Post-presidential debrief with returning MSU president Jovan Popovic
Following re-election as MSU president, Jovan Popovic sat down with the Silhouette to discuss the election, plans for his second term and student voter turnout.
Current McMaster Students Union president Jovan Popovic won the 2024 election and will be serving a second term. Popovic’s platform this year touched on several diverse topics, with a focus on addressing some prominent struggles faced by students, including food and housing insecurity.
One highlight of his platform was his proposed soup and bread initiative. With the aim of helping to alleviate student food insecurity, this program would serve complimentary soup and bread on campus. Popovic stated that students will be served four days a week and the initiative will be funded by a five dollar increase of the MSU membership fee.
Popovic added that the soup and bread initiative is a major priority, as rates of food insecurity among students are rapidly rising.
“I’ve had way too many students tell me they’re regularly skipping meals just to save money and that’s completely unacceptable,” said Popvoic.
Another notable point in Popovic's platform was the promised return of an on-campus homecoming in 2024. In a previous interview with the Silhouette during the 2023 presidential race, Popovic noted that McMaster has not hosted an on-campus homecoming event since before the COVID-19 pandemic and he remains committed to bringing this event back for students.
On the housing crisis, Popovic stated that he intends push McMaster to commit to not increase enrollment numbers any further. He cited that presently there is not even enough room for all first-year students to be guaranteed the option to live in residence and as such, increasing enrollment numbers would only add to the issues.
Popovic noted that presently first year students need a high school average of at least 90 per cent to be guaranteed residence.
“I think all first years should be given residence. All of them should have a place to live and this is why putting a cap on enrollment is so important” stated Popovic.
Popovic also stated that he fears the construction of new residences on campus, such as Peter George Centre for Living and Learning and Lincoln Alexander Hall, are being built to plan for increasing enrollment numbers, though these residences will still collectively house a relatively small number students compared to the continuously rising student population.
Another key pillar of Popovic's platform is to help student athletes and sports teams. Popovic aims to allow teams to fundraise by hosting free events at MSU-operated venues. Popovic stated he will dedicate a budget line for sports teams to host fundraising events at venues such as the TwelvEighty Bar and Grill in the McMaster University Student Centre.
Finally, Popovic promised to continue advocating for more liberal guidelines on the use of generative AI in academic work, as compared to the current ones. Popovic also stated in the interview that he advocated and continues to advocate against the use of AI grading and assessment by professor’s and teaching staff.
Following his return to work after a leave of absence during the election, Popovic stated that both the soup and bread program and the return of homecoming will be his top priorities.
Before the election, Popovic stated that he plans to hold a referendum for the increased fee to fund the program to take place next year. Post-election, Popovic believed that holding a referendum this semester to have the program running for next fall is best way forward.
“There is potential to get [the soup and bread program] operational for September, if a referendum is run right now,” stated Popovic.
In contrast, if a referendum was held in the fall, the program likely wouldn't be operational until Fall 2025.
Popovic was also asked during the sit down, if there were any aspects of his opponents platforms that he sees merit in and would consider building into his plans for next year.
In response, Popovic stated that aspects of Luca Bernardini’s proposed MSU app were interesting and held merit. Though, Popovic stated he thought an app would be difficult to build and furthermore difficult to garner traction with the student body.
Popovic highlighted that he thought Bernardini’s idea of having a reward system for students who attend MSU and club events would be an excellent way to increase student engagement on campus. Popovic also stated he thinks students are hesitant to attend events for the first time, but once they do, they come out again more often.
Reflecting on the MSU presidential debate, Popovic noted that it was carried out professionally and respectfully. He stated that himself and his opponents did attack one another, but did so only in ways that pertained to their platform points, without making any personal attacks.
“There were also candidates going at each other, but I think that's positive. It’s called a debate for a reason,” stated Popovic.
However, Popovic noted the turnout to the debate was relatively low and disappointing. He stated that this low turnout may have been due to a problem with the audio system, resulting in only students actively watching the debate being able to hear it in the MUSC atrium.
Overall, Popovic stated he believed he performed well at the debate. He stated that the questions he was asked were valid and that he was not faced with any to which he could not adequately answer.
“I wish I knew each candidate's platform a little bit more in depth. I didn’t know a lot of the specifics of each person’s platform, which meant that I was very focused on myself,” said Popovic.
Popovic stated that in comparison to last year, voter turnout was 16.4 per cent, which is up 56 per cent compared to last year. However, Popovic stated that voter turnout is still very low.
“Years back we would consistently reach about 25 per cent," stated Popovic.
Despite the low turnout, though Popovic reflected positively on the increase in engagement. He stated that last year’s election saw the lowest historical turnout, at just 10.2 per cent. Popovic also stated this increase was more than he had hoped for and that it will take several years to achieve a voter turnout per cent in the high twenties again.
Concluding the interview, Popovic was asked if he would consider running for a third term next year.
Popovic responded that he does not intend to run again next year.
“While I think that continuity is good from time to time. . . I think that having an element of change is a really positive thing for the organization. Ultimately, we’ll see what I’m able to do in the year ahead," stated Popovic.
Though he stated that if he sees ways he could further improve the MSU by running for a third term he may consider it, he does not presently think he will.
"I think I will be able to accomplish all that is important this term, but you never know. It depends on what opportunities arise, if I think that I could really help the MSU a lot more, but I think I'll be able to leave my mark after two years of service,” stated Popovic.