One ASFA candidate accused competitors of campaign ads that look like Turning Point USA content, in an otherwise smooth election campaign
This year’s Arts and Sciences Federation of Associations (ASFA) elections are underway. In an election year like no other, candidates have put the online campaigning environment to use.
Hope and Reliability is a slate that focuses on improving student mental health and improving transparency for students regarding financial endeavors. There are seven members running under these promises, and they are the only complete slate in this election.
Student Interested, not Self Interested is a slate focused on bringing attention back to students and organizations that are important to them. The three members on the slate are all currently a part of student government, and hope to bring new ideas to the table.
On March 17, Payton-Rose Mitchell, a mobilization coordinator candidate for the Student Interested, not Self Interested slate, tweeted that posters from a “slate I’m running against legit look like they could be ads for Turning Point USA (TPUSA),” a right-wing student group that is accused of propagating anti-immigration and homophobic views. Hope and Reliability and Student Interested, not Self Interested are the only slates running in the ASFA elections.
In an interview with The Concordian, Sean Smith, who is running for executive coordinator of the Hope and Reliability slate, said “We are not a right-wing group,” adding that members of his slate who are part of the LGBTQ community and who are children of immigrants were “sad and frustrated” by the comments.
Mitchell apologized for the comments in a public post. She also released a statement to The Concordian which said she “did not anticipate [the post] would cause any controversy,” because she had not identified ASFA, the Hope and Reliability Slate or Concordia in the tweet, and that her Twitter was a personal account, and not used for campaigning.
“TPUSA is infamous in meme-culture and because of this, I could not avoid recognizing the resemblance in their graphic … That being said, I should not have tweeted about it on my personal account … It was not my intention to link the opposing slate to the problematic views upheld by Turning Point USA,” reads the statement.
ASFA elections are open from March 23 to March 26 at 5:00 p.m.
HOPE AND RELIABILITY
Running for executive coordinator is Sean Smith, who decided to run this year after seeing several controversies and issues at the ASFA over the years, saying, “We need to restore the soul of ASFA.”
His platform includes increasing mental health services for students, including one-on-one sessions to help decrease the long waitlist, and helping marginalized students with special bursaries and scholarships.
To increase transparency, Smith plans on publishing ASFA’s budget, minutes, and motions. Also, he plans on better collaborating with member associations (MAs).
Nigel Jonathan Ochieng is running to be the next student life coordinator at ASFA, with the goal to establish a closer connection between the students and the association itself.
Ochieng, who is a Political Science major, plans to organize a variety of social events for Concordia students, including trivia and karaoke nights, as well as online game sessions. He believes this would be a great opportunity for students to socialize and develop their critical thinking skills.
“One thing I noticed amongst the student body is that no one actually knows what ASFA is,” said Ochieng.
As someone who has organized events for Model UN in high school, the candidate hopes to “bridge the gap between the students and their representatives,” with the help of his social activities.
Sadegh Sheikhnezhad is an Economics student, and is the current academic coordinator for ASFA. While he has achieved quite a bit in his last term, he hopes to continue in the role for another year.
Excited to be running with Hope and Reliability, Sheikhnezhad is passionate about the slate’s message. “Our promises as a slate: we want to improve the mental health services, reimagine the academic resources, and also enhance the transparency.”
He is adamant about his time not being over, and his work with ASFA not being over. He managed to help fill the positions for various ASFA committees that had been vacant for a while. “We never had the chance to actually have those individuals to sit on those committees, like the curriculum committee,” he said.
Saruul Bazarsuren is majoring in Political Science at Concordia and grew up in Mongolia. When she moved to Montreal two years ago, Concordia became her new home.
A part of the Hope and Reliability slate, Bazarsuren is running to become the next mobilization coordinator at the ASFA, and hopes to concentrate on students’ mental health if elected.
She said, “I’m sure almost everyone has been dealing with mental health issues because of all the isolation and rules and online classes. So I really wanted to make the voices of students heard and also focus on the mental health of students.”
She vows to give students better access to mental health services, create a safe space for students to communicate and support each other, and work as an advocate for students that are a part of ASFA.
Sabrina Morena is running for communications coordinator. She is in her second year in Human Relations. Her team is promising to bring back the integrity of the ASFA and increase student involvement.
She aims to, “be open and honest with the students, [be as] transparent as we can be, increase academic and mental health resources for students,” said Morena, explaining the goals of Hope and Reliability.
Morena has experience with increasing student engagement, as she worked with the Applied Human Sciences Student Association. There she learned the value of social media marketing, and how it impacts students.
Morena hopes her experience will help her have a positive impact on students as communications coordinator, ensuring that students are aware of things that are available to them, such as loans, bursaries, and scholarships.
“We pay for education, and they [students] should take advantage of everything that we have, whether it’s initiatives or workshops or events,” she said.
Noor Coll is a third-year Economics student, and is excited to be supporting the Hope and Reliability slate this coming year. Similarly to her peers, she is eager to improve mental health services for students among other ambitious goals. She said, “The most important [goal] is improving mental health for students.”
Running for internal coordinator, she believes she is uniquely qualified for the position. She said, “As somebody who’s lived in so many countries, I think that I’m really good at putting myself in other people’s shoes. And with that being said, I wanted to do something about the situation that we’re all in.”
