussion aside from my list of initial bitter criticism. I realise that off-site links are not very effective and that my write-up is probably all that most voters will ever see of me, so the blog is more for my own personal entertainment and reflection now.

    Thank you also for your insightful comments throughout. Your voice is a refreshingly critical and reasonable one, even though I don’t agree with you on some fronts. I guess it’s what made me feel like I ought to explain to you that there’s more to me than rage!

    Also, have you forgotten about the D of Publications or are you deliberately leaving it out?

  7. Gina Eom on March 14, 2007 9:36 pm

    Matt Naylor your Liberal argument is slightly irritating so let’s return to the way in which lougheed and i perceived the charge of which “side” I was on.

    re: D of Publications
    I voted for Varun because he knows the gruntwork involved in the work.

  8. Matthew Naylor on March 15, 2007 1:59 am

    I… wasn’t being serious. But OK.

  9. Matthew Naylor on March 15, 2007 2:00 am

    I wasn’t being serious. But OK. However, how is my argument Liberal? I don’t get it.

  10. Alex Lougheed on March 15, 2007 2:36 am

    Because you’re a liberal hack, Naylor, nothing more.

  11. Anonymous on March 15, 2007 3:16 am

    ooh conflict
    but seriously no one cares about sus

  12. Andrea on March 15, 2007 5:22 am

    I think that your comments for senator here are completely out of line. From what I have seen Diana Diao has done a fantastic job on SUS and my point of view, if Geoff wants so badly to be a senator, why has he not gotten involved this past year? He is not a councilor and doesn’t come to SUS meetings. Being a member of social committee does not qualify you to be a senator and represent the interests of Science students. I will be voting for someone with actual experience, who I am confident can actually do the job.

  13. fish on March 15, 2007 3:39 pm

    Andrea, I would argue that though experience is important, it’s equally important to look at the other skills that a candidate possesses, his/her goals and platform, and whether you believe in the candidate’s ability to fulfill these goals. By your argument, half the executives from this year would not be “qualified,” and most of the Councillors as well. Despite my having the experience on the FinCom this year, some may find that Aaron has a great deal of good ideas, and might be able to follow through with those and expand the awareness of the Society. There’s more to a position than experience can grant you.

    As well, the Senator’s primary concern is with the Senate, not with SUS. The only reason a Senator attends a SUS Council meeting is to ensure that Council doesn’t pass something idiotic that may go against the Senate, not to service Science students through Council. Cameron Funnell has done more than his job required of him in the past; he is not the model by which one should choose a new candidate.

    I highly urge you to put more thought into your position before you place your vote.

    – Lois

  14. Anonymous on March 15, 2007 3:41 pm

    Plus considering the fact that Jimmy Yan,while invovled in numerous organizations this year, you should note that he has tended to…lose interest in some of these as the end of the term approaches. In fact, some of us haven’t seen him at meetings for the last three months, so I really wonder about his dedication to any future roles he takes on.

  15. Jimmy Yan on March 16, 2007 3:40 am

    “Plus considering the fact that Jimmy Yan,while invovled in numerous organizations this year, you should note that he has tended to…lose interest in some of these as the end of the term approaches. In fact, some of us haven’t seen him at meetings for the last three months”

    I don’t know exactly how to respond to this statement, or to this seriously or not. All that I am going to say is that, thus far, I have regular attendence to SUS council meetings, Academic committee meetings, and First-Year Committee meetings. I have not been present to every single committee meeting, but each time I have informed the chair of the time conflict. But if you feel that I have a tendency to lose heart near the end of the term, I will take that into account and improve upon it.

  16. Varun R on March 16, 2007 6:30 am

    Thank you for your endorsement, Gina!

  17. Varun R on March 16, 2007 6:32 am

    I think that if Geoff Costeloe does not win, he will make an excellent SoCo if he chooses to contest for the position.

    He has experience on Social Committee (although Alex can attest to that more than I can), and I see that he is very involved and always helping out at all SoCo events.

    Think about it, Geoff! =)

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind

Spam prevention powered by Akismet