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In the run for the ASFA presidency

Candidate advocates for sustainability, LGBTQ+ representation and mental health resources

Following interim ASFA president Julia Sutera Sardo’s announcement that she will not be running for re-election, Concordia student Jonathan Roy has stepped into the spotlight.

As VP internal and councillor of the Concordia Classics Student Association (CCSA), VP of finance of NDP Concordia and member of the Concordia Senate, Roy is heavily involved in student politics at Concordia. On Monday, Nov. 13, he announced his candidacy for the ASFA presidency.

His posters, plastered on the university’s walls, feature his campaign slogan: “Empowered together.”

“You can’t just leave the decisions of an organization to a single individual. They need to be worked through by a collective,” Roy said. “I’m doing this because I want to support the rest of the executives. I want to support all of our associations. I want to support our students. This isn’t about me.”

This sentiment is echoed in his platform of empowering the member associations (MAs) and ASFA executives to fulfill their mandates. Roy has proposed moving away from the traditional, hierarchical order of the executive.

“Yes, I’m running for the presidency but, in my mind, the spirit of that office is that of a general coordinator,” Roy said.

Roy’s other campaign promises include making ASFA more sustainable, increasing LGBTQ+ representation in student governments and a complete collaboration with Concordia’s mental health services.

In terms of environmental sustainability, Roy plans to put a compost bin in every MA lounge, if elected, and plans to continue his work with Waste Not Want Not, Concordia’s composting campaign.

As a gay man, Roy said he is all too familiar with the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in politics—especially in Concordia’s student associations. He said he plans to take concrete steps toward solving this issue.

“I want to propose setting a specific spot on ASFA’s advocacy committee aside for a representative of Queer Concordia to be a voice on behalf of our community,” Roy said. ASFA’s sustainability committee already holds a designated spot for a representative from Sustainable Concordia, which has been an extremely positive experience, according to Roy.

As for working with Concordia’s mental health services, Roy said this collaboration is deeply important to him. After suffering from severe depression and attempting suicide five years ago, he said helping people through mental illness is especially important to him.

“I was at the lowest point in my life,” Roy said. “I’m always candid about my mental health issues because it’s important to talk about it. That’s how we end the stigma around it.”

Having used the services himself, Roy said he hopes to further relations with the Concordia chapter of jack.org—a national mental health network—and ensure Concordia’s psychological services are better advertised, if elected. Roy plans to push for more open dialogue about mental health within the university so students and their academics suffer less.

“People don’t deserve to feel the way that I’ve felt, and I want to try to help them,” Roy said.

ASFA presidential candidate Jad Abi Semaan. Photo courtesy of Jad Abi Semaan

While Roy said he feels confident in his ability to win the election, he is not running unopposed. Jad-Faraj Abi Semaan told The Concordian he is also in the running for the position. Semaan is a political science student at Concordia. He said that, if elected, he plans to strengthen the relationship between ASFA and the MAs by improving communication and establishing a plan of action which will allow MAs to reach their full potential.

“In a world polarized more than ever, […] we need platforms that bring people together,” Semaan said. “I will make it a personal priority to give an equal voice to students from all backgrounds, religious affiliations and ethnicities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, Muslim students and students with disabilities.” Semaan also said he wants to ensure the ASFA community is loving, accepting and respectful.

According to Roy, Semaan has had no previous involvement with ASFA, apart from acting as a polling clerk for the association last year. However, Semaan told The Concordian he would “be more than happy to have a constructive conversation with [Roy] at any point during this campaign and put to bed all his concerns about [his] legitimacy.”

Overall, Roy said his priority throughout the campaign and, if elected, his presidency, will be to empower the student body as a whole.

“The way I see governance, especially student governance, is not about catering to the needs of one person. It’s about coming together to work to help everyone,” Roy said. “That’s something that I’m a huge proponent of and something that would be reflected in the work I would do as president.”

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

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ASFA presents 2017-2018 budget

Council debates funding cap for independently financed MAs

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) introduced and debated its 2017-2018 budget at a special meeting on Thursday, June 29.

Francesco Valente, the interim vice-president of finance, projected a total income of $585,000 for the 2017-2018 academic year: $475,000 from ASFA’s fee levy, and $110,000 from other sources. After expenses, this will leave ASFA with a $395 surplus.

The most substantial difference in this year’s budget is the reduction of the Social Committee budget from $25,800 to $14,750. Last year, $8,000 was set aside for the ball ASFA hosts for graduating students. However, since the event wasn’t held in 2017, Valente chose not to dedicate funds to it.

According to Valente, “If the VP social wants to plan a grad ball this year, the funding will come from social initiatives, leftover from other social events or special project funding/external funding.”

