Candidates discuss accessibility, mental health, and equity at AUS elections debate

With the voting period for Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) executives now underway, AUS Elections hosted a debate on Feb. 12 for candidates to discuss their platforms and respond to questions. All executive positions except for Vice-President (VP) Academic are uncontested. Meanwhile, there are six candidates up for the position of Arts Representative to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and five candidates for the position of Arts Senator, competing for three and two positions, respectively.

Mental health was a main topic in the debate, and many candidates proposed ways to facilitate access to resources. Ananya Nair, one of the candidates for VP Academic, hopes to work with professors to reduce the burden of final exams.

“I want the curriculum to be more oriented around [the] well-being of the students,” Nair said. “If three exams in 24 hours is a conflict, I think [that] three exams in 28 hours should be a conflict too. It’s a loophole that I think the AUS should take a [stance] on and work with the enrollment services to accommodate.”

Nair’s opponent, Wing Wong, also proposed working with professors to address overly heavy course loads and opposed exams worth 70 per cent of the students’ final grade. Wong proposed implementing a minimum number of assessments per course, to prevent professors from placing too much weight on final exams.

In addition to campaign promises specific to their platforms, each of the candidates running for Arts Representative to SSMU addressed the subjects of accountability, mental health resources, and equity. Andrew Chase, Ruofan Wang, Ariana Kaye, Gabriel Ahmad, Shreya Dandamudi, and Adin Chan all cited accessibility and diversity as important issues in their campaigns. Chase and Wang promised to increase accessibility for Francophone students while Kaye discussed partnering with Rez Project to advocate for marginalized groups. Ahmad suggested hosting a conference for women in politics to bring awareness to the barriers that women face and endorsed a provincial-wide day against Islamophobia.

Another key issue for many of the candidates was improving SSMU’s image of accountability. Chase believes that this image fell after the bank switch left many of SSMU’s clubs unable to access their funds and when its chartered bus company cancelled their service at the Children of the Corn event, leaving over one hundred students stranded at MacDonald Campus. Kaye promoted accessible meeting minutes, Chase proposed working with the accountability committee, and Chan discussed improving the SSMU website to facilitate accessibility.

Jamal Tarrabain, current VP Communications for the AUS and the only candidate for President, discussed AUS’s commitment to transparency.

“I always want to increase the transparency of the AUS, and one thing I want to do is put the bylaws in the AUS handbook for incoming students,” Tarrabain said. “[I also want to] invite campus media to attend Legislative Council meetings and submit monthly reports to the campus media so that they can publish what they see fit about what the AUS has been doing.”

Two days after the debate, the Legislative Council passed a motion prohibiting recording and taping unless councillors voted to allow it by a two-thirds majority at the beginning of each meeting.

Regarding sustainability, Tarrabain advocated giving the AUS Environment Council (AUSEC) an increased ability to hold executive members accountable for the sustainability of their practices.

“I also want to work with the VP Internal to empower AUSEC to do audits of the different executive portfolios and issue sustainability recommendations,” Tarrabain said.

Members of the AUS will be able to cast their votes Feb. 18-21.

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