Major: International relations
Hometown: Saint John, N.B.
STUSU experience: Current off-campus representative
Major: Religious studies and history
Hometown: Beaver Bank, N.S.
STUSU experience: Current vice-president external, Chatham Hall
The Aquinian: If you could change one thing about this year’s union, what would it be?
John Hoben: I would have liked to have seen it take more initiative to do new things rather than just doing day-to-day things and reacting when something needed to be addressed. Like, one good thing we did this year was the bus to take students home at Christmas break, but it was just a reaction to a problem. The union just existed this year, and didn’t try and do anything of significance.
Emily Sheen: The union has dealt with primarily only one big issue this year – the review of our CASA membership. I wish this issue had been dealt with more promptly, with more communication between council members and more education about the issue sooner. As it is, we are now working on a deadline when this could have been addressed months ago.
AQ: What do you want your union to stand for?
JH: The STUSU, as the elected body of the students, should stand for the issues that affect the students who we represent.
One universal issue is simply the cost of an education, and I think we need strong lobbying organization at the federal and provincial level to make sure our interests are being represented.
Ultimately, I want my union to have my best interests at heart. I want my union to fight for me when there’s something that needs to be fought for.
ES: I want this union to stand for just that – the unity of students. It should represent a population coming together, to work together for the collective good of the student body.
AQ: What’s your strategy to work with other members of the union, even if some of those members have different opinions than you?
JH: Compromise is an important thing, but ultimately there’s going to be some things we just don’t agree on. If the three of us were all on the union now and debating these campaign issues in preparation for a vote, there would be some things where we could compromise on and some we could not.
For example, Emily Sheen is running on the creation of a second welcome week in January, which I think is both impossible and poorly thought out. To plan something on that scale is enormously expensive, and doesn’t make sense once friendships have been made and people have already adjusted to university life. However, my suggestion for a compromise would be something like a welcome back event (ex. a concert).
However, my [former] opponent Robb Larmer has proposed doubling emergency bursaries to make it a welfare program for those who cannot afford school. Although I agree with him that access to education is important, the poor paying for the poorer is far from the answer. This is something I see no room to compromise on, and would vote against. But you need to have the debate on the topic, and then let the reps vote when the time comes.
ES: The best we can do to work together on issues we disagree on is educate all members, not just the executive. Give the student representatives the information they need to make an informed decision at their own discretion, allowing them to take the course of action they deem to be best for the good of the students.
AQ: How will you make sure next year’s union stays civil? Does heated debate hurt or help a union?
JH: A strong debate really helps the union. On an issue like our membership in CASA, we have seen strong debate from both sides, and this has exposed all of the pros and cons we need to take into account. As long as we’re staying out of personal attacks, then I don’t see any issue with debate. Even in this campaign, I get along really well with my opponents, even when I don’t agree with them on the issues.
ES: I would like to work on team-building early on in the year, so that we are familiar with each other and will learn early on how best to work with one another. Heated debate is exciting and makes for an entertaining meeting, if nothing else, but it makes it difficult to actually work together to get things accomplished. It’s best to be reasonable about things, to come to swift agreements and maximize efficiency.
AQ: What is your philosophy on lobbying government? Do you think holding meetings with government officials or holding a protest or a letter-writing campaign is more effective?
JH: I don’t think protesting is an effective strategy to make change on student issues. When protesting is proposed, you get most students thinking: “I’m not starving, my government isn’t oppressing me, what do I have to protest about?” This leads to 25 people in front of the legislature trying to shout loud enough for 2,500. I think the most effective model for change is through a formal lobbying organization like CASA or the NBSA, which give thousands of students one unified voice that speaks directly to the government, instead of shouting from their lawn.
ES: Lobbying needs to happen on both fronts: negotiations with politicians is necessary to guarantee that the voice of our students is heard in a professional manner, but some physical lobbying will also be needed so that there is physical evidence of the will and desires of the students. We need to be seen and heard to make the most effective differences.
AQ: If elected president, what are the top three things you want to accomplish by the end of your term?
JH: My first priority is the digital bookstore, and that’s something that ideally would be running in time for when school returns in September. Second, I would see what needs to be done to solidify the NBSA to make sure our voice at the provincial level is as strong and united as possible. My third priority will be the formation of a committee to look at the structure of the union, and what can be done to improve it and its services.
ES: The top three things I would like to accomplish next year are: first, to have the majority of the student body be aware of STUSU services; secondly, to have worked on improving the format of the NBSA into making it a more effective lobbying body; and thirdly, to have made inroads into making STU more accessible physically, mentally, and financially.
AQ: Why should people care about the STUSU?
JH: Students should care about the STUSU because it represents them. If you don’t vote in elections, then you’re not going to be represented. If only one group of students vote, then their interests are the only ones that will be represented. I intend to run a STUSU that will not give preference to any one group or organization, rather than trying to push my own political beliefs.
ES: Students should care about the STUSU because this is their union – they are the ones paying for it. The STUSU is a way for students to unite and get their voices heard and acted upon in a concise and efficient fashion. The union works for the good of the students, fighting for their benefit – if we didn’t do this, then no one would, and students would be left without an organized voice.
AQ: In two sentences or less, why do you want to be STUSU president?
JH: I want to be STUSU president because I feel I can provide strong, realistic and positive direction for the union. I’m the only candidate running with goals that are both possible and can be measured.
ES: I want to be president of the students’ union because I love STU, and I value education. I want to use the position to make this fantastic community, and the learning we do here, accessible to anyone who wants it.