SUS Elections: Some final notes.

SUS and AUS elections are drawing to a close – but if you’re in Science and haven’t voted, I’d consider doing so.  Voting is still open (through WebVote on the UBC SSC) until 5 pm today (Friday, March 25th.) This year’s election sees (in contrast to last year) few uncontested races; fortunately, that situation has come about because a larger number of decently qualified candidates have run. Of the contested races, three are particularly interesting.  A full list of candidates, their campaign materials, and social media pages is located here. If you’re still looking for more information on how to vote, here goes:


The two serious candidates, Kiran and Jordan, both have relatively similar goals and the distinction between their expected leadership styles is more subtle.

Kiran has a notable advantage given her experience this year as Director of Administration, in which she led the committee that codified significant changes to the SUS council structure.  Her consultation with clubs and other stakeholders during the drafting of these changes will give her valuable insight into implementing these changes for the first time next year. She intends to steer council in a more business-focused direction, with a particular push toward professional development programming and more effectively obtaining outside sponsorships.  She does have experience in this area from serving as President of UBC’s Young Women in Business club, and it’s a notable SUS weak spot.

Jordan took a smaller role on SUS executive this year, but has also spent a longer period of time involved with the organization.  He had less of a direct hand in this year’s code changes, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to effectively implement them.  He intends to lead SUS council with a slightly more hands-off approach, building consensus and work in a direction agreed upon by other SUS executives and councilors.  This approach could have benefits and drawbacks – a significantly smaller Council could mean that consensus can come about easier than in previous years, but a more forceful approach might be needed to clarify any ambiguity in the new structure.  The projects he intends to push for are smaller in scale, rather than being significant changes to SUS’ overall direction:  continuing to make improvements in the Ladha student centre and adopting a sustainability policy.

The moderator at Tuesday’s debate, Justin Yang, took it relatively easy on the candidates, and didn’t throw out any questions that were especially tricky or that caused them to flounder.  He did ask candidates to give reasons why their opponents might be better than themselves, and both Jordan and Kiran were cordial:  Kiran praising the innovative projects Jordan had brought to the Director of Sports portfolio in the past year, and Jordan stating that Kiran was the best Director of Administration he’d seen at SUS since he’d been at UBC.

Luke Yin, as expected, was a bit of a loose cannon.  It’s really a shame that many of his positions were poorly-researched and poorly-articulated, because many contained a grain of truth underneath all the ranting.  He complained about “discrimination” against non-Life Science students in research and involvement opportunities, and I highly doubt active discrimination of this type is occurring. However, the appearance of bias is a likely by-product of the over-representation of life science students that occurs in many avenues of student involvement given how important this involvement is in applications for medical schools.  I’ve noticed it in recent SUS council makeup (this year’s president Sumedha Sharma is pursuing an integrated science degree with a life science focus, last year’s president Jimmy Yan studied physiology) and in the makeup of other Faculty of Science groups, such as SCI Team.  To the best of my knowledge, it isn’t the case that a dearth of non-life science undergraduate research positions has made such positions much more competitive than those within the life science umbrella.  However, these positions often seem to be less-publicized as the student groups organizing research and academic events tend to be life science-heavy.

I truly wish he were a more serious candidate so that he could call out the lack of emphasis on social events in either Kiran or Jordan’s platforms.  As some notable (and successful!) SUS alumni have observed, the overall UBC climate has become less amenable to parties and large-scale social events, and this comes with a decrease not just in Saturday morning hangovers but also in an overall sense of UBC community.  Science has only a shred of the camaraderie and faculty pride held by our cousins in Engineering, and this is an unfortunate state of affairs.

Unlike Luke, I don’t think that this is a case of the Faculty of Science being deliberately hostile.  But the social atmosphere at UBC is definitely becoming less cohesive, less friendly, and yes, less fun with each passing year, and it falls squarely on large student groups such as SUS to try to reverse, or even stall, this trend.  Pushing for an emphasis on social events isn’t code for telling students they should drink all the time and forget their studies -  but I’d like to see a SUS president who understands there’s a special type of bonding that occurs between a group of students at a Friday night beer garden, and it can’t be replicated at a networking event on Saturday morning.

Luke’s antagonistic attitude, lack of experience, and apparent contempt for actually researching anything make him an untenable candidate.  The race is between Kiran and Jordan, and in my opinion they’re both well-equipped to do well in the position.  The decision lies in which of their subtly different approaches you feel will benefit SUS more.


5 candidates are running for 4 spots this year, so it’s really a case of crossing whoever’s worst off of the list.  Three candidates (Ignacio Rodriguez, Maria Cirstea, and David Kim) are incumbents. Although they certainly don’t all have the same level of involvement or experience within Council, they’ll all be easily re-elected.

That leaves the two newcomers: Saba Marzara and Salar Fazeli.  Salar, despite being the only candidate to show up to the AMS Rep debate, clearly has absolutely no idea what he’s doing.  His platform gives a vague list of classic first-year gripes without any real indication of how he’ll address them; the level of knowledge apparent only demonstrates that he’s probably read the Ubyssey at least twice.

His performance in the debate, despite not having any opponents present, was shameful and embarrassing.  He indicated that, in the past referendum, he voted yes for the fee increase, housekeeping bylaw changes, and tuition lobbying question, but no for the substantial bylaw changes; but he offered no justification or explanation of what exactly his objections to the substantive bylaw changes were.  Even worse, when asked what committees he intended to serve on (one of the most significant aspects, time- and effort-wise, of this position), he indicated he’d done absolutely no research, stammered, and eventually claimed he’d like to join two committees which don’t exist.

His complete lack of knowledge, as well as a lack of any relevant experience, means that I feel pretty confident in emphatically disendorsing him.  Sadly, this means that I’d actually prefer to have Saba Marzara, a candidate who has released no platform at all for the AMS Rep race, elected in his place.  Past SUS executives have spoken to her competence in previous roles she’s taken on, and her platform for the Senate race (which she’s focusing on), while vague, indicates that she seems to have at least some idea what she’s doing.  I almost can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I honestly hope that Saba Marzara, platform-less candidate, nabs that fourth seat.


Neither candidate expressed interest in the debate, and that’s unfortunate because this has been one of the more interesting races.  Both Saba Marzara and JJ MacLean seem to have at least a cursory understanding of what Senate does, they both have SUS experience and other involved Science students tend to speak highly of them.  However, I think the most relevant thing to do here is to direct attention to a Facebook note that (in typical Justin Yang fashion) criticizes them both in the most diplomatic way possible.  To quote briefly:

Any vagueness in promises should be suspect; Senate is not the place for inchoate goals. Student senators, facing the disadvantage of only serving for one year, need to come in with a strong sense of what can be done in a year and how it can be accomplished — who are the right people to talk to, what are the right committees to sit on.

Saba gains brownie points for phrasing her platform within the terms of the Place and Promise strategic plan, and some might consider JJ’s social media fluency a significant asset.  However, neither has made any effort to articulate their platform beyond feel-good rhetoric about their commitment to improving various science-related things.  For this reason I can’t strongly endorse either one; take a look through their campaign materials and see if there’s something you like.

Again, if you’re a Science student and haven’t voted in the SUS elections, do it now!  Log in through the SSC and click WebVote.  SUS handles a ~$100,000 budget from your student fees and is understood to be the voice of Science students on campus, so this stuff is pretty important.  Vote for UBC Insiders in the VoterMedia race too, if you want to.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. ahh. so who does Justin yang think he is when he says that?

    Posted by Kim | March 25, 2011, 12:43 pm
  2. Kim. really. again? AGAIN? REALLY? C’mon.

    Posted by Michael Haack | March 25, 2011, 9:33 pm
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