In past years, the St. Thomas University students’ union has had a member with at least a year’s experience on the union executive.
This year, vice-president education Craig Mazerolle served his second term in his post, while vice-president administration Mary-Dan Johnston was in her third term.
But none of the four candidates vying for president have served on the STUSU executive, while two of four candidates are on the union in some capacity now.
In any case, whoever wins the top job with the STUSU could take the union in a very different direction.
John Hoben, a third-year international relations student, is an off-campus representative, while Emily Sheen, a second-year religious studies and history double major, represents Chatham Hall around the STUSU table.
Frank Jr. Molley, a mature fourth-year student studying journalism, and Robb Larmer, a third-year political science student, round out the candidate list.
While the candidates vary on what direction they hope to steer the union, each agree the union needs to be more accessible and visible to students.
“[The union] just can’t sit up on high and not interact with the students,” Molley said.
The STUSU has extra money left over in its events and activities budget lines and were looking for ways to spend it last month.
Sheen, who hails from Beaver Bank, N.S., would use the money to launch an awareness campaign on campus about the union.
“There’s a lot of apathy or disinterest in the students’ union right now. Even as I’ve been preparing this campaign, I’ve been asking people, ‘What do you want from your students’ union next year? What can we improve on?’ And people don’t even know.”
Several candidates said less interest in the union’s emergency bursaries this year indicates many people don’t know about the union’s services.
At the end of January, the union had more than $15,000 left in its emergency bursaries fund, which is for students who encounter emergency financial situations during a semester. During the 2010-11 school year, the union had to move thousands from other budget lines to meet increased interest in the bursaries.
Larmer, a native of Harvey Station, N.B., would hire a board who would determine who gets a bursary.
“I want to make emergency bursaries available for everybody who wants to go to school.”
He would also use the money to improve access to daycare services on campus. Some student parents have been on waiting lists for years as they hope to get their child into College Hill Daycare.
Originally from Listuguj First Nation in Quebec, Molley has a different idea of how the union’s money should be spent.
He wants to promote wellness on campus by pouring more money into clubs and societies.
Molley also suggested using the union’s extra cash to create a lottery. Money would flow into it via student fees and students could win prizes each week.
Now 40, Molley started his career at STU in 1999, but admits he didn’t take his education seriously until he was sitting in a jail cell in 2005.
Incarcerated for assault, he knew education was the only way to turn his life around.
“For me, education was hope,” he said.
As president, Molley would work with university administration to put more of a focus on aboriginal education.
“These guys are coming out of challenging situations all across Canada. University is the only answer.”
Hoben, from Grand Bay-Westfield just outside of Saint John, envisions spending union money on creating a STUSU-operated digital bookstore and moving to online voting in STUSU elections to increase voter turnout.
In past elections, executive members from opposite ends of the political spectrum have been elected to work alongside one another. It’s resulted in heated debates around the council table when executive members fundamentally disagree with one another.
Sheen has seen negativity around this year’s council table and would hire a chair dedicated to making sure things stay civil.
“There are some petty differences going on in this year’s union and I feel like we haven’t accomplished as much as we have the capacity to because of it,” she said.
“Paramount to all our own interests is the interest of the students.”
Whether to remain a member of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations has been the cause of much friction within the STUSU during the past few years.
While Molley wants to know more about the Canadian Federation of Students before deciding if he supports staying in CASA, the other three presidential candidates lean towards staying in CASA.
“CFS focuses on lower tuition, which I don’t think is a realistic goal in this economy with the provincial budget right now,” Hoben said.
“I would like to focus on ideally looking at a tuition freeze or something similar to that to keep costs from going up, because that’s a realistic goal right now.”
Correction: A previous version of this story said Molley proposed students could buy tickets to the lottery. This is incorrect. Money for the lottery would be taken from student fees. We regret the error.
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