Newly elected students explain their roles, their goals and their upcoming challenges
During last week’s Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) by-elections, which named Jonathan Roy the federation’s new president, each of the five independent councillor candidates secured enough “yes” votes to earn a seat on the ASFA council.
What is the point of having independent candidates on council? What makes someone want to run as an independent, rather than as a candidate from a Member Association (MA)? What are the unique challenges and advantages associated with being an independent? The Concordian sat down with three of ASFA’s new independent councillors—two newcomers and one veteran—to ask them these questions. Each one of them felt the advantages of running as an independent outweighed the disadvantages.
“As an independent [councillor], you have more of a free will in government, because you’re not really accountable to anybody but yourself and to the people who elected you,” said Patrick Quinn, a second-year political science student and VP external for NDP Concordia.
According to Quinn, independent councillors play an important role in holding the council accountable. “You’re there to watch the meeting and make sure that what the executive and what the council is doing is correct, is following the bylaws, is the direction that everyone wants to go in,” he said.
Independent councillors can sit on the council and vote on motions, but they cannot be part of the executive team. However, as returning independent councillor Andrea Gauthier said, this does not mean independents cannot be active in student government. “[I’m] on the internal committee, the finance committee, the academic committee [and] archiving committee,” she said.
First-year political science student Fatima Janna El Gahami said running as an independent can also help avoid competition. “I knew the chances for me to be elected as an independent would be stronger,” she said. “It’s very competitive, and everyone wants a position in the [Political Science Students’ Association].”
Despite lacking an MA, none of the candidates felt that connecting with the student body had been or would be an issue. “I think [one of] the joys of being a part of ASFA is that I get to become friends with a lot of people from a lot of different programs,” Gauthier said. “I attend a lot of different events from a lot of different MAs.”
“I’m a people’s person,” El Gahami said. “I like to talk to people. I’m very social. I like meeting new people.”
As for the goals they have for their mandate, each councillor was more concerned with how they planned to conduct themselves on council rather than with specific policies. Quinn said his goals are transparency, accessibility, accountability and strong relationships with the student body. For El Gahami, her aim is “to be as transparent as I can, and also to represent the students at Concordia.”
Independent councillor Gaëlle Kouyoumdjian was not available for comment in time for publication. Independent councillor Alisa Knezevic did not respond to a request for comment.