On May 4, The Gazelle hosted NYU Abu Dhabi’s Spring 2014 Candidates’ Forum. Each candidate introduced themselves and spoke about their vision. A debate was initiated for positions with multiple candidates running.
Elections for NYUAD’s Student Government are currently live
and accessible from May 5 to May 7.
Chair of the Elections Board Eric Johnson commented on the Candidates’ Forum and shared his hopes for this election.
“I think [at the] last forum, people were left a little confused as to the differences between candidates. And I think this time, we really made sure that everyone understood where everyone stood on things,” Johnson said.
“I want to receive at least 85 percent [turnout]. That’s my personal goal … Our last election only received 60-ish percent, which was kind of disappointing, and I want to see us at least beat the historical average on these things,” he added.
Senior Jorge Zárate, who attended the Forum, was satisfied with the questions asked and the candidates’ responses.
“I’m glad this debate didn’t shy away from some of the more contentious issues — Hall Council, the Facebook debacle … I am glad it was brought up, and I hope it is something students keep in mind when voting,” Zárate wrote to The Gazelle.
President of Hall Council Laura Evans praised the candidates’ preparation and commented that it was exciting to see both old and new faces. She emphasized the key role juniors could play in the new Student Government.
“It does seem a bit upperclass-heavy … but I think that’s just a result of study abroad rather than any reflection on how involved anyone is. Great to see so many juniors stepping up, especially as we’ll be the seniors next year, and we’ll have a real chance to leave our mark on this institution,” Evans said.
Following the forum, The Gazelle requested reactions from the candidates. The candidates’ reports were generally positive. Alexander Peel, a junior running for vice president, was pleased with the candidates’ performances.
“I was proud of the candidate's ability to answer [the questions], sometimes before they were even asked. I think this reflects that the candidates know which issues are important to their peers,” Peel wrote to The Gazelle.
Junior and presidential candidate Corey Meyer commented on the complexity of politics at NYUAD.
“I think many first-time viewers were surprised that the political environment at NYUAD is much more complex and multidimensional than one would expect,” Meyer wrote.
In order to cover the event most effectively, The Gazelle has picked one question from the debates between opposed candidates and transcribed the responses. Readers should note that slight audio issues prevented some answers from being transcribed in full. The Gazelle has strived to maintain the meaning of the candidates’ responses.
President: Hamel Sanad Al Qubaisi & Corey Meyer
What is your vision for the next Student Government that you hope to inspire your Executive Board with?
Hamel Sanad Al Qubaisi
So here’s the first thing. When we talk about, ladies and gentlemen, when we talk about Student Interest Groups, that actually means something. It’s about student interest. My focus is to support student interest if I am to serve in my capacity as a president next year. One important thing, again, is, at the university, it’s important to help our fellow students gain job opportunities. That’s actually a very, very big issue. Yes, we’re working with the Career Development Center, but let’s not forget that the Career Development Center is an institution to another institution interaction. We’re talking about student and student-led initiatives of individuals meeting with professionals to actually have a personal mentoring and networking relationship. I would say that I succeeded if I help my fellow students gain a job after graduation. It would be a pleasure and an honor, in all honesty, to have them here in Abu Dhabi, but if they would like to be abroad, then that’s up to them. Thank you.
My vision has one fundamental principle, and that is on empowering students. I think one step we can take is opening up a general forum on the off-GA weeks where students can come, talk, whatever, have their voices heard. Two, we’re going to work with faculty governance to make sure students are on committees, where they belong and where they should have an opinion. Just last week, we got together with students on two committees, two new committees, on the Faculty Council. Three, I think students should be getting paid for their internship work here in Abu Dhabi. We’ve got a plan in the works right now, made its way through administration, sitting in legal. And thanks to Mohammed Omar for his help on that one. And I think we need a Capstone Review Committee, because students’ concerns aren’t getting heard in the Faculty Council, and that’s where they’re needed the most. And, I mean, I can go on and on here, but I don’t want to take up too much time.
Vice President: Alex Nyikos & Lex Peel
What do you think will be the implications of the [Hall Council] referendum passing?
Whatever the outcome of this referendum, the next Student Government is going to have to work with it. I mean, ideally, I think this referendum wouldn’t even be happening, because the way this has played out is that it’s really been an antagonistic approach to this whole issue. I think it would be much more productive if we could have sat down with Hall Council and with Residential Education and really focused on getting a way of having cross representation from the Executive Board of the Hall Council and vice versa so that we could sort of work with them and present a common front in terms of policies which we would like to advocate to the administration. That said, if the referendum does go ahead, then I think that does clearly send a message to the administration and to Residential Education in particular that students want Student Government to be the primary point of contact on issues relating to policy, and I think that’s something that we will have to work very closely with Hall Council to accommodate and to figure out, but no matter what, I think we should have much closer interaction between the two groups, and I think we can coexist as independent bodies very, very viably within the context of NYUAD, and I’d like to see that happen.
