Our endorsements for the UBC Science Undergraduate Society (Spring 2017)

Summary:

  • President: Katie Gourlay (for events), Akhil Krishnan (for transparency)
  • VP Admin: Michelle Tse
  • VP Internal: Julia Wu
  • VP External: Cathy Jiang
  • VP Student Life: Gurshabad Singhera
  • VP Communications: Miguel Oreta
  • VP Academic: Jennifer Cheng
  • Science Student Senator: Samantha So

Vote here!

President

We endorse Katie Gourlay, and Akhil Krishnan, for different reasons.

Katie Gourlay is the safe candidate. She doesn’t particularly revolutionize or innovate in any particular way that’s applicable to science students, but Katie has promised to expand the number of case competitions, and educating execs on financial literacy and accountability, something that executives usually sorely lack and would likely streamline event planning.

Akhil Krishnan however, has the edge in one thing that is sorely lacking in many undergraduate societies: transparency. Akhil has promised the formation of an oversight committee over the SUS, publishing a condensed budget and renovating Abdul Ladha. However, what leads us stop short of fully endorsing him is his platform proposal of making monthly feedback meetings (potentially breakfasts) by application. While the application process has been stated to not be merit based, but rather quota-based, being required to apply to attend such meetings potentially alienates students and adds onto the endearing reputation of SUS being a clique.

We were unable to endorse Antony Tsui. Antony’s platform, while fairly clear, makes twice the number of promises compared to other candidates. During the debates, Antony was fairly eloquent, and had he focused more on a number of specific issues rather than claiming to be able to radically transform the SUS within the span of one term, he would be the obvious pick. Antony is arguably more focused on making big promises to garner an all-encompassing voter base than actually pushing forward with any tangible change, and that particular style of campaigning didn’t sit well with us.

tl;dr Vote Katie for Sci-Fair and Science Case competitions, Vote Akhil for Transparency, Antony is over-promising.

VP Admin

It was a difficult, contentious decision to select a candidate to endorse for the VP Admin race, but in the end, we settled on Michelle Tse.

Michelle Tse particularly stood out to us by offering tangible, and realistic goals, with a dash of transparency added in. Michelle has promised to add in a maintenance section to the SUS website, update the quiet areas into quiet discussion areas, and updating students about changes to the SUS code through Labrat, a step forward for transparency. These are not glamorous promises, nor will they radically change the SUS overnight, but they’re a start and a foundation to build on.

Nick wasn’t particularly a bad candidate, and is arguably fairly on par with Michelle, but we had doubts about his intentions to remove limits on the maximum number of seats within SUS committees. A few individuals we talked to involved in the SUS expressed concerns that such changes wouldn’t be particularly conducive or beneficial, and that this approach to student engagement really only targets a minority of individuals that would be involved in the SUS regardless. On the other hand, he focused a lot on maintenance and a clean-up-after-yourself policy for event organizers in Ladha, something that we really appreciate, as a straight forward goal.

tl;dr We’re endorsing Michelle because she focuses on realistic goals and transparency, but Nick is also a good candidate with a focus on maintenance of the Ladha building if you care more about that.

VP Internal

We were unable to come to any kind of clear consensus for VP Internal, but we’ve decided to endorse Julia Wu.

The reason is because she particularly stood out to us by providing clear-cut plans for reducing the cost of the SUS retreat, whereas Oliver’s plan largely rounded itself around booking venues earlier, and Alice never formally established whether she would actually reduce SUS retreat costs, simply stating that she would re-evaluate the SUS retreat budget. The SUS retreat cost was the real defining point for this race, for us, in light of the AUS budget debacle.

However, the VP Internal candidates largely had similar platforms, revolving around mentorship for first years, volunteer appreciation and creating a volunteer pool of some sort. We didn’t particularly concern ourselves with common platform goals such as establishing a newsletter, communicating with clubs or conducting feedback surveys in evaluating the VP Internal candidates.

tl;dr We endorse Julia Wu, she’s the only one with any idea of how to go about a key platform point of concern for many science students: reducing the SUS retreat costs.

VP External

We endorse Cathy Jiang. This one is open and shut: her competitor, Iman Moradi, never posted a platform and we don’t feel comfortable endorsing someone who doesn’t have a platform.

In addition, Cathy had the tangible goal of taking on the initiative of working on establishing swap meets for science students trying to buy and sell their textbooks, or at least taking on previous efforts to organize a standardized textbook market run by the SUS. If it does finalize, that’d actually be pretty cool.

tl;dr We endorse Cathy, her competitor never even posted a platform.

