BY SOROUSH KHODAEI / Editor
With election season fast approaching, we were inspired by The Gateway, the student newspaper of the University of Alberta, to evaluate the performance of our ASA executives throughout the past year. Since it is impossible to evaluate each individual executive based on every facet of their time in office, these evaluations are based on major points on each of their initial platforms, responsibilities in their respective job descriptions, and interviews conducted with each executive. The grading rubric, which was borrowed from The Gateway, is available at the end of the article.
Taylor Johnson – President
The President is the Chief Executive Officer of the Augustana Students’ Association and is assigned with administering the affairs of the ASA internally and externally. They are tasked with decision making on the behalf of the ASA and are responsible for leading the ASA effectively and efficiently. Taylor Johnson, the current ASA president, was contacted for an interview regarding this article, but ultimately canceled and did not reschedule with us. Her platform is also not available online. Due to these inconveniences, Johnson’s performance will be assessed based on her job description and her fall AGM report.
According to her AGM report, two of Johnson’s main platform points were to improve communication and collaboration with the University of Alberta Students’ Union, and to facilitate a feedback survey regarding the 3/11 calendar. With regards to her first point, she is to ensure that the concerns of Augustana students are being taken into consideration at North Campus. In her AGM report, Johnson mentions that she is satisfied with the amount of conversation and collaboration between the ASA and SU. However, she does not clarify the topics of these conversations, or what these collaborations will achieve for the Augustana student body. She also states that she has been working hard on the 3/11 feedback survey and that it was her main ongoing project at the time. The survey was to be sent out last January. She does not mention any other major projects that are meant to happen during the course of the year.
Also according to her AGM report, Johnson is a voting member of various committees and working groups on campus. These include the Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group, the Substance Use Framework Working Group, the Building and Sustainability Committee and the Student Life Awards Planning Committee. She mentions that her rationale for decision making on each committee is ensuring that the decisions made are in the best interest of the student body and she supposedly converses with students to receive feedback regarding the committees she sits on.
Johnson seems to have fulfilled a solid portion of the roles mentioned in her job description, but I fail to see any significant changes that were made on her part as the president of the ASA. The unavailability of her platform and her cancellation of our interview also add to my uncertainty of the quality of her performance, as well as demonstrate a lack of transparency on her part.
Naomi Mahdere – Vice-President Academics
The Vice-President Academic advocates on behalf of the student body and is concerned with the overall administration of the Augustana Students’ Association. The VPA is also the ASA’s means of communication to the University of Alberta Students’ Union. Naomi Mahdere ran on three main objectives. The first was transparency on behalf of the ASA, which included providing an online space for document sharing between the ASA and the student body. Another objective was improving accessibility and programming, especially with regards to group-specific academic needs and concerns. Her last objective was concerned with mental health, with a focus on policy changes to ensure that the university provides the student body with appropriate resources and accommodations.
Concerning the first point on her platform, Mahdere was not able to achieve the level of transparency she had anticipated, especially regarding an online space for document sharing. For the second part of her platform, she hoped to focus on underrepresented groups such as students in athletics and kinesiology. She worked to move “After U”, the post-graduation workshops, towards more program-specific topics to help underrepresented student groups in their respective fields. Regarding the last point on her platform, Mhadere was unable to fulfill her promise of ensuring that an acknowledgment would be added to course syllabi, informing students of resources available to them, as well as guaranteeing a redefined definition of a “justifiable cause” that would include mental health.
It is the responsibility of the VPA to review and revise ASA policies and bylaws and contribute a considerable amount of time to various committees. Mahdere revised several bylaws and policies, including the sexual harassment policy, which she had made a mission of hers at the beginning of her tenure. She also sat on various committees such as the I-Week Planning Committee, the Curriculum Committee, and the Agenda & Priorities Committee.
Although Mahdere feels that she has fallen short on transparency and communication, she believes that she worked towards objectives that were not on her initial platform, but were of great importance to her, especially regarding diversity and inclusion. She also believes that some of her efforts were futile because the objectives she advocated for would not be voted on by other members of the executive team. Overall, she has fulfilled her roles as a VPA with regards to her job description but has fallen short on achieving most of her campaign promises.
Jennae Matzner – Vice-President Student Life
The primary responsibility of the VP Student Life is to plan and execute activities that contribute to student life. Jennae Matzner made several promises when she ran for this position. These included promoting existing ASA events such as the Bashes, Formal and Casino Night; increasing student awareness and participation with these events; helping new students transition smoothly to Augustana while spreading awareness for the ASA; engaging new students in annual social events; promoting and helping clubs with their funding; and creating and managing an event to promote mental health awareness while also showcasing the student body’s talents.
The annual events such as the Bashes and the Move-In Day, which are parts of the VPSL’s job description, went well for the most part. The First Class Bash was hindered by some unexpected costs, which affected the quality of Winter Formal later in the year.
