Lindsay D’Souza’s platform includes eight different pillars, but it remains unclear what new projects she plans to take on. This is especially the case with respect to her points concerning student wellness.
Under her student wellness pillar, it is unclear what D’Souza would do in addition to the work that has already been done by other groups on campus. For example, D’Souza says she will introduce case managers to student residences. A case manager’s role would offer additional support to community advisors and residence managers in special cases.
D’Souza wishes to introduce case managers under a three-year pilot and use the data from that experience to improve mental health strategies on campus.
This, however, ignores the work already done by the McMaster Students Union and Housing and Conference Services. According to Simon Wilmot, the Housing and Conference Services coordinator, there have been discussions planning the creation of a case manager for some time now. They are currently in the process of finalizing the job description.
It is currently unclear what D’Souza is actually advocating for here, considering that this project is already underway and that the pilot program would, at best, be one-third done by the time she would finish her term.
D’Souza is also unclear with regards to how she will make student voices heard with respect to how space will be used in the new Student Wellness Centre being built as a part of the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning, given that the university has already broken ground with that project. While consultations may still happen after the building is done, the building will not be opened until well after D’Souza’s term, if she is elected.
Similarly, D’Souza also states in her platform that she would like to aid the SWC in restructuring their website, but they are already currently in the process of doing so. D’Souza also plans on promoting WellTrack, a wellness app offered through the SWC that may help students manage their symptoms while in between appointments.
Most of the points D’Souza offers in her wellness pillar are either projects that are already in the works or conversations the MSU president is already expected to be a part of, given the advocacy aspect of the role. She does not make clear what she specifically would bring to these conversations nor does she bring forth any supplementary ideas that are not already being explored by either the student union or other campus groups.
This is a consistent pattern throughout D’Souza’s platform; while she offers projects here and there, many of her points only rehash projects already being discussed by various groups on campus, whether it be the Student Representative Assembly, the board of directors or external campus partners. She has offered little substance for students to work with, thus making it difficult to completely trust her platform.
Though Kyle Pinheiro can only achieve the platform points in his “Food” pillar by working with McMaster Students Union and university stakeholders, Pinheiro has yet to consult them.
Pinheiro’s first platform point in this pillar is aimed at relocating Mac Bread Bin’s Food Collective Centre to a larger space. Currently, the FCC, the university’s on-campus food bank, operates out of the basement of the Refectory, which is near Bridges Cafe.
According to Taylor Mertens, the Director of Mac Bread Bin, the MSU Board of Directors have been pushing for a space expansion for the FCC. As such, the FCC has been able to secure a custom space on the third floor of the Student Activity Building, which is projected to be completed in 2020.
Although Mertens would support an effort to reduce the amount of time it takes for the FCC to be relocated to a larger facility, this is not an effort that Pinheiro will undertake should he be elected, at least not according to his platform, which contains no mention of the SAB deal.
Rather, Pinheiro expresses interest in relocating the FCC in the first place, not reducing the amount of time it will take to bring the existing deal to fruition. It should also be noted that Pinheiro never cites a location to which the FCC should move.
The second platform point in Pinheiro’s “Food” pillar involves developing a frozen food delivery service aimed at providing more food to Hamilton’s homeless shelters.
In his platform, Pinheiro specifies that this initiative would not detract from the current system, which allows McMaster students to take unused food at the end of each day. Instead, it would ensure that leftover food that would otherwise be thrown out would be donated to shelters on behalf of the MSU.
Pinheiro did not consult Mac Bread Bin on this platform point either.
Although Mertens says that this may be feasible, accomplishing this platform point would require working with Chris Roberts, the Director of McMaster Hospitality Services, who would decide which food items get donated to the community and which are provided to McMaster students.
When asked, Roberts said he was not consulted by Pinheiro. He expressed concern over the fact that Pinheiro included this initiative in his platform. According to Roberts, Pinheiro’s platform point addresses a complex issue Hospitality Services is looking into, both internally and in collaboration with Mac Bread Bin.
It should be noted that Pinheiro also failed to do sufficient research when it comes to his promise to develop an Avenue To Learn app.
Brightspace Pulse, an app connected to Avenue To Learn that allows students to track their courses, assignments, readings and grades, already exists. In his platform, Pinheiro does not address Brightspace Pulse and its capabilities.
Pinheiro considers his platform to be aimed at improving students’ lives “FASTR,” not slower. Without consultation with key MSU and university stakeholders, however, Pinheiro may need to amend his slogan.
In the “Revamping Your Campus” pillar of her platform, Ikram Farah highlights her interest in increasing lighting in low-traffic locations on campus and in student-populated locations off-campus.
Farah argues that poor lighting conditions have decreased students’ sense of safety, noting the municipal government’s effort to upgrade street lighting on residential streets in Hamilton. This pillar of Farah’s platform is aimed at pushing the city of Hamilton to include more LED lighting on and off campus in the next year.
It should be noted that Farah’s promise to improve lighting on streets off-campus is not new, with former McMaster Students Union presidential candidate Aquino Inigo and 2014-2015 MSU president Teddy Saull inquiring about lighting in the past.
Last year, Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson stated in an email to the Silhouette that former councillor Brian McHattie encountered feasibility problems when residents pushed back against increased light pollution.
Although the replacement of all residential street and LED lights in Hamilton is currently being undertaken by the Hamilton municipal government, LED replacement for the off-campus McMaster area will not necessarily be prioritized.
According to Joey Coleman, a local journalist, the implementation of Farah’s off-campus objective is only feasible should the MSU have sway in City Hall. As such, the extent to which the McMaster area will be prioritized will depend on whether McMaster students vote en masse in the upcoming municipal election.
It should be noted that the MSU has struggled to incentivize students to vote in municipal elections in the past. During the 2014 Ward 1 election, for instance, only 40.7 per cent of all voters in the area cast a ballot for a total of 8,870 votes. McMaster's population of 26,780 undergraduates means if just half that number voted in the election, it would have equated to 151.0 per cent of the previous Ward 1 turnout.
Coleman states that the MSU president needs a plan to mobilize the student vote, particularly one that starts on May 1, in order to be effective. Nevertheless, a plan to increase civic engagement amongst McMaster students is not outlined in Farah’s platform.
In light of these facts, Farah’s promise seems elusive.
Moreover, in the “Revamping Your Campus” pillar of her platform, Farah also promises to make the campus more accessible to students who experience physical barriers.
Farah notes that areas on campus continue to be inaccessible, citing the need for more accessible pathways, roads, stairways and parking lots.
In her platform, Farah does not specify what her plan to improve physical campus accessibility will entail. Although she mentions that she has been communicating with McMaster’s director of maintenance about this platform point, Farah does not highlight specific policies or initiatives that she seeks to implement should she be elected.
While Farah does mention her interest in investing money into making university infrastructure more accessible, she does not highlight precisely how much money she aims to invest, where the funding will come from or whether the initiative will require a multi-year effort.
Overall, certain aspects of Farah’s platform do not seem feasible without better planning.
One of Muhammed Aydin’s major platform points involves creating a landlord rating system, which would allow students to rate landlords and act as a measure to promote tenants’ rights. It is clear that Aydin has not checked with the current McMaster Students Union on what they have already done on this front.
In his Jan. 17 report to the Student Representative Assembly, MSU vice president (Education) Ryan Deshpande confirmed that the landlord wiki is already underway and should hold a soft launch by the end of the term.
In addition, the Municipal Affairs committee released the MSU Landlord Report that outlines the research they have compiled detailing the relationship various students have with their landlords. The report also discusses various different models of landlord rating systems used in different cities, such as Philadelphia and Toronto.
While it is true that these documents were only released once the presidential race began, it is clear that this project has been in the works for a long time. In his Oct. 25 report, Deshpande stated that he was working on this project with associate vice president (Municipal Affairs) Stephanie Bertolo and that the project would be up and running sometime this year. According to the MSU Landlord Report, the report was compiled sometime in December 2017.
Aydin’s platform points concerning housing do not offer anything outside of what the MSU is currently working on. While it would be fair to promise to continue previous board members’ projects, all the documents released by Deshpande and the Municipal Affairs committee point to landlord wiki project being done within 2017-2018 school year.
Such a gap in Aydin’s platform illustrates the lack of research into the type of work the MSU has already committed itself to. It should be noted that information about current MSU projects can be found on the MSU website under the SRA tab and is generally made available a few days before it is physically presented to the SRA.
Overall, Aydin’s platform points concerning housing have already been completed by the current board of directors.
By: Vanessa Polojac
Rabeena Obaidullah’s candidacy is about breaking barriers in accessibility, integration and community. But for a platform built on student interest, it lacks certain aspects of consideration and confirmation.
Centering the platform around five pillars, Obaidullah focuses most of the first pillar on transportation with the extension of a Go bus route while also bringing the car-share service of UberPool to Hamilton and the McMaster community. Obaidullah’s platform fails to better the lives of students with these new transportation plans.
In principle, a significant number of students on campus reside in Ancaster, Hamilton Mountain, Stoney Creek and Waterdown where HSR service is not routine. This makes for a long commute to campus. Obaidullah did not specify any plans to improve Hamilton Street Railway.
Obaidullah promises to extend the 40 Go bus route that takes students directly from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to the Main and Paisley bus stop. Obaidullah argues that this bus route only works for students who live near the Westdale area, opposed to those who live on campus and in other student neighbourhoods where this route is not as accessible.
Obaidullah is proposing for this route to stop at McMaster University’s Go terminal to benefit international students, out-of-province students and students from different parts of Ontario. Obaidullah has not specified why she has focused on the 40 route, considering that many popular bus routes such as the 16 route to Union Station also do not service the McMaster University bus terminal.
Additionally, Uber already exists in Hamilton as a single-occupancy service. Ride-sharing options are not currently present in the city. UberPool pairs questions going to destinations close to each other to allow users to share the cost. It currently exists in larger cities such as Toronto.
The service has had many conflicts and difficulties in the city of Toronto and GTA with a delayed timing of arrival as well as payment issues. In an UberPool, both passengers will pay 20 per cent less than a standard UberX fare during off-peak hours and roughly five to 10 per cent during the night, according to Uber’s own calculations.
While bringing UberPool is a possibility under Hamilton’s new licensing laws for Uber, it remains unclear whether or not Uber would bring such a service to Hamilton, given that they have only rolled out UberPool in major urban spaces like Toronto.
With all of this said, Obaidullah does not list any points in her platform to improve the HSR despite students paying for an HSR U-Pass.
Overall, Obaidullah’s platform points focus on marketplace solutions, but do not address the difficulties of working with non-campus partners nor does she address how she plans on working with current community partners.
Wong’s initial platform was centred around creative ideas of transparency, sustainability and inclusion. His main points reflected upon demonstrating the McMaster Students Union’s usefulness as an organization by making both advocacy work and financial plans conducted by the organization transparent to students, in addition to reviewing the funding behind Light Up the Night.
His adjacent platform initially saw two points, which included the replacement of all walkways on campus with canals and to block all stairways during inclement weather to ensure that other stairways did not feel left out.
Wong has since added six more platform points to his adjacent platform since campaigning began on Jan. 15. These points include suggesting a more modern motto for the university, revisiting the McMaster Student Absence Form policy and changing policies surrounding the length of SRA meetings.
Further, Wong hopes to ensure that students have “thicc” toilet paper across campus, research the logistics behind replacing all university and MSU administration staff with robots and enact a 24/7 monitoring of all microwaves on campus. Wong has also added a suggestions tab to his website in order for students to add their own ideas.
Wong’s changing platform demonstrates that his candidacy could have benefitted from further discussion with the student body.
One point, in particular, raises concerns as to whether Wong had conducted proper research within the undergraduate student population. His “Save Our Lakes” point raises serious concern over student safety.
Wong’s Save Our Lakes campaign sees the replacement of all walkways on campus with canals. Citing that this action will double as the restoration and preservation of our local environment, Wong and his team believe that it is time for McMaster to cave to the inevitable in light of recent weather trends.
This proposal is arguably a logistical nightmare. Primarily, only 56 per cent of North Americans can perform the main five swimming skills and over the past two decades, there have been over 10,511 accidental drownings in Canada. Wong has not commented on any precautionary measures that the MSU will take to ensure the safety of all students while implementing this platform point.
Further, temperatures have hit record-breaking lows in recent months, which raises concern as to how McMaster’s Facility Services will maintain said canals during winter months. It also raises concerns as to how students will navigate their way to and from classes on these canals during winter months, and in general. Again, Wong has not commented on whether the MSU will provide skates, gondolas or ice picks.
Overall, a major critique of Wong’s campaign is the lack of planning and the ever-changing nature of his platform.
Kirstin Webb’s candidacy surrounds three pillars that include on-campus issues, community development and a collective between the MSU and the McMaster student body.
While these three pillars reflect upon issues that McMaster students face in general, Webb’s platform suffers from a lack of concrete planning and research while lacking sufficient coverage as to how each platform point will be implemented. Using tentative language to explain her platform points, it seems as though there is no concrete plan to put into practice.
Considering her “Community” pillar, in particular, Webb focuses primarily on student safety off campus while building a relationship with the city of Hamilton. Within this pillar, Webb calls for a #SaferMac through a safety campaign and through the exploration of adding safety poles within the community.
Although this may be a strong idea on paper, it is regretful that Webb had not addressed a consultation or collaboration with campus Security Services or Hamilton Emergency services to fully assess the feasibility in implementing this platform point.
The role of security poles on campus is for student protection and assistance on campus. When a phone is activated, Security Services is called and a special constable is dispatched to the scene if needed. The idea being that if help is needed on campus, there is help on the way.
McMaster is currently in the process of installing new assistance phones throughout campus. Over the next few years, McMaster will see 55 new assistance phones complete with new technologies and infrastructure principles, including a public paging system and a CCTV unit mounted on top.
Further, campus security is only able to respond to calls made from security poles on campus. If there is an emergency issue off campus, students are expected to call 911 to reach Hamilton’s Emergency Services who will then dispatch the appropriate emergency response team.
With McMaster’s current plan of implementing new assistance phones across campus and the overall unnecessary nature of additional safety poles off campus, this aspect of Webb’s #SaferMac campaign seems to be lacking a feasible structure of implementation, consultation and collaboration with on-campus resources.
Overall, Webb’s goals are limited to a campaign that is geared more towards smaller initiatives, rather than making a substantial change through more impressive projects.
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MSU Presidential candidate Justin Monaco-Barnes has a long history of working for the Underground Media + Design, a printing and media service provided by the MSU. He started as a part-time employee and now works full-time as the Services Manager, a student opportunity position offered through the Union.
Monaco-Barnes has a platform point on reducing courseware fees by 30 to 50 percent by printing through the Underground. While the Underground provides reasonable printing fees for the student body, the Campus Store, through Media Production Services — the current primary courseware printer — is currently the cheapest printing service on campus. For example, Underground currently charges eight cents for printing one black and white page, while the Campus Store charges five cents per black and white page.
The printing of coursewares, from any organization or printer, has a few main, consistent costs: the physical costs of printing paper, ink and binding, copyright license fees per article and a cost mark-up that accounts for miscellaneous fees such as labour and other business factors.
While physical printing fees play a role in Campus Store’s low costs, Monaco-Barnes’ promise to reduce the cost of coursewares by printing with the Underground may never be able to come into fruition primarily because of the Underground’s treatment of copyright licenses.
“The price itself, there’s no bias in it, it’s a straight formula. We don’t assign a copyright license fee to pages that we can get under fair [dealing], and that’s something we always do. The goal is the lowest price for a coursepack we can get for our students,” said Deidre Henne, McMaster’s Chief Financial Officer and Associate Vice President (Administration).
