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Working hard or hardly working with the USSU? Catching up with the executive halfway through their term

By in News


It’s half way through the school year and the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union executive is transitioning into the second half of their term as the voices for the undergraduate population — making it the perfect time to check in and find out what they have been doing, what accomplishments they have made and what has become of their campaign promises.

Max FineDay

MaxMax FineDay is now serving his second year as president of the USSU. In an email to the Sheaf, he said part of the reason he ran for a second term was to oppose TransformUS, the highly controversial cut-back program that former university president Ilene Busch-Vishniac instituted. FineDay also ran on a platform of pushing the university to create more childcare spaces, creating an open-textbook policy for students and lobbying to keep tuition rates low.

FineDay wrote that seeing TransformUS halted, and senior leadership held to account, was a major accomplishment during his second term as USSU president. He also said that he was proud of convincing the university to build a new daycare, though there remains work to be done. FineDay wrote that the USSU has achieved some success toward open textbooks by lobbying the province and the university, and cited Professor Eric Michaels as an example of the program’s adoption in his AG 113: Agrifood Issues and Institutions course.

A less well-known plank of FineDay’s platform this year was the implementation of tuition waivers for youth exiting foster care.

“Making our university more accessible for marginalized communities should be a priority for every university in Canada,” FineDay said.


Jack Saddleback

Jack--Serving as vice-president student affairs, Jack Saddleback said that he will continue to make mental health initiatives a priority and try to create a mental health strategy for the university. Saddleback also said he is working with the USSU Women’s Centre and university administration to create a sexual assault policy.

Saddleback counted the creation of campus childcare spaces, the USSU Indigenous Student Affairs committee and the USSU International Student Affairs committee as big accomplishments in term one of the school year. Regarding the two new committees, Saddleback wrote that having dedicated voices for these groups within the USSU will help address their unique needs as undergraduate students. After a successful Mental Health Awareness week in November, Saddleback also wrote that he saw positive change created on campus.

“Some ways that I am seeing this change take place is within one on one conversations with students and on our Facebook pages,” Saddleback wrote. “People are feeling it is important for all of us to be aware of our mental health and to reach out to those in need.”


Elias Nelson

Elias-Coming into the second half of his term as vice-president finance and operations, Elias Nelson’s top priority is budgeting for the 2015–16 academic year. As per his platform, Nelson wrote that he is working to include written and visual supplements in the budget to make the numbers more meaningful to the general student population. Nelson listed his other two top priorities as revising the campus club’s guide as well as reviewing and revising the campus group insurance policy, which he wrote was already underway.

Nelson wrote that he would also like to address the fact that U-Pass expires before end-of-term for many professional college students, but acknowledged that time constraints and other limitations may mean this won’t be accomplished by the end of term two.

When asked about his main accomplishments, Nelson wrote that they lay in the work he has done for student groups.

“I have made it a personal policy to work with campus groups to ensure their chances of success when they apply for funding,” he wrote. By creating a “tabling package” that campus groups can book and creating efficiencies in ratification of campus groups by automating procedural steps, Nelson says he has made his job more efficient and effective.


Desirée Steele

DesireeWriting about the end of TransformUS, vice-president academic Desirée Steele acknowledged that program prioritization is still a reality at the university — though in a less “draconian” manner. Steele wrote that she has spent much of her first term stressing the need for student engagement with regards to any further academic changes, especially those involving tuition.

“I welcome students to tell me about their experience with this consultation, or lack thereof,” Steele wrote. “This will help inform the USSU’s upcoming report on how tuition conversations went this year and how they can be improved for next.”

With regards to her campaign promise of increasing experiential learning for students of all disciplines, Steele wrote that she was confident the university would meet its goal of increasing these opportunities by 20 per cent. Steele also wrote that she plans to make the university better at promoting existing co-ops, internships, clinical placements, research opportunities and study-abroad programs to students and increase the types of experiential learning available in colleges which currently lack them.

  • Shiney Choudhary

    The tuition fee has risen by 4.9% for fall 2015.
    I think its kind of silly that the tuition fee rises every year, even if they tell us 7 months in advance it doesnt help.
    The university should ideally have a five-year plan so that those who start university dont end up paying such a huge glob of tuition by the time they graduate.
    It certainly helps with financial planning to know how much you are going to be paying throughout your years in university rather than having to adjust every year.
    Nobody wants to drown in debt.
    Education shouldn’t be made into a business. In all honesty, it seems like it has been.

  • Harlock

    I agree that the USSU has achieved some success this year.
    Some of these, though, seem like adopted achievements. The Sheaf needs to be
    careful when ‘reporting’ on campaign promises which weren’t actually, /openly/
    campaigned for. Instead, maybe the Sheaf could combine an investigation of the actual
    campaigns against what had been mentioned in this ‘article’ with opinions from
    students of varying backgrounds and circumstances. Didn’t the Sheaf also lambaste
    ALL candidates for not having solid campaigns? Why so tolerant now, Sheaf? I’m
    also pretty sure at least one of the candidates actually mentioned TransformUS
    as part of their platform – one that wasn’t mentioned in this opinion piece, by
    the way. Why is this?

    Highlighting TransformUS’s demise as a USSU achievement,
    though, diminishes the focus on the many faculty, staff and students who worked
    very hard to deeply /and publicly/ question and, ultimately, aid in the end of
    TransformUS. Yes, we read about how the USSU passed a vote of no confidence on
    TransformUS, but not about any further USSU-driven outcome. It was other students
    (and non-students) who came together to successfully plan and carry out the
    DefendUS rally. I only noticed the USSU there at the end, after the rally was a
    success, and in view of the cameras.

    Now, the issue of tuition – with this increase I fear that
    the strongest action we would see from the USSU is another toothless vote of no
    confidence. If the USSU will not speak out for students except until it is
    popular (and thus not so politically damaging) to do so, then who will? We will
    have to speak out for ourselves. If the increase in tuition had not been
    announced, I wonder if the USSU would have claimed it as part of their
    campaign, too?

    Tuition plans, as someone else commented, should be for
    everyone. This was in another, unsuccessful, candidate’s platform, yet that
    isn’t mentioned. No opposing campaigns of the reigning USSU executive are
    mentioned as a point of measure, in fact. Even without this being about this
    ‘article’ – tuition hikes are something that must be stopped! The University
    said that TransformUS would not cost students, yet it seems we have more proof
    that this isn’t true, and more evidence of the USSU only speaking out when it
    is clear which stance is popular.

    The Sheaf needs to be practical on reporting ‘news’ like
    this so as not to be seen as bootlickers reporting only what the USSU wants to
    have reported. All students pay for the Sheaf; it should serve the purpose of
    the students at large, not just push the propaganda of the ‘largest’ of
    students, or highlight itself as a tool to be used best by those who have
    friends in the ‘right’ places.
    *Sorry for the essay…This really strike a chord with me.

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