EngSoc executive hopefuls respond to student concerns at debate

Candidates tackle potential budget cuts and increasing student engagement

From left to right: Spencer Lee, Alex Koch-Fitsialos, and Ben Zarichny.
On Wednesday night in the ILC atrium, next year’s Engineering Society hopefuls fielded questions from the student body about managing heavy workloads and the potential return of the Student Choice Initiative. 
Presidential candidate Spencer Lee opened the debate by emphasizing the importance transparency plays in increasing student engagement with the Society. 
“I want every engineering student to understand what it is [the Engineering Society] does, so that [the Engineering Society] grows and so we can get more feedback from students,” Lee said. 
Audience members asked how student consultation could be increased. Lee responded by saying face-to-face communication between students and the executive would be encouraged. He expressed a wish to see more student involvement in Council, saying that putting a human face to feedback would allow for better mutual understanding than online forms and surveys. 
He identified the most important part of the president’s role as being a strong advocate and public face for the Society. 
“[The president’s] responses will be seen by the public, and judged by them. You have to be able to stand behind the decisions you make, and be able to support [them] with reasons,” he said.  
Vice-President (Operations) candidate Ben Zarichny faced situational questions from the audience, and broke down his planned response to a disastrous day in the Society, ranging from broken printers to a manager quitting from one of the Engineering Society’s seven services. 
Although occasionally faltering, Zarichny found solid footing when responding to questions pertaining to budget and managing the Society’s finances should the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) be reinstated. He advocated for maintaining the previous executive’s 25 per cent contingency when creating the budget to proactively establish where savings could be found, referencing his experiences as the director of internal affairs for the Society. 
This was the plan echoed among all the candidates. Vice-President (Student Affairs) candidate, Alex Koch-Fitsialos, also noted that maintaining the frequent meetings between the executive and directors established by the current executive would be crucial in ensuring spending stays on track. 
Vice-presidential candidates Zarichny and Koch-Fitsialos both placed heavy emphasis on the importance of open communication and teamwork within the Society. 
“You are trusting [directors] with their own portfolios,” said Koch-Fitsialos. “You're making sure that you're there for them whenever they need it, but you're not doing their job.” 
She focused on the vice-president (Student Affairs)’s role as a guide and mentor, rather than a manager. 
“In the beginning, there should be a lot of guidance [between the executive and the directors],” she said. “But then you start learning in your position. It's making sure that you say, ‘Hey, l trust you, you can do this job because I hired you for a reason.’” 
In response to questions about increasing student engagement with the Engineering Society, all candidates promoted utilizing marketing to show students what the Society does for them. They also supported an open flow of conversation with students to show them their voices are being listened to and that their ideas are being considered. 
“There’s a lot of little things you can do [to engage students],” said Koch-Fitsialos. “Making sure you understand their wants and needs is really important.” 

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