So I don’t think it’s a question so much of where I stand, but I think it’s a question of where the student body stands, and I think, whether or not this referendum goes ahead is entirely up to you. I have an opinion on the referendum. Personally, I would like to see the opinion of students and see what the opinion of students is. That is my opinion. I mean, if, at the end of the day, what students want is complete integration between Hall Council policy making and Student Government policy making, then that is what we need to do. I’m here to serve students. I’m not here to push my own agenda in Student Government meetings. In my last Executive Board meeting, there were moves made, there were things said which basically suggested that we push this under the table slash leave it till next semester so that the people who supported it would have graduated. I thought this was shameful. I thought it was spitting in the face of democracy, and I thought this was not something which I would be okay with.
So I think what Lex just said, actually, is a bit of a mischaracterization of what actually went on in that Executive Board meeting. I think that’s quite sad that he is misrepresenting what was said in that way. I think that what the discussion centered around was whether or not this referendum is beneficial to the student body. I mean, the referendum is going to go ahead. There isn’t any question of that at this point, I think. About what we were really debating is how we can deal with the fallout from this, how we can . . . how this could have been approached in a much, much more constructive way, and how we can work with the administration to move on past this, because we did have people in that General Assembly where this was proposed saying they were happy to be . . . to have this motion be interpreted as an insult against certain members of the Residential Education department, and I think that set us back in some of the work we’ve been trying to do with them, so that definitely needs to be resolved. We wanted to move the referendum a bit further back so that we could sort of smooth that over and give that the time that it deserves and the debate that it deserves in the student body. We weren’t trying to sweep it under a rug, and that’s simply a mischaracterization, I think.
So just, very quick response. I believe what actually was said ... They said that we were going to have the referendum this semester. Alex Nyikos said, ‘When is the last day of exams?’ Rory, I think it was Rory, said, ‘It’s the 21st.’ Alex Nyikos said, ‘I move to have it on the 21st.’ Someone made the comment, ‘That means there won’t be adequate representation.’ And Alex Nyikos said, ‘Yes, that was my plan, hahaha.’
All right, you’re misrepresenting this entirely, come on. What I wanted to do by that is to give this the attention this deserves …
Treasurer: Robert Moroch & Yuqi Sun
In light of the recent discussion on Facebook regarding the use of university funds to finance certain events, how will you strike the balance between supporting all students and taking into regard local customs?
I think this recent incident on Facebook … it’s deeply unsettling because it shows that there’s deep problems which have to be addressed. I think that, fundamentally here, we have to respect everyone here, but just because people might have the technical right to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that they should go about doing it in a disrespectful manner, and some people took offense to what happened, and some people are in favor of what happened. I think what needs to be done here is that the university needs to come together. We need to discuss it with each other to see, are there ways to promote everyone while at the same time doing things in a way which doesn’t directly offend anyone. So I think it’s a discussion that needs to be had. I don’t have the definitive answer of exactly what needs to be done. We need to consult the university students, and then we need to see, is there a way that both these parties could coexist without disrespecting each other and still allowing for everyone to practice their views?
First of all, as a member of the student government, I will represent the views of the students, so I think this conversation will be between the students and will be exclusively between students, and I think we should keep it that way. And also, I intend to facilitate conversation between different parties, especially between ... and people who have concerns about this issue. Therefore this kind of ... can present this kind of very ... conversation we can have in public spaces. If I were in a position of making the decision on spot, I would fund this event and later on I would provide justification, and people who have certain concerns and people who need to justify this event would have to come together and sort these things out, and at the end of the day, it’s always the decision of the students. And also I will take full responsibility for whatever financial decisions that I make.
Officer of Student Activities: Andrew Kyrillos Pitts & Keeryung Kim
Do you have any plans to help improve the situation of people signing up but not attending events?
Andrew Kyrillos Pitts
Personally, I don’t think that the proper way to go about this would be to mandate that in every SIG’s governing document they have an attendance policy. Some SIGs just work very well with a very flexible attendance policy. I think we should allow SIGs to do what they do best. I do think that for large events and for very high ticket events, a system similar to what we did for the final end of the year dance here, the Night of Nights, was, I think, highly effective. It was a nominal charge. We’re not trying to fund the event through tickets, but we do want people to show up because people are putting in a lot of time, people are putting in a lot of efforts into making these events run. I know as a facilitator of events that it can be incredibly frustrating when you’ve spent hours working on something and days working on something, and gone to a ton of meetings, and nobody bothers to show up. That’s my answer.
My response to what Andrew just said about the waning attendance. I heard that meeting the attendance of the members is one of the hardest task that SIG leaders have. There could be a policy regarding membership that people who show up more or less, but it would differ depending on which Student Interest Group you belong in. So the best way I can think of right now is to give a workshop to SIG leaders to improve attendance by sending effective reminders, choosing the right time so the meeting does not conflict with events or usually, do not require preparations before the event or SIG meetings, so that members would not feel too much pressure. That’s what I think.
Costanza Maio is news editor. Email her at email@example.com.
Cole Tanigawa-Lau is copy chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Riaz Howey is the deputy news editor. Email him at email@example.com.