The EUS Elections
Coverage by Bowinn Ma.
• EUS President 2007-2008
• AMS Councilor 2006-2008
• EUS Vice-President Internal 2006-2007
• EUS Executive Social Coordinator 2005-2006
Currently an Arts student, Bowinn is two years removed from the EUS. For reference, she and her government brought Engineering such initiatives and services as the Engineering Student Centre Project, the EUS Organizational Structural Changes, EUS Constitutional Reform, First Year Study Space, e-nEUS, PP Clubroom Crawl, Policy Reform, the branding and marketing reform process, and Tutoring Services.
Candidate Forum Moderator: Matthew Naylor, Arts
Attendance: More than at AMS Elections Debates
Length of time: 3.5 hours.
As per my AMS Elections coverage pieces, I must insists that this is an opinion piece. Don’t like it? Too bad.
This election is an exciting one indeed. With a whole whackload of opposition candidates, every position is ripe with competition between the ‘bred’ candidate (ie. Got involved through the rungs and layers of volunteer positions leading up to Executive positions, high levels of experience, understanding of the inner workings of the Society, respect for the Constitution and the processes it protects) and the ‘new’ candidate (ie. Little if any understanding of the organization, next to no experience in any of its processes or student government in general, high levels of passion and anger, perhaps overly enthusiastic about what I personally believe are somewhat unrealistic goals). I describe these as I see it, based on me watching hundreds of people put in enormous amounts of effort over the greater part of a decade and seeing what can be realistically accomplished through it all.
This is not to say that opposition candidates cannot do good jobs, but it certainly depends very strongly on their attitude towards the organization when they come in. I myself had an Executive Professional Relations Officer on my Executive who had next to no experience in student government and understood next to nothing about the organization when he was elected into Office. He turned out to be one of the most resourceful and effective Executives on my team and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him for any job.
Opposition candidates also play an incredibly big role at highlighting areas of the Society that need to be worked on. The future government should use this campaign to recognize where visibility must be increased and where the organization lacks transparency, particularly when false claims are being made in the election.
Finally, the presence of opposition candidates validates the organization as a legitimate student government. There was once a time when opposition candidates did not exist simply because the Society seemed like a lost cause. Clearly, this is no longer the case. The organization has made incredible strides in the last half decade and all its members should be proud of this.
I have never felt so strongly about the outcome of an EUS election as I do about this one—and I’m not the only alumni that feels this way. Chris McCann, EUS President 2008-2009 has also risen from the Industry life to comment on this year’s intense election.
And so, I urge you all to please vote and vote wisely… and if you wish to take into consideration the ramblings and opinions of someone who has had far too much experience in this, perhaps you’ll consider the ballot I would cast. If you don’t know why you should be trusting me on this, consider that I designed the organizational structure the EUS currently runs on (yes, I’m bringing this into play) and over the past three years, we’ve seen a rise from nearly no end-user Academic services to a full academic portfolio (ie. Full-year tutoring services and scholarships), the establishment of an 18,000 sq ft new student centre project to replace the current engineering student centre (The Cheeze), a range of events that reaches far more students than ever before (far over 1000 students benefitted from an E-Week event this year), the establishment of the highly successful UBC Engineering Competition, the establishment of e-nEUS, higher levels of gender representation on the Board of Directors, a far closer relationship with the faculty and student development office, and much much more than you would care to read about.
Amanda Li (Bowinn’s Choice)
First of all, I am a strong endorser of Li for President. Her entire time at UBC has groomed her for this position and not in a stagnant Old School Engineering kind of way. One of only two females running in this election, she started her involvement in first year and immediately became an Executive in her second year as a member of my government. She was the key instigator to the entire rebranding process the EUS underwent, giving birth to a completely new and astonishingly high level of marketing and communications efforts. Before her, the EUS’s marketing strategy was stagnant with the occasional black and white poster and piles of undistributed ‘neuspaypers’.
She moved on to fill the brand new role of VP Academic in her third year at UBC during which she and Watt (the other female candidate in this election) managed to completely fill an empty portfolio. Academic Services were but whispers of intent before Li came into the scene and they are now full blown tutoring services that are still growing, E-Team efforts that are still blossoming,
She then took a year ‘break’ from the hustle and bustle of Executive in order to prepare herself for her Presidential candidacy. During her ‘break’, however, she picked up several other non-executive positions within the EUS. You may remember services brought to you by her such as this year’s incredibly successful E-Week 2010 as well as Frosh Week 2009.
