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The weak link in Unity’s chain

by Archives March 25, 2008

Like many others, I’ve been disappointed by the lack of any opposition in the Unity slate for the CSU executive elections. However, during an interview with half the Unity party slate, when I discovered that the VP University Affairs candidate had very little to say about the position she will undoubtedly fill in April, my disappointment was replaced with alarm.
It is not my intention to maliciously single out any one candidate, especially one as nice, pleasant and genuinely eager to hold office and serve students as Samantha Roberts. However, I find it unacceptable that someone who will be paid over $20,000 a year, and have access to a $750 expense account, doesn’t even have the most basic understanding of the issues and projects that would become part of her portfolio in just two weeks.
Here are excerpts of the interview conducted with Unity on March 13. The following questions were directed specifically to Roberts:
Q: How do you plan on expanding the tutoring centre to the arts and sciences?
“I think that is key, because there are lots of math courses involved and I mean those are easier to tutor – those are numbers and formulas. I think everyone should get that same chance to get tutored and get the ‘A’ they need. I just think that if everyone pulls together, we can get more courses offered for everyone. It’s not just for John Molson, or the engineering school.”
When I asked her how she intends to hire more tutors, presidential candidate Keyana Kashfi answered for Roberts, saying the CSU is partnered with GradeSavers, an existing resource of qualified tutors. Any changes to the CSU’s tutoring program will be made in conjunction with the company, to which Roberts added, “GradeSavers could be getting more tutors that could . . . teach more arts and sciences classes or those other classes, like psychology.” Nice save.
I can accept that as a quasi-promise, even if it’s one given out at election time by politicians. The tutoring centre’s expansion, as one of Unity’s main platform points, has been pushed time after time. But the VP University Affairs candidate can’t give me any specifics on how this will happen.
Q: Are there any plans to expand the CSU bursary program next year?
“I think that there should be. I think it’s very important because people need that to come in to study, and some people don’t have the means to do that and bursaries definitely help that a lot.”
There was silence. I almost stumbled over my next question. Was I expecting too much?
Q: Are there any plans to increase the amount allocated for the CSU bursaries?
Kashfi stepped in again, and said the money for CSU bursaries will be calculated once they determine the finances, specifically how they will allocate funds based on their availability and the priority of projects. She mentioned the possibility of doing internal fundraising.
How many more times would Roberts be saved by her team-mates?
VP Academic Shandell Jack, Robert’s predecessor, has up to now been our source on CSU bursaries. He said he has both revamped the information regarding the bursaries to improve readability, and modified eligibility to encompass extracurricular involvement and merit.
Q: Gender-neutral bathrooms are a distinct issue that Shandell has been looking into. Where do you intend to take it?
“Where do I intend to take it?”
Q: Last time I heard, he was canvassing the campuses to find out where they could possibly be installed.
This time, it was VP Clubs and Sustainability Priscila Gomes who answered the question. Yes! I see the connection.
“For me, the best way to bring this about in our school is to start off with the Hall building, places where there is more movement for students, and from there on, expand it to smaller buildings at Concordia,” said Gomes, a current CSU councillor, who said she was the most qualified to answer because she voted for the motion which mandated the CSU to look into the issue at the outset. Considering everyone on council voted for it as well, I thought it was a bit of a moot point.
In the 1,000 words or more we wrote about our interviews with Unity, my co-writer and I couldn’t use any of the quotes from Roberts. Not only did she not give us any specifics we could have used, she didn’t even take the easy way out by reciting what Jack is doing this year. That would have at least told me she was familiar with the ongoing issues. I spoke to Jack about this, and he told me he hasn’t had the time to meet with her at length to discuss her position for next year. I don’t consider it his fault, not when Roberts blanked out on everything in an interview a mere week away from her election.
It all comes down to a very simple question: do I believe that someone should learn everything from scratch after they get elected for one of the highest paying CSU jobs? I can empathize, because I also started from zero after I took my position at the paper. But, for working roughly the same 50-60 hour workweek, I don’t pick up a salary.

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