Who I Am

Hey there!

My name is Chuck and I'm running as an independent candidate for President of the Concordia Student Union. I believe I'm the most qualified candidate for this position; since I started my studies, I have held numerous positions throughout the University which have provided me with an in depth understanding of Concordia, both within and outside the CSU. Collaboration with the University administration is essential to seeing through many of students' needs, and working with them through my involvement has allowed me to build networks within the senior administration. It's also given me skills in the legal, financial, and strategic visioning aspects of managing an organization like the CSU.

I believe in collaboratively finding solutions in a practical manner. As in many political environments, the CSU has tended to be divided into left-right factions which often lead to stalemates and deadlocks. I have a history of acting as a mediator between these blocs and seeking common ground to find solutions which please as many people as one can realistically hope. I do not claim to be apolitical or unopinionated, but I do take pride in my ability to listen to the arguments presented to me and turn those views into workable policy.

My platform is composed of 6 major points:
  • Changing the CSU's Role in the Concordia Community
  • Student Space
  • Showcasing and Encouraging Student Work & Working with the Admin
  • Improving the CSU's Communication with its Membership
  • Data- and Information-Driven CSU
  • Empowerment of Council & its Functioning

The major points are summarized below, with a more thorough explanation after. If you have any questions, you can contact me or use the box at the bottom of the page to submit a question anonymously.

For more info on who I am, check out my bio on the CSU's elections website!

Platform Summary

Changing the CSU's Role in the Concordia Community

  • Prioritize the CSU's efforts on academic advocacy over social advocacy
  • Take academic representation very seriously
  • Communicate with students about possibilities for change and past progresses
  • Give fee levies the tools and resources they need to pursue their social advocacy efforts
  • Promote fee levies to students as agents of social change
  • Coordinate all student groups in pursuit of the above

Student Space

  • Coordinate with faculties associations and student groups to create a comprehensive space needs assessment
  • See what currently existing spaces can be "time shared," including classrooms
  • Ensure new spaces have sufficient poster space
  • Turn a leaky concrete tunnel into a beautiful student art mural
  • Work with the University to create a student space map

Showcasing and Encouraging Student Work & Working with the Admin

  • Concordia students make cool shit.
  • Work with the University to promote said cool shit.
  • Work with the University in general because they're quite approachable at the moment

Improving the CSU's Communication with its Membership

  • Make the CSU bureaucracy less infuriating to navigate
  • Write up expectations and examples of applications
  • Provide useful information on the CSU and what it does
  • Try to get some of the ad space in that tunnel
  • Create briefer documents for students that explain data in ways relevant to students.

Data- and Information-Driven CSU

  • Data and research is necessary for the CSU
  • Conduct randomly sampled surveys to understand the will of the membership on important issues
  • Collect and analyse data within the CSU to help it in its efforts, particularly regarding advocacy of students
  • Take a long-term perspective to get an accurate picture of the past and how to move the institution forward
  • Create reports for specific projects, particularly at the close of a project

Empowerment of Council & its Functioning

  • Hold complete and comprehensive councillor training in April or May, before major decisions of the Union are made, with topics such as
    • Legal obligations
    • Laws
    • Institutional history
    • How to hold people accountable without being aggressive
    • What the committees do
    • What you should be looking at for things like financial data
    • etc...
  • Empower Council to bring their own projects forward
  • Engage in regular, open, and useful communication with council
    • Informative exec report (notice lack of s -- should be a single doc)
    • Regular one-on-ones with Councillors
    • Allow for anonymous feedback
  • Encourage Council to discuss topics amongst themselves
  • Prevent an environment where Councillors are attacked for their personal opinions
  • NOT proposing big last-minute additions to meeting agendas
  • Promote good relationships among Councillors and Execs by holding group bonding events (not paid for by the CSU)

Full Platform

Changing the CSU's Role in the Concordia Community

In Quebec, student associations can be "accredited," which grants them legal recognition from the government to special rights such as representing students on the decision-making bodies of the university. The CSU has that accredited status, and as such, it is in a unique position to advocate for the academic issues of students.

Effectively representing the interests of students on University bodies can be quite time-consuming when completely engaged in the process. In recent years, substantial improvements have been made to ensure the CSU is taking such representation seriously. Advocating on academic issues requires lots of reading, research, consultation, and communication with interested parties. I am wholeheartedly committed to making sure that the CSU makes a long term institutional commitment to these practices.