The council also moved to redistribute $1,000 from the Social Committee pub nights budget, and another $1,500 from the External Committee budget, to the Advocacy Committee, bringing Advocacy’s total budget to $4,700. The Advocacy Committee is mainly responsible for organizing and financing conferences related to social justice issues, including issues of gender and race.

Chris Czich, the interim vice-president of social affairs, argued that a reduced budget would severely affect the success of ASFA’s pub nights. However, ASFA President Julia Sutera Sardo said the redistribution was justified since the Advocacy Committee received a smaller budget than last year — $2,200 compared to last year’s $4,200.

A further motion to free up $2,000 from the Social Initiatives budget to use for other initiatives failed.

Liberal arts councillor asks for more transparency

The council also debated a motion, introduced by Liberal Arts Councillor Robert Young, requiring all member associations (MA) with an independent fee levy to disclose all their financial statements dating back at least three years in order to gain funding from ASFA.

Under this motion, ASFA would distribute funding to its MAs based on their independent funding. The maximum funding a MA would be granted is enough to bring its total income to $20,000. Any MA receiving an independent income of more than $20,000 would not be eligible for ASFA funding.

According to Young, the purpose of the funding cap proposal is to free up money for smaller MAs that don’t have external sources of income by redirecting funds from wealthier MAs. He gave the example of the Political Science Students’ Association (PSSA), which introduced its own independent fee levy in the fall of 2016. According to PSSA President Farrah-Lilia Kerkadi, this fee levy alone brings in between $30,000 and $50,000 per semester.

The motion is also intended to encourage financial transparency from independently financed MAs. “The fact that we haven’t had terms of disclosure on finances since day one is 12 kinds of dodgy,” Young said.

An amendment was introduced by Sutera Sardo, which Young then moved to split into two parts:

  • Sponsorship money and revenue from events would not be considered income when evaluating how much funding a MA would receive from ASFA
  • To lower the funding cap from $20,000 to $18,000.

The first motion passed; the second was tabled until a later date, effectively tabling Young’s original motion.

Even if the motion passes, MAs would still be allowed to request special project funding, according to Sutera Sardo. In addition, MAs would still receive a budget for certain purposes, including elections and office phone bills, regardless of their independent income.

The first ASFA meeting of the upcoming academic year will take place on Sept. 21.

Archive graphic by Florence Y.

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Results for ASFA general elections announced

Elections were extended half a day due to not reaching quorum by 13 votes

The results for the Arts & Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) general elections have been released with a total of 459 votes. All of the candidates for the executive team ran unopposed and were successfully voted in. One of the four referendum questions on the ballot was not passed.

ASFA extends election period for half a day after not reaching quorum. Graphic by Florence Yee.

The voting period for ASFA general elections were extended by half a day due to the elections not reaching the  quorum—the 435 ballots cast necessary to legitimize the election—after students cast their votes between March 21 to 23 to elect a new ASFA executive team for 2017-2018 and vote upon four referendum questions.

Julia Sutera Sardo, currently ASFA vice-president of internal affairs was successfully elected president with 305 votes, 53 abstaining votes and 91 votes against.

Christopher Czich won the position of VP of Social Affairs, with 297 votes in favour; Bianca Bruzzese obtained the role as VP of External Affairs and Sustainability with 266 votes in favour; Gregory Bedell was elected VP of Loyola and Academic Affairs with 239 votes in favour. Also, Steven Tutino won VP of Internal Affairs with 265 votes in approval and Francesco Valente won with 295 votes in favour for the position of VP Finance.

The role of vp of Communications and Promotions has not been filled, as no one ran during general elections.

For the role of independent councillors, all four candidates running were elected; Andrea Gauthier, Rachel Hutchinson, Gaëlle Kouyoumdjian and Alisa Knezevic. There remains one open spot for a fifth independent councillor which remains unfilled.

Three of the four referendum questions in this election were passed. The proposal for ASFA’s fee levy to be raised by $0.12/credit—from $1.22/credit to $1.34/credit, put into effect in Fall semester 2017—was rejected by students: 207 voted no, while 166 voted in favour and 56 abstained.

However, the second referendum question was passed to allow quorum for Annual General Elections, By-Elections and any Referendum questions to be lowered from a requirement of 2.5 per cent of the students ASFA represents, being more than 20,000 students—this election’s quorum was set at 435 students—down to 400 students. This passed by 207 votes, with 137 votes opposed.

The third bylaw asked students to vote for changes to the ASFA bylaws to alter the students allowed on the organization’s financial committee. The changes, which were approved with 185 votes in favour, allows for a student at large—meaning a student who is neither an executive or councillor—to be part of the committee which approves budgets for events and ASFA’s member associations.

Finally, the referendum question for ASFA executive positions to be changed to non-hierarchical titles were passed by 252 votes, and 87 opposed.

ASFA’s chief electoral officer (CEO) Samuel Miriello announced the federation decided to extend the voting period, giving students the chance to vote from 9 a.m. to noon March 24 to reach quorum.

