Students Elect New Representatives in UWSA By-Election

New UWSA president Ronnie Haidar addressing the crowd after his election victory at CAW Centre. [Photo by // Alex Denonville]

by Alex Denonville
The Lance- News Editor

University of Windsor’s full time undergraduate student population elected a new slate of candidates to represent them on the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance.

The election took place Nov. 26 and 27, with the announcement of the winners on the evening of Nov. 27 at the CAW Centre.

Chief Returning Officer April Adams was emotional in the announcement of winners.

“You are all winners,” Adams said, close to tears. “You should be proud, considering last year’s events, that you are the ones who stepped up the plate and decided change was going to be made. Be thankful that you are part of that.”

Ronnie Haidar doubled the number of votes of his two competitors, taking the president position with 585 votes. Chris Potvin and Kamal Mann trailed with 266 and 248 votes respectively.

The Fresh Prince, Abdi Abdi, won the VP Student Services position in a closely contested race against three other candidates. He took top spot with 361 votes against runner-up Sherry Chaudry’s 318. The 43-point difference was the tightest of any race.

The uncontested executive positions of VP Student Advocacy and VP Finance were filled by Mohamad El-Cheikh and Faisal Ishak respectively. Both candidates easily overcame the “No” option, which gave students the option to vote against an uncontested candidate.

All board of director positions went uncontested, with some positions remaining unfilled due to lack of candidates. Of the 24 board of director positions, eight had no candidates running, meaning the faculties of business, drama, law, nursing, science, social work and visual arts will have no representative on the board in the new year.

The five senate positions were filled by Farah El-Hajj, Emmanuel Igodan, Hassan Shahzad, Christopher Langley and Dhouha Triki. Only 199 votes separated the first and fifth positions.

While running uncontested for a position on the Board of Governors, Mohammad Akbar faced the highest turnout of the “no” vote. While Akbar attained 704 votes, 251 students responded no. Akbar’s previous role as VP External Affairs with UWSA was controversial. A report released last year by the University of Windsor alleged two executive positions Akbar lobbied for were created without following proper procedures. His eligibility in the previous election was also questioned.

The woes of the UWSA culminated a “None of the Above” campaign last April. The organized campaign left UWindsor students without an elected student government. After the campaign, University of Windsor President Alan Wildeman indicated in a letter the university would withhold some of the funds collected on behalf of the UWSA until it had an elected body and addressed concerns over how they would deal with the large transfers of student fees that usually take place.

In a previous interview, Dean of Students Clayton Smith indicated the UWSA had addressed the university’s concerns, and the next step is the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two bodies to ensure financial responsibility.

The short-term history of the UWSA made for a consensus among candidates that there is lots of work to be done.

Incoming president Ronnie Haidar said meeting with university administration and creating the MOU is a “top priority.”

“First and foremost I have to get caught up on the situation, then we’ll devise a plan and move forward,” Haidar said.

He acknowledged there is some “distaste” for the UWSA given the previous year’s controversies.

“We’re going to work very hard to combat that and hopefully for the next upcoming general election we’ll have a lot more students get involved,” he said.

The new VP Finance, Faisal Ishak, said it was a relief to “win” against the no option.

“I wasn’t expecting it to get as many votes as it did,” Ishak said.

To combat the apparent “distaste” for the UWSA, he said he would work towards making the body’s finances more transparent and accessible for students.

“Students need to know where their money’s going, a lot of them don’t even know that they’re paying the UWSA,” he said, adding there should be a chance to students to weigh in on major purchases and spending decisions.

Meanwhile, the UWSA’s new representative on the Board of Governors, Mohammad Akbar, was pleased students took a more positive route in choosing their representation.

“I feel that students have risen above the issues we had last year and are now focused on the fight ahead, we’ve got a lot to do,” Akbar said, adding his priorities would be maintaining the fight against tuition and a number of ancillary fees that continue to drain student wallets.

The VP of Student Services, Abdi Abdi, was relieved to finish the campaign, indicating his priorities would be the fighting for the return of homecoming, as well as meeting with campus clubs to discuss their needs.

The new VP of Student Advocacy, Mohamad El-Cheikh, said his first moves would be to follow through on his platform which involved providing more halal, vegan and kosher food options for students on campus. He also said he would move to create minority caucuses to represent the interests of UWindsor’s diverse student body.

“I want to get them to the table so they can push forward amendments or motions to make the campus more equitable,” El-Cheikh said, indicating those caucuses could represent racial minorities, women, LGBTQ, and differently-abled students.

While voter turnout hovered around ten per cent, UWSA general manager Nicole Morrell was happy with the turnout.

“It’s a fantastic turnout, especially for a by-election, I couldn’t be happier,” Morrell said. “We can’t wait for things to come, the new semester is going to be incredible for the UWSA.”

While declining to comment on the progress of the MOU between the UWSA and university, Morrell said the ball is in the University’s court.

“The UWSA’s been working very hard to work on our governance documents to make sure we’re doing everything to be as transparent and upfront for our students as we can,” said Morrell. “The university hasn’t contacted or spoke to us any further on that.”

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