The results of the 2021 Spring Elections can be found here.
In the first article of this short series, I covered the candidates running for Equity Commissioner positions with the TCSA who shared their platforms in the first half of the ‘Candidate Meet and Greet’ on March 11. The second part of the online event consisted of the candidates running for executive positions at the TCSA.
The second phase started off with the position of VP in Student Health and Wellness, contested between 3 candidates: Brook Bartlett, Carter Tongs and Teika Viducis.
Brook Bartlett, explored her own experience relating to health and wellness and this is what motivated to run for this position. If elected, she would like for mental and physical health to be a subject that is further discussed and addressed at Trent. Some of her goals, involve inquiring about more funding towards more student services, providing a more educational-approach by introducing professionally-led and/or peer-group seminars and work in collaboration with other student groups at Trent.
I would like to stress the importance of having a community at Trent that recognizes and supports each other in relation to health and wellness.
Candidate Carter Tongs could not attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict with his job, however, to prove his dedication and commitment to the position Tongs left a video that was played at the meeting. In the video, Tongs goes into depth about his experience working and advocating for student needs during his participation in the Chaplain College Cabinet.
I took this position because I truly believe that accessible healthcare is fundamental to educational success here at Trent.
If elected, his advocacy would focus on accessible healthcare for students based on three pillars: mental, physical and sexual health. His focus is on greater advocacy for increased mental health services and availability of councillors; for sexual health information, resources and consent training; and a healthy eating initiative that would make healthy eating available and affordable for students on and off campus.
Finally, Candidate Teika Viducis spoke about the two major pillars that will be pursued if elected: ensure that the training the student benefit plan is already covering happens and introduce fortnightly wellness programming and a focus on harm reduction and the recognition that people know what they need. Viducis has a long history of community-based harm reduction and access to reproductive care in young adult activism, anti-oppression work, and experience at the TCSA as the elected Disabled Students commissioner of 2019/20.
I want to see everyone succeed, I want to make sure that we all are getting the healthcare we need and recognizing what services are available to us.
The following are questions asked during the Q & A period of the event:
Do you recognize any potential gaps or wider things that you feel are potentially missing and may need to work on, that you would like to work on for the next year if you are elected?
Brook: The first major concern that I have that with the pandemic everyone is so disconnected and the Trent community is not together anymore. That is probably the first thing that I would want to change, somehow figure out a way to still manage to make peer connections and relations. Another thing that I would like to change is that i feel like we are not super well educated as a whole about the queer community and the trans community so I would really would like to add that, maybe by creating seminars. I want to hear from the people that actually are and have experienced being queer, because I can’t speak on behalf the queer community so I feel we should get the information from those groups and get it back to Trent so we can relate to one another better.
Teika: To address your specific question surrounding student VIP (student health insurance plan), my biggest concern is that students don't realize the coverage that they have. Students are not realizing the coverage that they are already paying for because in so many ways… the person who is currently in my position is pushing to get more things covered but students don't realize that for example, that they could go and meet the dietician on campus and so they don't realize they have that coverage and they are afraid to go do it and then don't have the money to pay for it. And so we need to make sure that students are aware of the coverage that they have and know how to access that coverage. I would love to run an educational campaign which would also involve when the time comes, in-person discussion on how to access healthcare. Also a lot of students are on campus or at this point, at home and they don't realize that students who are coming straight from high school may have never managed their own health insurance before, they may not know how to do that. So let's support people to access those new things.
Do you have a plan for addressing the inequalities between domestic student health coverage and international student health coverage, specifically around U-Hip where international students are required to pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed for it whereas domestic students don't encounter that problem as frequently?
Brook: I am going to be honest. I do not have a plan for this as of right now, but I would love to talk with the international students and learn more about that. But yeah i don't think it's fair that you guys have to pay out of pocket, because sometimes you don't have that money which is totally understandable and is so expensive. So I would love to make it that you don't have to pay out of pocket at all.
Teika: So changes to U-hip are something that, should I get to serve you in this capacity, would be something that we need to take up at a higher level, not only at a Trent level. Changes to U-hip need to happen in collaboration with the provincial student union CFS to work on that with them. I would love to work with international students to make the changes that they need.
The next person to take the stage was Candidate Wendy Walker running for the position of TCSA President. Walker’s platform consisted of her past experiences on leadership, student affairs and as a member of the TCSA’s Board of Directors for the past three years. She goes into detail, explaining the three main pillars that compose her platform: communication, campus accessibility, and housing.
