BY PRECIOUS AKANINYENE / STAFF WRITER
On Wednesday November 16th, 2022, the Augustana Students’ Association (ASA) gathered at the Wahkohtowin Lodge at 5:30 pm for their general meeting to discuss ideas and projects for the growth and development of the Augustana students. This article includes a recap of the major discussions and addresses made at the Annual General Meeting, followed by an interview with Jewel Naicker, president of the ASA.
Jewel Naicker, ASA President
The ASA president, Jewel Naicker, began her report with the following statement:
“Given that the government structure in the university is ever-changing and student needs are ever-changing, a great challenge has been holding the university to account as well as making the students’ voices heard. The students’ voices are always loud and clear; however, the voices are many and they are growing louder. I understand the overwhelming nature of consuming what students have to say but at the same time, everyone who steps foot into this institution has a duty to the students… It is imperative that student leaders refine their methods of advocacy to ensure that students not only hear answers to their questions but see answers and change.”
Jewel recognized that students face certain issues, and assures the students that their problems are being relayed to the right authorities and will be answered.
In her report, Jewel said her focus is on three main topics: sexual violence, gender-neutral washrooms, and food insecurity. She is working to provide students with an internal sexual violence committee and encouraging students to speak about important issues. She also hopes that the right sexual violence orientation is provided to athletes, and that orientation content is dynamic and pertinent to this constantly evolving topic. Jewel is also working with the Vice President Student Life, Kyra Gusdal, in order to provide gender-neutral washrooms for students. Regarding food insecurity, she has been working with the Dean’s suite and the ASA has been allocated funds to combat food insecurity. One way to combat food insecurity is the provision of monthly breakfasts.
“It is imperative that student leaders refine their methods of advocacy to ensure that students not only hear answers to their questions, but see answers and change.”Jewel Naicker
Kyra Gusdal, VP Student Life
Kyra’s role involves helping the Activities Committee plan events and advocate for all student life issues.
Kyra discussed upcoming (at the time of the meeting) student events like Augustana’s Got Talent, and her plans to ensure that student voices are heard in the gender-neutral washroom campaign. She also talked about school clubs. This year, the ASA added six clubs to an existing tally, bringing the total number to 17. She also spoke about more fun club meetings and interactions. Kyra acknowledges that risk management is a problem that clubs face in Augustana. This led to the installation of a tutoring system for clubs to guide their activities and ensure student safety. The clubs also implemented a two-demerit system, which has already seen one club getting suspended.
Kyra’s goals are summed into four main points: installing adequate gender-neutral washrooms on campus, including an addition of multiple occupancy washrooms, implementing the Augustana-specific sexual process mapping document and ensure that it is well incorporated into our campus and easily accessible, making sure that ASA events for the rest of the year are high quality and safe, and encouraging ASA clubs to follow safety guidelines.
Ursula Pountou, VP Academics
Ursula’s role includes advocating for student academic needs, handling student academic appeals, and updating ASA policies and guidelines.
One of her current goals is to make Professors release their syllabi about two weeks before the commencement of the semester. This change would enable students to know more about courses and aid in course selection.
Saim Khokhar, VP Finance
Saim’s role in the ASA is to generate revenue, provide updates on the audit,and general updates on the handling of finances.
He spoke on the successes of the VP Finance office, including co-op programs, student discounts, and a campus kitchen. Augustana’s co-op program includes a science internship program and an art works experience program. He also mentioned student discounts which have been put in place for the students: 20-30% discount for a taxi service going from Edmonton to Camrose and vice versa, 35-dollar student discount spa service for a 60 min session, etc.
Eylul Evren, VP Communications
Eylul spoke about the available ASA healthcare plans.
Jewel Naicker, ASA president. Photo submitted.
What are the goals of the ASA this year?
“Branding, which means having a stronger presence on campus and letting students know the options and rights they have from the ASA. Changing the narrative that the ASA is a party planning committee and making it known that efforts are being made to provide a safe space for students on campus. Having an impact on any outreach methods that are available to the university and using the medium to change the toxic sexual culture on campus.”
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced personally and as the ASA president?
“Personally, it’s been a lack of experience. I wasn’t on the ASA team in the past, except for being a one-time student rep. Before now, I didn’t know who to go to and wasn’t aware of the connections formed or policies put in place, etc. Learning who to go to and asking lots of questions has set back the pace of my efforts but now I’m finding my feet. I’m putting the pieces together and leaning significantly on my executive team for support.”
What is your role as the ASA president?
“My role as an ASA president is to keep my ears to the ground and keep myself in touch with all student issues that arise. But in a more formal capacity, my duties are to make sure the ASA runs to maximum efficiency, maintain internal and external relations, advocate for students, and give back to students as best as I can.”
What are your major projects?
“I am currently working on issues of sexual violence, gender-neutral washrooms, and food insecurity in Augustana.”
Describe your process for making large, long-term strategic decisions.
“When it comes to long-term decisions, we first consult the students. Because I’m blessed with a good team and we have good foresight, everyone looks at the situation together and we all contribute our ideas. It takes place a lot through conversation.
Our change in meeting structure has also helped the way we think about future projects and make sure that our projects are sustainable. In this new meeting structure, we use the 40-60 method, where 40% of our meetings look into the past and 60% are on how to use the past to affect the future.”
What is your experience with leading the ASA so far?
“I have loved it and I want more of it! I also wish I could do it beyond my graduation. I think I have found my place and purpose and the organization re-affirms my values.
I think it’s been an extremely valuable experience for me, especially when working towards the same goal as others.”
What stance does the ASA take when the school management does not make favorable decisions or wastes time when making such decisions?
“It’s mainly about accountability. We want the school to be accountable, and have structures and policies in place, and we would work together with the school to prevent the same issues from occurring in the future.”
Are there plans in progress to make sure that the school provides more filling and enjoyable meals for students?
“There have been efforts to discuss the food situation in the past, but they were largely unsuccessful. Going forward, it would be beneficial to start up the conversation again, given that they are under new supervision.
With the overwhelming amount of student voices on this, I think it is worth bringing up the issue of food security. We’ve mainly been focusing on the quantity of food in our appeals, but we’ll also include appeals for an increase in the quality of food.”
What advice would you give to students looking to join the ASA?
“Know your ‘why’. You don’t get credit for a lot of the work you’re doing. There’s a lot of hard work put in behind the scenes and it isn’t always successful. Be aware of your reason for joining, and if your why aligns with the ASA’s values, then go for it.”