The results are in: the University of Saskatchewan’s undergraduate body has chosen its students’ union executive members for the 2015–16 academic year.
Jack Saddleback, Ata Merat, Kehan Fu and Gabe Senecal were announced on March 26 in Upper Place Riel as the U of S Students’ Union’s incoming executive. From seven possible candidates, the four students were chosen to lead the USSU in the roles of president, vice-president operations and finance, vice-president student affairs and vice-president academic affairs, respectively.
A total of 4,368 ballots were cast in the election. Out of 18,668 eligible voters, that’s a voter turnout of approximately 23 per cent. Last year’s turnout was 19 per cent.
With 2,302 votes, Saddleback will return to the USSU executive after serving a term as vice-president student affairs during the 2014–15 year. His opponent, Noah Kelleher, received 1,654 votes with 874 abstentions.
Saddleback said he is ecstatic to begin working with the new executive.
“Every year at the U of S I get to see such bright and passionate people striving to create progress in their fields and I am delighted to work with everyone,” said Saddleback. “By working with the general manager, Caroline Cottrell, I’m confident that we can prep for an amazing year.”
Saddleback ran on a four-point platform, which included the creation of a mental health strategy and sexual assault policy as well as increasing student and community engagement. He said his first order of business will be to oversee the transition of the new USSU executive into their roles.
“As a former exec, I see that the transition for new execs needs a well-rounded approach,” Saddleback said.
Previous to his political career, Saddleback spent two years as the USSU Pride Centre co-ordinator and looks forward to continuing to represent students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Saddleback is a member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Youth Council and one of five faces for this year’s Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health national anti-stigma campaign.
“I am grateful that students see the skills, experience and passion that I have for our university,” said Saddleback. “I am thankful for our campus community’s support and am absolutely excited to work for the betterment of our university as a whole.”
Feeling that a lot more could be done to help students, promote safety and use creative initiatives to improve campus life, Saddleback said he decided to run for a second term.
Saddleback is the first transgendered USSU president. Additionally, this is the fourth consecutive year a First Nations president has been elected.
Current USSU president Max FineDay will be graduating at the end of the semester.
Running unopposed, Merat received a 60.7 per cent vote of confidence, 2,932 votes, and was acclaimed to the position of vice-president operations and finance. There were 1,497 opposing votes and 401 students who abstained.
Having previously been the university’s SafeWalk co-ordinator, Merat aims to use this experience to develop a mobile phone application to connect students to U of S Protective Services. He also supports the installation of a Bitcoin ATM on campus.
With the USSU passing a historic balanced budget for 2015–16, Merat wants to ensure the continued financial success of the union. He sees maintaining relationships with student organizations and clubs as vital.
“I will look for new ways to support innovation and entrepreneurship among student groups,” said Merat.
In his new position as vice-president student affairs, Fu said his experience within the Arts and Science Students’ Union, his passion for campus life and his boldness are key characteristics that will make him a strong member of the USSU executive.
Having spent the last three years involved with the ASSU — acting as president for the 2014–15 academic year — Fu aims to use this experience as he strives for increased engagement between student groups and the USSU.
“I want to meet all the student and campus groups, centres, organizations and project co-ordinators [and] sit down and discuss what their vision for next year is,” said Fu. “From there, we can begin laying the groundwork for building Welcome Week.”
He believes that increased and open communication between the USSU executive and the undergraduate body will encourage students to take a greater interest in what the union can do for them and why it is important to the campus community.
Fu secured the title of vice-president with a total of 2,244 votes, or 46.5 per cent of the ballot, narrowly beating out competitor Wendy Li who came in a close second with 1,875 student votes. There were 711 abstentions.
The position of vice-president student affairs was comfortably won by Senecal with a total of 2,544 votes, more than doubling Felipe del Campo’s 1,255. Garnering the most abstentions of any position, vice-president student affairs had 1,031.
Senecal has represented students as a member of the University Students’ Council for the College of Arts and Science and looks forward to putting this experience and knowledge into practice. He said his first order of business as vice-president will be “to meet with university administration and other pertinent stakeholders to discuss mutually beneficial interests.”
Senecal campaigned on a platform of creating a student bill of rights, implementing tuition forecasting and creating a winter Welcome Week and other community-building activities.
The election results for University Senate and USC were also released on March 26. The incoming University Senate members are Kristen Daniels, Monica Iron, Mark Tan, Jordan Robertson, Jon Sieffert and Senecal.
Photo: Jeff Glasel