The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association executive committee has been active this year, organizing activities and new project initiatives, and finalizing some long-term projects.
Lana Hastings, vice-president student services, highlighted improvements to Soma Café as one of the UWSA’s ongoing projects.
Updates to Soma include adding holiday-themed drinks to the menu, purchasing new furniture for the space and setting up the Breathing Canvas Art Rotation and Living Music Busker Series, Hastings said.
The Breathing Canvas and Living Music Busker Series are meant to encourage student artists to sell their art and perform their talents in Soma and other areas on campus, Hastings said.
Both initiatives are open to a wide range of artists.
“We don’t want to restrict what a student’s interpretation of art or music is. If a student wants to rap in the hallways we’re so down with that,” Hastings said.
This year, the UWSA also put the finishing touches on the campus’s bike lab.
Robin Bryan, founder of the Ice Riders, proposed the bike lab levy in 2009.
Hastings says unionized staff present from the project’s beginnings helped with a smooth transition of the project from one executive group to the next.
A newer UWSA project is the Re-Store, which will initially operate from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, offering surplus U of W furniture for sale to students at $2 per item. Proceeds will be donated to the UWSA Food Bank.
Katie Haig-Anderson, vice-president internal, mentioned the Freestyle V hip-hop festival and election ambassador initiative in her list of highlights of UWSA activities.
The election ambassador initiative, spearheaded by Tyler Blashko, vice-president advocate, had student ambassadors on campus talking about the election in a non-partisan way, encouraging other students to vote, she said.
The UWSA also recently announced they are looking for a new chair of the board of directors, after current chair and former UWSA president Jason Syvixay resigned.
Neither Syvixay nor Haig-Anderson would give reasons for the resignation.
“ “Things have become less political, less confrontational, less risky.” - Kelly Ross, former vice-president student services, UWSA
Members of the executive supported a number of community causes this year, attending rallies and protests. These include Occupy Winnipeg, the Pride Parade and the National Aboriginal Day of Action, according to the Annual Executive Report, presented at the Special General Meeting on Nov. 2.
Kelly Ross, a former vice-president student services who served from 2008 to 2010, said it is appropriate and relevant for the UWSA executive to support causes in the community, like Occupy Winnipeg.
“I think that something like Occupy is relevant. The connections might not necessarily be obvious but the movement is about the economy and capitalism in general so of course education fits into that,” Ross said.
However, Ross was critical of the bike lab, saying the space is far too small, especially when compared to larger city bike labs that are still struggling with space constraints.
“I don’t think it’s worth the UWSA’s time and money to make a space that isn’t going to accommodate the needs that we’ve identified,” she said.
Ross also said Soma Café is no longer necessary.
“It’s served its purpose and now the campus has several new restaurants that are doing the same thing as Soma and I think it’s time to let it go,” she said.
Ross said that while the current UWSA executive is “one of the best executives that we’ve had in a long time,” the team does not take enough risks, compared to past executives.
“They were more willing to confront administration and confront the province,” said Ross of earlier executive committees. “Things have become less political, less confrontational, less risky.”
However, Haig-Anderson believes the executive takes risks.
“I think we’re continually presented with political challenges and we’re always working with the board to do what’s in the best interest of students,” she said.
The Bike Lab’s size was affected by cost, space available and the importance of using repurposed storage containers in this sustainability-focused project, Haig-Anderson added.