On the topic of communication, how can you influence accessible information that doesn't run the risk of fear-mongering or misinformation? A lot of what was said on the posts that you referenced wasn't true and I think having it on a red background with big text, although important, I don't think it helped anyone to stay calm.
Among the questions were two posted by Chanel Bowen, candidate for Women’s Student Commissioner:
Wendy: with communication I don't think students should be getting their information from a meme page especially because it is not a credible source. So by having this breach of communication with the university it is super important for students to get communication and I do think that social media can be a good tool to spread information especially for younger students. Social media isn't a bad thing and I think we have to take advantage of it but we also have to be responsible about it. You know, making sure that Trent social media accounts are sending information out to students and not just focusing on recruitment or showing Trent public image. I think having the Arthur or Trent Radio, these are all levy groups that we can take advantage of and spread word to students. As the student union it is important to support these groups and they have a voice to students and a platform and we should take advantage of that.
This one is more specifically to internally in the TCSA. Over the years the TCSA has acquired a lot of criticism and sort of disillusionment from some students, and so how are you going to ensure honesty, transparency and accountability especially with the executive team as well as low turnout in both voting and running? Is that a priority?
Wendy: I understand where students are coming from, that there is a big disconnect. I know when I first came to Trent I had no idea what the TCSA was, or what they did. But part of the outreach is reaching out to those students, they need to know what we do and why we are here. I only just realized that you know we do provide a benefits program, we do provide transit for them, we have funding lines to help support students when they need it. So that's a big part of the outreach. Obviously I do want to insist on the board, because if we have those students and are able to connect with those unique experiences and the diverse values of student lives.
And one by current President Ann-Majella McKelvie:
If I were to describe this role in one word it would be ‘unpredictable’. And so I was wondering what kind of skills or how do you feel like preparing to take on the role that deals with so much unpredictability?
Wendy: I know my experience with orientation was like a miniature version of ‘let's plan for anything that could go wrong ever and have a back-up plan’ and that's not always realistic to have a back-up plan. You just have to take the punches as they come. I think having this past year it has definitely taught me to be flexible and try to plan the best of a situation which I think is super important. I don't know what’s going to happen next year but the best I can do is be prepared and try my best. I think the most important thing is to be positive.
The grand finale was given to the contested position of VP Campaigns and Equity, Candidates Zoe Litow-Daye and Morgan Carl.
Candidate Morgan Carl’s platform focused on a “status quo that doesn't work for a lot of people.” He dives into issues like systemic precarity and discrimination, food insecurity and lack of nutritious food on campus, housing discrimination and tenant rights, unemployment, among others.
If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I'd like to work to lead these efforts, keep students safe, housed and fed and connected to the community. The TCSA is a service provider and an event organizer but it is also an advocacy body. And it is our responsibility as a student union to understand the needs of our members and to fight for student interest but also to push against folks who are trying to oppose those interests.
Candidate Zoe Litow-Daye’s experience has taught her concepts of social justice, community and equity. Zoe believes in a path grounded on empathy, justice and community care. With deceased working in community organizing and volunteering and community engagement, her platform is grounded in core issues students are concerned about and consists of food issues like food waste and food insecurity; accessibility; and fighting against performative activism.
we must work towards a tangible and long-lasting change within our campus community. My top priority is making sure student voices are heard the loudest on campus.
Morgan, you touched upon housing resources, could you potentially expand on those resources and ideas?
Morgan: housing is an issue that is very important to me, it is an issue that I have worked on for a very long time. One of the things I have outlined in my platform is providing workshops on tenant rights or students so that people are aware of their rights when they are maybe looking for housing for the first time or their first time in a new community so they know what to look for, and to know when things are not right. Also given them access to resources, we can link them up with where to go and what to do if they are in a situation that is unsafe or exploitative or when dealing with a landlord. So that would be through something like workshops with the Peterborough community legal centre or maybe partner with groups at Trent as well like TISA. There’s also groups in town like the Housing Resource Centre that do programs like rent smart.
Zoe, if you have any ideas for housing resources (my mind is blanking on if you touched on it or not) you can always answer this question as well.
Zoe: One thing I would like to bring to the forefront in terms of housing is that there are accessible forms of housing in Peterborough for disabled students, I know cause I have looked into them. There are kind of specially made units and buildings and I think that that would be a really good resource to put out there and connect with students, especially our disabled community which is often not thought about.
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