C/O Travis Nguyen, Photo Editor

President-elect Simranjeet Singh discusses this year’s low voter turnout and his hopes to rebuild student engagement with the MSU

On Jan. 27, after a three-day election period, Simranjeet Singh was announced as the president-elect of the McMaster Students Union, winning 65.7 per cent of the votes.  

Out of 27, 149 eligible voters, only 3,107 students, or 11.4 per cent of the eligible student population, chose to cast their votes. According to Singh, the online nature of the campaigning period may have contributed to the low voter turnout.  

“When I, for example, gave class talks, it probably wasn’t as impactful [as in-person class talks] just because of the nature of how online courses are delivered,” said Singh.  

However, Singh also noted that the voter turnout for MSU elections has been trending downwards for a few years, even prior to the onset of the pandemic.  

“Even though 2020 and 2018, for example, were only two years apart and they were both in a pre-pandemic landscape, there was still a vast difference in voter turnout,” said Singh.  

“Even though 2020 and 2018, for example, were only two years apart and they were both in a pre-pandemic landscape, there was still a vast difference in voter turnout."

Simranjeet Singh, MSU President-elect

Singh explained that the decline in voter turnout may be due to a disconnect between the programming offered by the MSU and the needs of the students.  

“I certainly hope that with some of the changes I hope to bring forth, we can ensure that students are receiving the services and resources they need, and then hopefully are more engaged,” said Singh.  

According to Singh, helping students to better engage with and understand the MSU is one of his key priorities. Singh highlighted how students are often not aware of which services are offered by the MSU or how to access them. This is a problem that he hopes to address in his term as president.  

“Because we have such a low engagement, there's a disconnect that exists between what [students’] needs are and what the MSU is able to accomplish. And I hope, if we can change that, we can set ourselves on a path where students are more aware of what MSU services [there] are and the MSU is better able to actually serve their needs,” said Singh.  

“Because we have such a low engagement, there's a disconnect that exists between what [students’] needs are and what the MSU is able to accomplish. And I hope, if we can change that, we can set ourselves on a path where students are more aware of what MSU services [there] are and the MSU is better able to actually serve their needs."

Simranjeet Singh, MSU President-elect

Aside from hoping to increase student engagement, Singh stated that he also hopes to create lasting change within the MSU, making an impact that will be noted by students in years to come.  

“I hope that the impact that I have is big enough that people can look back in a few years or next year and say ‘this was a turning point,’” said Singh.  

As well, Singh emphasized his intentions to work with community partners and levels of government beyond McMaster. Singh explained that, in forming these relationships, he hopes to ensure that student advocacy is received and acted upon.  

However, Singh recognized that not all of his campaign points are equal in scope.  

"I think I’ll have to balance between trying to understand what is a goal that I can accomplish quite quickly and immediately, and what is a goal that I know will take many years to do, but that I can make significant progress on,” said Singh.  

"I think I’ll have to balance between trying to understand what is a goal that I can accomplish quite quickly and immediately, and what is a goal that I know will take many years to do, but that I can make significant progress on."

Simranjeet Singh, MSU President-elect

Overall, Singh emphasized his intention to make a lasting positive impact on the MSU over the course of his term, highlighting the importance of considering student voices in this process. He stated that throughout his campaign he had heard the opinions of a variety of students, which was important for understanding what kinds of changes need to be made.  

“The questions [students] asked, the concerns they had, the feedback and critiques they gave of my campaign points, what they felt I could do better and where I could improve. . .that was a very, very insightful experience, and I really hope to take some of that feedback and actually apply it,” said Singh.  

Starting May 1, Singh will officially take office as MSU president for the 2022-2023 year.  

C/O @macworldrecord, Instagram. Right: Chainwit, Wikimedia Commons.

Join other McMaster students to break a world record and fundraise for World Forest Day! 

On April 13, McMaster students can join @macworldrecord in an online gathering to break the world record for largest Kahoot game.  

According to a video posted on Instagram by McMaster World Record, Kahoot was the format chosen for this world record attempt to acknowledge the fact that the past two years of school have been at least partially online.  

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by McMaster World Record (@macworldrecord)

“I think it would be nice for McMaster to have some sort of presence in some record book somewhere. Recently, having had to explain the relevance of my university to people who don't live in Canada, it would be cool if we had a gimmick,” said McMaster student Navya Sheth.  

