For this year’s AUS election periods, candidates for the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) shared their platforms and goals for the upcoming school year on Thursday, January 18th. Missed the debate this year, or do you not have time in your schedule to watch the entire streamed video online? Have no fear. The Bull and Bear has you covered with some highlights from the evening’s invigorating debate.
Arts Representative to SSMU
To kick off the night, four candidates for Arts Representative explained what sets their platform apart. A common thread among candidates was advocating a student-centric approach to government.
Candidate David Mickelson promised to be a “friendly face” with whom students can feel comfortable discussing issues. Citing his own experiences with feeling alienated from student politics, Mickelson promised to end feelings of student alienation, Mickelson stated, “students don’t care about student government because student government doesn’t care about them.”
Like Mickleson, candidate Angelika Voutsinas promised to keep students in the loop. In her platform, Voutsinas favors transparency and liaising with student advocacy groups. More than anything Voutsina stressed that “Transparency will be key to me.” Students should know what is going on when it comes to happenings in all levels of student government, whether that is the AUS, department governments, or the SSMU.
Candidate Nicholas Borovsky discussed how they value democratic engagement and reform in student government. He suggested political reform within the SSMU and AUS bodies. Borovsky suggested increasing student participation in government and finding a bridge between student government addressing broader politics and student concerns.
Finally, candidate Matthew O’Boyle wants to unite students to discuss the impact of the administration’s decisions regarding their investments and COVID responses. O’Boyle also strongly supports the creation and implementation of harm reduction initiatives. As a floor fellow, he has witnessed firsthand how beneficial harm reduction initiatives can be.
AyeCham Myayh Pan Mort Aung is the only candidate running for VP External. Aung focused on “three c’s”: community, creativity, and career. Specifically, Aung wants to create more events and outreach opportunities, particularly for international students to help connect them to the larger Montreal community.
“A lot of us are going through grief,” Aung acknowledged. In response, Aung hopes to create events to reduce stress and highlight students’ creative sides. In addition, she seeks to take advantage of McGill’s extensive alumni network for recruitment and job shadowing opportunities to help students navigate potential future careers.
Next, the sole candidate for VP Social, Annie Costello began by discussing the need for accessibility, which she believes “has previously been a secondary concern” but now must become a priority.
In addition, Costello hopes to revive classic events such as Bar des Arts (BdA). She also hopes to expand on the past portfolio with new events. When pressed about shifting to a social scene that does not rely on drinking alcohol, Costello responded with her plan to reinvigorate the Arts Lounge to a venue for all kinds of events, activities and socializing. She stated, “The Arts Lounge is the perfect venue for reinvigorating BdA but also dry events.”
First running for the position of VP Communications was Arts student Britney Vu. “Communication is key to the community,” Vu said, outlining her plan to bring color, innovation, and positivity to the role.
Like Vu, Alfonso Del Valle prioritizes allowing students to have access to all of AUS’s opportunities. Del Valle’s primary goal is to increase AUS social media presence platforms, such as improving the existing Instagram page and adding a TikTok account to communicate from the council.
Citing potential ideas such as inspirational quotes and book recommendations, Vu suggested the creation of a digital calendar of AUS events. Vu noted that, although a lot of students are active on social media, a Google calendar will democratize access and be able to reach more students.
Vu responded to Del Valle in a rebuttal that some students may not have access to social media accounts like TikTok. Del Valle countered back by pointing out that weekly emails will still be sent out to the student body, but the student government ought to face the fact that the majority of students get information from social media.
Only one candidate ran for VP Academic: Nicklas Rieck. This year, Rieck proved his capability in his position as Academic Affairs Commissioner. Rieck hopes to clarify the academic complaints process, ensure better student advocacy to uplift students, and work closely with the VP Communications to increase accessibility .
“Students need clarification and clearer forums for their concerns to be heard,” Rieck said.
“Now is the time to make some capital expenditures on the Arts Lounge,” candidate Ford Martin insisted. In addition, Martin also hopes to prioritize revising sustainability bylaws and challenging the administration to invest in green asset. His ultimate goal is to have the VP Finance portfolio achieve net zero carbon emissions.
His competitor, Charlotte Gurung, disagreed with this proposal. Emphasizing her past experience, Gurung stated that she believes that net zero is not a primary concern of the VP Finance and is more important for other positions on the AUS.
Outlining her campaign, Gurung stressed three major themes: accessibility, effectiveness, and transparency. “We struggle to find people to apply for [student project] funding even though it is available,” Gurung said, suggesting a focus on social media to make funding more accessible.
In addition, Gurung suggested streamlining funding systems into one platform, creating a better sponsorship program to increase revenue, and attempt to fund renovations in the Arts Lounge.
For the past year, Ghania Javed has served as Arts Representative to SSMU and has served on the SSMU Board of Directors. She hopes to use this experience in the AUS President position to accomplish several goals, namely pushing for COVID-conscious teaching practices and establishing smoother ways of communication and outreach. Like many other candidates for other positions, Javed hopes to revamp the Arts Lounge.
The opposing presidential candidate, Christina Rajkumar also has experience in administrative positions: Rajkumar served as VP Academic of AUS this year and has held multiple positions in the AUS for the past three years.
Rajkumar stressed three main points in her platform. The first was advocacy, including creating an accessibility commissioner and creating more presidential roundtables. The second was a note-taking initiative to combat the lack of lecture initiatives. In line with her competitor, as well as many other candidates, the final initiative was, as Rajkumar put it, “a Lounge glow-up.”
The voting period for the AUS General Election will run from Monday, February 21 through Friday, February 25.