Eli Ridder | Report
Humber College Lakeshore Campus student Margarita Bader, who is vying for the presidency of IGNITE, is prepared to overcome obstacles on behalf of students and will not take “no for an answer”, she told The Avro Post in an interview on Wednesday.
Bader is challenging incumbent President Monica Khosla, who is running for re-election this year. She currently serves on the Board of Directors, a seat she won by a large margin in 2018.
“Students should vote for me because I don’t take no for an answer and will continue to advocate on behalf of the students no matter how many obstacles stand in my way,” the third year said.
Link: Elections 2019
Beyond passion, Bader says she is committed, excited and “determined to not only bring fresh ideas to IGNITE, but also continue the hard work that has already been started.”
Bader referenced the strategic plan of IGNITE, which is broken down into “student life” focused on value in the college experience, “personal life” that supports students in their growth and “future life” that aims to prepare students for post-college careers.
The candidate, if elected, would look to “eliminate unnecessary costs and textbooks that are not used to their full potential” and establish “better ways” for students in their final year to find jobs for post-graduate to improve student financial life.
Bader also wants to “look at developing workshops on campus to support student growth in areas and skills they would not gain in the classroom”.
Asked what she would do if IGNITE staff stopped her from carrying out her platform, Bader explained that “a no for me would be a no for the students, and that isn’t acceptable.”
As for the Ontario government’s cuts to Ontario Student Assistance Program grants and the new “Students Choice Initiative” that will introduce optional student fees, Bader said her plan is to “use the IGNITE platform to communicate” with students.
“Let’s be honest and have an open conversation about the pros and cons of paying that fee, because I don’t believe there are cons,” she told The Avro Post.
Bader acknowledged that students may save “a small amount of money initially” that will allow them to purchase a textbook, sweater or lunch and noted she too has been affected by the OSAP cuts.
“However, by paying my student fee, I can apply for a bursary as a low income student. I can also get my taxes done for free. I can feel good knowing that if I get sick, I have coverage for any medication.”
Bader appreciates being able to take advantage of the glasses coverage offered by IGNITE, applying for the jobs they offer, meeting new people at the student union’s events and the ability to make change by running for president.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without IGNITE and I challenge students to think about how little that cost actually is in comparison to all the benefits they gain.”
Supports student press
Margarita Bader made it clear to The Avro Post that she, unlike the president before her, would not ignore reasonable requests for comment from the student press if she were to be elected.
“We need students like those part of The Avro Post to advocate for issues that matter and challenge those in executive positions, as well as keep them accountable,” she said.
“I believe that the key to success is supporting each other, which includes supporting students and their efforts to pursue things that matter to them.”
Bader also said she would support The Avro Post being added to the optional student fees list “in terms of students to participate in as a club”.
The four IGNITE executives and the Board of Directors have ignored requests for comment since August 2018, with the only indication of their policy against The Avro Post coming from Vice President Maheen Nazim, who said last year that the publication is “not sanctioned”.
‘This election is for us’
In response to student unrest over the importance of IGNITE and why they should vote in the elections, Margarita Bader said that “it is vital that the student voice is heard”.
If there were no elections, then students would only hear the opinions of faculty and staff, she added, saying “we are key to our own success”.
“This election is for us. It’s for every single one of us to have a voice, make a difference and to challenge rules. We pay for our education which means that we deserve a seat at the table, and although not each one of us cannot psychically be present, we can ensure that each of our voices is heard through those that we elect.”
“The reason I am running is because I value the opinion of every student at both Humber and Guelph-Humber and want to be part of creating something that students can benefit from this year, and for years to come.”
“I am a student and I am running to represent thousands of students,” Bader stated in response to the question of IGNITE staff getting in the way of her platform.
“As long as there is even one student out there with an issue, I will continue to advocate on their behalf,” she added, saying that if there is are problems, she “will look for another way” to carry out her platform items.
“I will do my research and come to every meeting prepared to be challenged because as a student, that is what I hold my president accountable to do.”
A midterm progress report that analyzed how those elected last year carried out their platforms found that a majority of candidates did not follow through. None of them specified why.
The Avro Post has reached out to the other presidential candidate, incumbent Monica Khosla, for an interview. Candidates will be open to questions from students on Wednesday during the IGNITE Mix and Mingle events.
Why should students vote for you in one sentence?
Students should vote for me because I don’t take no for an answer and will
continue to advocate on behalf of the students no matter how many obstacles stand in my way.
What do you bring to the presidency and what is your platform?
Everyone can be passionate. I am more than that. I am committed, I am excited, and I am determined to not only to bring in fresh ideas to IGNITE, but also continue the hard work that has been already started. At IGNITE, there is a clear plan that outlines the areas in which students seek support.
This is broken down into “Student Life” which supports students getting the most value out of their college experience, “Personal Life” which supports students in growth while they are in college and “Future Life” which prepares students for life after college. I wanted to come with three ideas that would directly impact every student and hit all three points in the strategic plan. This means helping students succeed without the financial stress which includes finding ways to lower the costs associated with textbooks and other course materials by looking into using open textbooks. These are textbooks that are available online for teachers and students to use that actually allow instructors to better customize their course material. As part of this goal I would also want to speak to the Deans and Program Coordinators of every program to eliminate unnecessary costs and textbooks that are not used to their full potential.
