The annual student council election arrived on Tuesday as IGNITE, formerly known as Humber Students’ Federation, hosted an all-candidates forum at the North campus.
Despite IGNITE’s $400,000 rebranding exercise in the last year to draw more attention to the work of student government, only about 20 people showed up for the discussion while another 16 tuned in to Facebook to watch the forum online.
Competing in this year’s election were all candidates for IGNITE office except the Vice-Presidential candidates for Lakeshore campus. Forum participants included the four presidential candidates: Maja Jocson, Ryan Watt, D’Andra Montaque and Lance Constantine; five North campus Vice-Presidential candidates: Asha Shiddo, Chris Karas, Lovepreet Kahlon, Roxanne Smith and Stokely Lindo; and eight nominees for Board of Directors: Graeme Hardie, Henry Gonzalez, Matthew Hodge, Navdeep Singh, Nish Patel, Osman Beyle, Samuel Mitchell and Sara McCormick.
The candidates sat centre stage in the cafeteria sharing their platforms and what they would focus on if elected.
Popular topics of coverage were mental health and wellness, providing better food on campus, and raising awareness about IGNITE services to the student population. The forum consisted of a question panel formed by Ahmed Tahir, current IGNITE President, and Anna Bilan, Vice President of Student Affairs Lakeshore. Each asked a candidate what they would do if they were selected and how they would handle specific situations.
As in previous years, IGNITE was not shy of having tensions arise, specifically during the rebuttal period for the presidential candidates when Maja Jocson and Lance Constantine went head-to-head.
When Constantine was questioned by a member of the audience on what he had done for North campus other than setting up an event with the Black Students Association for Black History Month, he said he had held a focus group for international students recently and that his ideas were made for the best interest of all students.
“I think number one, I held a focus group for international students recently. I’ll give you this as well, when you are elected as VP, some of the conversations that we have is when you begin to plan, you have all the students in mind and that includes Lakeshore, Orangeville, Guelph-Humber, so in the thought process behind this, or focus, is all students,” said Constantine.
Jocson rebutted Constantine’s statement, saying a Vice President should primarily be honing their skills and establishing themselves within their home campus.
“What Lance is saying is although that is true, you have to keep everyone in mind. That’s why even though I’m the Guelph-Humber VP, I have helped Humber and Lakeshore students but you have to focus on the campus you were elected for,” said Jocson.
“If you’re not able to say that who you’re representing, your home campus, I don’t know then. It seems that you have to strengthen your campus first before you reach out to other campuses. That’s why it’s important to have those teammates of those campuses,” said Jocson.
Constantine responded by clarifying that he is currently advocating for a learning space for marginalized communities on North campus, similar to what he had established this past year at Lakeshore campus.
“This is why I’m perfect for president because I’m not only able to impact the students, but I’m able to currently in my role, affect people at the Lakeshore and I think it speaks for itself. So what I’m currently doing, just to answer, I’m advocating for the space I have at the Lakeshore to North,” said Constantine.
The first head to head with Constantine and Jocson ended with Jocson saying students should vote for someone who will make things happen rather than just constantly advocating for them.
“There’s a difference with advocating and implementing. So if you have to vote for someone who’s able to actually do something and not just say ‘I’m going to do this,’ ‘I’m going to advocate’ because while avocation is really good, you need to see the results. How are you going to be able to defend someone who can’t show what they’re advocating for?” asked Jocson.
But that wasn’t the end of that as things got more heated when the current Vice President of Student Affairs, North campus, Ammar Abdul-Raheem joined in on the question period that was open to the audience at the end of each panel.
“I can say that seeing someone like Maja, I’ve seen how many changes she’s done more than what she’s being paid. Lance, to be honest, you haven’t done enough for students,” said Abdul-Raheem, who then went on to ask all four candidates what makes them better than the others. This triggered a second rebuttal battle to occur between Jocson and Constantine.
Jocson described herself as simple person who strongly believes in getting things done rather than talking about making things happen.
“Actions speak louder than words. If you want to do something, do it, just do it and the rest, people will talk for you. People will support you if they see you’re doing something good for other people.”
Constantine retorted, “going back to actions speaking louder than words itself. You as a student can physically go to Lakeshore in room A168 and see what I have advocated to get for Humber students.”
Constantine went on to say that no candidate right now, whether elected or running, has achieved what he has at Lakeshore campus through his term as Vice President.
Jocson flared her red card immediately stating that she may not have done anything at Lakeshore as for having a physical space there but she’s put in work that can benefit all students.
“We have put forward at Guelph Humber a student leader hub that’s available for every student, not just if you’re related to IGNITE. If you’re a society, club, a Humber student who wants to be involved, you can come in and this is for everyone. And it’s a physical space, if we’re talking about physical spaces, you can go to Guelph-Humber, it’s in front of the Guelph-Humber café,” said Jocson.
ADDRESSING LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
Jocson and Constantine weren’t the only ones butting heads as Vice President nominee, Chris Karas had quite a tilt with current President Ahmed Tahir.
Karas, who is focusing the majority of his platform on the LGBTQ+ community, mentioned that trans people are not getting their hormones replacement treatments fully covered under the insurance plans that IGNITE currently has available. When Tahir heard this, he questioned whether Karas is willing to commit to having premiums go up to cover full coverage for such needs. This prompted Karas to charge IGNITE with a lack of transparency in its financial management.
“IGNITE actually has a $10 million budget, and IGNITE has done a very poor job of actually being transparent where our money goes and I think that it’s very important for us to have that information so we can do more to support our students and I hope that we will do that.”
Similarly, during question period, audience member Amelia Savoie, a second-year Business student at Guelph-Humber, stated birth control does not have full coverage and that affects at least half of Humber’s population. She questioned Karas how his inclusive health plan would benefit other communities such as international, mature and Aboriginal students.
“So, actually LGBTTIQQ2SA+ students are students with an intersexuality of identity and experiences so when I talk about LGBT folks, I’m talking about all students because I think that’s what’s really important is what we support students here at Humber and reproductive health is actually one of the things I want to advocate for and want to pay in full,” said Karas.
This prompted Tahir to ask Karas again whether he is willing to commit to raising premium costs. In response, Karas repeated the budget is not transparent to students and questioned why it was not on the website, to which Tahir said it was.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM QUESTION PERIOD
As the question period was coming to a close and tensions were dying down, Savoie was at the mic again, this time to ask presidential candidate, D’Andra Montaque why Humber does not have a shuttle bus service for students from North to Lakeshore campus.
“Coming from someone who currently works at Lakeshore and used to be a Lakeshore student, I 100 per cent understand the struggle of being a Lakeshore student and how we are excluded out of a lot of things. For example, the Real Talks event is happening at North. I haven’t seen an event like this at Lakeshore and there’s not even any sort of shuttle bus that brings students from Lakeshore to North. Would you implement something like that?” Savoie asked.
Montaque responded, “Thank you for bringing that up, that’s something I definitely want to see if it’s possible. I know that every school has a shuttle bus except for Humber,” said Montaque.
“I know that the reason, from what I’ve heard why something like that hasn’t happened yet is because they were fighting with the TTC to have an express Lakeshore bus. That is great but it’s still hard for students to get in between school to school. I don’t know why it’s so hard to make this happen and I think it’s something I’m definitely going to make happen. There are a lot of things that need to be done and that’s something of importance.”
As the campaigning process is coming to an end, candidates are gearing up for voting week, starting Monday and running until March 17, when polls close and the winners will be announced.