Photos by Kyle West

On Jan. 30, the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, an advertising campaign created by Bell Canada, took the country by storm. In an effort to raise awareness and combat stigma surrounding mental health in Canada, Bell donated money to mental health funds for every social interaction with campaigns hashtag.

While the world tweeted, snapped and Instagram-ed away, The McMaster Women’s Athletic Leadership Committee took it one step further and hosted their first-ever Bell Let’s Talk event.

The event consisted of McMaster student-athletes sharing their personal stories in an open and safe environment that was open to the entire McMaster community. Five student-athletes, Sabrina Schindel, Allison Sippel, Aurora Zuraw, Nicolas Belliveau and Louis Sharland, took the floor and led discussions on depression, eating disorders, language and anxiety and men’s mental health.

http://www.instagram.com/p/BtRPDA0BkSb/

The event was a success with a great turn out that included open discussion and much-needed conversations on mental health and how it affects athletes, in addition to the right steps that need to be taken to combat different stigmas.

“At first, I was expecting it to be a small event with just members of WALC, but to have my teammates, friends and people I didn’t even know come out to support was so amazing and inspiring,” said Sippel, the initiator for the event.

The idea for the event came up after Sippel, a cross-country runner, wanted to be able to create an open space for people to be able to talk about their battles with mental health.

“I feel like if we are able to create a space where people are open to talking, there would be less of a stigma around it,” said Sippel.

She first wrote down her story after she got out of the hospital after suffering from an eating disorder. After reading it to her close friends and family members, she never really shared it with the public. But when the idea of creating an event for Bell Let’s Talk came up, the idea of the panel sharing personal stories came to mind.

Working with Claire Arsenault, McMaster’s Athlete Services Coordinator and WALC, the panel that would originally be a conversation for members of the committee grew to more.

“I was happy that male athletes joined in and it was really inspirational that the group of us could be able to share our stories,” said Sippel.

🗣️ #OneTeamForMentalHealth 🗣️

Ask someone how they are doing.

📸 @MPHcentral#WeAreONE | #BellLetsTalk pic.twitter.com/OlmEeBWH9r

— Ontario University Athletics (@OUAsport) January 31, 2019

Each speaker shared their story then opened up the floor for discussion, answering questions in regard to their experiences, advice for others and much more.

During the panel, Sippel shared her story about how her eating disorder led her to be hospitalized when she was 14 years old. After losing too much weight and no longer being allowed to run, her journey to bounce back was not easy.

“This illness had turned mind against body and person against person because nurses were trained to trust no one,” Sippel explained about her time in the hospital.

Eventually, Sippel showed signs of improvement and was allowed to leave the hospital and return to her everyday life. Fast-forward to today, and she is now running on the Mac cross-country team while trying her best to stay on top of her condition.

“It’s a lifetime of fighting against my mind so I never had to go back,” Sippel said.

For Sippel, having the student-athletes lead this conversation was important for a number of reasons.

“I feel like a lot of times, it is frowned upon to express our feelings. If we start the conversation, there is no better way to set an example for our fellow students,” said Sippel. “Hopefully five students sharing their stories can spiral into something bigger and start a movement.”

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Schindel, another one of the five student-athletes who shared their stories, is a lacrosse player who suffered from depression. Through the ups and downs of dealing with her battle, she eventually discovered that staying busy and active is what kept helped her out the most. This meant that when her lacrosse season was over, she would have to find something to keep her occupied so she did not fall down that dark hole again.

“Realizing that no one is beyond help and getting in front of my depression before it could do the same damage it used to,” Schindel explained as the steps she takes to keep herself from falling again.

Schindel’s story, though devastating, is more common amongst young people than one may think. This is why it is so important that these conversations are happening. Having the bravery to start the conversation, and sharing tips and resources with their fellow students is a great way for Marauders to do their part in helping end the stigma surrounding mental health.

 

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Photos C/O Abi Sudharshan

By: Abi Sudharshan

On Feb 3 at 5 p.m, the McMaster Students Union Student Representative Assembly convened for the second time since the Ontario government announced major changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and tuition framework.

In the first portion of the meeting, MSU president Ikram Farah took to the floor to address the issue. According to Farah, by the end of this week, the MSU and university administration expect to see the release of an exact breakdown of affected ancillary fees.

Farah says this expected announcement will guide the MSU’s response moving forward.

During the delegation, Farah highlighted the MSU’s current campaign to mobilize students through promoting an understanding of the effects that these changes will have on McMaster students.

Ikram encouraged the assembly disseminate information regarding the impact and importance of MSU-funded services.

Stephanie Bertolo, MSU vice president (Education) noted a modest victory thus far: initially removed, transit passes have been re-included in the list of mandatory fees under the Ontario government’s student choice initiative.  

