Three candidates envision the University’s future at Rector debate

Candidates address issues ranging from SGPS concerns to sexual violence on campus

Rector candidates at the all-candidates debate
By Sebastien Molgat

On Jan. 24, students, administration and faculty alike all gathered in Wallace Hall to witness the all-candidates debate between three third-year students running for the Office of the Rector.

Hosted in conjunction by the SGPS and the AMS, the debate saw candidates Jake Roseman, ArtSci ’19, Afsheen Chowdhury, and Alex da Silva, both ConEd ’19, comment on a variety of topics posed by both the elections team and audience members. Jonathan Rose, Associate Professor in the politics department, moderated the event.

Candidates began with opening statements, each three minutes in length highlighting their key platform points. They were then questioned on primary issues they believed face the University in both the graduate and undergraduate spheres.

Over the course of the debate, all three candidates pointed to lacking connection and sense of community as major problems amongst graduate students. Roseman further touched on the problems surrounding TA positions, while Chowdhury addressed a gap in scholarships she believed discouraged graduate and professional students from choosing Queen’s.

“The most important undergraduate issue that I want to address is quality of education at Queen’s ... we used to be within the top 150 schools internationally. As a result of our classroom sizes increasing and [other factors] this has no longer been the case,” Roseman stated.

“We are the only university in Ontario right now that is currently over-enrolled in our first year,” he added.

Chowdhury chose to highlight the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion. She said the dialogue surrounding this topic has been “polarizing,” but remains a necessary conversation in order for change to happen.

Da Silva addressed the prevalence of sexual violence on campus and asserted that more change needs to be made, particularly in regards to supporting survivors and victims.

An audience member later posed a question regarding allyship towards Indigenous students on campus. While Chowdhury attested she would strive to listen to the voices of Indigenous students, Roseman said that after speaking to students in the Indigenous community, he hoped to advocate for education on Indigenous issues in the classroom.

Da Silva also said she consulted with Indigenous students, identifying accommodations that need to be provided so students can perform smudging ceremonies as desired. This would require designated locations and Elders to perform the service.

“[It’s about] looking not so much at can it happen, but does it happen regularly? Does it happen in a way that makes the experience enjoyable for everybody involved? Because you don’t want your culture to feel like a burden to your experiences and your role on campus,” da Silva said.

Another significant topic of debate was the proposed JDUC revitalization project. With regards to the renovations, da Silva emphasized the importance of hearing student input throughout the process. During his response, Roseman criticized the inadequate accessibility of the building and said he would push to remedy this issue.

Chowdhury spoke to the services that would close during renovations and said “all of our services, clubs, offices, SGPS, AMS, all of these facilities need to be moved to a different location temporarily if the JDUC is being revitalized.”

The debate ended on a warm note, with candidates describing each other’s strengths, presenting their own closing remarks and reminding the audience that Rector voting will occur on Jan. 29 and 30.

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