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SU election supplement 2020: vice-president academic

Semhar Abraha

The platform put together by Semhar Abraha is well-rounded and touches on many different aspects of the vice-president academic’s portfolio. 

Abraha brings with her a diverse set of life experiences, having worked with the UN in Sudan and spending time at universities in Africa. As a result, she is able to respond to the academic needs of the University of Calgary’s diverse community of students. 

She says her own personal experience with the SU was one lacking in diversity and that inclusion is something very much needed in the organization, be it by engaging more international students or marginalized groups. It’s nice to see a candidate for the vice-president academic role taking an active stance on diversity in learning and recognizing that inclusion can go a long way to fostering academic success.

“I strongly believe that every student has a potential to succeed academically”

Abraha has some ambitious goals. Open Educational Resources is seemingly on someone’s platform every year and she has decided to continue advocacy in this area. It is unclear how much consultation she’s done with students and current SU executives to determine the feasibility of her plan.

Her goal to network specifically with the vice-president academics of various campus clubs is a good one and she knows that reaching out to student groups all at once is a good strategy for engagement. Improving student access to academic journals is a laudable goal but a rather naive one in perhaps not understanding the financial feasibility of making it actually happen.

Abraha wants to improve access to student research and “expand academic resources and support for students looking for research positions.” Being that U of C is a research-intensive university with the ambitious goal of being one of the best, we wish there was a more concrete goal rather than just “support.”

Overall, Abraha’s involvement on the campus and her past experience make her someone who is able to learn quickly and step into a very difficult role that demands plenty of time and attention. She is knowledgeable about the role itself and recognizes how important it is.


Barak Can Kodaz

By his own admission, Burak Can Kodaz decided to run for vice-president academic at the last minute. His major concern is that the University of Calgary is dropping in the world rankings. He thinks that “something is going on” but isn’t quite sure what. But, he believes that the vice-president academic is responsible for fixing this issue, whatever it might be.

He places more importance on the ranking of the university than the student experience, which seems out of touch with what the current study body cares about. He is correct in recognizing that many students choose a university for its academic and  research reputation, and he does note that some intangibles like extracurricular activities and mental health play a role in what makes a university a good one, but there is too much focus on reputation and not enough on substance.

Can Kodaz doesn’t fully understand the importance of the vice-president academic role, arguably the most difficult portfolio in the SU. He wants students to “experience what real life is” and what expectations are facing them in their career path.

“My ideas can help university students as well as the university overall to become a better educational institution.”

He wants to see that all faculties, not just business, host CASE competitions. Forcing this on other faculties is not feasible and falls well outside the purview of the vice-president academic, who surely has better things to do be doing. Entrepreneurial thinking can’t solve everything, but Can Kodaz seems to think it can.

Rather than run for a faculty representative role, he says he would like to represent all students, rather than just his home faculty of Haskayne. That being said, Can Kodaz isn’t well-informed about the issues facing other faculties, perhaps owing to his last-minute candidacy that didn’t allow for much consultation.

His idea to expand the accessibility of course evaluations is a good one as the current way that the USRIs are presented is terrible. He’s right that people turn to questionable websites like RateMyProf as a result. 

Can Kodaz wants U of C students to succeed, and that’s an admirable quality. He does admit that his candidacy was a rapid decision. Perhaps his platform will take shape as his campaign progresses.


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