She moved to the U.S from Iran, and came to Canada after high school. Coll says she is ready to face any challenge. “That’s why I feel confident about running for internal coordinator — because I moved here all on my own. I’m independent. I’m responsible. I’ve lived in so many places, and speak several languages. And I just feel like I’ve had so many experiences throughout my life that I feel like I’m up for any challenge, you know, and just helping out.”
Amine Ben Arous is running for the finance coordinator position at ASFA, aiming to develop a student grant program and to increase financial literacy among Concordia students.
“We’re going to do workshops on how to [fill out] your tax forms, how to create a budget for a trip, how to manage your personal finances,” said Ben Arous, an Actuarial Mathematics major.
Besides focusing on one’s personal budget, Ben Arous also plans to increase Concordia’s overall budget by seeking sponsors and partnerships with the appropriate companies and institutions.
Finally, Ben Arous is currently “looking into a structured student grant program to help marginalized students,” as he believes that more financial support should be provided to students experiencing economic hardship.
While mostly focusing on financial matters at ASFA, he also promises to fight for transparency within the association.
STUDENT INTERESTED, NOT SELF INTERESTED
A day before elections, Alexandre Boigontier joined the slate and is running for executive coordinator; this last minute change will not be reflected on the ballots. For his campaign, Boigontier said he wants students to have a say in the issues he will tackle throughout the year.
His first campaign promise is to begin weekly meetings with associations and students, where they would be able to tell ASFA what they feel it should do. One of issues brought up on a recent poll he made for students, was for ASFA to better provide support for racism and sexual violence on campus, which he plans on addressing with input from students.
He would like to support students with mental health issues and those who are struggling with isolation with more engaging online events. Overall, Boigontier plans to “Give the students a voice and to give them hope, and also to help them have a better student life.”
In several of his campaign posts, Boigontier targeted the Economic Student Society, which caused some confusion. However, he addressed this in a later Facebook post saying he does seek to represent “all students.”
Running for re-election as mobilization coordinator is Payton-Rose Mitchell, who is looking to better invest and provide training against anti-oppression at the ASFA.
According to Mitchell, ASFA has received two human rights complaints in the last five years, which resulted in the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) being mandated to develop oppression training for ASFA and MA executives.
“Over the past few years, AFSA has really lost the faith of a lot of students,” said Mitchell. She says a recent fee levy will fund a $10,000 project to pay five BIPOC students to consult on “building an ASFA specific anti-oppression training.”
Additionally, Mitchell would also hire a part-time, neutral third party to deal with allegations of harassment, discrimination, and violence against ASFA executives. She says the position would replace the current committee, which according to Mitchell is chaired by ASFA councillors and executives, and has produced a “massive conflict of interest.”
Sarah Bubenheimer is running to be the next internal coordinator of the ASFA, hoping to strengthen its bond with other MAs.
While studying Philosophy, Law and Society, and Liberal Arts, Bubenheimer wants to make sure that Concordia students have strong leadership roles at ASFA.
“I’m running for students who are not self-interested. We’re a slate of former ASFA staff and executives, we’re committed to making structural changes to make sure ASFA is student-led,” she explained.
Bubenheimer’s priority is to establish leadership training, specifically for students holding lead positions at the MAs. She hopes it will bring out more confidence and organization skills from students, thus helping them to have a larger say in student affairs.
Alexandre Wolski is running for finance coordinator. He is in his third year studying Honours Philosophy. Last year Wolski was elected as chairman executive coordinator at the Students of Philosophy Association.
Wolski is running on three main points, the first of which is to make dedicated student funds for projects. He stated he wants students to immediately think of getting funding from ASFA when they have a project.
The second is to streamline the reimbursement process for all ASFA-related expenditures. Wolski aims to change the current way project reimbursement works, creating a shorter waiting period for students.
His third point is creating stricter policy to stop the chance of embezzlement.
“If students are looking for reliability, they should go for people who have mainly been involved with ASFA, because we’re not just hoping that we can be good at our positions, we know that we will be able to make these changes happen,” said Wolski.
Andrew McLeod is running for finance coordinator and is a mature student who has been studying Statistics for a year and a half. McLeod is from Toronto and a former military member.
According to McLeod, his slate is titled Freedom to Finance, as he believes that Concordia students should not have to finance groups they may or may not agree with. McLeod’s goal as finance coordinator is to democratize finances, essentially letting students choose where their student fees go.
He clarified that students could not choose individual organizations, but choose packages to finance with their tuition fees.
The reason McLeod decided to run for finance coordinator was because he hated seeing his tuition fees going to groups and programs he didn’t agree with.
Jasmine Ramcharitar-Brown is running for academic coordinator. She is in the last year of her Bachelor of History, and she went to Vanier college for Special Care Counselling. Ramcharitar-Brown stated she had a rough childhood and wants to help students that are struggling.
Ramcharitar said the main reason she is running is because she wanted to be in a helping position, and she would like to offer better mental health and financial support for students.
She stated that she understands the difficulty students with jobs face, as it’s hard to focus on academics while also juggling employment responsibilities. She aims to create events or workshops that can help students improve their academics or find coping methods.
As it is her last year, Ramcharitar wants to make an impact before graduating, and her end goal is to support students.
Candidate for student life coordinator, Chelsea Fares, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Fares wrote in her candidacy, “I wish to continue exciting the lives of students through fun activities and entertaining events. Since we couldn’t do much last year, let’s double the excitement this time around!”
Logo courtesy of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA)