By: Daniel Aruz
The year-end celebration is still very much on the table for MSU President Teddy Saull, even after three recently failed end-of-year celebration Student Representative Assembly motions.
During the report segment of the SRA meeting on Nov. 2, Saull stated that he will be starting a working group regarding what the MSU should “do about a year end celebration if anything.”
The previous SRA meeting saw over fifty students, who came to share their views on how the end of the year celebration money should be put to use. The strongly negative response escalated via online discussion and a petition bearing 500 signatures denouncing the maximum $215,000 proposal. This has been the largest audience an SRA meeting has had in recent memory.
The $215,000 motion was pulled due to the overwhelming negative response, and the failure of Option 2, spending $170,000, and Option 3, the $95,000 allocation. Despite this, Saull continued to ask whether or not he should continue to pursue some form of a year-end celebration, in a scaled-down form.
“I took a straw-poll (this is an informal vote to see how people are feeling on a question less formal than a motion) and the majority of the SRA expressed interest in me continuing to do so. In short, I am continuing the pursuit of this idea on the recommendation of the SRA,” said Saull, via email. “I would certainly have dropped the idea completely if that was the will of the assembly.”
Saull is looking to possibly build a survey to gather student feedback in the coming weeks. He noted throughout the report segment of the meeting that he has been having difficulty in getting feedback from students, who he has supposedly been reaching out to via social media, and focus groups.
“I remain excited about the prospect of some sort of send off event, even if it is completely re-imagined from what I had initially conceived (maybe there’s something we can do that doesn’t cost any money, for example), and I look forward to working with students and university partners to figure out what that might be,” said Saull.
Since the last SRA meeting, Saull noted that he has been paying more attention to social media, and that he is looking into creating surveys for multiple larger projects he has been working on, including Frost week and the year-end celebration.
The SRA meeting on Oct. 19 had unprecedented student engagement.
Over 50 students turned up in person on Sunday evening and throughout the livestream an average 250 viewers watched from home.
Many students were particularly interested in MSU President Teddy Saull’s motion that put forward several options for an end of year celebration, which would allocate up to $215,000 to Campus Events.
However, at the meeting Saull rescinded the most expensive options.
“There has been a lot of dispute about the $215,000 motion, and like I said, I think it’s my job to push the organization to think but it’s also my job to listen, and there’s no doubt that there’s been a lot of noise made about this,” said Saull.
Although many students expressed frustration with the fact that this idea was put forward, the Board of Directors was happy that so many students became involved in the discussion.
“I hope that people don’t feel like this is a failure... I’ve never seen so many people come to an SRA meeting or talking on campus about the MSU,” said Saull.
The meeting addressed several other controversies as well.
The Women and Gender Equity Network Coordinator, Shanthiya Baheerathan, gave an update on the network and thanked Saull for his work on advocating for a sexual assault nurse on campus and getting a response coordinator.
However, both Baheerathan and members of the WGEN Advisory Committee high-lighted the role of the SRA and Board of Directors in moving forward on the WGEN’s goals, particularly finding a space on campus.
“To be honest we haven’t gotten a lot of accountability from the VP Admin on this” said Ana Qarri, a member of the WGEN advisory board. “The point of the advisory board is to advise on what is going on with the centre, but we haven’t been asked to advise on anything. We felt like we’ve been kept out of any of the decisions that have been made.”
While the SRA failed to pass all options for an end of year celebration, they unanimously decided to spend $10,000 to expand this year’s Frost Week concert and provided CFMU $9,395.92 worth of hardware upgrades.
They also passed a motion to recommend a week-long break beginning in the fall of 2015 to the Fall Break Committee.
One issue discussed that was not on the agenda was whether the BOD has any responsibility to engage with students on social media, when Anser Abbas jokingly asked Saull when he would be getting back on Facebook.
Saull explained that he chooses to engage students in person by devoting an hour each week to engaging students in the Student Centre. He said he prefers to keep his personal life separate from work.
“I find it demoralizing and I don’t like to subject myself to the environment where my personal life collides with the decisions that I’m trying to make at work,” he said.
But with over 2,000 livestream comments, 1,594 students signing a change.org petition and countless students engaging through SRA members’ posts on Facebook, students seem to be saying that online engagement is the way to go.
Three people will join MSU President-elect Teddy Saull on the MSU’s Board of Directors next year. Vice-Presidents will be elected by the Student Representative Assembly at the meeting on Sunday, April 6; one for finance, education and administration.
While any full-time student may attend the meeting and run for a position on the Board of Directors, the members of the SRA also have to power to nominate individuals to run for the positions.
Traditionally, these nominees are seen as favoured to win the jobs but a student from outside of the Assembly, technically, have an equal shot.
Elected Vice-Presidents work full-time for the MSU on a 12-month contract and, therefore, must be graduating students or be willing to take a year off from school.
Below are the nominees from the SRA meeting on March 30:
Daniel D’Angela: SRA Social Sciences, MSU Finance
Inemesit Etokudo: Maroons Coordinator
Scott Mallon: Former SRA Commerce, Finance Committee member
Jacob Klugsberg: MSU Teaching Awards Coordinator, Advocacy External Coordinator
Rodrigo Narro Perez: SRA Science, University Affairs Commissioner
Jacob Brodka: SRA Science. MSU Services Commissioner, Maroons Public Relations Coordinator
Aaron Morrow: SRA Science, Executive Board member
On a typical night, you won’t find Teddy Saull at a party or a rowdy get-together. He prefers a quiet night in with some ice cream and a few episodes of whatever TV show he’s watching at the time. But on Thursday, Jan. 30 he and a crowd of friends and supporters took to Snooty Fox for a night of celebration.
After three days of voting, and more than 8,300 votes cast, Saull emerged as the victor of a two-week race for next year’s MSU President, defeating early favourite Jacob Brodka by only 102 votes in the final round of voting.
Before mid-September 2013 Saull hadn’t thought much about involvement in MSU politics; he was just an average, self-described nerd.
“I was a very late bloomer. I’m quite tall now. I was very short until the summer between Grade 11 and Grade 12,” said Saull of his high school days.
He continued “I had a buzzcut, braces, weighed about a hundred pounds and was about five foot two. And I liked science and math—not the most appealing combination.”
Saull grew up in Ajax—living in the same house for his whole life—as the third in a series of four brothers. His mom is an educational assistant with special needs children and his dad is a business owner in the fasteners industry.
In elementary school, Saull loved to learn and had a particular desire to study science and math, but also enjoyed English. He grew up thinking he would become a medical doctor.
He delved into athletics as well.
“I was part of the all the sports teams in elementary school, when they weren’t as competitive, and then in high school there was no way,” he said.
Despite the drop off in sports participation, high school was still a time of involvement for Saull.
“I did pretty much everything…I was in a lot of clubs: Social Justice Club, I was President of Student Council,” he said. “I was a nerd, it is what it is.”
“I think I even got a few carry-over votes from high school,” he said of this year’s MSU Presidential race.
“When I was campaigning, I talked to someone and they said ‘Yeah, you were President when I was in grade nine, so I already voted for you’.”
For university, it came down to McMaster life sciences or Western health sciences, still wanting to be a doctor, but after a tour of the campus, McMaster was secured as his first choice.
“Western seemed fun, but McMaster felt like home, right away. It even had that Hogwarts feel that you can’t replicate,” he said.
He moved into Edwards Hall in September of 2010 and began his life at McMaster.
After a year of life sciences and some time of reflection, Saull decided to switch to the psychology, neuroscience and behavior program.
“I realized that I loved psych, once I was in it. I was very lucky to find what I’m interested in. I am fascinated by the human mind,” he said.
Saull stayed on campus as a Community Advisor in Hedden, and then Bates, before moving off campus for fourth-year.
“I wanted to belong to something. First year was tough—I think it is for most people—I thought I could create an environment that would make people comfortable,” said Saull,
“You get to see people grow. You see people come in as their nervous, shy person, or the super-outgoing person and you watch them evolve into the person that they become.”
