By Bhomor Rahman
Laurence, what is motivating you to run for President?
Laurence: It’s about being committed to do whatever it takes to improve student life and to stand up for student rights. As coordinator of External Affairs, I had the chance to initiate projects for these purposes. For instance, I brought forward and co-signed the first Intercollegiate COAC Climate Plan between 5 student unions, and I initiated a composting partnership between Green Team and a Concordia-based organization. . I helped organize two hackathons, BrébeufHx and MariHacks, which provided almost 200 students with hands on coding experience., In addition, continuing MariWorks to provide more jobs to students as well as covering essential student services are all part of my current campaign, which is centered on protecting student rights, before anything else. All this to say that I’ve been committed as External Affairs to improve student life in a practical way, and I’m more than willing, as the only Congress member running for presidency, to bring that experience to continue what we started.
Sherry, what is motivating you to run for Vice President?
Sherry: Everything Laurence said is exactly what our campaign is about. Seeing students being able to express themselves through concrete actions like volunteering motivates us too. I have experience working in a student council as Minister of Communications for a few years and Laurence also has experience on the current student council, so we think we will be able to create a social impact fund and use all of our resources to help those in need!
What sets you apart from the other candidates? In which ways are your experiences and perspective unique?
L: First, I believe our campaign is unique because of our access to better technology and expertise in coding. This would allow us to expand and continue current tech projects such as the current MSU App, MariSaves and MariWork. Second, and more importantly, as the only current member of Congress participating in the presidential campaign, I have experience building real initiatives focused on including everyone. I don’t build a campaign on theory. I am committed to using my prior experience, and my network of connections I gained as External Affairs, to efficiently build and lead impactful projects to improve student needs, and to stand up on issues that matter, while getting all Mari students involved.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of the position of President and Vice President and what will you do to overcome this issue?
S: I don’t really see difficulties as challenges, but rather as learning opportunities. It gives us a chance to work and connect with the student body and other colleges which will help us overcome any potential issue. If there is one problem that we may face on a more personal level, it might be the increased workload generated by our responsibilities and how to balance it with school.
By what metric would you measure your success as President and Vice President?
L: The number of projects students accomplish that help empower communities is definitely an indicator of success. The ability for Congress to support those same student initiatives even after graduating cegep is another indicator. Another subjective measure I can use is the overall satisfaction of students towards Congress and their everyday environment, highlighting what Congress should do to support all students.
In the last few weeks, the administration has ignored and snubbed student opinion. Do you have what it takes to stand up for student interests against the administration and ensure our voice is not only heard, but acted upon?
S: I think people overestimate the power that Congress does have to enforce its will upon administration, but we do have the numbers and l’union fait la force, so our best bet would be to make a united front. Whatever we obtain as the fruit of our efforts is better than obtaining nothing at all. But the first step would be to have proper communication channels set up with the administration and actually, Laurence, how often does administration communicate with Congress on average?
L:Although as External Affairs I don’t have access to meeting with the administration,, I can say that they contact Congress about once every 2 days.
S: So they do get back to you.
L: They do, but not always with something set in stone.
S: While it is certainly difficult to manage this sort of crisis, in lieu of assurances, I think it is Congress’ job to go out there and reassure students to maintain a semblance of order and control the situation inside of the student population.
Being President or Vice President of MSU requires decisiveness. Share some examples of your ability and willingness to be decisive.
L: When there was a sharp rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 at the start of March, on the Thursday before the government shut down schools, I immediately reached out to the McGill, Concordia, Brébeuf and anglophone cegep student unions in Montreal that very same afternoon. I kept MSU Congress up to date with all the latest developments. Even though I was very keen to express my opinions publicly, I decided to stick with Congress as a team player, and communicated before acting. As President, I will ensure all of Congress is aware of a decision before going for it, and will be receptive to others’ opinions before expressing my own.
I would like you to elaborate further, so let me ask you this. This week was supposed to be the Transition week organized by CEVES that included the setting up of a picket line to block the school entrance which has caused many divisions within the student body. Not everybody would go that far, so Laurence, what is your position on the use of picket lines?
L: I see picket lines as a form of student expression. I would not oppose it. However, I recognize that students who have enrolled at Mari particularly did so because they want to have a high quality education. Since education is a student’s right, preventing students from getting into school altogether would conflict with their rights. That’s why CEVES to my understanding took a middle ground approach where picketers will not stop you from going into school, but rather explain why strike using a picket line. I believe that students have a right to protest, as long as they respect the rights of others who wish to go to classes.
I see, so you support picket lines in principle, is that it?
L: I would treat any picket line the same way, regardless of the cause it is being used for.
If a student asked you for advice on how to have a positive impact on the Marianopolis community, what would you tell them?
S: I would guide them towards volunteering opportunities or show them how to start a club and promote activities because it’s in tough times like these that students need mental support. Ultimately, all of this will be encompassed in a wholesale student expression reform.
In your opinion, what value should Congress respect the most when it comes to representing its students?
S: Integrity, honest and just to be in touch with the students could go a long way.
L: I’d say respect, respect between the student body and Congress, and between Congress and the administration. This way, we can ensure efficient communication between and greatly improve our experience at Mari.
What is your vision of the perfect Marianopolis community?
S: Mari students are fortunate for the most part therefore it is our duty to help those in need. To that end, we will provide education support, volunteering opportunities and community support projects. If every student can be the most altruistic version of themselves, people will be happier and strive towards a better future.
Laurence, this one’s for you. We are currently amidst a global pandemic that forces those who can to work from home. This includes students. Many schools like Jean de la Mennais were able to seamlessly transition online without much hassle over the weekend, but the lack of online infrastructure in Marianopolis meant that the college had to give a two week hiatus to teachers and students which caused disruption and left many scrambling for answers as fear loomed due to COVID itself. As the founder of a hackathon, an expert in coding, programming and software development, what kind of infrastructure does Marianopolis need to set to set up to make sure education can continue in an orderly manner if a future such crisis were to occur?
L: That is a great question. For some context, teachers are currently using several software, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and the tools that Omnivox provides, but the issue is that no one is buying into it because it is a completely foreign method of learning. They don’t have a human feel that’s necessary for learning. In education, we want a more human approach. When I am studying online, I want something that is clear and provides us with the most relevant information needed for the personal learning experiences. I also feel data analysis and artificial intelligence can be implemented to personalize learning for students, something that I’m willing to contribute with my knowledge in coding. As students, we all deserve a right to quality education