The SAMU Executive Committee forum took place on March 9 in the SAMU building Lookout.
The candidates for the election are:
President: Gabriel Ambutong
VP Academic: Stephan Vasquez; Nathan Poon
VP External: Jakob Cardinal; Ismaeel El-Hakim
VP Operations & Finance: Joseph A. La Torre
VP Student Life: Cierra Jacobs; Inder Singh
All candidates were in attendance.
Executive Committee candidates shared ideas from their platforms during a moderated discussion. There were few apparent differences between the candidates’ priorities. All of them noted that the number one issue affecting campus is a lack of student engagement, but many candidates lacked specific solutions on how to address this problem. Other notable topics that were discussed were addressing student affordability, providing mental health resources, increasing representation for marginalized groups, and furthering student advocacy.
Ambutong, the uncontested candidate for president, focused mostly on the issue of low engagement. He stated that if SAMU can provide good programs and services but no one attends, they won’t have much impact. As a solution, Ambutong suggested working more closely with student groups to increase engagement. Ambutong also mentioned the need to be collaborative and firm when it comes to connecting SAMU with MacEwan University.
The candidates for vice-president academic both advocated strongly for improved student affordability. Both mentioned working towards free textbooks and removing financial barriers for students. Poon thinks that students have been taken advantage of in light of MacEwan’s recent tuition increase announcement and stated that he would like the “power brought back into the hands of the students.” Vasquez, the current VP academic, highlighted their successful and ongoing projects to reduce financial barriers. Vasquez stressed their “evidence-based advocacy” approach towards solving relevant student issues, stating that the problems students are currently facing are “surmountable,” despite their wish for education to be completely cost free.
Both candidates for VP external focused on advocacy and student engagement. Cardinal stated that they would like to have students under “one common banner” in order to increase engagement and have more ammunition when speaking with government officials. Cardinal noted that a four per cent student voter turnout does not show lawmakers that students care. Cardinal also stated repeatedly that he believes in “proper Indigenous leadership” in all forms of government, including student governance. El-Hakim stressed the importance of working with the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) in order to advocate for students collectively with other universities. El-Hakim also noted that one of his main priorities is having tools and resources, especially those pertaining to mental health, available to students in order for them to succeed on an individual level.
Vice-president operations and finance
La Torre is running uncontested for the position of VP operations and finance. La Torre spoke about increasing the presence and accountability of SAMU representatives as a means to increase student engagement, even mentioning wanting to implement an engagement policy at SAMU. La Torre also explains the need for a clear strategic vision within SAMU that lines up with the budget to prioritize financial stability for the students’ association. La Torre notes a big challenge with the position will be financial planning and learning more about SAMU’s budgets.
Vice-president student life
Jacobs and Singh mainly discussed the issue of student engagement. Singh believes that the key to increasing engagement is through direct conversation and connecting to students through staff and faculty. He notes that students all come from different academic backgrounds and need to be reached in different ways, also noting that not all students spend time in the SAMU building. Jacobs, the only female candidate for the executive committee, spoke on increasing the representation of women and other marginalized voices, as well as wanting to build an environment of community. She notes that students need to be educated on the offerings and workings of SAMU in order to help them deal with mental health issues and student affordability.