Written by Bhromor Rahman
Edited by Anson Yeh
This week’s unprecedented Congress meeting was a live stage performance featuring the seven incumbent Congress members, myself as MWR Editor-in-Chief, and Congress advisor Trudy Ste-Croix. With first year positions in Congress still to be filled, prospective candidates were invited to attend this meeting before the September 2nd deadline for candidacy submission. Congress has been promoting itself to first year students even more so this year to assist them during these difficult times, but it dawned on us that this effort had perhaps been a little too effective as our audience of about fifty (yes, 50) candidates entered the auditorium…
Without further ado…
May the first annual Congress show begin!
Welcome Back Event feedback
First item on the agenda was the welcome back event that had just ended. Overall, the gifts were well received, the performances were engaging (thanks in large part to the professional artists from the Hallyu team and other student performers) and COVID prevention measures were respected throughout the event. The main takeaway was that Zhaoran’s tireless work paid off and the welcome back event was a huge success. Tristan pointed out that this success will exponentially increase the likelihood that the administration greenlights future live events.
However, there were significant hiccoughs just as with any novelty. The tickets sold out almost immediately after release and Zhaoran was astounded to stumble upon an elaborate black market of group chats dedicated to ticket resale. She had raised the ticket limit to five per person to facilitate group purchases, but in the light of this abuse, all future sales will be limited to a single ticket per person. Congress also overestimated the demand for beavertails. The food truck was promised 1200$ worth of sales, but Zhaoran had to purchase the excess of unsold tails and distribute them to hungry performers. The truck leaving at 3pm also didn’t help. Emanuel also added that there was a significant surplus of merchandise and a lot of extra left after the event, but this was due to almost 80 expected students not attending. Laurence nevertheless maintained that this was a great branding opportunity for Congress and that he was delighted to see all those new students walking around the neighbourhood with MSU merchandise. For any similar events over the semester, there were suggestions to spread them over several days since there can only be up to 120 students on campus at once and also to hire volunteers who can staff for a full day.
Social Justice projects
Tristan has been hard at work with the social justice committee over the summer, but at this week’s meeting, he signaled that they were only getting started. First, there is a gender equality initiative in the works which would move lockers outside of gymnasium locker rooms. There are plans for a social justice mural that would celebrate diversity in Marianopolis. The website where students can anonymously ask questions to counselors will soon be operational as well. The Tell Us Your Story campaign will allow students to share their social injustice anecdotes anonymously which may be quoted and added to the aforementioned mural. Finally, the most ambitious project is the library Green Space which would arrange plants in an area of the library and help students relax while studying.
Fall elections 2020 debates: CONFIRMED!
The date for the Fall election debate is now confirmed. It will be held on Thursday, September 10th during Activity Period. Congress and MWR have been communicating about the logistics, but as of the time of writing of this article, we are still unsure of the venue. So far, there are three options on the table:
1- Hold an online debate and livestream it (see Winter 2020 election debate for reference)
2- Hold an in-person debate with only the candidates, MWR staff and Congress tech committee (for live streaming) on campus while respecting COVID prevention measures (see Fall 2019 election debates for reference minus the audience)
3- Hold an in-person debate in the auditorium with the same measures as #2 (there is precedent from academic years prior to 2020)
Of course, any debate held on campus will have to be approved by the administration thus the current uncertainty. Overall, there is a general preference for an in-person debate. Some Congress members were a little sour over candidates reading pre-written answers during the Winter election debates, but other members insisted that there is a place for such tactics in an online debate. Eventually, the issue was put to bed and a poll is to be set up in order to determine the medium, all done with the approval of the administration of course.
New MSU hoodies
Misha is in the process of completing the final steps to put the new MSU hoodies up for sale to the students. Prices will vary according to a student’s customization choices and advertisement is ready to be launched. However, after discussions with the VP of Finance, the launch was postponed to the Winter semester. The most efficient method of payment was determined to be using a Square reader, so the postponement will allow for more students to have access to the hoodies. As such, an Omnivox survey will be used to gauge interest in the new merchandise.
Silver Key Instagram takeover
In addition, a team of Silver Key members will take over the MSU instagram account to answer questions from first year students! The instagram takeover should already be in effect by the time of release of this article.
As per the MSU constitution, Congress has six weeks from the first day of the semester to hold a General Assembly, but the date is likely to be towards the end of the six weeks as a new Coordinator of Internal Affairs still remains to be appointed. The GA has to be advertised ten days before the set date and MWR will make sure to regularly update the student body of developments. The major proposition this semester is likely to be a temporary student fee reduction. Since the majority of last semester was online, the Congress budget has seen a massive surplus, but as a nonprofit, there is no good reason for Congress to take more money from students than required to run its operations. The goal is to balance the budget.
Administration is on very good terms with Congress and no major issues were raised. The President and Vice-President had their first board of governors meeting last Tuesday where they presented planned activities and updated the board about the upcoming elections.
Communications and social media
A significant point of contention during the meeting had to do with social media. The Instragram MSU page has doubled its followers and the Facebook page has seen increased engagement. The Coordinator of Communications has recently linked Facebook and Instagram pages as well. Unfortunately, this has led to information cluttering and the pages have become saturated. The Facebook page, for instance, is an ocean of textbook sale posts with the occasional scattered Congress announcement.
However, there were major disagreements over the solution to this problem. Some proposed to have dedicated members moderate the page and filter posts. On the other hand, others vehemently disagreed because it would be an infringement upon the students’ freedom of speech. The administrators have not previously interfered with the page apart from a few exceptions (such as approving new members or removing genuinely hateful posts). Eventually, a middle ground was reached: the Facebook page will have community guidelines and students selling textbooks will be directed to Omnivox, since it is an already established platform for book sales, hopefully reducing the current spammy environment.
Later, Laurence suggested the interesting idea of cross-platform posting. As such, a single post could be simultaneously posted on the MSU app, Facebook, Instagram, etc. allowing information to reach students more efficiently. However, Congress’ resident social media expert, Tristan, insisted that no such function currently exists, but perhaps it would be possible to invent it via the President’s coding abilities.
On that note, the meeting was cut short and adjourned with several points left to be addressed next week as Congress and MWR was to answer any questions the candidates may have.
For more details about elections, consult https://msucongress.com/
Editor’s note: On the behalf of the entire MWR staff (and all MSU I am sure), welcome to all first year students! To those running in the Fall elections, good luck and prepare to be grilled by our Editor of MariNews!