VP Student Life

It was really tough trying to determine an endorsement for VP Student Life, so we’re going to go with Gurshabad Singhera.

Both candidates had nearly identical platforms, so the only thing left to differentiate them was the debate, and Gurshabad was all-around, more open and directed with his approaches to student engagement and cooperation.

Avery wanted to focus primarily on more passive forms of student engagement, whereas Gurshabad wanted to be more communicative with science clubs, and diversify the current number of events to avoid alienating science students from SUS events, a something-for-everyone approach. That’s the only thing that really set them apart for us.

tl;dr We endorse Gurshabad, but Avery is a close second. Both are good choices nonetheless.

VP Communications

We’re going to endorse Miguel Oreta for VP Communications, but as a whole, we hate this portfolio. In some ways, much of the role revolves around social media and spamming science students as much as they possibly can.

We liked him because his platform reflected on transparency, in the sense that he sought to release council minutes, meeting minutes and a simplified budget. He also liked that he wanted to better orient first-year students by pointing them to UBC resources, adding a section to advertise open club positions on the SUS website to students that care about involvement in clubs and expanding the SUS calendar to include events of interest to science students. However, Miguel’s platform was sometimes a little short-sighted, for example, we don’t really understand the purpose of “online office hours”, a span of time set aside explicitly to answer questions sent by messages and emails rapidly, if emails and messages are going to be answered eventually regardless? We just don’t see the worth in such an idea, seeing that the vast majority of students aren’t going to wait specifically for a short period of time held once a week, when students can send an email or a message whenever and expect a reply whenever any other time.

Jacob’s key promise in our eyes is establishing a queuing system for marketing requests to reduce wait time. Jacob didn’t particularly bring anything to the table beyond that though, with vague promises of redefining the UBC Science brand. Jacob wants to focus SUS’s first week on making first year students aware of the SUS and all the involvement opportunities within it, which sounds like he wants to turn an important event intended to transition first-years into UBC into a marketing tool. So nope, we’re good. Also, for a VP Communications candidate going on about the wonders of email marketing, he’s also one of the few candidates that have not published an email address to get into contact with.

tl;dr We endorse Miguel.

VP Academic

It’s hard to get excited about a race with only 1 candidate, but we still liked Jennifer Cheng. She displayed that she had good intentions, was fairly passionate in her responses, and has an idea of what she wants to accomplish. She didn’t particularly stand out, but she knew what she was talking about and we trust her enough to do well as VP Academic if she was elected.

But where Jennifer falls short is her fairly vague platform, not offering any examples of the events she wants to host, and focusing almost entirely on broad categories of events and initiatives themselves. Her platform was also very lacking when it comes to how she intends to deal with faculty bureaucracy and officials.

tl;dr vote for Jennifer, but she still has a super vague platform regardless.

Science Student Senator

We’re going to go with Samantha So on this one.

Samantha’s only real defining points are establishing an ad-hoc committee for diversity and weaving tuition and curriculum consultations together. So why are we endorsing Samantha?

Because Samantha isn’t promising the world. She’s chosen realistic and clear, tangible goals rather than trying to appeal to everyone and claiming to support everything, to earn the vote of science students. She’s shown herself to be committed to her role, clear about what she wants to accomplish and is generally a straight-shooter, and we appreciate all of that in a candidate.

Sarah Park, who was VP Academic for two terms in the SUS, was lacking in this particularly. We would’ve chosen her for her strong background knowledge of academic affairs at UBC and her obvious commitment to change at UBC during the debates, if it weren’t for her absurdly long list of promises, and sometimes unrealistic goals. For example, she asserted as part of her student engagement strategy, that she would ask professors within the Faculty of Science by email, to announce all the great work that’s happening in the Senate, and scholarships available to students. One problem: tenured professors are very unlikely to care about making announcements on behalf of student politicians. We genuinely think Sarah is a great candidate, sidetracked by big dreams and unrealistic expectations of what to accomplish.

Hannah Xiao was the only candidate we could fully agree on. Hannah came to the debate fairly unprepared and gave largely uninspiring answers. When we asked what tangible actions that she personally spearheaded while on the AMS council, serving as the AMS SUS rep, she instead dodged the question by reflecting on some of the things that the committees that she sat on accomplished as a whole. We didn’t particularly think that she brought anything to the table that wasn’t already on it, choosing to base much of her platform on the cliche Senate promises we all know and love: Fall Reading Break, Student Engagement, Access to syllabi before registration, etc.

tl;dr Samantha is the only candidate with a realistic platform. Sarah’s great but is promising way too much, and Hannah didn’t really stand out in any way.

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