The SRA meeting also focused heavily on updates on the construction of the Student Activity Building, a four-story building that is projected to feature a grocery store, study spaces, a multi-faith prayer space and a nap room.

According to MSU vice president (Finance) Scott Robinson, the SAB has experienced a minor setback.   

Quotes by companies regarding materials and services for the SAB came back much higher than the original 2016-17 projections.

The past four months have been spent negotiating to bring the project back within the parameters of the viable budget.

Initially, construction for the SAB was slated to begin in October.

Robinson reported that these decisions are to be solidified shortly and that the construction of this student space will begin construction in March 2019.

This will likely mean that the SAB is not in full operation by the fall of 2020 as promised.

Apart from these two primary items, much of the meeting was allotted to the opening and closing of seats on the MSU services, university affairs and elections committees.

Another message stressed the meeting was the importance of ensuring that the SRA maintains a respectful environment and allows all voices to flourish.

The next SRA meeting will held at 5 p.m. on Feb 24 in Room 111 of Gilmour Hall.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

On Jan. 26, two days after Josh Marando was elected the next McMaster Students Union president, The Silhouette sat down with Marando to discuss his campaign experiences and goals for the future. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

First thing, how are you feeling, and how have the past few days been?

I think I'm still a little bit in shock. The past few days have been a bit of a wild whirlwind. I wasn't expecting to hear as soon as we did. Last year, I knew that they heard at, around 3:10 a.m, so when Ikram called me at 9:00, I wasn't really sure. I thought she was joking at first. I really expected her to say, ‘Just kidding.’

 

What did Ikram say?

I just remember her saying, ‘Congratulations to the president-elect,’ and then I said, ‘You’ve gotta be freaking kidding me today.’ I really just needed to make sure that she was right…  that she got the right number [and] she got the right person.

 

Who did you tell after? Who was the first person outside of the team?

The first people I told outside of the team were my parents. I sent a nice little text in our group chat just saying that I won. And then after that, a lot of phone calls kept coming in.

 

Was running for president something you’ve thought about for a few years?

So it's definitely something that's always been in the back of my mind. Before I decide to run, I talked a lot to the MSU vice president (Administration) Kristina Epifano. I was like, "What do you think I should do? If I don't run for president, I would likely run for vice president (Administration)." But then I was talking to MSU president Ikram Farah and she said, ‘It just like seems like your goals are bigger than that. It seems like you would really benefit from being in this role and it seems like your ideas would really benefit the students by being in this role.’

 

Over these 12 days of campaigning and several months of planning and deciding that you wanted to do it, what did you learn about yourself?

I learned that I'm more capable than I think. I remember the biggest thing that made me nervous was making a platform. But I think when that started to come together, that's when I really became confident in the idea that I could do this role.

 

Why do you think students voted for you? What about your platform or you personally appealed to them?

Something that we really try to do is just talk to students and see what exactly they wanted, and also some things that they would have wanted when they were in first year. Because in reality, I think that's something that's said very often. People are like, ‘Oh, the MSU president doesn't really do much.’ But that's really not true. They do a whole lot. It's just that there's very few things that can happen in one year. Often times, you see the changes made by a president the next year or the year after.

 

What are the first platform points that you’ll address after your term starts?

Obviously there are some projects that are easier to do than others. I have no doubt that we'll be able to make the MUSC student lounge and I would love for that to happen by the start of next year, so I'm probably going to start working on that.

 

What is your message to students now?

The first thing is, thank you to the students who did vote. Even if they didn’t vote for me, I’m still happy that students were engaged and I just want students to know that my care for students didn’t end when election night ended. Now that the election is over, that’s when I feel like I need to talk to students even more because, in reality, I’m here to represent them, not only during the election, but for the rest of this year and next year.

 

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Photo C/O Madeline Neumann

Elections for the next McMaster Students Union president are wrapping up with polling closing on Jan. 24. As students cast their ballot this year, they are presented with five options: to vote for one of the four candidates, or to abstain. However, students should also be given the option to cast a vote of no confidence.

A vote of no confidence is essentially a vote claiming that the student has no confidence in the presented candidates and would not like any of them to act as a representative for the student. This could be due to a variety of reasons ranging from the infeasibility of the candidates’ platform points to judgements made on the candidates’ character.

While students can abstain, an abstained vote has ambiguous meaning. Although one can abstain because they feel a lack of confidence in all the candidates, abstained votes can also mean the voter feels uninformed to select a candidate, or cannot decide between equally-qualified candidates. Simply put, an abstained vote is not equivalent to a vote of no confidence.

The idea to implement a vote of no confidence is not novel. It was first proposed by Eric Gillis in 2014 when he was the 2014-2015 bylaws commissioner for the Student Representative Assembly. Since his initial proposal, the idea of a no confidence vote has been continuously advocated for by Miranda Clayton, who worked on the bylaws committee in 2014-2015 before her role as operations commissioner in 2015-2016.