However, the CSU has historically tended to lean more towards a portfolio of social advocacy than academic advocacy. I feel this these efforts are a bit misplaced considering the vibrant community of social advocacy groups which exist on campus. Not only are these fee levies specifically focusing on social issues, but they often have trouble recruiting engaged and talented students, who sometimes go straight to the CSU.

At the same time, there are often informational disconnects between fee levy groups, faculty associations, and the CSU. Efforts are sometimes duplicated or end up failing because of insufficient institutional resources.

I would like to see the CSU place its priority on academic advocacy and in the coordination of student groups on campus. Rather than have the CSU embark on social advocacy, it can share its massive institutional resources with fee levy groups and faculty associations, and at the same time promote involvement in groups that do great things but sometimes lack participation.

Overall, I think the CSU should be a coordinating body that gives others the tools they need to succeed.

Student Space

Space is an issue that touches a lot of students, whether they are involved in extracurriculars or simply trying to study for their classes. There are many diverse needs when it comes to space, and the CSU can play a coordinating role between the various student groups on campus.

Collaboration between the faculty associations, the CSU, and the University administration is essential; there must be a comprehensive assessment of the space required for the university to meet the needs of its students. And when working together, resources can be pooled together to make better use of the facilities that already exist -- for instance, sharing of lab space between faculties, or the school listing what classrooms are empty at certain times during the day, so that they can be used for ad hoc studying.

And while some great capital projects are underway to open more space to students -- such as the renovations in the Grey Nuns and Webster Library buildings -- it's important that they are furnished in a way that benefits the community. This means ensuring things like poster boards are available for student groups.

A lot of existing spaces on both campuses could be substantially improved by making reasonably small efforts. The best example is the tunnel that goes from the junction underneath the Hall and Library buildings to the Metro area. It is a leaky, industrial ad-space. Having students create a mural along that wall would involve students in improving their environment while also showcasing their talents as visual artists.

It would also be incredibly beneficial for students to have a space map which they can consult. It's obviously a challenge to implement when not coordinating with the University regarding their ongoing renovations, but I think there's a real benefit to having them publish such a map. I have pre-existing relationships with most of the senior administration, including the VP services Roger Cote (who is in charge of University facilities), so I am confident such a project would move forward.

Showcasing and Encouraging Student Work & Working with the Admin

Concordia undergraduates create awesome stuff, both as part of their classes and as part of their extra-curricular pursuits. It baffles me that the university is not actively engaging in promoting the work of its students in a more meaningful way. Whether a research paper, a car, a painting, or a business plan, Concordia should make a habit of showcasing the diverse way its students engage with their education and their community.

Such an initiative would not only help Concordians get jobs after graduation, but engenders a sense of community pride in its students -- something that I think is really needed for Concordia. The University's new President, Alan Shepard, has shown interest in taking on a new approach which would be more inclusive of students and which would showcase their projects and talents. With the upcoming appointment of new Deans for the Faculties of Engineering and Computer Science and the Faculty of Arts and Science, as well as the University Librarian, this is an opportune moment for the CSU to work with Concordia's administration to pursue this effort.

In fact, now is an opportune time in general to work with the university administration. The change in leadership that has occurred under President Shepard has dramatically changed the operating relationship between University administration and various campus groups -- including student groups. There are several issues of importance to students -- such as the items passed at the Concordia Student Congress -- and working collaboratively with the university has a real chance of bringing meaningful change for students.

Improving the CSU's Communication with its Membership

The CSU has trouble communicating with its membership -- and it goes beyond just the crummy website. Many of the CSU's offerings do not see enough promotion to be visible to the student body. Others still, such as the bursaries and Special Project Fund (SPF) grants, lack sufficient explanation and documentation to be accessible to the student body. Processes such as room bookings for clubs and student groups should be totally easy, but they are not. Navigating the bureaucracy of the CSU can be an incredibly frustrating experience and we should be doing everything we can to improve that experience.

Some pretty simple steps can be taken to improve the way we deal with our members, and how we manage ourselves internally in these matters. It is particularly important that we are clear in our expectations for any various applications that are submitted, both from internal sources and external. In fact, just this year it was an internal issue, and in response, I drafted up a document which laid out what the Financial Committee expected in its applications. This is something that must be done for other applications.

There are also some procedures which are inefficient, confusing, and unsustainable. For example, current SPF applications are done in paper applications only, printed 6 times. That is ridiculous; all documentation is mailed out in advance of considering SPFs, so it ends up just being wasteful for the environment. Such practices should be reformed, taking into account the ease of applying and any physical things created or needing during the process.

