With the student union elections around the corner, it is important for everyone to ask the tough questions. These questions should not be limited to the candidate’s qualifications, vision or most importantly, his or her commitment to work in the best interests of the students at UTM. These questions should also focus on the candidate’s character.
Are these candidates honest? Are they committed to working with others? Will they commit to expand on the vision of current and previous student leaders? Before we ponder these questions, it is important to first address an accusation made by Henry Ssali, the current VP External and the author of last week’s Letter to the Editor “Premature campaigning indeed.” Mr. Ssali has repeatedly denied participating freely in a process that he now conveniently rejects, which he refers to as the caucus. This could not be further from the truth, because Mr. Ssali was an integral part of the process that he now professes against. Mr. Ssali has made his intentions clear from day one. He will be seeking elected office for the second time, an intention welcomed by some, but not all. However the most important opinion will be that of the students, when they finally cast their ballots.
Unfortunately, last week he made another accusation, one that confused if not alarmed many. His accusation was centered on my leave of absence as speaker of the Board of Directors, which he categorized as “fishy.” What is fishy about taking precautions in avoiding a conflict of interest by holding yourself accountable to your colleagues? Mr. Ssali might not understand that notion, but he does however believe he can have two different positions at the same time.
The facts are simple. Mr. Ssali sought the endorsement of the individuals that he now accuses of being fishy. He failed in his bid and now parades as a champion of reform. I would urge Mr. Ssali to come forward and admit to his full and unsolicited involvement in the process he now conveniently rejects.
Honesty and integrity are important, but so are the issues. This year, the cost of education has increased significantly. Tuition fees rose by
an average of 5-8% and residence/parking and other ancillary fees were also increased. There were changes made to academic policy. These are the issues that students care about.
In this year’s election cycle, I would like to encourage all candidates to discuss most importantly the issues. Students at UTM need representatives that will work together to accomplish the successes like previous councils. Students were not divided when they won a Tuition Fee Freeze, 24/5 Library Hours, the UPASS, Student Center, Childcare and much more. We were able to accomplish those goals because the students were united.
Ms. Bhatt’s commitment to those values is important to highlight. She has stood fast and strong in supporting everyone that needed help. She worked closely with her executive when they required her help. She has put the students first and hardly took any credit for her contributions to important campaigns such as Nov 5 Day of Action, organizing speaker events and many more. We need representatives that put UTM students first while committing to working with others. We also need representatives with vision, so let’s all explore the candidates’ vision in the next two weeks.
Next year’s council cannot afford division. Students deserve better. With important campaigns such as lobbying for a reduction in Tuition/Parking and Residence fees as well as negotiating the expansion of the Student Center. It is also important to have a team united to overcome these and other challenges. UTM students deserve leadership with a common vision, commitment and inspiration to bring forth progress. We have accomplished and overcome tremendous obstacles in the past, but there is more that needs to be done. I am proud that there are plenty of individuals ready to bring forth new ideas that will take our union to new heights.
In student Solidarity,