Student Choice Initiative poses tough questions to FSU presidential candidates
Credit: ANGELA MCINNES
Jennifer Iannessa (left), Andrew Waterworth (centre) and Abdullah Qassab (right) are this year's FSU presidential candidates.
This year’s key topics included increased visibility for regional campuses, improved integration of international students, cleaning up littered cigarette butts and coping with the potential fallout of Ontario government’s Student Choice Initiative.
The voting period begins Monday, March 4 at 9 a.m. and ends on Thursday, March 7 at 2 p.m. The winners will be announced that same day at 3 p.m., at The Out Back Shack. Votes can be made in person at voting booths set up throughout the College, or online through FanshaweOnline.
Former FSU president, Jason Kerr, moderated the session, which was also livestreamed to Fanshawe’s downtown campus.
One candidate ran for an open spot on the Board of Governors (BOG), while three out of seven candidates stepped forward to express their hopes of becoming one of next year’s new directors.
Vying for the spot of the 2019/2020 president was current director Jennifer Iannessa and current student life co-ordinator Andrew Waterworth, as well as newcomer Abdullah Qassab.
Qassab is one of the first candidates from Fanshawe’s Woodstock campus to run for the position in the FSU’s history.
The presidential candidates’ platforms were wide-ranging, with each one appealing to various aspects of Fanshawe’s diverse student culture.
As a downtown campus student enrolled in her last semester of video game design, Iannessa said she has spent much of her time in student politics pushing to make services more accessible for her peers.
“For the last couple years, I can tell you for sure that students downtown felt very isolated,” Iannessa said. “I’ve talked to students from St. Thomas and Woodstock, all those different campuses, and they all feel that way. I completely understand and can sympathize.”
Apart from accessibility, Iannessa’s platform touched on enhancing student safety programs and creating a Safe Walk program at the College.
She also emphasized the importance of the president’s role as a student advocate, and her belief in an open-door policy.
Qassab shared Iannessa’s vision of creating a more inclusive campus network. The heating, refrigeration and air conditioning technician student emphasized his belief in collaboration by reciting his slogan, “stronger together.”
When asked if there was one thing he could change at Fanshawe, he responded with “students’ relationship with each other, with the staff and with the faculty”.
“I would work hard to bring everybody closer to each other - local students, international students - everyone, no matter their race, gender, age, mature students - everyone.”
The statement was met with an enthusiastic cheer from the crowd.
Aside from his slogan, Qassab focused on improving supports for off-campus students navigating London’s competitive housing market. He also promised to contribute 10 per cent of his salary as a monthly bursary to students.
“You might ask, why 10 per cent? This is what I could afford,” Qassab said, adding that he would work with the financial aid office, College administration and Fanshawe students to discuss how recipients of the funds would be selected.
Citing his previous FSU experience and studies in audio post-production, Waterworth’s platform centred on making Fanshawe “the best college in Canada” by improving the quality of recreational events, and upgrading student spaces through the upcoming Innovation Village project.
He said would also fight to maintain the FSU’s services despite the impending challenges caused by the Student Choice Initiative.
“With recent provincial government changes to OSAP [Ontario Student Assistance Program] and student fees, this proves to be a trying time for all students,” Waterworth said. “I want to advocate to bring OSAP back to a point where it effectively helps students from many different walks.”
Waterworth said that he would work to keep the FSU’s paid workstudy positions, clubs, events, and services such as The Sharing Shop.
Following the speeches, the three presidential hopefuls sat down for a question and answer period where they addressed inquiries on environmental cleanliness, supports for transgender students, and creating a designated workout space for women at the Wellness Centre.
Each candidate said they would solve these issues by adding more receptacles for cigarette butts, looking into assisting students during their gender transitions, and accommodating women at the gym.
They were also asked how they would choose which FSU services to cut through the Student Choice Initiative in a worst-case scenario.
“The Student Union has been working hard to figure out how we can continue to offer these services to the students. It’s been really unclear exactly what services are going to be deemed essential and unessential by the government,” Iannessa said.
She and her rivals agreed that they would do what they could to keep things status quo for students, and that the winner of this year’s election would have to face some unique challenges come the new school year.
“I don’t think anybody in this room is divided on this issue,” Waterworth said.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANGELA MCINNES