By far the most qualified candidate, her experience is only outweighed by her passion, energy, and dedication. Li is that person who sleeps two hours a day, bursts with hundreds of tangible ways to improve the organization for students, doesn’t have time to shower for weeks, and still manages to crack a joke and a smile. Don’t be fooled by her relaxed and fun-loving personality – she is the knight in shining armor who will bring the EUS towards the feet and doorsteps of every student who has ever wanted or cared for a student society they were proud of.
Sahami is a calm individual with leadership experience taken from industry and a knack for recognizing the shortfalls of the society. The issue with him as a candidate, however, is not only that managing volunteers is not as simple as “forcing them to be involved”, as he put it, and entirely different from managing paid employees but his unfortunate and complete lack of knowledge of the way the organization runs constitutionally, its current services, and its numerous initiatives (ie. The 18,000 sq ft student building set for ground-breaking in 2011). This was particularly obvious during the Senate debate when he incorrectly described the duties of the ApSc Senator and its relationship with the EUS President.
In addition, his facebook campaign has caused quite a stir, however, as a particular supporter of his continues to verbally attack students posting legitimate concerns and asking legitimate questions on his wall in ways that are neither respectful nor fully comprehensible. While Sahami insists that this supporter does not speak on behalf of his campaign, he does not offer alternative responses to those students addressing him.
His facebook campaign, however, epitomizes an absolute positive that his candidacy has brought to the table: Engagement and dialogue. In fact, his candidacy has done a remarkable job of promoting dialogue amongst students as well as between his supporters and opponents. Regardless of whether certain arguments are based in fact or ignorance, such discussions bring to light areas in which the EUS lacks transparency and visibility and promotes engagement like a healthy election should.
Sahami is actually an individual I would have liked to see run for VP Academic (although perhaps would not be strong enough against Sertic) or VP Finance (oh, why didn’t he run for VP Finance!). He clearly has the potential to be a strong, accountable, and competent EUS Executive, but his total lack of experience makes it impossible for me to endorse him as a Presidential candidate. The EUS is already at risk of toppling over from the (what some might consider excessive amounts) numbers of changes it has attempted to instigate in the last three years and at the very least requires two things: A stable VP ComAd, and an experienced President.
Ritchie is described as “the guy who does everything” and his candidacy in this election has been a positive one. A calm and collected individual, Ritchie is a proponent of the slow and steady approach towards change, insisting that the EUS must take a step back to re-evaluate its current situation before charging forward again.
Ritchie does have experience and has certainly been very involved, but his candidacy is simply not as strong as Li’s and his campaign not nearly as enthusiastic. No doubt, Ritchie would be able to keep the Society chugging along just fine, but my loyalties, hopes, and dreams still lie with Li.
William Gallego (Bowinn’s Choice)
The VP ComAd position is an absolutely immense portfolio. I know this because I had foolishly let Andrew Carne, the Executive Secretary at the time I had created this, be my model for what the VP ComAd portfolio should look like. There are few people in the world who could have the dedication and patience to deal with it like him and there were concerns that we would not be able to fill it accordingly when Carne retired—that is, until Gallego was elected.
On the status quo level, 1 being a complete regression, 9 being racing progressively forward as fast as possible and 5 being the status quo, Gallego would be about a 6.5—a steady and stable, but positively forward, move towards a better Society. This stability is absolutely necessary for the Administrative portion of the portfolio and the Communications portion, well, that’s where we want a bit more progress.
The most attractive characteristic of Gallego, however, is simply that he has filled this position for an entire year and is not dead yet. Carne filled this role three years in a row (although it used to be called just the “Secretary”) and was a stabilizing feature for the Society amongst everything else, which was rapidly changing. This position keeps the Society from exploding.
Azampour, in contrast, has no concept of what he’s getting himself into. Several of his platform points are far outside of his portfolio and his criticisms on the current EUS electronic newsletter, the e-nEUS indicate exactly how little he knows about how things work on campus. His complaints about the service (that there are too many irrelevant articles and he cares not to see them) are goals that Gallego has been working towards in the last year. The problem is not dedication or effort but process. It took nearly eight months of negotiations with the faculty and university before the first e-nEUS could be sent out, followed by a trial year. The second year focused on further gaining faculty buy-in into the service to reduce e-mail spam, establishment of service policies, increasing general readership, and ironing out the kinks in the service in general. Gallego is currently working towards an e-nEUS that students will be able to customize (ie. Show only social events, civil-related announcements, industry nights, etc). All this takes time, as do most things that develop through a government run by a parliamentary-like process (ie. EUS’s Board of Directors)—an unfortunate side effect of the democratic process. Azampour does correctly point out deficiencies, however, in things like the EUS website.