Journey to MSU President
Sept. 2013 is when Saull decided he might make a good MSU President. His team worked throughout the year to construct a platform that could improve student life and a campaign that could convince them of its merits.
Coming from outside of the MSU was a challenge that the team knew could be a deterrent to winning the election.
“It was close. The success for us was that it was close—even if we had lost by a hundred votes, that would have been a success because of where we were coming from,” he said.
“Nobody expected that we would have a strong campaign because it was so clear that we did not have an overwhelming amount of MSU experience.”
“I was very thrown off, personally at times, at all of the negativity,” he said. “I had never been a part of politics before, except for watching The Ides of March.”
His campaign attempted to use this lack of experience as an advantage.
“Not having that experience means that you can come at things as a student, and as a learner. Then you can provide insight where you think it’s best. People respond well to that,” he said.
When voting begun on Jan. 28, Saull and his team were unsure if his message had connected with enough voters to win. By the time the polls were closing on Jan 30, the doubts were even stronger.
“I genuinely had no idea. I had a feeling on Thursday night [Jan.30] that we had lost, but there was no way to tell,” said Saull.
“I had no idea if we were winning, or if we were in dead last.”
When all the votes were tallied, Saull had emerged the victor.
He was sitting at home, trying to catch up on homework and preparing a Facebook post to address what he thought would be an election loss, when his phone rang with a call coming from current MSU President David Campbell.
Campbell informed him that he had won and Saull joined his team to celebrate.
“The transition really starts now. I’ll start working with the Board [of Directors] and getting to know the role and preparing to start in the summer,” said Saull.
Barring any successful appeals from other candidates, Teddy Saull’s term as MSU President will begin on May 1.
“I will say this: I will not run for elected office ever again,” said Saull.
Teddy Saull is the MSU president-elect.
After 8,364 votes were cast and counted, Saull narrowly beat out Jacob Brodka by 102 votes. In the third-round tally, Brodka and Saull were separated by just 11 votes.
“My housemates are now surrounding me but I was alone when David [Campbell] called me,” Saull told the Silhouette minutes after finding out he won the election.
“It’s interesting – he called me when I was writing a Facebook post about losing. That’s how I was going to break it to my team. So I did not expect to win."
Jyssika Russell came in third, followed by Israa Ali. Russell had just 48 votes more than Ali in the first round. Jason Wolwowicz was eliminated in the first round with 396 first-preference votes.
Voter turnout for this year's election was one of the highest in MSU history, with 40.5 percent turnout.
Saull ran a campaign on building community. He proposed a participatory budget program with a $100K fund and has plans to freeze the MSU fee. Saull said he would establish a bigger frost week, a peer tutoring network, a 'Clubza' website and exam period upgrades.
“I wasn’t sure where we stood and I was preparing for that reality [of losing], but here we are," Saull said.
Saull will start his term as MSU president on May 1.
In addition to voting for the next MSU president, students also voted on a MSU healthcare coverage referendum and HSR bus pass referendum.
All three healthcare options failed, so the current MSU health plan will stay the same and cost $57.50 per student. The 12-month bus pass and expanded service option passed, which means students will pay $12.50 more per year to add those features to the HSR bus pass, starting in the 2014-15 year.
The MSU presidential debate on Monday, Jan. 27 marked the final opportunity for candidates to publicly present their case to voters and attempt to shift the balance.
No new promises were made, but the tone of the debate was more critical than last week's debate. While Brodka and Saull seemed to be frontrunners in the first debate on Thursday, Jan 23, some candidates emerged at Monday's debate as thoughtful and well-spoken contenders, particularly Russell.
Of all candidates, Russell looked the most comfortable in front of viewers and, by far, sounded the least scripted.
When asked who they think deserves second place, every candidate, except herself, said that Russell would get their vote if they weren’t running.
