2021 AUS General Election: Candidates’ Debate

Photo: Evelyn Dom

On February 4, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) held a virtual Candidates’ Debate in preparation for the Winter 2021 General Arts Undergraduate Society elections. Unlike past AUS debates, the event was also not recorded, prompting concerns from the student body about a lack of transparency into the AUS electoral process. The polling period is set to begin on Monday, February 8. 

Presidential Candidates 

Adin Chan

Adin Chan, U2 Political Science and Economics, has extensive previous experience in student government positions: he is currently a SSMU Board member, former Arts Representative to SSMU, and a former Solin Hall President. Chan is running on an “ambitious but practical” platform of rethinking student spaces, a commitment to carbon neutrality, and implementing more accomodating policies for student mental and physical health. 

Chan promises to expand SNAX offerings, reimagine the Arts Lounge, and offer more events in AUS spaces, including coding, public speaking, and foreign language classes. His sustainability plan seeks to achieve carbon neutrality of all AUS operations, implement AUS’s Sustainability Policy, and fund climate advocacy through the Ethical Procurement and Sustainability Fund. Chan also advocates for expanding academic accommodations by instituting mandatory lecture recordings, increasing the use of extensions, and making waitlists longer and mandatory. Chan noted that his “vision is for AUS to be a model for other faculties to build their faculty out of.” 

Acknowledging differences between his campaign and Zhou’s, he noted that he plans to focus on “internal matters that wouldn’t require negotiation with the MOA[Memorandum of Agreement].”Read more on Chan’s campaign here.

Alexis Zhou

Alexis Zhou, U3 Russian & Latin American Studies, is also running for AUS President. Zhou describes herself as “a community organizer, freelance journalist, and frontline postal worker.” Zhou is running to resolve what she believes to be a serious problem at McGill: the fact that “the vast majority of students are disconnected from student government.”

Zhou reasoned that with voter turnout anticipated to be between 8-12 percent this election, “92% of students are excluded” from student government. Zhou vows to create the “first non hierarchical organization at McGill,” positioning the AUS as “not just a club for the well connected.” Her platform calls for deregulating student clubs, promising “minimal bureaucracy” for those starting a new AUS club or service. In addition, Zhou promises to restructure McGill’s student-run bureaucracy, citing VP Finance as a position that “should not be…done by a full time student.” Her platform also promises to make close-door committees accessible to all, pressure McGill to divest from fossil fuel, and abolish the McGill Board of Governors. In addition, Zhou plans to promote Francissation at the university, concerned that “francophone and allophone students cannot find clubs that are for them.”

Read more on Zhou’s campaign here.

VP Finance

Sarah Jeong

Sarah Jeong, U1 Economics, is running unopposed for the VP Finance position on a platform of financial sustainability, financial transparency, and increasing student involvement.

She promises to “ensure [the] financial transparency of AUS finance and ensure any revenue streams are generating sustained revenue.” In addition, she seeks to “create open dialogue between council and students,” ensuring that all AUS members can access their faculty’s balance sheet.

Read more on Jeong’s campaign here

VP Internal 

Avni Aghi

Avni Aghi is a U1 Arts student and current member of SSPN, the SSMU’s event planning committee, and the SSMU Accessibility Committee. Aghi is the former VP External of Molson Hall Council, former member of the Inter Residence Council, and IRC representative to the SSMU’s First Year Council. 

Her platform consists of plans to organize events for first years with the First Year Events, Academic, and Representative Council (FEARC), provide more support to first years attending university during a pandemic, and increase Arts students’ engagement with the AUS.

She also promises to control waste management on campus with AUSEC and advocate for wearing masks and gloves whenever possible.

Read more on Aghi’s campaign here.

Mackenzie Yorke

Mackenzie Yorke, U2 History, is running for VP Internal. Yorke is the current AUS Deputy Secretary General, and is running “to make sure everyone loves and appreciates their departments, departmental events and departmental resources just as I do.” 

Her platform calls for improving the University experience by ensuring that next year’s First Year Arts Council better represents students in different time zones and living situations. In addition, Yorke wants to ensure that future departmental events are sustainable, and that on-campus PPE is not wasted nor turned into a pollutant. She also plans to host an organized departmental fair to allow students to explore the different academic pathways available in the Arts faculty.

Read more on Yorke’s campaign here.

VP External 

Charlotte Gurung

Charlotte Gurung, U2 Political Science, is running unopposed for VP External. Gurung is running on more comprehensive mental health support systems, increased AUS collaboration with other student governments, and expanding the AUS Graduate and Professional Fair.