Azampour believes that EUS funding to the departmental clubs should be cut, claiming that program-specific clubs (ie. GeoROX, Fizz, Mining, Civil) do not add very much to the university, nor offer very much to the students. He says this money should be given to the design teams (Voters should keep in mind that the Professional Activities Fund, already funds up to $10 000 per team).
Azampour also wishes to set up coop jobs paid for by the EUS operating budget to pay students to run the services that volunteers currently fill (which is more or less all of them).
Nick Sertic — (Bowinn’s Choice)
Saba M. Shariati
As a firey and passionate candidate I feel that Arbabian’s two main deficiencies are his lack of experience in any form of student government and being guilty of what Azampour was – Complaining too much about the elections process in a forum during which it was inappropriate. Arbabian was smarter, however, and did not let this get in the way of us learning about him as a candidate.
Arbabian wants to see E-Week and Frosh Week budgets (currently set at 21%) be cut down to equal what is spend on the academic budget (or rather raise the academic budget accordingly). I do agree that the EUS should eventually see the academic budget increased to those levels, but voters should recognize that the entire portfolio is only two years old and went from being completely non-existent to quite full and still growing. Understandably, services in those areas are still being developed and the lack of funding put into the academic portfolio is based on a current lack of need (ie. No more services at the moment that require more funding) as opposed to a vendetta against academic services. Arbabian also openly criticized SAC and Grand Council demanding more be done during them—a legitimate critique, based on my own experiences with these two meetings.
While Arbabian is certainly a legitimate candidate who I believe would be able to fill the role quite well and advanced the portfolio significantly despite his lack of direct experience, Sertic blows all the other candidates out of the water. Saying that he’s a better candidate because of his experience with the organization and past successes as a popular Club President would be an extreme understatement. He was directly responsible for the establishment of an independent course directory, an exam database, a textbook exchange system, an independent course feedback system for the department, and more. Creating successful programs like these are no small feat and his candidacy is based on real and tangible ideas that he has already successfully established on a small scale and is ready to take on in an engineering-wide level.
Shariati is a passionate and animated speaker who correctly points out the academic deficiencies in the system including those in coop, the LPI, and more. The issue with Shariati as a candidate is once again experience. Unlike Arbabian, however, Shariati did not strike me as having enough of a grasp of what would be required to change the issues he points in order to be a strong enough candidate against the other two.
Nigel Myers — (Bowinn’s Choice)
Mousavi did not show up to the candidate forum and I have no knowledge of him otherwise so instead I will direct you to an AMS Confidential posting about the subject. Please keep in mind that the AMS Confidential is the VFM equivalent of a gossip rag, however…a funny, funny gossip rag.
Myers is already well known for his execution of many successful events as Social Coordinator and so his background is ideal for this position. What impressed me the most, about Myers, however—and I had not expected this at all—was his response to a question about the EUS keeping the traditions it keeps and the motivation for keeping them alive. This is a very common question and always comes up every election, but his answer was one of the simplest and downright best responses I have ever heard. “Traditions unify organizations and the members within it.”
How true. It may not work for everyone, but it certainly works for many people. For those first year students coming out of highschool looking for a place to belong, for those driven individuals with the energy and focus to deal with student politics to have a reason to dedicate their university lives to this cause, for those upper year students who will never wear a Red once but will graduate and one day in the future see the jacket and immediately recognize it as having a connection with them. It can be seen at events like E-Ball when 500 students will chant in unison the engineer’s chant and you know, listening to this, that certainly not all 500 of these students own Red Jackets, get tanked in the tanking pond, or participate in Xmas Caroling—and they don’t have to be to a part of all this.
Myers also went on to explain that the organization will adapt to what it is that the students find appropriate in their own traditions and the natural adjustments will be made according to the general student body. This too is a point of view I held as President and so, I strongly approve.
Dan Olsen (Bowinn’s Choice)
Quite simple, Azampour lacks the background knowledge for this position. His candidacy platform lists some goals that are outside of his portfolio and makes no mention of most of the parts that are within his portfolio like, for example, the EUS’s relationship with CFES, the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students. In fact, most of his job has to do with conferences and competitions outside of UBC—communicating with other engineering student societies throughout Canada. He does correctly have his heart set on bringing engineering students closer to industry, however.