Gillis and Clayton hoped to have a vote of no confidence implemented for SRA elections. As it stands, if only one person runs for a seat on the SRA, that seat is considered acclaimed by the individual. This is a consistent issue in the SRA where many seats are acclaimed. In doing so, students are deprived the opportunity to voice their oppositions or give any input into their representation.  

This makes little sense. If others have to create platforms, run campaigns and be supported by the student body to obtain their seat, why shouldn’t candidates running unopposed be held to the same accountability? In essence, acclaimed seats should not exist as those seats are not truly representative of the people they are meant to represent. Instead, students should be able to take a vote of confidence on candidates running for those seats.  

According to Clayton, the reason a vote of no confidence has not been implemented yet is largely due to such a change requiring major electoral reform. Ballots would have to be made to include a “no confidence” option and this would require major restructuring to the online ballot system and perhaps even changes to the MSU constitution.

 Though these changes may be a large undertaking, they are nonetheless critical to ensure students are being represented properly.

The idea of a no confidence vote, while created with the SRA elections in mind, can be applied to the MSU presidential elections. If students are not confident in any of the candidates running, this is a problem that should be recognized and addressed by the student union.

I understand the risk associated in abstaining to vote or casting a no-confidence vote when multiple seats exist. In scenarios like these, it may make more sense to vote for the “lesser of two evils”. But if students truly feel that none of their options are good, they should have a forum to voice their concerns.

If the majority of voters have no confidence in their presidential candidates, this calls for drastic change. I’m not certain what sort of change this might entail. It could include holding a re-election, or changing the election bylaws to ensure candidates meet a level of standards and qualifications.

This might also be a non-issue. Perhaps students do feel confident in their given candidates. The only way we can know for certain is to allow students to have the option to vote no confidence.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

With the campaign slogan “#YourTimeIsNow,” Jeffrey Campana promises that he will address previously overlooked projects and student concerns. However, many of Campana’s platform points lack key details and are already being pursued by the McMaster Students Union.

For example, Campana states that there is a need for the MSU to distribute free menstrual products to washrooms on campus. However, free products are already offered to students through the MSU Student Health Education Centre, the Student Wellness Centre and the Women and Gender Equity Network.

Campana’s plan to add the products to all-gender bathrooms could be beneficial, but it is unclear who would be responsible for stocking the washrooms and how much value the initiative would add.

Campana’s plan to standardize MSU position descriptions and reform hiring practices involves much of MSU vice president (Administration) Kristina Epifano’s existing work.

Epifano is already currently reviewing the job description of part-time managers and other roles across the MSU.

The same issue arises with Campana’s plans to expand The Grind and improve on-campus lighting. MSU vice president (Finance) Scott Robinson has been working with a team since last semester to review the business model of The Grind and look at the possibility for expansion.

MSU president Ikram Farah has also been working with city staff and McMaster facility services to gradually transition on-campus lighting to LED.

Some of Campana’s larger project proposals suffer from a lack of specificity.

For instance, it is doubtful that Campana will be able to add an ice rink to campus, especially by his proposed date of January 2020.

Efforts to build an outdoor community rink in 2008-2009 and 2014-2015 through the Student Life Enhancement Fund failed due to insurance and accessibility issues.

Robinson confirmed that not much has changed regarding those factors since then.

It also remains unclear how Campana will find funding for a project that was estimated to cost at least $100,000 in the past.

Campana’s proposal to create a polling station on campus seems to ignore the difficulty associated with the initiative.

An on-campus polling station was pulled by the city in 2010 and has not come close to being reintroduced since.

Across Campana’s platform points, there is reliance on MSU initiatives that were either unsuccessfully advocated for or are already in the works.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

By: Natalie Clark

One of Madison Wesley’s largest and most promising platform goals is to introduce a textbook rental service to the McMaster campus store. Although students would likely be fond of the idea, Wesley has failed to assess the challenges associated with this goal.

According to Donna Shapiro, the director of retail services at McMaster, the McMaster campus store explored this idea in the past but was unable to bring it to fruition.

“Each faculty would need to commit to their course material selection for several years in a row to pay off the initial cost of the book,” said Shapiro. “Without this commitment, it is impossible to move forward with a rental program.”

In addition, according to Shapiro, the issue of storage is also a concern.

“For the number of courses at Mac that are not taught on a regular basis, space for storage of the rental textbooks becomes an issue,” said Shapiro.

Wesley also has not consulted with the Student Wellness Centre regarding her promise to improve the mental and physical health of students on campus. The SWC would be an essential service to consult in order to implement the changes she is seeking.

One of Wesley’s main goals is to increase the number of counsellors on campus.