Though Russell was personable, she had very little time to answer questions about her own platform and explain to voters they ought to support it. Most of her time was spent questioning other candidates and handing them a chance to elaborate on their own platforms.
Russell stayed poised as all of the candidates went after the early leaders—Saull and Brodka. While candidates interrogated Saull and Brodka, Russell shone as likeable and fairly unopposed. She closed saying "I'm asking for your vote if maybe you haven't felt heard before, if maybe you've felt that your lens doesn't matter. I'm asking for your vote if you've ever felt like you needed more support."
Ali and Wolwowicz improve
Israa Ali and Jason Wolwowicz both had their work cut out for them after an underwhelming performances in the first debate.
Ali clearly presented herself as the non-status-quo candidate. She also drew on personal experience while talking to the audience and spoke about being overlooked and underestimated as a Muslim women who wears a Hijab.
"It was brought to my attention that, because I wear the Hijab, or this head scarf, I'm not as appealing to the student population as the rest of the candidates are, and I may not even win or have a chance," said Ali. "I am a student just like you and I have struggles just like you."
Her confidence showed improvement and she referenced her MSU experience more heavily than before.
Wolwowicz was a strong speaking presence in this debate and was able to remain concise. Wolwowicz, in this debate, showed himself as researched and smart but still held on to his theme of leaving big decisions up to the student body.
"Engaging the student community more is key. Students have fantastic ideas. The MSU really only sees success because of student ideas...Services were implemented because they were student ideas at some point," said Wolwowicz.
Brodka and Saull staying afloat
Saull remained relatively likeable but did not improve much from the first debate and Brodka kept his remarks vague and wordy, trying to keep his reputation as the knowledgeable candidate.
Brodka and Saull politely battled each other for most of the debate, attempting to poke holes in the other’s platform. Neither of them was more impressive than the other and they both neglected to opportunity to criticize Russell or make any meaningful pleas to voters.
Brodka attacked Saull's off-campus security plan, citing redundancies or possible lack of demand.
"I just have a lot of questions about a variety of sub-points... if there's a demand for this," said Brodka. "For example, 'an increased police presence.' I know the University already pays up to $200,000* on specialized policing surrounding the University, so I just have a lot of questions."
Saull, again, was critical of Brodka's freedom credit point, saying it hadn't been researched properly.
"You had a consultation with a Dean, who said it worked. If you call a Dean and ask how his pilot project went, I think that that would be a biased sample," said Saull.
It seemed as though they were each just trying to hold on.
Online voting opened Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 9 a.m. and will close on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 5 p.m. Students eligible to vote are registered in 18 units or more and should receive a code to vote at mcmaster.simplyvoting.com.
*number clarified later on Twitter
Silhouette editors interviewed each presidential candidate on camera about things you may not have known just by reading their platform. You can also find the videos on our YouTube channel, McMaster Silhouette.
An underwhelming MSU Presidential debate resulted in no clear winner and a missed opportunity for candidates to sway voters. The Silhouette hosted and live-streamed an hour-long debate on Jan. 23, allowing candidates to question and defend their platforms. Despite more than an hour of questions and answers candidates brought little to the table in terms of new messages or back-and-forth debate.
When given the chance to critique competitors' platforms, most of the panel questioned Jacob Brodka and, to a lesser extent, Teddy Saull. Brodka and Saull levied their harshest criticisms and most pointed questions at each other.
Candidates question Saull and Brodka
Saull stood up well to the pressure. He knew his platform but had trouble remaining concise and getting his point across in a fixed amount of time. He also mixed in humour and light-heartedness with thoughtful comments.
Saull chose to focus his talking points on the pillar of his campaign—building community—along with touting his idea to freeze the MSU fee at its current rate.
“All of my platform points come down to community and how do we draw students in in a way that is easy and is exciting for them?” he said.
Saull demonstrated weakness, but also honesty, when he admitted to lacking in financial knowledge and experience. He made no mention as to how he could cope with that as the MSU President. He did, however, take to the opportunity to express pride in being out of the MSU and SRA bubble.
