With elections for the new University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union executive coming up, the four uncontested candidates tried to answer the most pressing questions that students had for them during two recent campus forums.
The first forum took place in the Engineering Building on March 13, and the second took place the next day in Louis’ Pub. Both forums gave students the opportunity to ask the USSU candidates questions on the issues that matter to them. Some of the topics that were discussed include transportation, sustainability, Indigenization, government funding for students and the lack of candidates this year.
Jessica Quan, outgoing vice-president academic affairs, brought up the issue of sexual assault on campus and in residence and asked each candidate what they will do to prevent rape culture and reduce the incidence of sexual assault at the university. Presidential candidate Coden Nikbakht, a fourth-year international studies student, said that he believes that the problem can be solved on an individual level.
“When something comes up — like a joke, maybe — geared towards a sexual matter, I stand up against it. I stand up for what I believe is right, and I think that all of us, as students here, can do that,” Nikbakht said. “We need to be bold, we can’t be shy, we need to show our true character and show we believe that this is wrong and really be leaders.”
Vice-president operations and finance candidate Brent Kobes, a fourth-year political studies student, emphasized the importance of listening to students about issues such as sexual assault on campus.
“Unfortunately, sometimes, with this situation, you just need to listen and then move forward having learned the honest opinions and the honest truth about the situation, and I think [that] something I will bring to this position is an open ear to what needs to be done,” Kobes said.
Vice-president academic affairs candidate Sheldon Moellenbeck, a fifth-year psychology student, expressed similar sentiments as Kobes, saying that it is important to listen to the voices of the female students who are proposing solutions to the problem.
Only vice-president student affairs candidate Rose Wu, a fourth-year psychology student, proposed any concrete steps to take action towards reducing sexual violence on campus.
“I have talked to Peer Health employees about this, and I do want to advocate for more self-defence workshops and bringing in the bystander workshop,” Wu said. “I think, when more students are participating in those workshops, it can be the next small step to hopefully, one day, decrease the problem.”
Beyond sexual violence, the question of gender representation was also brought up during the forums, although none of the candidates could provide concrete steps to address the issue.
At both forums, Crystal Lau, the outgoing vice-president student affairs, brought up the issue of parking, which has been a central part of Nikbakht’s campaign. In his introduction, Nikbakht spoke about reinvesting revenue from parking tickets back into parking infrastructure.
“They are taking a lot of money from us on parking tickets. That’s on the back of our almost 20,000 students,” Nikbakht said. “Where is that money going? That’s my question… We need to get that money, and we need to reinvest it back into our students.”
As Lau pointed out, revenue from parking tickets currently goes to Culinary Services in residence, and Parking Services donated $7,500 to the USSU in December 2017, which was allocated to the Food Centre to combat student food insecurity. In response, Nikbakht stated that he does not believe that parking issues have been adequately addressed.
“As far as I’m concerned, … [the parking issue] hasn’t been resolved and the actions taken aren’t efficient,” Nikbakht said. “I would like to reform this in a way where the money comes directly to the USSU on a consistent basis, on an agreement with us and the university, so that a specific portion of [the profits] generated from those parking tickets comes directly to us and we can invest it back into our students.”
Lyndsay Afseth / Staff Writer
Photos: David Hartman