Jennifer Zhu, another McMaster student, observed that the Kahoot could be a good way for McMaster students to identify with the institution after having a significant portion of their degree take place virtually.  

“It seems to be something kind of goofy that McMaster students can rally around and form community around,” said Zhu.  

“It seems to be something kind of goofy that McMaster students can rally around and form community around."

Jennifer Zhu, McMaster University Student

Adam El-Kadi, co-president of Lorax at McMaster and organizer of the Kahoot event, explained that the community-building element is especially important coming out of online school.  

“The idea here is that we just want to finish up online school with a bang and just leave it there. We don’t want to come back to online school,” said El-Kadi. 

Along with being an event that McMaster students can identify with, the event is also being held in support of World Forest Day, which occurred on March 21. The event was originally scheduled to take place on this day, but has since been moved to April 13.  

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by McMaster World Record (@macworldrecord)

According to the video, there are ten different student groups at McMaster associated with organizing this event, including the McMaster Sustainability Development Goals Student Hub.  

The SDG Student Hub reposted the video on March 8, explaining the fundraising side of this initiative in their Instagram caption. According to the caption, each Kahoot participant will earn the initiative a dollar from their sponsors and each dollar raised will translate to one tree planted by Team Trees.  

“The need for climate change action and sustainability is long overdue. It's something we should have done yesterday, rather than now. . .[This initiative] takes the focus out of armchair advocacy, which is the idea that we're just sort of passively sharing [environmental activism] on social media or telling friends about it. [Instead, we’re] stepping up, bringing everyone together, and bringing the whole community together for a single cause,” said El-Kadi. 

“The need for climate change action and sustainability is long overdue. It's something we should have done yesterday, rather than now. . .[This initiative] takes the focus out of armchair advocacy, which is the idea that we're just sort of passively sharing [environmental activism] on social media or telling friends about it. [Instead, we’re] stepping up, bringing everyone together, and bringing the whole community together for a single cause.”

Adam El-Kadi, co-president of Lorax at McMaster

The event is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. on April 13 and students can sign up here to participate in the Kahoot.  

Travis Nguyen/Photo Editor

Ron Joyce Stadium stacks up well against other universities’ stadiums 

University stadiums serve to host sporting events and support university athletics. However, they also become a signature of a given school. A stadium’s structure comes to represent a student community’s pride in their school.  

How good is our own stadium — the Ron Joyce Stadium — in comparison to the other university stadiums in the Ontario University Athletics? According to 13thmansports, our stadium ranks fourth! That’s right, the 14-year-old fortress ranks above the stadiums of institutions such Guelph, Waterloo and even York. Ron Joyce had fallen just short of the top three, which are currently occupied by Queens, Western and Toronto.  

The reason that Ron Joyce Stadium ranks so highly is its running track, which is not something that every stadium has. This would in turn provide the audience with more intimate action on the field, which just improves the overall atmosphere for Marauders’ big games. Additionally, the colour scheme that the stadium possesses really does lend it a unique look. It truly shows off McMaster’s maroon colours.  

The reason that Ron Joyce Stadium ranks so highly is its running track, which is not something that every stadium has. This would in turn provide the audience with more intimate action on the field, which just improves the overall atmosphere for Marauders’ big games.

Although many have not been to McMaster’s beloved stadium, its overall structure and aesthetics may intrigue students into visiting more often. After all, it’s already been recognized by the wider sports community! 

C/O Ainsley Thurgood, Photo Assistant

After opening up virtually in September, BSSC opened in person for the first time during Black History Month

McMaster’s Black Student Success Centre aims to foster community, success and general well-being among Black students at McMaster. It first opened virtually on Sept. 27 and has been offering services online to Black students since then.  

In February of this year, the BSSC opened its in-person services, officially running out of room M07 in the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning. Having an in-person space has allowed the BSSC to continue to grow the ways in which it is able to support Black students.  

Jordan Lentinello, the administrative assistant of the BSSC, explained that having an in-person space has been vital for community building, which is one of the main goals of the BSSC.  

“[You can] technically build community online and we've seen that happen time and time again, but it just feels different when it's in person,” said Lentinello.  