The Campus Store, through Media Production Services, has been able to provide the lowest costs for page printing on campus, as they have removed any access copyright fees associated with printing, a fee no longer required for reprinting according to a new law that was implemented by the Ontario government this past December.
“I make [our staff] check all of the pricing in all of the surrounding area, even in Toronto,” said Henne in regards to how The Campus Store calculates their printing fees each year.
The Campus Store is currently able to charge less in regards to copyright licenses because of their Library License Agreement that is provided by the University. This means any article that is offered digitally through McMaster’s library system does not need license fees applied to it when printed in a courseware. This is a luxury only available to The Campus Store at this time, due to their connection to the university. The Underground unfortunately has to charge a license for all articles used, unless McMaster is prepared to extend this Library License to an MSU service.
In an effort to prove to the student body that The Campus Store does in fact charge the lowest price, the store conducted a test to compare their costs to those of the Underground. They purchased three coursewares from the Underground at standard retail price, and calculated how much their version of the same book would cost given their pricing structure:
In addition to arguing that the cost would be lower, which at this time appears to be false, Monaco-Barnes also claims that selling through the Underground can increase the budgets of student services. This claim is also misleading as The Campus Store does currently foot a large bill for Student Affairs, a university service that helps fund Accessibility Services, Housing, Off-Campus Services, International Student Services and more. To imply that The Campus Store is providing less for students than what the Underground could is misleading. While the Underground could technically route more money back to the MSU, it is important to remember that the MSU is a non-profit organization and the goals of its services is to have a break-even budget, not necessarily to make a profit for increased servicing.
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If nothing else, Jonathon Tonietto has been honest throughout his campaign. The MSU presidential candidate made it clear in his conversation with The Silhouette that he has not spent time analyzing his fellow candidates’ platforms, instead choosing to focus on his own campaign.
Tonietto has also made it clear that he cannot lower tuition. His expanded platform, posted online over the weekend, has a full section on Mac Discount, the introduction to which reads: “Unleash Financial Shackles of Student life: I cannot make the promise of lower tuition but I can lower the cost of student living.” Having been a McMaster student for six years himself, Tonietto is no stranger to the wide range of costs incurred by being a university student.
While Tonietto does address these concerns, through the implementation of a “Marauder Price Cut Card” and a more cost-effective textbook rental program, no component of his platform addresses the elephant in the boardroom. While the current Board of Directors has not promised to lower tuition at McMaster or across the province, the MSU and the Ontario University Student Alliance is in the process of lobbying the provincial government for a tuition freeze.
According to the current VP (Education) Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, the 2016-17 BoD will need to continue the advocacy initiated by this year’s MSU President and VPs. “Since there will likely be a consultation process for the new framework, it will fall to the new team during the remainder of 2016 and early 2017 to advocate for these changes in the new framework,” he said in an email.
It is concerning to see that for all his talk of maintaining communication between BoDs, Tonietto’s platform lists very few of these initiatives. While the goal of his Mac Flow initiative is to improve this communication, the tuition freeze is mentioned once at the end of his manifesto. In his interview with The Silhouette, Tonietto stated that he had met with five of the six previous MSU presidents, including current President Ehima Osazuwa, whose most buzz-worthy platform point was his commitment to discussing Ontario’s tuition framework. Despite all that research, Tonietto’s inability to conceive of future plans about tuition advocacy leaves a major gap in his platform that speaks to his priorities as a candidate.
Tonietto’s approach to the presidential campaign has been honest, but perhaps to a fault. While it is refreshing to read, and for that matter write about a politician who is not afraid to admit their lack of insight on a topic, Tonietto’s shrug of a response to the ongoing lobbying for lower tuition is one of multiple points he has maintained a neutral position on. He is the only candidate still neutral on the question of electing VPs at large, an issue he says students should be able to make themselves.
Tonietto promises to bring change to the MSU if elected its president and CEO. He claims his perspective, as someone outside the “MSU bubble,” is advantageous to the portfolio he is proposing for the upcoming year. However, it remains to be seen whether he has the expertise on current MSU initiatives to bring the change he wants to see within the Union.