EngSoc candidates talk community at debates

‘A strong support system is necessary for students to be successful in such a rigorous program’

Pandemic reopening is the central focus for candidates.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-800-544-6424. The Centre's online chat feature can be reached here.

At the Engineering Society (EngSoc)’s debates, which took place Jan. 26 and 27, candidates emphasized pandemic reopening, student engagement, and accessibility as key issues.

All EngSoc positions up for election this year are uncontested.

President

According to Presidential candidate Danielle Rivard, when it comes to increasing engagement and accessibility after the pandemic reopening, keeping traditions alive and creating new ones is essential.

“I want people to walk away from their university experience confident they made the right choice coming to Queens,” Rivard said at the debate.

As the future of the pandemic remains uncertain, Rivard wants to advocate for in-person labs if students are to return to remote learning next year.

“If online [learning] does happen again, labs are a necessity in terms of connections [and] working together,” she said.

Other obstacles to engagement and accessibility within the engineering faculty Rivard sees are equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) concerns and reintroducing Frosh Week traditions like the grease pole.

“Since I am the main communication between student and faculty, I want to make sure I'm committed to getting all these needs and concerns to the faculty as a student's perspective,” Rivard said.

To make the grease pole more accessible to students, Rivard hopes to advocate for adding new positions for students who cannot physically participate. These positions will allow students to experience the grease pole without being in the pit.

“Grease pole means so much to me and has made such a difference with me, but I do know there's that accessibility issue,” she said.

“I want to make sure [students] are still able to be around watching enjoying the whole experience of it because you don't necessarily have to be in the pit to experience the ‘I got the TAM’ excitement.”

Vice-President (Operations)

“Declining engagement is a major problem we[‘ve] faced since March of 2020 when the pandemic hit,” Vice-President (Operations) candidate Evan Wray said at the debate.

“The biggest thing we can do to get people reengaged is to have things open, to provide students with opportunities to engage with other students.”

The unpredictable nature of the pandemic has often resulted in Queen’s closing and reopening on short notice.

 “The biggest thing is […] always staying on top of things so that when those circumstances change, we can be ahead […] and get things open as soon as possible, not being behind.”

As students learn remotely, Wray said burnout and Zoom fatigue were “main problem[s].” He added that he believes the quality of academic support services has declined throughout the pandemic.

Wray hopes to change the way academic support services are marketed to show exactly what students will be getting.

He also advocated for changes in EngSoc’s operations to streamline the transition process and increase productivity. Wray believes it’s important that outgoing directors and executives have a routine of transferring knowledge to incoming staff.

“The biggest thing is the data analytics,” Wray said. “I think that sort of gets trumped at the end.”

Wray said these big projects will take multiple years, so it’s important to focus on data analytics that will enable large projects to be worked on over multiple terms.

Vice-President (Student Affairs)

“My main goal is working to improve the mental health services as well as the response to sexual assault and discrimination act claims,” Vice-President (Student Affairs) candidate Jane Cohen-Wallis said at the debate.

“A strong support system is necessary for students to be successful in such a rigorous program.”

Cohen-Wallis acknowledged weaknesses in the University’s existing support services for students—particularly in the areas of mental health, response to sexual violence, discrimination, and gender-neutral washrooms.

“As stated on the [university’s] website, a short-term mental health model is provided to students. Unfortunately, for someone dealing with mental illness or someone who's recovering from sexual assault or acts of discrimination, a short-term model is not enough.”

According to Cohen-Wallis, survivors are further constrained due to anonymity policies for sexual assault reports.

“If a student files a report against someone […] the report is not accepted if it is anonymous,” she said. “We need to work to have a better system to accept these reports, even if they are anonymous.”

Cohen-Wallis also hopes to recruit experienced representatives to lead EDI initiatives to give students struggling with EDI issues a knowledgeable person to talk to.

She also aims to “continue to push the gender-neutral bathrooms in the ILC.”

“There [are] the funding and resources to have a gender-neutral bathroom.”

Junior Senator

“As a tight-knit community of solution minded individuals, it’s vital to our success to access environments where we can collaborate, share ideas, innovate in support of each other,” Junior Senator candidate Adam Raco said at the debate.

Raco hopes to reignite student engagement and advocate for better academic support on campus.

“Implementing a new initiative whereby designated spaces and times are organized for Queen’s engineering students to gather and work together would facilitate the development of important mutualistic relationships, friendships, and future successes.”

Raco acknowledged money is often a barrier for students to get the academic support they need.

“[Tutoring sessions offered by EngSoc] would be completely free to anyone in engineering and would be for the sole purpose of allowing students to sit down and help each other out,” he said.

Raco hopes to provide opportunities for first- and second-year students who missed out on in-person activities and engineering traditions due to the pandemic. He suggested rescheduling Frosh Week activities like the grease pole for these students.

“[We need to give] them an opportunity to engage in some of these team building activities that were missed out on for Sci ’24 and Sci ’25,” he said.

“That's really important and that sets the tone for all four years of Queen's engineering.”

 

Voting for EngSoc positions takes place Feb. 1 and 2, with results announced Feb. 3.

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