“[You can] technically build community online and we've seen that happen time and time again, but it just feels different when it's in person."

Jordan Lentinello, Adminstrative Assistant of the BSSC

Lentinello added that online communities, while still beneficial, can make people experience screen fatigue and cannot always combat feelings of isolation. In contrast, the physical space strengthens the community experience and allows students to form friendships naturally. As well, the new in-person component of the BSSC makes it more accessible to students.  

“So many folks are quite literally dropping in, discovering this space through word of mouth, which we've been really excited about,” said Lentinello.  

Lentinello stressed that the BSSC is a student-driven space that is built to last, even as its current participants graduate and new students become part of it. This, Lentinello said, sets the BSSC apart from student groups on campus, which may be able to offer support for a period of time but may also struggle with continuity.  

Lentinello stressed that the BSSC is a student-driven space that is built to last, even as its current participants graduate and new students become part of it.

According to Lentinello, having a space that is built to last is vital for fostering the success and well-being of Black students at McMaster.  

“This creates consistency, this creates legacy and this creates a tangible impact and dedication to the success of the Black students,” said Lentinello.  

“This creates consistency, this creates legacy and this creates a tangible impact and dedication to the success of the Black students."

Jordan Lentinello, Adminstrative Assistant of the BSSC

The BSSC is currently running a number of mental health related sessions, such as Black student athlete check-ins and Black student peer support services. More information about how to access these services can be found here.  

C/O Effective Altruism McMaster

McMaster students get involved with the Effective Altruism movement to discover the career paths that enable them to do the most good

Effective Altruism is a social and philosophical movement focused on helping people have positive impacts on the world, both in their careers and in their lives generally. This movement began at Oxford University and has since amassed a number of chapters around the world.  

Wim Howson Creutzberg, a second-year student at McMaster and co-president of the Effective Altruism McMaster chapter, explained that Effective Altruism attempts to use logic and reason to discover the most impactful ways to help others.  

“We try to question conventional understandings of what the best ways to do good are, or even what good is. And, as it turns out, some ways of helping other people are way more impactful than others and so we do them,” said Creutzberg. 

“We try to question conventional understandings of what the best ways to do good are, or even what good is. And, as it turns out, some ways of helping other people are way more impactful than others and so we do them."

Wim Howson Creutzberg, Co-president of Effective Altruism McMaster

For example, according to Creutzberg, the Effective Altruism movement has been advocating for increased resource allocation towards pandemic prevention and mitigation since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.  

More generally, Creutzberg also explained how the movement has investigated what makes charities most effective at helping people. Thinkers in the movement have analyzed numerous charities and determined which ones are most effective, so that people donating to charities can consider how to have the greatest impact with their donations.   

Thinkers in the movement have analyzed numerous charities and determined which ones are most effective, so that people donating to charities can consider how to have the greatest impact with their donations.  

Effective Altruism is a relatively new movement, with Giving What We Can, the first international Effective Altruism movement, launching in 2009. According to Creutzberg, the McMaster chapter of Effective Altruism is even newer.  

“We're really excited about this stuff because what we’ve realized is that, even as university students, our potential to do good is kind of crazy,” said Creutzberg. 

While the Effective Altruism group at McMaster is not currently ratified as a club, they are hoping to achieve this status in the future. They have other future ambitions as well, such as potentially developing a small course for McMaster students who are interested in the movement.  

“There's a lot of ground to cover when you start [introducing a] movement and sometimes a self-directed approach is better for some people, [whereas] sometimes being systematically introduced to ideas can be really helpful,” said Creutzberg.  

Creutzberg described the Effective Altruism group at McMaster as a small but rapidly growing group of students who meet to discuss how they can have the most positive impact on the world.  

“I think it could help ambitious students find meaningful careers and interesting and genuinely valuable ways to spend their time and money. And I think that could, at the very least, enrich the discussion around trying to create a better world,” said Creutzberg.  

“I think it could help ambitious students find meaningful careers and interesting and genuinely valuable ways to spend their time and money. And I think that could, at the very least, enrich the discussion around trying to create a better world."

Wim Howson Creutzberg, Co-president of Effective Altruism McMaster

Emphasizing the potential of the Effective Altruism chapter at McMaster, Creutzberg said that the movement can impact the lives of students by helping them decide where to direct their energy for meaningful action. 