Not only that, but the CSU has always had difficulty making students understand what it does, and its role as a major player within the University structure. No student will intuitively understand what a Councillor does or how Senate works simply by being a student here.

These are issues that are very important to me. In fact, I've already made steps this year as a Councillor to improve them. I created an IS/IT committee, which is just finishing up its request for tender for a complete overhaul of the CSU's IT and website infrastructure. Along with VP Student Life, Katrina, we drafted up the "So you think you can council?" document, explaining what students show know about being a councillor. I completely rewrote the Councillor and Senator descriptions to be concise and relatable, and took feedback from other Councillors about how to improve them.

Also, hey -- maybe we can get some of that ad space in the tunnel every once in a while.

I'd also like to say that just because information is available and accurate, it doesn't mean it's meaningful to students. For instance, the CSU budgets are not very digestible -- students would significantly benefit from financial reports made specifically for them. This is only one example of the kinds of information that should be put together specifically for students, and putting out meaningful information for students is something I'm very passionate about.

Data- and Information-Driven CSU

Data and information, and the proper archiving thereof, are incredibly necessary in the CSU. The long-term ambitious projects that are sometimes undertaken by the CSU -- the many Hive projects being a prime example -- require a significant amount of research to survive beyond the one-year mandate of executives. Spending student money on infeasible projects no make sense, ya dig?

To avoid such situations, the CSU should be engaging in comprehensive information gathering. Surveying students is valuable resource in this regard -- it allows for decisions to be made on statistically validated information, and quantitatively measure the uncertainty in determining the will of students. Such surveys have been conducted in the past, and have proved very useful in steering the CSU.

There are also many situations internal to the CSU where data would be incredibly useful. For example, the Advocacy centre -- which helps undergraduates with academic questions, complaints, and requests -- could be collecting and analyzing data on the cases they handle. This would allow them to see common issues, and create coherent, tangible, data-backed positions to be brought to Senate or the Board of Governors.

I am also a firm believer in long-term thinking and institutional visioning. For the CSU to move forward, it must have a perspective beyond the simple one-year mandate of an executive team. For this to be possible, the CSU must keep its information complete and organized. Context and history are incredibly important, and background research and reports on important matters are necessary for getting an accurate picture of how something has progressed. It's the reason I moved for a report to be written on the Student Centre project, for which James, the current VP Internal, has done a significant amount of work.

These reports are the kinds of documents the CSU needs to regularly publish -- not just for its own use, but to inform the membership. Currently, one would have to read all exec reports for a given year and pull out information for a specific project to really understand how it has moved forward. I think that is a ridiculous way of communicating with our students and a complete roadblock for long-standing institutional memory. In particular, reports written upon the completion of a project should become the norm.

Empowerment of Council & its Functioning

Even though the Executive gets most of the attention, the real power of the CSU lies in its Councillors, as they are the ones making the actual decisions. To do that properly, Councillors must feel knowledgeable and skilled in the application of their duties, even if such topics are not in their field of expertise. I believe it's the duty of the Executive to empower its Council, first and foremost by giving them the tools that they need to properly execute their duties.

To do that, I am proposing an early, complete, and comprehensive councillor training. The training would provide useful practical skills and an overview of legal obligations (with regards to being a Councillor), and give an overview of the CSU's institutional history. Councillors would also learn how to hold the Executive accountable without coming off as aggressive or engaged in petty politics, something that often becomes an issue in the CSU. While the incoming executive is not able to incur financial expenses before they take office, I would work with the outgoing executive to schedule training for April or May, before any major decisions of the Union are made.

But empowerment is about more than just training councillors in the execution of their duties. As the major decision makers of the Union, it only makes sense that Councillors should be encouraged to bring their own topics and projects to Council meetings. The Executive has a duty to listen to Council and execute their will, and always remain open-minded about projects that are brought forward. After all, with the amount of resources at the CSU's disposal, it only makes sense for Council to be able to tap into it.

Routine interactions with Council are another place for improvement. It is vital to the health of the Union that Exec-Council communication is open and accessible, but also concise enough that Council isn't drowning in unnecessary information. As President, this would be a top priority for me. I would compile all exec reports into a single Executive Report, briefly outlining the updates on specific projects. I would regularly schedule one-on-ones with Councillors, to hear their feedback in a private and relaxed setting. And I would establish methods of providing anonymous feedback from Councillors, in the event they do not feel comfortable making some comments directly to me.