Just before 8 p.m. on March 23, ASFA vice-president of internal affairs Julia Sutera Sardo said ASFA’s election had met quorum. However, at 11 p.m., Miriello stated ASFA had not reached quorum. The mistake was due to a technical error with the election equipment.

According to Miriello, the issue was with the vote counting system. “People with double majors were counted twice by accident—we were off by 13 votes,” he said.

“If we knew that we were missing votes, we would’ve extended the polls anyway,” Miriello told The Concordian. “The technical error was exposed during ballot count.”

Despite extending the elections longer than three days and furthering balloting after votes had been counted, Miriello said lawyers working for ASFA told him doing so was legal.

 

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Meet the candidates for ASFA’s 2017 elections

Between March 21 and 23, students can vote for who should run ASFA

Although the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) elections are just around the corner, many students are still unaware of who this year’s candidates are, or how they plan to lead and improve Concordia’s largest faculty association. Luckily, The Concordian has got you covered. Here are the profiles of candidates running for the VP positions for the 2017-2018 year.

Students in the arts and science faculty can cast their vote between March 21 and 23.

 

Julia Sutera Sardo

Julia Sutera Sardo

Position: ASFA president

Program: Political science & community, public affairs and policy studies

Year: 3

Why is she running?

I wanted to run as president because we’ve made some great strides this year, but we’ve also encountered issues. I feel that ASFA needs to continue paving the way for itself by making additional and significant changes to its structure. I’ve experienced ASFA from the viewpoint of Member Associations, and from the viewpoint of an Executive—I’ve also experienced it as an electoral officer. Because of this and having worked alongside MAs all year, I understand how both sides see each other, how they interact, what they need, and how to support them. I’m resolute to bringing forth informed policy changes on the behalf of the rest of the ASFA team and with their input.

Why should you vote for her?

My experience includes serving as VP of internal affairs and administration, which encompasses being a voting member of the Policy Review and Finance Committees. Additionally, I have taken on chair of the Advocacy and Internal Committees. I have been a CSU Councillor, a Member Association CEO and an ASFA DEO. My plans for the upcoming year include 1) A by-law reform that would make the ASFA by-laws more strong-form and to really ensure that they serve their rightful purpose. 2) Creating an appointments policy to facilitate the appointments process within the federation. 3) Assuring that menstrual hygiene products are available for free on campus for students. 4) Supporting the creation of a family policy at the faculty level, and 5) Filling the position of advocacy coordinator.

 

Francesco Valente

Francesco Valente

Position: Vice-president of finance

Program: English literature

Year: 3

Why is he running?

It’s because of joining school politics that I consider this to be hands down my favourite year of university. The 2017-2018 year will, hopefully and sadly, be my last year at Concordia, and I think being a part of ASFA’s executive team will be the most rewarding way to go out.

Why should you vote for him?

Obviously a literature student is not who you would typically expect to be running for ASFA’s VP of finance, but I hope to prove the stereotype wrong. This year, I had the privilege to be the VP of finance for CASE (Concordia’s Association for Students in English) as well as their councillor, where I sat on ASFA’s Finance Committee. I hope the student body will put their faith in me to fulfill the needs of this position.

 

Chris Czich

Chris Czich

Position: Vice-president of social affairs

Program: Communications

Year: 2

Why is he running?

I chose the position because it’s a domain I am quite familiar with, and I love the idea of bringing people together to have a good time—it’s what I’m all about. When I can make others happy, I am happy too.

Why should you vote for him?

Concordia students should vote for me because their satisfaction is my number one priority, and I feel my previous experience will help us create ASFA events that will give students a way to unwind from the stresses of university and an opportunity to meet new friends. As VP of the Communications Studies Student Association, I enjoy the group dynamic and working alongside people who are just as excited about making our events successful as I am. Overall, I want to make ASFA better than when I arrived.

 

Steven Tutino

Steven Tutino

Position: Vice-president of internal affairs

Program: English literature & theological studies

Year: 4

Why is he running?

I chose to run because I have the best interest of the faculty and university at heart. I built my way up by volunteering for groups on campus, such as CUPS, the Co-op Bookstore, the Student Success Centre and the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy. I also volunteered for the JMSB CASE Competition and the Alternative Spring Break Program. I always want to accomplish new things and this, by far, is arguably the biggest thing I am embarking on, ever, at least in my academic and professional life.

Why should you vote for him?

I’m extremely involved in all my accomplishments here at the university, both personally and academically. My involvement with Concordia has been extremely rewarding, and I want to strengthen bonds between member associations and make sure their voices are heard. I believe that working with MAs will help ensure a better, quality experience for each respective department’s students.

The answers have been edited for length and clarity. The Concordian reached out to Bianca Bruzzee, but she did not provide answers before the deadline.

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