MSU Presidential Candidate Platform Critique: Jovan Popovic
Despite well researched and expansive, Popovic's platform does not properly account for the needs of students with dietary restrictions
Jovan Popovic's campaign platform is an extensive one which aims to alleviate food and housing insecurity faced by students, improve the MSU's engagement with students, and improve the experience of commuter students. However, it falls short with its insufficient consideration for students that follow unique diets and it lacks environmentally-mindedness in aiming to make driving more accessible for more students.
Popovic is the current MSU President and is running for re-election. His 2023/2024 campaign discussed enhancing entertainment at sports events, bringing back on-campus homecoming and enhancing student engagement for commuter students. During his presidency, Popovic was able to address some of his campaign points, including increasing MSU clubs budget and improving the Welcome Week experience.
Soup and bread initiatve
Popovic’s proposed soup and bread initiative cannot be faulted for the purity of its intention. Students are undeniably suffering under the strain of rising food costs and one free meal a day, could without a doubt, greatly assist students and reduce financial-related anxiety.
However, Popovic’s campaign platform fails to include mention of how the program would accommodate the diverse student body it would aim to serve. Whether it be for health, religious, or ethical reasons, students possess a diverse array of dietary restrictions, with some not eating all or certain meats, dairy, as well as other specific ingredients. Popovic’s campaign could have demonstrated more care for certain groups of students which do not consume meat and/or diary by considering, in advance, the nutritional adequacy of the vegetarian soup options to be provided.
In an interview with the Silhouette, when Popovic was pressed on this question, he answered that himself and McMaster Students Union Kitchen Manager, Wesley Chaplin, have a vision of having two options of soup, with one being vegetarian, each day. Popovic did not make specific mentions of what the vegetarian option would be and if he had taken into consideration what the vegetarian options should be in order for them to be just as nutritionally fulfilling as the regular option.
It should be considered that many conventional and cheap plant-based options, such as purely vegetable based soups in this case, may not possess the same level of protein, vitamins and minerals as would the regular option, depending on the ingredients used. Popovic’s proposed soup and bread initiative could be improved by consulting with experts in plant-based cooking and nutrition, as well as vegetarian and vegan students who are better informed on what foods and ingredients are healthiest and most nutritious to consume.
Improving MSU transparency
On the point of improving the MSU’s social media and engagement with the student body, Popovic’s proposal to instate three student social media positions may very well improve the quality and frequency of content produced and posted. However, as admitted by Popovic in an interview, current engagement with students on social media platforms is quite unsatisfactory, as indicated by social media impressions such as likes, comments and views. If students presently do not engage with the MSU’s social media, improving its content will not regain and grow its audience.
Popovic’s aim to improve engagement and student awareness of the MSU and its projects and initiatives is by all means a great one, but his platform does not articulate how his current plan would regain the attention of students. Popovic should consider improving his plan to improve student awareness of the MSU by also engaging in more in-person engagement initiatives, as well as other avenues of interacting with students that beyond social media.
Improved transportation for commuter students
Regarding transportation for commuter students, half of his campaign promises are environmentally and sustainably sound. Expanding transit routes and their frequency is exactly what commuter students need and deserve. One could even expect that expanded routes would make commuting more attractive to more students, perhaps leading to more students opting to live at home and reducing the severity of the student housing crisis. However, Popovic's position on parking services for students are ill-informed in the context of sustainable civil development as well as the current financial situation of many students.
Driving is expensive, especially for students who are typically young in age and hence are required to pay higher insurance rates than older individuals. With the cost of vehicles, gas, and insurance in mind, utilizing transit is almost always cheaper than driving, especially for students.
Popovic stated in his campaign that data from Metrolinx indicates that 10 percent of McMaster students utilize the GO bus, which amounts to about 3,700 students. Meanwhile, Popovic also states that 1,800 parking transponders have been distributed with an additional 1,000 students waitlisted. Hence, the ability and/or preference for commuter students to take transit as opposed to driving is demonstrated. Additionally, increasing the number of people that utilize public transportation is an impactful way to reduce carbon emissions. By the same token, increasing the number of cars making distant commutes achieves the opposite.
For both environmental reasons and considering for how few students driving is financially feasible, Popovic should not make a part of his platform the intention to further expand the already high volume of parking at McMaster. Popovic would be better to focus his efforts to improve the lives of commuter students by lobbying for expanded routes and increased frequencies of buses.
Overall, with the exception of his aim to make driving to campus more accessible for students, Popovic's campaign promises reflect and align with the important struggles that students presently face. However, Popovic could have improved his campaign by putting more thought into the details of both his proposed soup and bread program and his plan to better engage students with the MSU.
Voting for the MSU presidential election takes place from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25 using the Simply Voting platform. More information about the election can be found on the MSU Elections website.