In debate, ResSoc Presidential candidates discuss first-year experience during COVID-19

Candidates propose peer networking, innovative programming

ResSoc’s debate happened  Jan. 17 over Zoom.
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Sunday’s Residence Society (ResSoc) presidential debate, held on Zoom, saw both presidential candidates speak to the future of residence during COVID-19.

Jared Fernyc opened the debate by proposing new initiatives and programs aimed at developing professional and academic skills. 

Fernyc stated a commitment to providing direct accountability through formal reports and conference-style meetings, as well as open town hall conversations promoting Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigeneity (EDII), ensuring that student leaders are supported in their positions. 

“I am passionate about residence at Queen’s University. I have had some incredible mentorships, and experiences which taught me adult lessons,” Fernyc said.

Roshael Chellappah said residence provides students with the opportunity to meet new students, create connections with professors, and transition from high school to university.

“It is crucial to select a candidate who will properly represent the student body to [Queen’s] residence admission and the senate residence committee,” Chellappah said. 

The First-Year Experience

Chellappah supported the pilot program for the lottery selection of residence on a first-come, first-served basis because of the benefits of entering university knowing peers based on program and interests.

 “I’m hoping as president I am able to implement—if next year is a remote school year— students who are in the same program or household on one floor.” 

Fernyc opposed the transition to a complete first-come, first-served basis for residence applications, citing conversations with students about the frustration around how the current room assignments in residence don’t allow time to sort the logistics of moving in. He added that many students believe a broader choice of residence buildings would result in a more enjoyable experience. 

Regarding ResSoc programming, Fernyc referenced his key platform point of an eight-month-long speaker series featuring University and industry professionals. 

Chellappah added that exposure to other student groups on campus could increase student engagement, including events spotlighting mental and physical wellbeing. 

 “I believe bringing professional expertise into residence, helping students get exposure to careers and career building activities will help them in their post-graduate lives.” 

Addressing meal plans, Fernyc recalled conversations with students promoting eco-conscious meal planning, reducing food waste, and environmental impact of food sourcing. He proposed working alongside Hospitality Services and Residence Life for accessible menus.

Chellappah said a more diverse range of foods should be made available in dining halls, in addition to those featured at cultural events. 

“We can bring more options, so students will always feel they have a part of home when they are coming to Queen’s University.”  

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigeneity (EDII) Action Plan

Both candidates addressed EDII as a key aspect of their presidential terms.

“Part of promoting feelings of safety and acceptance in any community is celebrations of diversity. [I’m proposing] an event series to celebrate culture and stand united as a community, to celebrate diversity,” Fernyc said. 

Regarding ResSoc’s obligation to be an equal opportunity employer and create an inclusive and welcoming work environment, Chellappah pointed to the past practice of hiring as teams.

“I feel that having individual candidates campaigning and running individually allows individuals to step forward and contest for a position. With teams, it is individuals who know each other, and an individual has to find a team to go through the campaigning process,” she said. 

Both Chellappah and Fernyc supported the continuation of individual nominations over team candidates for student elections. 

COVID-19

Chellappah proposed a continuation of remote committees, noting the fluctuation of responsibilities is based on the capacity of students and must be determined at the beginning of each year. Fernyc supported the idea of residence staff remaining remote, accounting for Queen’s Campus and Public Health recommendations in the event of running in-person programming. 

Chellappah said the safety of students should be the top priority, with programming specific to students within the same household and floor. 

Residence Conduct 

Addressing the new student appreciation initiative in residence, Chellappah proposed increased student awareness and improving incentives. Fernyc proposed a point-based system for each building, culminating in a large-scale event or reward at the end of the year. 

Both candidates opposed the implementation of security cameras in residence because of student privacy. 

Chellappah conceded that in the event of security cameras being put in place, limiting them to common areas or floor entrances would be a step to protect student privacy. She also proposed an anonymous text hotline to report misconduct or damages. 

“The overwhelming majority of students dislike the idea,” Fernyc said.

Leadership

Both candidates spoke to the value of and commitment to strong leadership from the ResSoc President. 

“One of the main things that leadership possesses is empathy, and the ability to make sure that whatever happens to the team as a whole, everybody will handle together and everyone is there to support each other,” Chellappah said. 

“The most powerful tool ensuring that members of [ResSoc] work collaboratively, is the understanding in a collective vision, a common vision and a unified vision,” Fernyc said. 

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