The recent executive election for Brock University Students’ Union set a record for voter turnout, with 35.3 per cent of eligible Brock students making their voices heard. The result led to Aidan Hibma being named the next BUSU President, earning his victory with only 150 more votes than his closest competitor, Nadia Bathish, and new Vice President, External Affairs Peter Henen winning with a close 50.6 per cent majority in the two-person race. Bilal Khan will take on the role of VP of Finance & Administration after an often-heated four person race, and new comer Joyce Khouzam will be Brock’s new VP of Student Services. BUSU’s new executive team for 2018-2019 spoke to The Brock Press about their election victories and plans for the future.
Aidan Hibma won the three-person race for President after having served as BUSU’s VPFA in the 2017-18 academic year. Hibma acknowledged how close the race was and explained that he will work to bring some of his competitor’s platform points and ideas into his work as President. However, Hibma also noted how his previous experience in student government will help him in his new role.
“I believe that serving as the VPFA has given me the experience in budgeting that is necessary when the team is considering investing capital into any given project,” Hibma said. “At the end of the day the entire BUSU budget is comprised of student dollars and it is vital we appropriate those funds in a fiscally responsible manner.”
“I think both Nadia and Alston Mahendran did an excellent job of bringing student politics and the issues that concern our Badgers to the forefront, and I would like to thank them for all of their efforts throughout the executive election,” Hibma explained.
“Because it was such a close race that factor will always be something in the back of my head that I will use to push myself. Knowing that “X” amount of students didn’t vote for you should always be a form of motivation to achieve excellence.”
Apart from the results of the election, Hibma also elaborated on his platform points and spoke to how his proposed policies for BUSU will help to make university life better for students at Brock. More specifically, Hibma discussed his “It’s On Us” campaign idea modeled on a similar campaign launched by the Obama administration in the US.
“It is my belief that the top two issues that we need to address are sexual assault, specifically prevention, and mental health,” Hibma said. “It is my hope that the introduction of this campaign will not only create an even bigger culture shift on campus but that it will also lead to by-stander intervention training. More specifically I want to see this transcend into by-stander intervention training for all of our frontline staff at Isaacs, to ensure we have equipped our staff with the tools that are needed to prevent any potential cases of sexual assault or actions that are even more severe.”
As President of BUSU, another major issue Hibma will have to tackle will be community relations with local municipalities and Brock students. Recent months have seen the creation of Facebook groups and petitions as a backlash against the behaviour of some Brock students off-campus. Thorold city council also moved to cancel the Winterberry bus route for Brock students, which many interpret as punishment for excessive partying at student houses.
“We need to continue to maintain a strong presence at events such as town and gown, city hall meetings, in addition to working with the internal staff within Thorold so we can mitigate issues that arise,” Hibma said. “With regards to returning the Winterberry transit route back, that is not something that can be answered with complete certainty. To begin this process we must do exactly what I outlined prior so that we can be ready to integrate municipal polling stations at Brock, for when the next municipal election takes place. This will create political leverage to ensure our voices and problems that are internal to Thorold are taken seriously.”
“We need to take preliminary steps to ensure that we have a plan of action that is both reasonable and safe during periods of time that we know off-campus partying could present an issue,” Hibma explained. “Some times we would anticipate this to be during Halloween, Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day. One idea that has been circulating within the region is the idea of closing down St. Paul Street during St. Patrick’s Day to offer a similar type of environment that Waterloo and Laurier offer with Ezra Street. I believe that attempting to eliminate off-campus partying during peak times of the year would not be successful; therefore we need to innovate so we can offer a safe space with ample policing for our students to engage in this activity.”
Khouzam feels that prior experience in event planning will help her in her new role as VPSS. Khouzam also highlighted many of her big ideas for the next academic year, including implementing a safe ride program for Brock students and matching last year’s O-Week festivities (which included a performance by Desiigner).
“Like any new role, I will have to rely on the people around me with experience to help me out at the beginning, but I’m lucky that all the people in BUSU are so great!” Khouzam explained. “Working in BUSU for three years now has allowed me to build relationships with the same people who are going to be helping me through the first couple of weeks, meaning I feel comfortable coming to them with any problems.”
Khouzam also explained how working with the Student Justice Centre on campus, which successfully won a referendum to increase per-credit funding, will help to tackle issues of equity on campus.
“Food First, which used to be under the SJC umbrella is near and dear to my heart,” Khouzam said. “It is the food insecurity program we have on campus, and it desperately needs more attention and funding. I plan on working with both the SJC and Food First to allow students to take full advantage of the wonderful programs that can really make a difference in their lives.”
Bilal Khan, the new VPFA, also spoke about how his experience as a BUSAC at-large councillor has prepared him for his new role, and how he will use it to clearly understand roles and responsibilities for his position. Khan also cleared up some of the confusion around his debate style used during the VPFA race, and also his promise to “scream and shout” about transit for Brock students.
“I want to assure students that as their representative, I’d always approach the city, the university or any other parties involved in the most professional manner possible and follow the process and all the required procedures,” Khan clarified. “However, what I meant by “scream and shout” was that I will get aggressive and assert more pressure when advocating for students if I feel the decisions being made are not in their best interest.”
Khan was also assertive in addressing the argument that students at Brock “deserved” to have the Winterberry route removed as punishment for excessive partying and illegal behaviour.
“I have personally come across and spoken to dozens of students that had absolutely no part to play in the incident leading to the service being eliminated, and a few of them living on the route were not even aware of such an incident. So, how can we say that all these students affected brought this on themselves?”