Gurung’s plan for student rights includes petitioning for an extended S/U option and lecture recordings while classes remain online, and advocating for financial and logistical support from McGill for international students adhering to Canadian travel requirements. Gurung also wants to create a “Self Reporting Program” to allow students to obtain extensions on coursework or exams without documentation of illness or family emergency.

Read more on Gurung’s campaign here.

VP Communications

Noa Crébassa

Noa Crébassa is a U2 Political Science and former spokesperson for France at the European Parliament. Crébassa was the only candidate to include all communications in both English and French. 

She describes previous AUS French translations as “incorrect or not meaning what the English version talked about,” and is “especially” running to represent Francophone students. She argued that “when reading emails in French, translations matter,” given that 18.5 percent of McGill students speak French as their native language.

Read more on Crébassa’s campaign here.

So Yun Chae

So Yun Chae, U1 Psychology, is running for VP Communications. Chae argued that she is running to provide more “opportunities to engage international students,” recalling her own experience as an international student. Chae promises to provide AUS members with listservs with opportunities to engage in academic and extracurricular activities offered through McGill. 

She additionally plans to help connect Francophone and non-Francophone students through educating McGillians on Francophone and Quebecois culture. She cites her experience as the Events Executive at McGill Koreans’ Educational and Cultural Association and member of the McGill International Student Network that will prepare her for creating events for the Francophone Commission and the Fine Arts Council. 

Read more on Chae’s campaign here.

VP Academic

Christina Rajkumar

Christina Rajkumar, U1 International Development Studies, is running unopposed for VP Academic. Rajkumar is running on a platform of improving Arts career development opportunities, boosting student membership on Arts committees, and supporting research opportunities for Arts students unable to work as a professor’s research assistant. She promises to find “ways to work around funding barriers” and collaborate between departments, professors, and students to provide students with research opportunities. 

Additionally, Rajkumar plans to “get students prepared to know what their academic rights are,” and believes it is “important for students to know that they have a place for complaints.”

Read more on Rajkumar’s campaign here.

VP Social 

Sam Baron

Sam Baron, U2 Sociology, is running for VP Social unopposed. His platform focuses on renewing the Arts social community, emphasizing inclusivity and improving sustainability practices. Baron cites his experience as former Gardner Hall Spirit Representative as preparing him for the role. 

Pending fewer pandemic-related restrictions next fall, Baron plans on bringing back in-person Frosh along with a Frosh replacement for the 2020-2021 entering class. He also plans on making McGill’s sexual violence resources, OSVRSE and SACOMMS, more available, as well as increasing collaboration with Queer McGill, the Black Students Network, the First People’s House, ISCEI, and the OSD to address the marginalization of minority students. Regarding sustainability, Baron argues that “as a society we’ve progressed [past] the need [for]plastic cups,” and plans on eliminating single-use cups at Frosh and BdA.

Read more on Baron’s campaign here.

Arts Representatives to SSMU

There are currently two candidates running for three positions of Arts Representatives to SSMU.

Yara Coussa

Yara Coussa is a U2 Political Science student and the former VP External for the Political Science Students Association. Coussa is running on improved accessibility for francophone students, requiring professors to regard mental health issues as a valid explanation for course adjustments, and expanding affordable housing opportunities for students.

Read more on Coussa’s campaign here.

Ghania Javed

Ghania Javed, a U1 Arts student, is a current Residence Life Facilitator and AUS Recording Secretary. Javed’s platform emphasizes improvements in accessibility, through advocating for recorded lectures and paid note-taking. Additionally, she promises to advocate for equity training across campus and sexual assault training. Finally, her platform calls for a “student-centric” approach to accessing mental health, as well as smoother methods for booking and the appointment of more diverse therapists.

Read more on Javed’s campaign here.

Arts Senators 

There are six candidates running for two Arts Senator positions: Paige Collins, Madelyn Evans, Jarren Fefer, Aliya Frendo, Aidan Starosta, and Leon Wang.

Jarren Fefer, U2 Psychology, plans to have a second AUS Local Wellness Advisor, decrease wait times for the Student Wellness Hub, and lobby for a university-wide ban on forward-only testing. Paige Collins, U2 Political Science, promises “mandatory lecture recordings for Arts classes when we return,” creating an online platform for the Wellness Hub, and improve upon McGill’s Policy on Sexual Violence. Evans, U2 Political Science, aims to push university divestment from fossil fuels, expand resources for survivors of sexual assault, and change McGill’s hiring practices to recruit professors and administrators from margnialized groups. Leon Wang, U3 Political Science, is running on promoting the Indigenous Students Alliance and Black Student Network and increasing student participation by reporting SSMU decisions on Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, and other social media platforms. Aidan Starosta, U1 Political Science, is focused on creating a security app for residences, extending the Fall reading week, and increasing transparency into AUS decision-making processes.

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