Aside from that, there is little else to be said of Azampour because he continued to refuse to answer any questions posed of him (see his review in the “AMS Representatives” section below for more details). Continuing his protest at the detriment of his own candidacy, he unfortunately came across as petty and unproductive.
Olsen is the classical risen-from-the-fog type of candidate. As a transfer student, his connection to the EUS was weak and his impression of student societies at other institutions had tainted his faith in the legitimacy of student governments. After participating in the UBC Engineering Competition put on by students through the EUS, however, he was surprised at how tangibly an event could bring students together. Winning that competition, he went on to compete in the Western Engineering Competition and then continued his involvement attending numerous engineering-related conferences throughout Canada.
When he realized that this was something that was important to him, he began to shadow the incumbent VP External, learning everything he could from her to prepare for his candidacy.
Candidates driven by passion through positive experiences are gold mines for productive and committed Executives with big ideas and the drive to see them through. There is certainly something to be said about the cynical candidate, but in this time of positive growth, I say “If your government is on the rise and you like where it’s headed, don’t elect someone who hates your government to run your government.” I have full faith in the direction this organization is headed and I am extremely excited to see Olsen take the reins in this portfolio.
Brian Lee (Bowinn’s slight preference)
So VP Finance is one of the weaker, if not the weakest positions in this year’s election—and downright confusing at that. Lee came off as a bit too Engineering Old School for me—perhaps not more Old School than is appropriate, but certainly more Old School than the theme of this election, which appears to be progress. Don’t get me wrong, I love Old School engineering, but will the voters appreciate his fun loving gung ho? VP Finance is a serious job and the right attitude is necessary to carry it through. There is no doubt that he is a competent person, but is he right?
Normally, this would lead me to strongly consider the next candidate, but Mesbah manages to confuse me further. His grand claim that the EUS Operating Budget has fallen from $750 000/year to just $250 000/year in three years is ludicrous and very confusing. I was the President three years ago and I certainly did not have $750 000/year to spend. Mesbah then went on to become quite passionate and downright angry about this fall in funding when he demanded to know where the money had gone during the Presidential debates. (*Correction: Apparently the angry yells actually originated from Azampour, AMS Rep candidate. This writer apologizes for her lapse in voice recognition.*) When finally corrected (audience comments were not allowed during his candidate forum and so no one was able to correct him at the time), he insisted that it was true and suggested members of the audience were attempting to cover up the scandal (not literally by words, but by way of his reaction suggesting our correction was ludicrous). Let me very clear here: the EUS does NOT operate on $750 000 a year nor has it for at least a decade (I can’t really comment on earlier than that because I wasn’t there). It certainly did not three years ago. (Operating budget 2010 ~ $210,000; 2008 ~ $160,000)
Mesbah then went on to say that the budgets to Frosh Week and E-Week need to be cut down asking why E-Week needed 33 events at all. The issues I have with this are the following:
- The only other services in which the EUS reaches more students than it does through each of E-Week and Frosh Week are through e-nEUS (electronic news media) and the Handbuk (engineering agenda) and part of this is because of the immense range of activities they offer. No one type of event will cater to anywhere near a majority of engineering students – you are an incredibly diverse group of students. The more events, the more range, the higher the chances of something getting to everyone.
- Most of E-Week events actually cost very little money and their value is created directly from free volunteer labour and efforts. The big money sink? E-Ball, by far the EUS’s most popular event. The 500-person-capacity dinner-dance event sells out every single year with students still screaming for more.
Mesbah certainly does list initiatives in his candidacy platform that I agree with (and area actually being done already and should continue to be improved), although I’m not so sure about funding extra-curricular academic classes like CAD, SolidWorks, and Matlab. I don’t believe a student society should be paying for classes. Rather, I believe their role should be to work with the faculty to get these classes in place.
So then we’re brought back to the vote. Mesbah has some pretty scary views of some of our most effective and far-reaching services, but he does seem competent and professional enough, however angry he comes across. On the other hand, Lee isn’t exactly a top notch candidate either, but arguably he can be taught to still handle budgets. Being a strong proponent of E-Week and Frosh Week and the benefits in morale that they provide, which is arguably the most important function of this particular student society which was originally created as a purely social organization, I lean towards Lee for his more palatable opinions.
AMS Representatives (Vote for up to 2)
Julian Ritchie — (Bowinn’s Choice)
Nick Sertic — (Bowinn’s Choice)
The AMS Rep position is the perfect place for someone without previous experience to enter university student politics and so I really really wanted to be able to come out of the forum telling students to vote for Azampour, but I just can’t. In his opening speech, Azampour spoke of what he believed were inconsistencies with the way the EUS Elections were run. Fair enough, he had legitimate concerns. He then went on to refuse to answer any question posed to him, instead using his time to continue to complain about the legitimacy of the EUS Elections.
Now, I take free and fair election very, very seriously, but his contempt towards the Moderator (granted, the Moderator was not overly tolerant or patient either) and elections process (which, again, I do believe are legitimate concerns but to be discussed in another time and place, as he should have as well) overshadowed his own legitimacy as a candidate. The only reason a candidate might complain about the elections process during an open forum would be to bring students’ attention to a problem with the current government or, more specifically, Elections Administrator. While I agree this is a legitimate and often effective campaign tactic, it still takes away from me getting to know him as a candidate. Yes, the EUS has a long way to go—we all know this—but how do we know he is the one to fix this? He may very well be a great candidate for this position, but I do not know if he is – he didn’t say anything that I can use to determine this at all. He did, however, say that he did not know anything about the AMS Council’s committee structure and has not given any thought as to which committees he may fill if elected.
Ritchie currently sits on AMS Council as one of the three representatives from Engineering. He has been a frequent contributor around the table and is actively involved on AMS Committees. Further, dedication is not an issue when it comes to voting for Ritchie. He was on track to graduate this year, with the 2010 class, but intentionally held himself back purely in order to run in this year’s election. Work ethic and dedication to the Society and its members combined with his demonstrated interests in student government make Ritchie a definite yes for this position.
Sertic certainly doesn’t need to be ‘introduced’ to student government with a position like this because of his previous involvement in the Fizz Club and as an EUS Board of Directors mentor. This wouldn’t even be his first real experience working directly with the AMS, as his experience as a proxy at several meetings has already given him a taste of what it will be like (and he still wants to do it?! I kid.). Sertic focused on answering questions with tangible actions based on his empirical experience—something this writer always appreciates.
Despite his inexperience with the AMS, Sertic understood well enough the functions of the Council, what his role would be within it, and the restructuring of its committees. If elected, he states he would focus his energies on the education and external committees. His potential as an effective representative is also certainly not lacking. Having also been approached with requests to run for EUS President, his obvious success as Fizz President, calm logical demeanor, and ability to communicate with the every-engineer makes him an ideal candidate for this position.
Unfortunately, Talebigard did not attend the forum.
Applied Sciences Senate
Lin Watt — (Bowinn’s Choice)
Edgcumbe was ApSc student senator for the 2008-2009 academic term and is this year’s ‘safest’ senate candidate. Having proven already that he is fully capable of fulfilling the role as well as anyone can ask of a full time student to do so, students need not worry that he does not understand what Senate is, how it works, or how to play his role in that seat.
Sahami started his opening speech by stating, “I don’t know much about the Senate and I don’t think it really matters all that much.” That was enough for me. Nevermind the suggestion that the EUS President and Senator are essentially the same role and that one person would easily be able to do both jobs at the same time. In reality, the jobs are extremely different. As Tim Leaver, former Senator 2007-2008, said, “the President has many concerns with all functions of the society, academic, professional and social, whereas the senate is exclusively academic.”
Even within the academic realm, the President is concerned with academics at a far finer level (ie. Specific engineering courses, through their VP Academic), as opposed to the Senator, who is concerned with academics at a University level. There is also significant benefit to the Senator being an entirely different person, preferably at arms length from the person who runs the EUS. What concerns me is not this particular opinion however, but what this opinion and his other responses to questions during the forum illustrate—that he doesn’t know how the Senate works. He doesn’t know what the Senate does, how it works, or what his role would really be within it.
Watt is a firecracker fresh out of the Presidential hotseat—and a successful Presidential term, at that. Her previous experience as VP Academic before her term as President gave her a taste of the academic portfolio and now she’s back for more. Higher on life than her two more subdued opponents, she’s the preferable choice for students hoping for someone not afraid of initiatives, taking a stance, and aggressively pushing towards change. Watt is also one of only two female candidates running in this election and, if elected, will be the first female ApSc Senator since at least 2003.