As part of my second goal, I am hoping to implement a better way of helping students in their final year of college find jobs so that they are prepared to start paying back their student loans as soon as they graduate. This can be done by partnering up with the Career Centre and further developing the opportunities they have.
For my third goal, I want to look at developing workshops on campus that will support student growth in areas and skills that they do not gain in the classroom. An example would be students that want to take a course in CPR and First Aid or want to learn how to use the basic tools in Photoshop. These types of skills can help students succeed when looking for work, as well as help them professionally and make them feel empowered.
What has IGNITE done effectively, if anything?
I really admire the work that IGNITE does which is why I want to be a part of the organization to help them further succeed. There are so many amazing services offered that help thousands of students each year such as Health Insurance, Sleep Lounge, the Financial Relief Program, Bursaries, Clubs and so much more! IGNITE is also extremely transparent with the way they spend student money and always involve the students in those decisions. They also have really good communication which I admire in an organization as a communications student. I mean, everywhere you look is IGNITE on the TV or on a poster or there in person! As someone running for President, I want to utilize these platforms to bring change to all our campuses.
What has IGNITE done negatively or bad, if anything?
I don’t believe that IGNITE has done anything negatively. Each year will come with both ups and downs, and I think that the key is to grow from the failures that do occur. In my experience and student perspective, I believe that IGNITE demonstrates that growth every year.
What is your plan to get students to pay the optional student fees?
My plan is to use the IGNITE platform to communicate to students. Let’s be
honest and have an open conversation about the pros and cons of paying that fee, because I don’t believe there are cons. Sure, maybe students will save a small amount of money initially. Maybe that amount of money will help them purchase one book, or a sweater, or a few lunches. Don’t get me wrong, I feel the struggle of being a student. I support myself, I am responsible for paying for my own school fees and I have also been affected by the new changes to OSAP.
However, by paying my student fee, I can apply for a bursary as a low-income student. I can also get my taxes done for free. I can feel good knowing that if I get sick, I have coverage for any medication. I’m also someone that wears glasses, so I’ll be sure to use that coverage for a new pair when I need a new prescription. When I feel like I want to get involved, I can apply to work at IGNITE. When I feel like I want to meet new friends, I can attend an IGNITE event. If I want to make a change at my school, I can run for President. I wouldn’t be where I am without IGNITE and I challenge students to think about how little that cost actually is in comparison to all the benefits they gain.
The previous IGNITE administration decided to ignore The Avro Post from August 2018 onwards, cutting off the independent student press. Will you ignore The Avro Post once elected or respond to reasonable requests for comment?
Not at all, I believe that this outreach is part of what helps create conversation and change at campus. We need students like those part of The Avro Post to advocate for issues that matter and challenge those in executive positions, as well as keep them accountable. I believe that the key to success is supporting each other, which includes supporting students and their efforts to pursue things that matter to them.
IGNITE so far has refused to release a line-by-line budget from the past two years, including this one. Will you release a line-by-line budget?
I don’t see why this would be something that shouldn’t be shared, as long as the proper protocol is followed. I believe that this is something that could be made possible, as long as it does not take any employee away from their work. In the meantime, I highly encourage anyone with questions regarding the budget to get in touch with the Board of Directors, as well as attend the board meetings which are held once a month. These meetings may answer questions that students have regarding how financial decisions are made at Humber and Guelph-Humber.
Some students wonder why they should vote in IGNITE elections if many of the platform items appear not to matter or aren’t followed through on without explanation. What do you say to that?
Students should vote because it is vital that the student voice is heard. If IGNITE did not hold elections, we would only ever hear the voice of the faculty and the full-time staff. What kind of college environment would that be? Not one I would want to be a part of. We are the key to our own success. This election is for us. It’s for every single one of us to have a voice, to make a difference and to challenge rules. We pay for our education which means that we deserve a seat at the table, and although each one of us cannot physically be present, we can ensure that each of our voices is heard through those that we elect. So, if you or someone you know has an issue that you don’t believe is being covered, speak up. The reason I am running is because I value the opinion of every student at both Humber and Guelph-Humber and want to be a part of creating something that students can benefit from this year, and for years to come.
If you are stopped by staff at IGNITE from carrying out your platform, what will you do?
I am a student and I am running to represent thousands of students. A no for me would be a no for the students, and that isn’t acceptable. As long as there is even one student out there with an issue, I will continue to advocate on their behalf. If there is a problem with carrying out a part of my platform, I will look for another way. I will do my research and come to every meeting prepared to be challenged because as a student, that is what I hold my president accountable to do. Being president doesn’t mean that I am not a student or that I don’t have those same expectations for myself.
Would you support The Avro Post being added as an option to fund on the optional student fees list?
Yes, in terms of this being an outlet for students to participate in as a club,
absolutely. I think that part of the job of the student union is to support students in various creative outlets, especially when it gives them the opportunity to learn new skills that they can put towards their careers.
Image of Margarita Bader from her campaign.