Team Bardia + Cat

Bardia Jalayer, 4th Year, French Studies, running for President.

Cat Dunne, 4th Year, Honours Spec. Political Science, running for Vice President.

Photo from Team Bardia + Cat

Meet Bardia Jalayer and Cat Dunne, fourth-year students who make up one of the slates running in this year’s University Student’s Council election.

For Jalayer, his love for Western, the campus community and an amazing student experience was a major motivator in his decision to run. When looking at the USC, he felt like there was a lack of engagement amongst students and felt that running with Dunne was the perfect opportunity to bridge that gap.

For Dunne, her experience within USC and her love of advocacy motivated her decision. Throughout her time in the advocacy portfolio of the USC, she noticed gaps and different areas that should be prioritized and felt she could make a difference. Her decision was also motivated by the fact that no women candidates ran for either position last year.

“Research shows that the best way to encourage women to run is to run yourself,” Dunne says.

A common question Jalayer and Dunne have received during their campaign is why Dunne isn’t running for the presidential role. Western hasn’t seen a female USC president since the 2015-2016 academic year when Sophie Helpard was in office and many students, Jalayer and Dunne included, were hoping to see a woman in the presidential role. However, when thinking about running, who ran in what position came down to one thing: how they could best serve students. Dunne’s experience in the advocacy portfolio of the USC made her the perfect candidate for the position as VP, whose main role is to lobby for students, while Jalayer’s experience in finance and leadership, both at Western and beyond, made the presidential role a better fit for him. However, the pair emphasizes that first and foremost, they think of themselves as a partnership.

“There won’t be a single moment where Cat and I aren’t consulting with each other,” says Jalayer. If elected, they are also planning on taking the same salary, a departure from tradition where the vice-president usually takes 98% of the president’s salary.

Jalayer and Dunne’s partnership is something they feel sets them apart from the other slate running. Coming from different backgrounds, with Dunne having experience in the USC and Jalayer outside as a soph, they feel like they will be able to make a difference as USC president and vice-president, citing Tobi Solebo and Landon Tulk, USC 2017-18 president and vice-president as influences.

“The reason Tobi and Landon were so successful was that they understood what was going on outside [the USC],” Jalayer explains. The pair feels they can bring something similar to the role.

Jalayer and Dunne also cite their well-rounded platform as setting them apart and touch on a lot of the areas that impact students. “We recognize the importance of intersectionality and each student’s own personal experience,” Dunne says. Main focuses of their platforms include affordability for students and ways to improve academic experience.

One recent USC initiative that the pair plans to continue if elected is the recent pilot program for women-identifying students at the Recreation Centre. This project was something Dunne worked on during her role in the USC advocacy portfolio and if elected, she feels this would be feasible to make permanent and expand so that all students are accommodated into a service that is so essential for health and wellness. A common criticism of the current pilot project is that currently only the fourth floor, where there are mostly cardio machines, is being used. Dunne notes that for the pilot project, the fourth floor was the easiest location, as it is the most private. However, she notes that a large proportion of women want to learn how to use weightlifting equipment and machines, and says she would work with the rec centre to accommodate this.

One of the pillars in their platform involves student safety with an emphasis on sexual violence. Both Jalayer and Dunne witnessed instances of sexual violence during their time as a soph and residence staff respectively and want to do more.

“As a soph, I witnessed quite a few instances of sexual violence, and I wanted to support survivors but felt clouded in what to do based on soph training,” says Jalayer. “I also didn’t feel like it was a safe process for the survivor.”

Dunne had a similar experience, noting that the pair understands that changing sexual violence is a culture shift, and that the biggest obstacle is little support for survivors on campus. They plan to develop a survivor-centric policy, making it easier for survivors to come forward, access resources, and know what to expect from the process. Another problem they note is the Ontario government’s recent change to the sexual education curriculum. If elected, they plan to work on getting the sexual education curriculum reinstated.

When asked about the Ontario government’s recent announcement that they intend on decreasing OSAP and making ancillary fees that fund student government’s optional, Jalayer and Dunne emphasized the fact that the details of this are still not finalized, and that it is important to recognize that a bill isn’t on the table yet. They stressed that while they have a plan, they are focusing on doing what they can to prevent these changes from coming to light, instead of releasing a plan that may not be compatible with the changes once they are finalized.

If elected, their top priority is two-fold. They plan to emphasize their sexual violence prevention plan. They also want to work on student engagement, which was one of their major motivators when deciding to run.

“[Lack of] engagement is a huge thing, especially with the potential for the OSAP cuts and ancillary fees becoming optional,” Jalayer notes. “If as many people that voted in the USC election last year opted-in to the ancillary fee, it would be devastating for those programs [that rely on the funding].”

More information on Team Bardia + Cat’s platform can be found on their website here.

Vote in the USC elections on February 4th and 5th here!

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