With the elections over we decided to sit with the new Executive (Brea Hutchinson – President, Aladdin Hasmani – VP Campus Life and Tessa Nasca – VP Student Issues) to discuss their vision for the TCSA and the way forward for the student union moving into the new academic year. The first question I put to them was how they understood their role on the new Executive.
BH: I see my new role in four components. The first purpose is to facilitate a vision for the upcoming year with the Board of Directors, the Executive and student and community groups at large. The second would be to use the information and experiences I have gained over the past four years to assist in strengthening and empowering students and our collective voices, so that we can set our own goals and see them to fruition. The third is to be a conduit of information between the university and our student body. And finally, I feel the President ought to work to place the student union in a position so that next year, our ability to set and achieve our goals is even stronger.
AH: The title VP Campus Life is an exciting new position to the TCSA with its composition coming from the previous positions VP Membership Services and VP Finance. My main responsibility is to create an atmosphere that will provide exceptional campus engagement and to work in conjunction with the VP Issues. Campus engagement is formed by having a variety of events that will target a wide range of students. These events are to encourage our diverse student membership to get involved both socially and through academics.
TN: I see the VP Student Issues as being present to listen to, engage with, and advocate for students, as well as to communicate students’ needs effectively and clearly to those making decisions impacting our lives. I think this works on several levels. On one level, I will organize broad-based membership engagement campaigns, like this year’s food survey, to learn what student opinion is on a variety of issues. These types of campaigns will help me understand what students want and need so that I can more effectively advocate for our needs in committee meetings, TCSA meetings, and to University administration. On another level, I see my role as being present to advocate for individuals who run up against issues. Essentially, I think an effective VP Student Issues ought to spend eighty percent of their time listening to and engaging with other students and twenty percent of their time using their role as a student advocate and student representative in committees and University governance to bring student voice forward.
The candidates highlighted a number of the issues that continue to be concerns of the student body including student space on campus and the meaningful involvement of students in the governance of the university. Tessa Nasca underscored other issues like food on campus, accessibility, and affordable education. Aladdin Hasmani wanted to see better programming and coordination as well as more quality programming that students could engage in with the greater involvement of faculty.
All three Executive members agreed that the way to tackle these issues was to engage more fully with the student population. According to the Brea Hutchinson, “when we can soundly say that students reject, or support an idea, we carry the weight of our nearly 6000 voices – and that collective voice that is hard to ignore. We need to aspire to that state. I feel we need to offer more services to more students so that everyone has a reason to walk through our front doors and see all the work that we do.” Those front doors will still continue to be housed in their current location for the near future due to the narrow defeat of the levy question to support the building of a student centre. Mr. Hasmani though, does see some positives in the support that the initiative received. ‘Even though it was not campaigned, we still scored 563 votes. This is a great start for bringing awareness for a building that is much needed on our campus.”
Ms. Hutchinson concurs, agreeing that a student union building is badly needed. “The resources and influence we would gain, the space we would be able to allocate, would be amazing. We, as students, would be able to solve our problems ourselves.” She does however, caution that if the issue is to be raised again for a vote then the TCSA would need to revisit how it campaigns for the question. “I would suggest starting the dialogue at the beginning of the year and truly unpacking the question and the implications of the referenda for the seven months and then hold the vote.”