Recap: COMPSA executive candidates’ debate

Computing Student Association hopefuls discuss issues of mental health in faculty

Mental health, council transparency and student engagement were hot topics at the COMPSA executive debate on Tuesday.

Computing students gathered in Goodwin Hall for the debate, where students asked questions of each of the candidates. 

The position of President has two candidates, Colin Bingham, CompSci '18, and Aniqah Mair, CompSci '18. The position of Vice President Operations has one, Vinith Suriyakumar, CompSci '18. There are no candidates running for the position of Vice President University Affairs.

The debate began with questions for Suriyakumar as the sole Vice President Operations candidate and moved on to the Presidential candidates in the second half. The Journal has summarized the key questions and answers from candidates at the debate.

Vice President Operations

How do you plan to balance academics and the duties of Vice President of Operations?

Suriyakumar said that after having taking six courses last semester, he’s has confidence in his time management abilities. He would treat the position as a job and balance his time equally between academics and work, he said.

How will you make sure that ASUS takes the needs of Computing students into account? 

His previous experience as the COMPSA First Year Representative in the AMS will prepare him for a role in ASUS assembly, Suriyakumar said. He plans to place Computing-specific discussion topics on the ASUS agenda, but said he understands that discussions can go on for hours and they may not get to everything.

For this reason, he suggested speaking with ASUS executive members outside of assembly about issues related to Computing students.

Under the current Vice President Operations portfolio, there are two conferences you would be required to head or delegate to someone else. Do you have plans to look for more conferences to attend?

Suriyakumar said he hopes to find at least one more conference to attend, as he recognizes the value that these conferences can hold for students. He said he already has the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference in mind.

The Presidential candidate Q&A

Do you have any plans on how to better support the mental health of students?

Mair said a lot of student stress is caused by academics and communicating with the AMS Academics Affairs Commissioner will be key in addressing the issues.

She emphasized that as president it would be her responsibility to do everything she could to help out students who were struggling.

Both candidates advocated for the implementation of a Computing-specific mental health counselor, who they said would be better equipped to address the unique stresses many Computing students face.

Bingham said seeking out mental health awareness groups on campus and bringing their services directly to the School of Computing would be one of his first matters of business if elected.

As president, how do you plan to increase enthusiasm for COMPSA and its positions?

Bingham said awareness is key in increasing enthusiasm. He would ensure that students understand what events are going on and what positions are available.

Mair, on the other hand, said that getting the COMPSA website up and running and reinstating the COMPSA newsletter are two ways to encourage students to participate.

How do you plan on increasing transparency between students and COMPSA? 

Bingham suggested implementing a system in which students could anonymously admit their opinions. This would be useful because not all students are comfortable providing suggestions in person, he said.

Mair again said she plans to re-instate the newsletter and to make the “goings-on” of COMPSA more accessible. As it stands, students need to be actively searching for information to find it, she said.

She added that students shouldn’t have to be involved in COMPSA to have their voices heard.

What committee are you most excited for?

Bingham said he would look forward to meeting with any board within Arts and Science, as he hopes to see the School of Computing gain greater representation in the Faculty.

“In ASUS we’re small, but in the AMS, we’re smaller,” Mair said. For that reason, she also looks forward to making the Computing Society’s voice heard in AMS assembly, she said.

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