It's also important that Council is encouraged to discuss and coordinate amongst themselves in a nonpublic forum. While there will always be differences of opinion, everyone should at least be aware of how other councillors feel about a variety of topics, including how well the executive team is performing. Sometimes individuals do not take action because they fear being cast out because of their opinions. That is simply not acceptable; Council must be a place where people's personal opinions will not become the subject of attacks or lead to accusations of working in bad faith, and I will do everything I can to ensure a respectful environment.

The same is true of interactions between Council and the Exec; that relationship should be built on mutual respect. Specifically, Council and the Exec should be working collaboratively towards solutions in advance of taking such issues to Council.

With that in mind, I think it would also be beneficial to hold more Council bonding events. Although I can't really justify students paying for such events, I think reasonably cheap social events would promote good relationships among Council and the Exec.

Campaign Budget

This budget will be updated as purchases are made.
Expense Description Cost
45 Black & White posters $4.95
T-shirt $21.25
Website $4.60
Colour Posters $111.30
Business Cards $27.77
   
Total Spent $169.87
   
Total Budget $200.00
Total Remaining $30.14

Contact/Find Me

You can always contact me through twitter @squarebracket, and I have a Facebook page for my campaign here. Just give me a shout if you'd like to talk!

Ask A Question!

Ask away! Submit your question below and I will answer it. Underneath it is a list of questions I've already been asked and have answered. Each question is tagged with one or more topics.
Note that the questions won't show up until I've actually answered them.

Type in your question above and hit submit:

Governance
Question: If faced with the possibility of having to organize a vote on a strike mandate do you go with the slower referendum with secret ballots but risk missing the strike and having the largest consensus possible or a general assembly that is much faster but prevents the maximum number of voices being heard?

Answer: Hmm. First of all, I don't think a referendum process is "too slow." Very large GAs, such as the one held by the CSU a couple years back, involve a lot of planning which spans a much longer duration than a referendum period. There is an argument, though, that referenda do not allow for discussion on the question being put to members, which is totally legit.

However, I don't see a referendum and a GA as being necessarily mutually exclusive. If there's a concern about having discussion, one could hold a GA to decide a question, then put it to members in a referendum in the following days. It would mean changing around the CSU's bylaws, but it's something that is, at least theoretically, possible.

When it comes down to it, strike votes are a pretty huge decision, and thus I believe members should be consulted as broadly as possible. I was hoping that the 2012-2013 would take it upon themselves to draft policy with regards to strike votes, but it never materialized. Maybe it's time we get on that...

Academics
Question: What can you do for students feeling that the CSU doesn't serve the student's best interests as they relate to academics.

Answer: I actually agree with you that the CSU generally falls short of in its role of academic advocacy. It's the reason it's a main part of my platform.

If there's something in particular you'd like to address, let me know.

Silly
Question: What would you say is your biggest inspiration for your revolutionary dance moves?

Answer: Che Guevara. Viva la (dance) revolución!

Governance
Question: How do you plan to deal with the challenges of balancing the desires of your executive with that of your councillors? How would you approach a situation where the two differed?

Answer: This is actually a really interesting question, because it speaks to the strange structure of the CSU and its electoral cycle. Despite the executive running on particular platforms, it's really up to Council to steer the direction of the Union.

As I state in my platform, information has to flow freely between the Executive and Council. The exec sees the operations from a different perspective than Council, and its up the exec to communicate effectively when Council is leaning towards something that may ultimately be damaging to the Union.

That being said, I have no problem doing something that I myself do not believe is the right course of action. Of course, I will be vocal about how I feel, and why I feel that way, but at the end of the day it's the responsibility of the Executive to execute the will of Council, whatever that may be. That's really all there is to it.

Silly
Question: What's your favourite type of sorbet?

Answer: Rainbow. Mmmm, colourful fruity flavours....

Silly
Question: You crash land on a island with only two currently running councillors and one of the 3 exec teams.
Who, why, and who would you eat first?

Answer: Oh god, I have to pick only 2?! Ummmmm I'm going to say James, because I require sarcasm to live, and John, because of his chill and relaxed approach to EVERYTHING. As for the exec team, I actually don't know. There are quite a few people that I don't know well.

I would likely be eaten first, because of my meaty complexion and James' incredible hunger, so I'm gonna say me.

CFS
Question: What are your views on the CFS?

Answer: They are a terrible organization. Suing your members just for trying to leave? Who does that?

Campaigning
Question: What does your shirt say?

Answer: Someone pointed out you probably meant my shirt in the picture on the right. It's just a sine wave, and it says amplitude, wavelength, c=λf and so on....

