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TCSA Elections Part 1: The Equity Commissioner Candidates

Written by
Irene Suvillaga
and
and
March 18, 2021

The results of the 2021 TCSA Spring Elections can be found here.

TCSA Elections Part 1: The Equity Commissioner Candidates
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

On March 11 the TCSA Candidate’s discussion took place via Zoom. The event consisted of a ‘meet and greet’ where guests were able to hear the designated candidate’s speech and platform followed by a Q&A period. The event tackled how candidates would address many indispensable matters that have been primordial concerns faced by students. These included disability accommodations throughout campus, health accessibility, housing, environment and the Trent’s Lands and Nature Areas Plan as well as issues concerning food security and inequalities faced between domestic and international students.

Mediated by Resource Manager Matthew Seaby and Deputy Electoral Officer Sarthak Agarwal, the two hour event was divided into two phases. In phase one Equity Commissioner Candidates took the stage, vying for the following positions: Environment and Sustainability Commissioner, Part-Time Students Commissioner, Student with Disabilities Commissioner and Women’s Student Commissioner, the latter which was the only position contested in this category. Phase two gave way to the speeches and platforms of the executive candidates running for President, Vice-Presidencies on Student Health and Wellness, Campaigns and Equity, and University and College Affairs, which will be covered in part two of this article. 

The event started off with Jocelyn Whalen running for re-election for the Environment and Sustainability Commissioner position. Her speech involved her past several achievements in fighting towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly campus and community, through initiatives like the creation and distribution of the Trent Lands and Nature Areas Survey alongside members of the TCSA and other levy-groups as well as the creation of the Trent Lands and Nature Areas Report among many others. If elected she expresses that one of her interests is in working with the Federal Government’s ban on single-use plastics.

I want to continue to foster and strengthen these relationships with groups and organizations and people of interest in the environment and sustainability on campus and in the greater Nogojiwanong area.

Next was a candidate for the Part-Time Students Commissioner position, Meghan Darwin, who is a mother, full-time employee at a local hospital and part-time student. In her own experience as a part time student one of the things she has realized is the difficulty in meeting other students. She outlines her concern for the lack of initiative to get integrated in the school community is given to part time students. 

I want to be much more involved on the school side. Not just the academic side but the actual integration into the university.

When asked what was one thing she hoped to achieve during her role as Commissioner, she answered that she hopes to be able to create a safe space for part-time students by creating a platform for part-time students to integrate as well as have an on-boarding program for part-time students. 

There is no information given to you as a part-time student. How to navigate the university, and it was you know, all on my own. And I still feel very alone in the university, I am very much isolated as a part-time student.

The Q&A period brought greater awareness to  part-time students with disabilities. A possible partnership between Students with Disabilities Commissioner Candidate Alyssa Saunders and Meghan Darwin, who if voted for will seek to collaborate and work towards the inclusion, visibility and participation of part-time students and their necessary accommodations. 

Alyssa Saunders, was next in line for her speech as candidate for the Student with Disabilities Commissioner position. Her platform focuses on accessibility, inclusivity and better accommodations for students with disabilities. Alyssa expresses her personal struggles with the lack of effective accommodations that would best suit her needs in previous school institutions. 

Even two students that have the same disability can require a lot of different accommodations from one another to complete their schooling to the best of their ability.

Saunders seeks to work with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and make sure that new-comers are aware of their service, as she herself has personally experienced the drastic improvement that can be achieved if students have the accommodations needed. 

Several ideas were brought to the table including the initiative to re-introduce the Disabled Student Association at Trent, a group that dissolved in the 90s. Another idea, this time from Candidate Larissa Rizzo, was working with Health Services to ensure that students can receive their diagnosis and paperwork they need to get SAS accommodations.

Last but not least, the position of Women Studies Commissioner was the only Equity Commissioner position being contested, by candidates Larissa Rizzo and Chanel Bowen. 

Chanel Bowen’s commitment if elected is to introduce an intersectional feminist framework to the policies the TCSA pursues and other issues it addresses, emphasizing the voices of international, immigrant, BIPOC and 2SLGTBQ+ while bringing an overarching social justice lens throughout to her work. Bowen strives for an equal, equitable, feminist campus. 

On the other hand, Larissa Rizzo strives to use feminist paradigms in campus. Larissa describes herself as an inherent empathetic, passionate and skillful thinker. As a third year student in the social work program her experience has equipped her with the advocacy and community development skills to effectively be in this role. Some of her interests in this role surround queer issues, sexual health, accessibility, mental wellness during COVID and research grant access to women as well as taking an intersectional, anti-oppressive lens to initiatives.

Many important questions were asked that would help the most distinguished candidate. 

What's one type of event that you would like to run on campus? 

Chanel: I don't want to promise anything that I wouldn't deliver. And my first course of action would really be to start engaging in conversations with women, because I can't speak for other women, and I want to hear about the issues women face. There are a lot of annual events of the TCSA posts, a lot sexual health events and trivia that we just had. Those are definitely informal traditions that I wouldn't want to get rid of. But also, I want to see what people have to offer. I have no plans carved in stone yet. 

Larissa: I am with Chanel on that, being open to other people’s opinions and experiences. However, I actually didn't know that there was an event for trivia night and one thing that I would love to see and be involve with is more events and information on queer health specifically because that is often something that is not really talked about in the public school system when I went through and part of that community I would love to see more access and fun ways to learns about it.  

Candidate for Women's Student Commissioner, Chanel Bowen.


What would you do to ensure that your time in the role serves not only cis women but trans women as well: 

Chanel: I just attended on Monday an event with the Trent Queer Collective, they hosted a very rigorous Q&A with rigorous input on queer and trans students on campus and the community. And so I think, one of the things I want to do is maybe set up a committee that is set up as sort of advisory role to the student commissioner so we can have maybe Muslim women, Black women, Trans women, Indigenous women so we can make sure someone is there to stand up for themselves. Not to say that they have to stand up for themselves to me or Larissa whoever makes the role, but just so that there is always someone standing in the corner making sure that they are heard. But I can't speak for them so I just want to make sure that someone is. 

Larissa: I think for myself, like I mentioned in my speech I would love to create a forum for people to anonymously comment on issues that they are experiencing and their ideas of solutions. But in addition to that, I would like to to work with the Centre of Women and Trans people because I, myself also need more education and awareness on those issues and i don't want to take a position in where i am just delivering maybe meaningless solutions that don't actually achieve anything. 

Candidate for Women's Student Commissioner, Larissa Rizzo.

As the candidate for students with disabilities, how would you specifically like to work with me to help women with disabilities to help combat the huge labyrinth that is being a woman with disabilities? 

Chanel: Not to play an UNO reverse card, but you tell me. I don't know the experience of women with disabilities and so if its using my platform to reach more women to raise awareness, if its working in collaboration, if its collecting the voices of women with disabilities and bringing them to you, if you need that, sort of testimonials to like go forward in student advocacy then that is something I really would like to do, but I can't speak to the specifics cause they are not mine to speak to. 

Larissa: For myself as a woman with a disability I think I have some insider perspective with the recognition that every person's experience with disabilities is different and comes with its own challenges. However, I definitely have been aware of students already regarding  people who are struggling with disabilities and the challenges that come with. For example, in one of my classes a particular student needed a desk as they were using a wheelchair and the entire semester that student went without one and it was something that really struck me. And so accessible resources for people who need them in a physical aspect is something I would like to focus on. 

Candidate Stevie Lanigan running for the Queer Students Commissioner position and Candidate for Mature and Transfer Students Commissioner Teisha Smith could not make it to the event.

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