Year in review
Following up with SAITSA’s student executives
The current SAITSA Executive Council has had a year to implement the goals they promised when campaigning in 2016.
Gar Gar, SAITSA student president, is proud of the role he has played for SAIT students over the past year and the platform promises he has been able to deliver.
“Always, when I speak, I feel like I am speaking on behalf of SAIT students,” said Gar, a fourth-year bachelor of business administration student.
“It is a privilege that I will never forget. One voice counts as a millions issues.”
Gar’s platform goals focused on the quality of life for SAIT students, including health care coverage, car pooling programs and student employment programs.
Gar approached his campaign in a hands-on fashion going to each faculty to speak directly with students in person to gather information and designed his platform based on student needs.
“Every time you think you’re doing good, you have to do great, you have to do your best,” said Gar when describing his time as SAITSA student president.
“We knew it was a learning curve, and it gets us into thinking on our feet. You learn while you implement,” said Gar describing the first months on executive council.
“One year seems to be so small for the platforms that you are setting. You have to be practical and set realistic goals that you are able to obtain within that one year,” said Gar.
According to Alex Dimopoulos, SAITSA VP academic, the team had to learn how to be executives.
“I thought I was the right person for the job [and] I would be able to do it based on my experience.”
Dimopoulos has been at SAIT for three years majoring in supply chain management. In addition, he has his red seal journeyman in culinary arts.
Dimopoulos ran for VP academic based on a campaign of increased transparency with The Weal, improved SAITSA club growth and better student engagement with the student association.
He campaigned for more media coverage on student government and believes he has seen an increase in coverage. As of 2017, The Weal has an official student government correspondent dedicated to covering the BOD and EC.
One of Dimopoulos’ major goals was to create the position of ombudsman, an official who would be appointed to investigate individual complaints made against SAIT administration.
The position has not yet been created. However, the BOD approved the goal and Dimopoulos presented it to Dr. David Ross, SAIT president, and Brad Donaldson, vice president academic, who offered feedback on the goal in order to carry on.
“It’s a long term goal to create the position,” said Dimopoulos.
He said he believes that his successor can continue towards the creation of this position.
For students running for executive council, Dimopoulos suggests hitting the pavement and campaigning face-to-face.
“Go to the students because they’re not going to come to you,” said Dimopoulos.
Connor Goodfellow sat on the SAITSA board of directors for two years and his experiences led him to run for VP student life, a position he will be re-running for.
“It’s always the goals that I didn’t accomplish that I’m thinking about.
“People will need you a lot more than you think. It all takes time, and takes time from working on my own goals,” said Goodfellow, whose campaign was notorious through his use of the infamous banana suit.
Goodfellow ran for VP student life based on a platform centered on better student services, increased SAITSA transparency and increased numbers of SAITSA clubs.
“Are we [SAITSA] more transparent now? Maybe not, but we’re always trying to be as transparent as we can,” said Goodfellow.
The VP student life hosted a clubs expo in September 2016 and doubled the funding available for clubs.
Goodfellow ran into operational problems in terms of increasing the services available to students.
He said he was excited to get board games into the Odyssey Coffeehouse, and that students have really enjoyed the access to games.
“SAITSAPRICK I’m pretty proud of that,” said Goodfellow.
SAITSAPRICK was a campaign launched in September 2016, where students were encouraged to engage in events at SAIT and collect specific buttons to win prizes.
“Do what you want to do and have fun with it. You’re going to execute it better,” said Goodfellow.
“It is the most fun year you’re going to have,” said Mikayla Schaffer, SAITSA VP external. Schaffer has been a student of the legal assistant program at SAIT since September 2014.
Schaffer’s major platform points included a tuition freeze for students, regulation for international student tuition, implementing open education resources and advocating for student mental health issues.
Schaffer states that she has been able to effect change in regards to tuition because she sits on an Alberta government tuition consultation group that has reevaluated the tuition system as a whole.
“[The provincial] government is very willing to talk,” said Schaffer.
She said she hopes that these talks will lead to direct provincial regulation for international students as well.
“Regulation should be put in place to ensure predictability,” said Schaffer.
One of the biggest changes that has taken place under Schaffer’s leadership was SAITSA becoming probationary members of Alberta Students Executive Council (ASEC), saving SAITSA a substantial amount of money each year.
ASEC is a lobby group that advocates for students at the provincial level.
SAITSA will be a probationary member and the final steps to leaving will take place under the new SAITSA VP external.
Schaffer also advocated for increased mental health coverage for students with schizophrenia, PTSD or psychosis.
“A lot of support for mental health [that] are publically funded are for things like anxiety and depression. Things that are not as well understood like schizophrenia and psychosis are less accepted. I want to work [toward] them being more accepted and having those resources on campus,” said Schaffer.
SAITSA student elections will take place on March 29 and March 30.
Correction: As per the March 20 issue of The Weal, in the Year in Review news article, VP Student Life Connor Goodfellow reported that he held a clubs expo and doubled club funding as one of his accomplishments. To set the record straight, the club funding increase was not an accomplishment of Goodfellow’s, nor was it one of his goals. Rather, it was already in place before he arrived and was an accomplishment of the organization.