Student Space Reggies
Question: Reggies has been closed most of the year and I have no idea when it will open in the future. Although the CSU technically doesn't "Run" Reggies, how would you go about addressing getting the bar running again?

Answer: You're right that the CSU and CUSACorp (the entity which owns and operates Reggies) have an autonomous relationship. So there is not much I would be doing, as president, to address anything regarding Reggies. Also, I feel that the President should focus their efforts on the CSU, and not be distracted by happenings in CUSACorp.

But, my personal opinion is that CUSACorp should prioritize having a good bar running again, that will make money while being open instead of losing it. Trust me, I'm with you, Reggies being closed sucks a LOT, but I think it will be better for everyone in the long run to have a functional student bar -- which you can always return to as an Alumni ;)

Campaigning
Question: Which CSU team do you support?

Answer: I prefer to support individuals based on their individual merits as candidates, rather than endorsing an entire affiliation.

Referenda Governance Fee Levies
Question: A lot of things this year have been put to the CSU via petition. What's your opinion on petitions/how do you think petitions are best used within the context of student government?

Answer: I assume you're talking about petitions to get referendum questions on the ballot, so I'm going to answer the question within that scope. If I've misinterpreted this, submit another question clarifying what you meant and I will update my answer accordingly.

I believe petitions should only be used under specific circumstances:
- For establishing a new fee levy.
- For getting a question of incredible importance on the ballot, and only in the event that prior discussions and negotiations with the CSU -- both its exec and Council -- have led nowhere.

I think it is highly inappropriate to use referendum questions as opinion polls. If we are truly seeking the will of our membership, we should be conducting surveys to ensure a representative sample. In that sense, I dislike the use of petitions for putting a question on the ballot.

Of course, it is possible that a completely maniacal and belligerent CSU would refuse to cooperate with external parties, but a petition should only be used as a last result for those sorts of crazy cases.

Academics
Question: What are some concrete improvements that you'd like to see the CSU work on academically for students?

Answer: I'm assuming you mean very tangible improvements to the "everyday" student, so I'm leaving out important stuff like coordinating with faculty/department associations to figure out their student needs. But,

1. IP Policy
2. Making more study space available
3. Changing the insane parts of the Academic Code of Conduct (like a rip in your exam booklet causing an automatic hearing)

A lot of the time, it comes down to communicating well with the faculty and departmental associations to really get a feel for what low-level issues need to be advanced. But those are some of the universally-applicable ones.

Silly
Question: I hear you're running on a strong beard campaign. Would you be closed to the idea of rocking mutton chops during your inevitable inauguration? If not what about a set of mandlebars?

Answer: Hmmmmm. I am generally not a fan of mutton chops. But, if it is the will of the students, so be it.

Urban Dictionary defines mandlebars as, "A type of mustache found on the male gender in which the outer extremities curve upward toward the eyes. Not to be confused with a handlebar, this style emphasizes masculinity over style." I honestly don't know what that means, so I think I'd have to do more research and get back to you.

Fee Levies
Question: 1. Would you support a unique opt-out period per semester for all the fee-levies?
2. Would you support a unique form for the fee-levy opt-out?

Answer: Could you perhaps clarify your question? I'm not sure I understand your use of "unique." If you submit a subsequent question, I will edit my answer.

If you're asking if I'd support a date range, say from start of classes to DNE, for being able to opt-out, then yes. Doing it each semester seems a bit intense; I think it would make the most sense for it to be a yearly thing.

There's a lot of ways that opt-outs could be made better and/or easier -- the unfortunate part of this referendum question is that conversations on how to do that haven't happened. I really think that sitting down and hashing things out would result in the best outcome for all parties.

Silly
Question: Do you have a back-up at 40 years old? I'd like to have you're babies if possible!

Answer: *Your

Silly Campaigning
Question: Why should I feel ways about things?

Answer: Well, just in general, things are usually kinda important I guess, in some situations. Like your degree, or millions of dollars of student money. I mean, I guess.


Testimonials

Here are some letter of endorsements that people have written for me. You can also check out the #ChuckDoesThings facebook stream for even more of the stuff I do.


Hannah Hackney – Chuck Wilson for President
Allison Hipgrave – #chuckdoesthings – Vote Chuck Wilson for President
Erika Couto – Chuck Wilson for CSU President
Andrea Cartile – For a Qualified President, Vote for Chuck
Melissa Lemieux – Recommendation to Vote Chuck Wilson for CSU President
Daniella Tran Van – Vote for Chuck, Chuck does things!