“The SWC has increased the number of counsellors this past year and is currently at capacity space and budget wise for the number of staff that the SWC can hire,” said Taryn Aarssen, a wellness educator at the SWC. “The budget for counsellors comes from student fees.”

Wesley would have to acquire additional funds to hire more counsellors. However, in her platform, it is unclear where specifically this funding would come from.

As for Wesley’s promise to introduce a walk-in clinic to McMaster, according to Aarssen, while the SWC is not exactly a walk-in clinic, it is a place where students can make health clinic and medical appointments on campus.

The SWC currently has a significant number of the same resources as walk-in clinics. In light of this, Aarssen notes that adding a second clinic on campus “would not be a valuable use of space or resources.”

Overall, Wesley’s platform would seem more feasible if she made efforts to consult a number of McMaster’s services prior to the start of campaign season.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

Josh Marando’s 12 platform points are broad reaching and address a variety of student concerns, from student safety to internal McMaster students union operations.

Marando’s campaign focuses on improving campus amenities, including study spaces and food courts. However, there is significant overlap between Marando’s platform and existing plans to increase spaces for students.

For instance, Marando’s “Revitalize MUSC” platform point outlines strategies to create lounge space within the McMaster University Student Centre by renovating the third floor terrace and Clubspace. Marando also aims to create an additional MUSC food court to address overcrowding in La Piazza.

The facilities planned for the student activity building also overlap with another one of Marando’s platform points related to food accessibility. Marando’s plan introduces “TwelvEighty 2 Go,” a system to supplement TwelvEighty’s existing take out system to allow for more grab and go meals.

According to Richard Haja, food and beverage manager of TwelvEighty Restaurant, Marando has not contacted TwelvEighty management to assess the feasibility of this plan.

Additionally, Haja stated that there are plans to create a similar food take out system in the new student activity building.

Marando’s platform also focuses on reducing the costs of education and improving campus infrastructure. However, the platform does not give proper consideration to funding sources for these initiatives.

Marando plans to lobby the provincial government to ease the upfront costs of education through tuition freezes for domestic and international students and program based Ontario student assistance program funding.

Marando also aims to improve campus infrastructure by increasing the deferred maintenance budget by $12 million per year. His platform states that this will be accomplished in part by applying for governmental grants.

However, the current provincial government has expressed its commitment to cutting government spending and reducing deficits.

In October, the Ford government cancelled more than $300 million dollar funding for university and college campus expansions in Markham, Milton and Brampton.

It is unclear whether Marando’s platform has properly considered the current provincial government’s funding priorities, which call into question the feasibility of certain platform points.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

Justin Lee’s platform highlights 13 points, but almost all of them lack specificity and the ability to effect unique and meaningful change on campus.

Several of Lee’s initiatives do not specify how they differ from current McMaster Students Union projects, including his plan to improve the MSU’s social media presence.

Similarly, free menstrual products are already offered without charge by the Student Health Education Centre, the Student Wellness Centre, and the Women and Gender Equity Network. Lee’s plan to add these products to single use and female washrooms extend this service, but the logistics and costs of stocking the washrooms must be worked out.

Other points, such as strengthening student involvement in campus events and providing “life skills” programs to students, are vague. The proposal to provide fundraising training services for all MSU clubs in order to make them fiscally independent lacks context as to why it is necessary to improving student life or how it will affect MSU spending.

Where Lee’s ideas are novel, they lack feasibility and do not appear to be supported by consultations with relevant groups.

For instance, Lee does not appear to have consulted software developers, the Hamilton Street Railway or the MSU regarding his proposed “Uber for Buses” project.

There is also the obvious question regarding how such a project would be feasible and affect non-student HSR users.

Another project that Lee aspires to implement is an after-hours takeout service on campus. However, this project once again lacks detail as to how it will be implemented.

Lee’s platform, which primarily includes small projects, could also be more ambitious and comprehensive.

Points such as the addition of a second ClubsFest do not seem likely to make a noteworthy improvement to student life.

It is also worth noting that the day after the 2019 MSU presidentials campaign period kicked off, Lee still did not have an accessible official Instagram or Facebook page.

This lack of transparency about Lee’s platform appears to weaken Lee’s credibility.

Overall, there are significant gaps in Lee’s platform when it comes to addressing more prominent student concerns and ensuring that larger initiatives are both original and feasible.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Ryan Tse, Hannah Walters-Vida, Natalie Clark

Click on the candidates to learn about their platform overviews.


Madison Wesley

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Jeffrey Campana

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[button link="https://www.thesil.ca/msu-elections-2019-jeffrey-campana-platform-critique" color="red"] JEFFREY CAMPANA PLATFORM CRITIQUE[/button]


Josh Marando

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[button link="https://www.thesil.ca/msu-presidentials-2019-josh-marando-platform-critique" color="red"] JOSH MARANDO PLATFORM CRITIQUE[/button]


Justin Lee

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