Mental health and student engagement highlight topics at SU vice-president student life forum
By Jason Herring, March 2 2017 —
Vice-president student life candidates for the 2017 Students’ Union election went head-to-head during an hour-long forum at noon on March 2 in MacHall. It was the third candidate forum of the election period.
All three candidates — Matt Abalos, Hilary Jahelka and Arshmin Kang — took to the stage to make 90-second opening and closing addresses, answer questions from current SU vice-president student life Patrick Ma and take audience questions.
Abalos pitched his platform in his opening address, which includes clarifying for how student clubs can obtain funding, creating an SU app, starting a Trivia Day to inform students of SU services and bringing “Paint Nights” to Stress-Less week.
“The SU app is made by students for students, so they can better understand and also make the SU visible for students who would have that app,” Abalos said.
Jahelka’s platform involves revamping the clubs student junior executive program, starting a relationship violence prevention program and holding the U of C accountable for their mental health strategies.
“The [relationship violence prevention program] is a great way to engage the whole campus community on an issue we know is prevelent on our campus,” Jahelka said.
Kang said he wants to bring healthier food choices to MacHall, citing Mucho Burrito as a specific vendor. He also mentioned creating inter-faculty events to bring students together from faculties who typically don’t spend time with one another.
“This is more part of the roles of vice-president operations [and finance], but MacHall is getting older and will need renovations pretty soon,” Kang said. “When that does happen, in those expansions, I will bring student engagement into choosing these healthy food options.”
Questions from Ma included how to combat apathy stemming from the U of C’s status as a commuter campus, how to improve support for student clubs, mental health priorities and candidates’ thoughts on the U of C’s new sexual violence policy.
Ma also asked what the current SU has not achieved that candidates would like to take on. Jahelka said she wants to be more proactive about approaching student groups. Abalos said he wants to engage students using out-of-office hours, while Kang restated his goal to get healthier food vendors on campus, saying that he wants to see something better than Carl’s Jr. or the SU’s own La Taqueria.
After Ma’s questions, audience members took to the mic to ask questions.
One audience member asked Abalos how his app is going to succeed when apps that past SU executives have promised never materialized.
“Computer science [students] could use their work-force related skills to build the app,” Abalos said.
Kang was asked how he will follow through on his promise to decrease parking rates on campus. He argued that it will be possible because of legislation regarding cheaper hospital parking rates in Ontario.
Another student asked all candidates how effective they think the U of C’s mental health resources are and what can be done. Jahelka said she wants to focus on ensuring that existing infrastructure is working for students.
“Mental health is a comprehensive issue and we’re not going to solve it with some gimmick points,” she said. “I think it’s important to address it at the root of the cause.”
The forum ended with another statement from each candidate. But before that, Ma asked all three candidates to stand up and take a vow to carry on Pizza Days if they are elected — an initiative that Ma started this year where the SU gives out free pizza to students.
For the Gauntlet’s review of the vice-president student life candidates, click here.