U of S undergraduates have spoken: Presenting the 2016-17 USSU executive

By in Features/News

On March 23-24, University of Saskatchewan undergraduates exercised their right to vote with ease for the 2016-17 USSU executive via the online voting channel on students’ PAWS accounts. However, despite the accessibility of the democratic process, which includes an option to abstain from voting for any particular candidate, voter turnout remained rather underwhelming.

A total of 3,944 ballots were cast in the election. Out of 16,449 eligible voters, that is a voter turnout of nearly 24 per cent, surpassing last year’s percentage by mere tenths of a decimal.

Nearly an hour after the polls closed on March 24, Kehan Fu, Emmanauel Barker, Brooke Malinoski and Renata Huyghebaert were announced in Upper Place Riel as the incoming USSU executive. From nine possible candidates, the four students were chosen to lead the USSU in the roles of president, vice-president operations and finance, vice-president academic affairs and vice-president student affairs, respectively.

Incoming president Fu, the sole returning executive, secured 2,092 votes opposed to Jamie Labrecque, who received 1,459 votes with 393 abstentions. Fu ran an inclusive campaign that involved numerous students, media platforms and interactive initiatives.

“I would never change or do anything differently, even the parts that perhaps were regrettable. I’m extremely proud of the election we ran. I am extremely happy for it. There are obviously mistakes and things that you wish you could have done. But it’s a dangerous mentality to give into, when you start doubting what you could have done after winning,” Fu said.

Barker secured the role of vice-president operations and finance with 1,447 votes, a 10 per cent lead on opponent Jordan Robertson who brought in 1,019 votes. The third candidate, Maha Jama trailed Barker and Robertson, securing only 592 votes with 886 abstentions.

Barker is looking forward to the year ahead and is making on-the-job training his top priority.

“The most important thing for me is to make sure I know how to do my job right. I don’t want to have gone through this whole immense process and convince that many people at school that they should support me without actually taking the job seriously,” Barker said.

Malinoski, incoming vice-president academic affairs, managed to gain the majority of voter confidence, securing nearly 50 per cent of the votes at 1,936 ballots, compared to opponents Geneva Houlden with 892 votes and Ahmed Abueidda with 587 votes and 529 abstentions.

Malinoski ran a five-point campaign that includes plans to promote open education, transfer credit processes and pre-released syllabi.

“My first priority is to become familiarized with the position as quickly as possible so I know how to deal with academic grievances and student grievances as efficiently as possible. Other than that, I will be focused on getting my platform points through. I really do want to see the syllabus made available to students in advance, so that is something I am planning on focusing on first,” Malinoski said.

While the vice-president student affairs position only had one candidate, Huyghebaert secured the majority vote with 2,224 ballots — over 56 per cent of voters — saying yes to her campaign and 570 voters saying no, with 1,150 abstentions.

Huyghebaert credits her success in the election to a group effort but recommends that future elections be held two weeks earlier to cut down on the stress many students are already facing at this time of year.

“I had amazing support from my team, so that really helped with the stress and the preparation. Of course it’s very busy and you’re balancing school and work at the same time, so no matter what, it’s going to be a stressful situation,” she said.

As the 2015-16 academic year winds down, Fu looks forward to working with the new team of executives and acknowledges the challenge ahead in living up to the legacy that current president, Jack Saddleback, leaves behind.

“For me, my goal in coming into this position, is that we take that as a standard and a precedent that at the end of next year, we’ve made the USSU better. It’s not about outdoing the person behind you, but it’s important in an organization that it keeps striving to do better than it did before. So, extremely big shoes to fill but it would be remiss of me to say that I do not hold myself up to that standard.”


Kehan Fu

Incoming President

One word to describe the U of S:

“Alumni. I see that as more of what I want the U of S to be than what I think it already is, I think there is a deficiency there. For me, the idea of alumni is a lot more holistic than simply an individual who has graduated, or an individual who you call up 25 years down the road for a donation of a couple thousand dollars. The idea of alumni is that you have entered into a community at the U of S campus that creates a defining part of your identity. It’s the holistic student experience.”