“I’ve spent my time at McMaster on the ground with students: as a CA, as a TA, and I think that will allow me to be sitting in that seat and to always be thinking ‘how does this come back to the student population,’” said Saull.
Jacob Brodka, composed and prepared, dealt with criticism with more tact than Saull, but perhaps in a less charming way. His statements never felt rushed and he consistently made his point within small windows of time.
As a panelist, Brodka seemed experienced, well-versed in the operation of the MSU, and comfortable on camera, but was less adept at engaging viewers and maintaining charisma.
Brodka’s message centred on his freedom credit platform point, participatory budgeting and allowing students to drive positive change.
“I want students to submit their concepts and ideas…I want them to share with us how we can improve campus…I think that’d be a great way to improve student life,” said Brodka.
When candidates pointed out what they believed were holes in his platform, such as the lack of a mental health platform point, Brodka responded strongly.
“Despite the fact that certain things may not appear in a candidates platform, that doesn’t mean that you’re not consciously aware of the efforts that are currently being put forward…The MSU is currently working on a mental health policy,” Brodka said.
Russell appeals to students
Jyssika Russell proved to be down-to-earth and personable in the debate. Though her platform faced criticism, she addressed students more personally and sounded less scripted than other candidates.
While most candidates address concerns that cater to the “involved” student, Russell made a concerted effort to appeal to those outside the MSU bubble.
“We need to be making sure that we have places where we can also make a lot of meaningful contact,” said Russell.
That proved to be a poignant statement, as both Wolwowicz and Saull jumped on board and agreed.
Russell’s most significant criticisms centred on plans that candidates saw as redundant. Other candidates pointed to her inclusion council and Art Crawl bus ideas as unnecessary, saying these needs can be met by other MSU bodies and the HSR.
Ali and Wolwowicz miss opportunity to make an impact
Israa Ali and Jason Wolwowicz each got their campaigns off to a slower start than other candidates and did not effectively use the debate to catch up.
Ali was, at times, lost in the speed of the debate and seemed the least confident of the candidates. Her speaking tone was professional but seemed stiff and rehearsed at times.
Ali was, however, the only candidate to address concerns of spiritual groups on campus, especially with regards to creating a spirituality centre.
“The spirituality centre has been a conversation starter ever since 2004 and it’s been needed for a lot of different faith groups on campus, even for those without faith,” said Ali.
Wolwowicz demonstrated confidence and charm but relied heavily on his notes, anecdotes and elaboration. He also tended to be long-winded in his answers.
His “Bright Idea” program fell under the radar among candidates at the debate. Brodka’s and Saull’s similar platform points saw much more talk time.
Wolwowicz's strongest moment came when lobbing criticism against the peer tutoring proposals put forward by Brodka and Saull.
“I understand we have a surplus, and we have money to spare right now. However, I don’t see how that’s affordable,” said Wolwowicz.
For both Ali and Wolwowicz equal speaking time did not result in equal impact.
Candidates address audience questions
To close the debate, candidates took questions from the live-streaming audience (beginning at 00:52:40 in the video). Many viewers wanted to hear the candidates weigh in on the scandal surrounding McMaster's engineering Redsuits organization and their "songbook."
The candidates agreed that the words found in the cheers are inappropriate but not representative of the engineering community as a whole.
Saull, Brodka and Ali supported the University's decision given the information that was available at the time of the debate. Russell denounced the songbook but did not directly comment on the decision to suspend the Redsuits.
Wolwowicz denounced the songbook but added, "having been a welcome week representative as well, I think we should have a little more discussion before condemning all engineering students who might be reps as well."
An MSU-sponsored debate will take place on Monday, Jan 27 at 12:00 p.m. and take place in the atrium of the McMaster University Student Centre.
Online polling will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 28, Wednesday, Jan 28 and Thursday, Jan 30.
We live streamed and hosted an all-candidate MSU presidential debate on Jan. 23. Find our analysis here and the full video below.
The candidates sat down with the Silhouette to talk platform, criticisms and why they're fit for the job.