Team YEA ready to bring student engagement back to ASUS

Election uncontested for second year running

Team YEA platform focuses on student needs for success and well-being.
Supplied by Team YEA

Presidential candidate Yara Hussein, Vice Presidential (Society Affairs) candidate Emma Farrell, and Vice Presidential (Operations) candidate Aloka Wijesundara are the only team running for the newly restructured ASUS executive this year.

The team, all ArtSci ’23, whose campaign slogan is “Building an ASUS for You,” centers its platform on three pillars: the student, the classroom experience, and the university experience overall. 

According to Wijesundara, the student pillar of the platform focuseson student needs for success and wellbeing both inside and outside the classroom.

She noted Team YEA has had over 40 consultations to assess the needs of students. The major subthemes of the student platform are financial aid and literacy. 

“We consulted our past executive and clubs as well as individual students in the community that might not be affiliated with any sort of [ASUS] group because we wanted to get that perspective,” Wijesundra said in an interview with The Journal.

“I’m really excited to introduce a new admissions bursary for Arts and Sciences students that is needs-based rather than merit-based to help diversify our student body and make the Arts and Science experience more accessible.”

Under the classroom tenant, Farrell said YEA are seeking to diversify students’ classroom experiences and focus on accessibility in the classroom, whether learning is in-person or remote.

“Something that’s very important to us is diversifying the curriculum, which can come in various forms,” Farrell said.

“We also want to focus on accessibility in the classroom, whether this is through advocating for American Sign Language (ASL) courses or through technological accessibility through a technology lending library which we hope to collaborate on.”

Hussein said the university experience pillar will focus on sustainability, orientation week, and the Queen’s-Kingston relationship with students. She said YEA’s platform highlights the Kingston community relationship and seeks for students to have increased engagement with the city.

The candidates emphasized the ever-changing dynamic between the three pillars, as reflected in their platform.

“While we have these tenants or categories of the student, classroom, and university experience, we’ve taken a truly intersectional approach to these tenants to recognize that they are not mutually exclusive nor are they fixed,” Farrell said.  

“We do recognize the ever-changing dynamic of the student experience and hopefully have recognized that in our platform.”

The team acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on their platform and noted how the University and the student body’s response to the ongoing pandemic has informed their platform’s tangible items.  

“We want to work with the ASUS Wellness Director to improve that internal wellness for ASUS volunteers and students engaged with student government, and also work with Student Wellness Services and advocate for students there,” Farrell said.

“We hope to use the past few years to refer to how they’ve shaped the vision for what things will look like in the future in terms of things like [academic] accommodations, and making sure students direct their voices to faculty members and to the administration as a whole,” Hussein added.

READ MORE: Asus restructures executive

Each member of Team YEA has been involved with student advocacy throughout their time at Queen’s and has been involved with ASUS in varying capacities.

Hussein is currently the Equity Commissioner on ASUS Council, the Gender-Based Violence Awareness & Bystander Intervention Education Program Student Coordinator, and co-chair of the Queen’s Student Diversity Project.

Farrell is currently the Deputy Academics Commissioner and works supporting Department Student Councils (DSC), and has also been involved as an Orientation Coordinator where she was involved in doing community outreach for Orientation week. She has also served as a student mentor on ASUS’s Mentorship Program.

Wijesundara is currently a residence don and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Student Assistant at the Student Experience Office. She has worked as a front-desk receptionist for ASUS and has been a part of her DSC.  She has also been involved with clubs including Queen’s Female Leadership in Politics and Queen’s International Affairs Association.

Another dimension of the team’s platform involves bringing student engagement back to student government and extracurriculars, particularly for first- and second-years.

“We’ve noticed a lot of the current first- and second-year students have only had four months on campus for their entire time at Queen’s,” Wijesundara said. “We want to work directly with these communities to engage them especially.”

“We want to spread our marketing and our volunteer opportunities directly to them, because this is a gap we’ve noticed.”

If elected, the team hopes to use Orientation Week as an avenue to engage students with ASUS.

“It really is during Orientation Week where ASUS branding is everywhere and opportunities are everywhere and the website and applications are shared heavily among students, as we all remember from our first years,” Hussein said.

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