Most memorable moment:

“Being on stage for fall orientation this year and seeing all the students looking back at us and remembering when I was in that exact position a couple years ago.”

Message to students:

“Next year is going to pass by before we even know it, so the entirety of what we want to do in the USSU is to make sure that everything, whether it’s the political end, whether it’s efficacy, whether it’s events, that it is centred around the student experience. Regardless what happens inside our office, with us and administration and other stakeholders, that we can always relate it back to students. It’s about creating a culture of engagement and involving students in all processes of the USSU.”

Fun Fact:

“My dad used to work with pandas. I’ve actually played with a panda.”

Emmanauel BarkerIMG_8681

Incoming Vice-President Operations and Finance

One word to describe the U of S:

“Potential. I think that the university is so different. Each experience that each student has with each department they go into can be so incredibly contrasted from one to the other. There is a huge potential for each student to make their mark, to have the university make a mark on them and going forward, have that influence who they are as people and likewise, their effect on the world.”

Most memorable moment:

“I took the international students to the rodeo twice with a group I started a couple of years ago with some of my friends called The Association for Exchange and International Students, but the first time it was so amazing because everybody’s eyes looked like dinner plates and no one had ever experienced that before. There were like 30 people who came with us to the rodeo in Martensville [Sask.] and it was pretty fun.”

Message to students:

“Take advantage of what the USSU has to offer. Do not be afraid to come to this year’s executive. Get involved with things — go out and join a team, do what you can to become involved with student groups, try and become an elected representative, because those are the things that change your life in a way that not every university degree can. If you become involved, it is quite an amazing experience.”

Fun Fact:

“I have eight siblings.”


Brooke Malinoski

Incoming Vice-President Academic Affairs

One word to describe the U of S:

“Home. It may sound cliché but being a student who is not from Saskatoon ­— I moved here from Melville [Sask.] — so nearly my entire sense of community and belonging here has really revolved around the university. This is where I have met a lot of my friends and figured out who I was. It really is a huge part of my identity.”

Most memorable moment:

“In my second year of political studies, I had a paper due the next morning and me and three of my friends stayed in one of the rooms on campus with a whole thing of Red Bull and copious amounts of snacks — just stuff that was so bad for us, and that was my first all nighter that I pulled on campus with a group friends. I think it just sums up the whole university experience in general: stressed with school work, pulling an all-nighter and making it work and having friends to support you through it all.”

Message to students:

“Students should and can come talk to me. I worry that students feel detached from their USSU and their representatives. I am here to represent students’ voices and their needs and I hope they know they can come by my office, swing by anytime, send me a message. If you have questions, we can go for coffee. I am your representative.”

Fun Fact:

“I was a candidate for the Liberal party in the Yorkton-Melville riding for the recent federal election and after the election, I got to talk to Justin Trudeau on the phone, which was pretty cool.”


Renata Huyghebaert

One word to describe the U of S:

“Vibrant. It reflects the diversity and the energy that is on campus and the uniqueness of each student and the energy they bring.”

Most memorable moment:

“The first time that the International Women’s Movement had their visible majority project displayed. That is a group I cofounded with Priscilla Silva and when it was received so successfully, I realize in hindsight it was a brand new project and it wasn’t the best that it could have been but it was received so well. It made it to the front page of the StarPhoenix and it was just such a beautiful coming together of so many amazing women. We took photographs and celebrated over 45 women from all over the world who were U of S students. Seeing that displayed in Upper Place Riel was one of the most rewarding moments because it showed where hard work can get you and what teamwork can get you. I am really proud of that moment.”

Message to students:

“Get excited. I am really excited to work with everyone and I think this will be a very inclusive year and I believe that it will be a year where we will get as many voices as possible to speak and as many people to sit at the table and it will be a reflection of who we are as a community, not just the four executives who were elected.”

Fun Fact:

“I have three passports. I am Belgian, Canadian and Brazilian. I have citizenship in all three countries and I need to switch my passports to travel to different places so I kind of feel like I am a bit of an international spy that way.”


Photos: Caitlin Taylor / Photo Editor