C/O Georgia Kirkos

Batton down the hatches cause Mac is staying the course for the rest of the semester

McMaster will remain open for the rest of the semester, despite over 100 COVID-19 cases reported last week.

Sean Van Koughnett, the dean of students, said that the numbers do not come as a shock given how many students are back on campus now.

“It's not necessarily surprising, and in fact, the rates have been, in my view, relatively low throughout the term given we have around 3500 students living in close quarters in residence as well as thousands off-campus. It's a very social environment,” said Van Koughnett.

On March 21, Hamilton repealed the city’s face coverings and masks by-law, making face coverings no longer required in places other than high-risk settings such as public transit.

However, McMaster has announced that the university’s mask mandate will remain in place for the rest of the semester.

Van Koughnett said that the university’s decision to keep its mask mandate in place offers an additional layer of protection that is still necessary.

Whether other protocols, such as completion of daily screenings via MacCheck, will continue to be in place, are ongoing discussions the university continues to have.

C/O Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities

After a statement of apology, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities promises to develop new policies and procedures

cw: Mention of sexual violence

On Feb. 19, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities released an apology for engaging with Member of Parliament Kevin Vuong.

For those who don’t know, UCRU is a union of different university student groups across Canada who come together to advocate for better undergraduate university education. The McMaster Students Union is one of UCRU’s members.

Every year, UCRU carries out a federal lobby week to meet with a number of MPs and have discussions about student issues. These lobby weeks allow UCRU to present concerns to the federal government and seek support from the MPs.

This year, UCRU’s lobby week took place in the last week of January. On Jan. 25, UCRU met with MP Kevin Vuong.

Vuong serves as the MP for the Spadina—Fort York constituency and originally ran as a Liberal candidate in the 2021 federal election. When news broke that Vuong was charged with a sexual assault in 2019, that had since been withdrawn, the Liberal party disavowed Vuong. As a result, Vuong now sits in the House of Commons without any party affiliation.

Vuong’s election was not well received and many have condemned associations with Vuong.

Following the lobby week, on Feb. 18, UCRU posted an Instagram story containing Vuong.

UCRU has now apologized for engaging with Vuong and said they will cease engagement with Vuong.

Denver Della-Vedova, current President of the MSU and chair of UCRU, said that UCRU unfortunately did not have any vetting procedures in place this year.

However, UCRU has now begun developing policies and procedures to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again.

“We are committed to ensuring we have a better vetting process and have some steps that we can take in advance to ensure that we are not supporting any individuals that are unscrupulous,” said Della-Vedova.

PHOTO C/O Metroland

Delivered right to your arm!

The GO-VAXX mobile COVID-19 vaccine bus is returning to McMaster on Tuesday, March 8th and Wednesday March 16th.

The mobile clinic is providing first, second or third doses to McMaster students, staff, faculty and members of the Hamilton community.

Clinic appointments can be booked via the provinces booking portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900.

Appointments for the March 16th slot can be booked starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 12th.

The bus will be in Lot I on McMaster’s main campus.

It is recommended that attendees bring their Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) and/or University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) card to the clinic.

International students should bring physical, hard copies of previous vaccinations from other countries.

C/O Mike Wong

The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself. 

Mike Wong: My name is Mike Wong and I'm an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. 

What inspires you to research what you do? 

Personal and interpersonal experiences. I think I'm at a point in my life where I don't want to do things that aren't meaningful to me. I'm fascinated by neuroplasticity. I'm fascinated with research in all the areas I've done in the past but I've gotten to a point where I want to do things that are also meaningful to people on a broader scale. For example, stress-related research. I teach and stress comes up a lot. Feelings of burnout or being overwhelmed is something students really struggle with. I always try to think back to when I was a student and I definitely struggled with that. With this work, eventually, I'd like to use it for recommendations to student wellness centres to find different strategies for students. With the educational practices, I'm interested in getting the word out there to make our classes more inclusive, to make our classes less stressful. What can we do as instructors to improve the student experience? How do we build a community, how do we reduce stress and how do we support students as they go through what is arguably one of the most difficult chapters in their lives? I find that really, really meaningful. 