Matzner worked on policy revisions with the Clubs Budget Committee to make club funding more fair, as there was a rise in the number of clubs applying for funding this year. She also worked to make Club Fairs more engaging by encouraging clubs to have more interactive booths that would be more attractive to students. Despite this, she feels that she has not been able to adequately help clubs with their governance and event planning, since she has focused mainly on annual events. She also worked closely with the ASA president on the recent alcohol policy change by conducting surveys to get feedback from students.
With regards to the last point on her platform, Matzner was not able to create the event she had hoped to. However, she mentioned that the ASA is in the process of creating a Wellness Week Committee and that this idea could be implemented into the wellness weeks in the coming years.
Matzner has done her job and fulfilled her duties consistently, but was unable to meet some of her initial goals, mainly the creation of an entirely new event to increase mental health awareness and showcase talents among the student body.
Nnenna Achebe – Vice-President Finance
The Vice-President Finance is tasked with managing the Augustana Students’ Association budget, as well as handling revenue generation and fundraising. Nnenna Achebe ran with three main points on her platform. These included improving the ASA’s financial transparency, advocating for clubs on campus, and taking an active part in the promotion of diversity amongst the student body through the ASA.
Working to improve financial transparency, Achebe sought to make the budget easier to
understand by creating appendix sections for the Student Engagement Fund and for Investments‘ expenditures. She also made her weekly budget update presentations in the ASA office simpler to comprehend, which students were free to attend. Due to her background in club governance, Achebe planned to take an active role in helping various clubs on campus. She did this by encouraging clubs to collaborate on events in order to maximize participation and help each other with funding. Achebe was also concerned with the lack of dedicated club space on campus, which prompted her to work towards developing this as a long term goal. Even though she does not see this as a short-term objective, she believes it can be developed after her tenure by future VPFs.
Another one of Achebe’s initial goals was to improve financial literacy on campus, by educating students about bursaries, grants, payments, credit cards, etc., but she was unable to achieve this to the extent that she had hoped. She believes that this was her biggest downfall.
With regards to advocating for diversity and inclusion, Achebe planned on working with the Diversity Working Group initially, but failed to attend meetings or participate in activities and events. However, she worked with the I-week Planning Committee and helped in organizing the Tournament of Nations.
Achebe managed to fulfill a majority of her roles as the VPF but failed to adequately improve financial literacy among the student body in ways that she had hoped. While fulfilling her duties towards the I-week Planning Committee, she did not make significant changes to the promotion of diversity on campus.
Alex Ho – Vice-president Communications
The Vice-President Communications is responsible for communicating the interests and services of the ASA to students, operating all ASA avenues of communication effectively, and advertising their activities to the student body. Alex Ho made two primary campaign promises: he planned on increasing volunteer and leadership opportunities for students and creating a centralized space where students would be able to find volunteering opportunities. He also planned on continuing the work against sexual violence, increasing support for the LGBTQ+ community, and advocating for overall wellness throughout the year, as opposed to the usual one wellness week per semester.
Even though he had plans to increase volunteer opportunities for students, Ho did not gain the traction he had hoped. The “centralized space” in which the students would be able to find volunteer opportunities has also not been put in place, but Ho says it is a work in progress in the form of a website, which unpublished. For his second campaign promise, Ho submitted a proposal to transform the Pride Committee into an existing entity within the ASA, and also helped in reviving AQUA, the Augustana LGBTQ+ club. He was also a member of the Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group, which dealt with sexual violence prevention at an administrative level. Ho was unable to fulfill his last campaign promise of advocating for overall wellness. Even though the traditional wellness weeks happened as they do every semester, he failed to achieve his goal of spreading overall wellness that is felt throughout the academic year.
Other than individual campaign promises, the VPC has other major responsibilities. One of these is to advertise the ASA and its activities to the student body. Ho tried to improve engagement between the ASA and the students this year through photo contests and other interactive activities. The VPC is also responsible for not only utilizing all modes of communication used by the ASA, but ensuring that they are used efficiently and effectively. Ho has done an acceptable job with Facebook, keeping engagement high, but has unfortunately neglected other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. The ASA column in the Dagligtale was also neglected by the VPC for the most part.
Ho, while having fulfilled some of his roles as VPC and achieving one of his campaign promises, has fallen short on other major responsibilities, specifically neglecting social media presence and communication.
A-range: This person has fulfilled the promises they campaigned on, has created tangible change during their tenure and has shown a commitment to improving the lives of students. Their GPA is looking good.
B-range: This person has done their job consistently well, but has not made any remarkable changes, or has fallen short on important goals they set out in their platforms. They’re doing fine, but it’s nothing to phone home about.
C-range: This person has done their job sufficiently, but has failed to make significant progress in the areas most relevant to their portfolio, or has essentially abandoned a major part of their platform. They’re still passing with a safe buffer though, and Cs get degrees!
D-range: This person has done a very lackluster job, and has not sufficiently fulfilled their campaign promises or the responsibilities of their position.
F-range: This person has not done their job, has not represented students and has not fulfilled their campaign promises whatsoever.