Compiled by Rob Furlong
What qualifies you for the position of VPA? I have worked on many social justice initiatives throughout my life and I feel I’ve had more experience than the average student because of that. I’ve started my own not-for-profit working with youth in Jamaica that brings in volunteers from Canada, Australia, and Europe. We engage in social justice initiatives in Jamaica with at-risk youth to focus on leadership development from the point of view of the volunteers, the youth we work with, and teachers and community members in the two locations we operate in Jamaica. I’ve worked with social justice initiatives in Nepal, where I was during the two massive Earthquakes last year and I spent two months working with community members on raising money to bring supplies to families in remote regions. I feel I really have strength in social justice and I’ve been doing it for quite some time. It’s what my passion is, and it’s the direction I want to take my life—focus on speaking for the people.
What is your experience working in an organization such as LUSU? What have your contributions been to the student union in the past? My experience would be working for the not-for-profit and developing my own not-for-profit. That would be my main experience working in an organization like LUSU because I have done most of my work, more-or-less, solo. I don’t have much experience with LUSU actually, the only experience I’ve really had in running a club was for two years teaching martial arts and self-defense. I think it would be good to take everything I’ve learned from overseas and bring it home. I think this is a really good opportunity for me to give back to this community.
If elected, what are three things you’d like to accomplish during your term? I’d like to develop a leadership initiative to create a more cohesive environment between all of the LUSU staff, from management, full-time to part-time, and to volunteers in order for us to get to know everyone and have a strong organization. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Second, to develop a strategy to get more students involved and interested in the student union. More specifically, getting students to look at LUSU as “cool and interesting”, which is in the strategic business plan so students will actually start to pay attention. A lot of people are doing a lot of great work but no one really knows and cares. We have to make people care. Finally, to really support clubs and the centres to ensure that their vision is supported and working with them in whatever way they need.
Mohammad Ozhan Asker
What qualifies you for the position of VPA? The VP of Advocacy role has two portions to it; one of them is student life. During my time at Lakehead I’ve been involved with a lot of different aspects of the University like Leave the Pack Behind, the Student Success Center, the Student Ambassador program, and the orientation planning committee. The other is University policy and dealing with appeals. I’ve sat on a number of committees; I’m familiar with the policies here, and the strategic plans. I understand the direction the University is going and the different ways to connect students with available resources. I’ve met a lot of these people and they know who I am which puts me in a good position to be able to connect students with who they need to speak with to be able to advocate and work with those individuals because of my positive relationships with them. I am experienced with student unions. Before I came to Lakehead, I went to Confederation College where I worked with their student union. I understand how a student union works, everything from budgeting and auditing, to working with the faculty and administration.
What is your experience working in an organization such as LUSU? What have your contributions been to the student union in the past? Here at LUSU I am a very active member of a lot of the centres, which the VP of Advocacy oversees. I understand the work that they do and how important it is that the students have the spaces where they can feel safe and supported, and that there is the opportunity to learn about social justice issues.
If elected, what are three things you’d like to accomplish during your term? The first one would have to be making sure that the student union is transparent and accountable to students. We need to make sure student feel supported, welcome, and safe here. I know for a fact in previous years the centre coordinators haven’t felt supported and when you have that disconnect it makes it really difficult to do that work. A lot of students don’t know what the VPA is doing for them. Student’s tuition dollars go towards paying this person and it’s really important that the students are aware of what is and isn’t being done.
Second would be my passion for advocating for minorities and other marginalized groups. A big thing that has been coming up a lot is sexual violence on campus, so I want to make sure the centres that tackle these kinds of issues are supported and have the resources that they need to able to work effectively. Whether you are Indigenous, an international student, LGBT, or anyone else, everyone here should feel supported and safe. My third thing is tuition. I can’t promise I’m going to be able to lower tuition but I think it’s important we continue on that fight and working with the University to ensure education here at Lakehead is accessible to as many students as possible.
Any further remarks? Regardless of who is elected, my message to students is that when you’re voting you think about who has the qualifications, who has the experience, who understands current issues and who you feel comfortable talking about your issues with and not just voting for who is good at putting on a show.