 What can we do as instructors to improve the student experience? How do we build a community, how do we reduce stress and how do we support students as they go through what is arguably one of the most difficult chapters in their lives?

You said in a previous interview that if you didn't pursue science that you might want to go into culinary arts. Has this changed? 

I struggled a lot with what I wanted to do as a career in my third and fourth years. I went all over the place. I had a really big interest in ancient Greco-Roman history, I actually wanted to do [graduate school] in ancient history. I thought about politics. I thought about business. I thought about teaching at a high school level. I had a huge list and I made a spreadsheet of all the pros and cons of all the different careers I could see myself in.  

Another part of me wanted to leave academia, wanted to leave science. I looked into the real estate world. I looked into culinary arts. I was exploring. My brother always wanted to be a chef but he never did so that trickled in my mind. If I were to ever leave academia, I think I would still consider becoming a chef and going into the culinary world. I love food. I love plating my food. There's just everything about food that I love. It makes me so happy. 

Do you have any advice you’d like to share? 

I won't frame it as giving advice, I'd frame it just from personal experience. You can plan and plan and plan but sometimes the unexpected happens. When I hear the word success and I hate the word success, I'm always reminded of this diagram where you have the word success and you see a linear arrow. When we look at people and I know I am guilty of that, too, you see someone who seems really put together and you think they're so successful, they're so smart. But I think for most people, that journey isn't linear. There are a lot of these twists and turns. That learning journey is very messy and life is no different. I remember when I was an undergrad, I thought “Oh, I'm going to finish undergrad, I'll do some postgraduate work and I'll get a job and everything is going to be great and dandy.” But that isn't my experience. I've had to face a lot of ups and downs over the years but I've learned to really trust the process. Things will work out in the end. It may not be what you expect, but I think it will work out. It may be tough at times but I'm a true believer that things do work out in the end.  

The other thing I've learned is to let the journey take you; let the journey guide you. I think sometimes we get tunnel vision. We think, “This is what I want and I'm going to focus all my experiences on this end goal.” But I think by doing that, we're sometimes depriving ourselves of all the other experiences that could have been. I know uncertainty is scary, but there's almost a beauty to that because rather than funnelling all your experiences to this angle, you're allowing yourself to explore all of these different opportunities that can ultimately lead you to something that may be more meaningful to you.

I know uncertainty is scary, but there's almost a beauty to that because rather than funnelling all your experiences to this angle, you're allowing yourself to explore all of these different opportunities that can ultimately lead you to something that may be more meaningful to you.  

C/O MSU SWHAT

Everything you need to know about using and volunteering for the service

For those who don’t know, SWHAT is a McMaster Students Union volunteer service that walks or buses with students during evening hours. Operating between 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. seven days a week, when students request a SWHAT walk, the service will send two volunteer walkers to accompany students to their destination.  

During walks, team members are equipped with flashlights, radios and umbrellas if needed. 

If you have a gender preference for the walkers, you can also mention that when requesting a walk. 

Located in the McMaster University Student Centre, in the past, SWHAT accepted walk-in requests. However, given the current COVID-19 pandemic, walks must be booked in advance. 

The service can be booked in two ways: calling the service at 905-525-9140 x 27500 or by filling in a registration form. On the registration form, SWHAT has indicated that your information will remain confidential.  

To keep everyone safe, when walking with SWHAT members, remember to keep in mind their current COVID-19 safety policy. This includes wearing masks during walks and completing the MacCheck screening.  

C/O MSU SWHAT

What about if you want to be a SWHAT walker? Well, if this kind of service is something you would like to partake in, they are currently looking for volunteers on a rolling basis! On Instagram, they have announced that their second round of applications will close on March 4 at 11:59 p.m. You can apply by filling in the application form available here: https://linktr.ee/msuswhat.  

Currently, SWHAT’s areas of service ranges between University Plaza and the 403 (map below). In the case of bus rides, all students should have their own Hamilton Street Railway bus pass which is usually accessed through a Presto card. 

C/O MSU SWHAT

Going places alone, especially at night, can be dangerous and unsettling at times. So, next time you are travelling around Hamilton later at night alone, consider contacting SWHAT for some nice company and the chance to meet some new people!  

Any inquiries related to the service could be directed to SWHAT through their email, phone number or Instagram. 

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