Kheppar becomes the third president of the Union. Photo: Dasser Kamran / Fulcrum
Outreach, referendums, return to campus and conquer division
Armaan Singh Kheppar is a third-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social sciences with a major in political science and a minor in history.
Since his first year on campus, Kheppar has been involved in student governance. He began his student political career in the Public Administration Committee of the International, Politics and Policy Studies Student Association (IPPSSA). The following year, he was IPPSSA’s Vice President of Equity and Activism. At the end of his sophomore year, he ran for office and was elected as the advocacy commissioner on the UOSU Executive Committee.
In the 2022 UOSU election, which was held earlier this month, he ran as the next president of the Union with 1,489 votes (80.9 percent) approving his candidacy and 352 were against (19.1 percent). A further 1,183 voters – 39.1 percent of the total ballots cast – abstained.
“I felt I wanted to run for the presidency of the Union because I saw the really good work that the Union can do to help students and improve our conditions. And I know there is so much more work to do, ”Kheppar said.
While turnout in this year’s elections, both in terms of votes and candidates, was higher, the Union still has problems with student engagement on campus. Kheppar expressed plans to address this issue and focus on outreach work next year.
“I think there is still a lot of work to be done. And I want to make sure that we continue the work of the Committee on Communications and Commitments set up by the Union. I also really think that increased awareness of what the Union is, how it works and what it can do for students is also really great, ”he said.
The UOSU election not only consisted of campaigns for the various positions, but also included three referendum questions for students. Two of them did not pass. The one that passed called for the creation of a new $ 0.84 fine to fund a virtual health and wellness portal called Compass for U of O students.
“I am very happy that the Compass referendum, the second referendum, passed. I think it is really important that students better fund the mental health portal, ”said Kheppar.
Regarding a referendum – which asked students to accept another additional fee of $ 1.99 per. semester to become a member of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) – Kheppar was not so happy with the results.
“I am very disappointed that the number one referendum on the advocacy tax was not passed. The attorney fee would have funded our membership of OUSA, which is the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, ”he explained.
“UOSU was a member of OUSA, but it was an observer member and not a full member. And that would have turned up the volume dramatically. [of] student votes at U of O, “he said.
“OUSA is one of the leading advocacy groups in the province of Ontario capable of influencing [provincial] government to make changes, Kheppar said.
»And about referendum number three [on the addition of a legal support services fee]I do not really have comments, ”he said.
It is likely that Kheppar will lead a complete return to campus in the coming academic year – a unique challenge.
“I would also urge the university to have a three-dose mandate instead of just a two-dose mandate,” he said.
Asked about the divisions that may arise in student governance due to its politicization and the impact that current events may have on discourses such as the pandemic and the ‘Freedom Convoy’, Kheppar stressed the importance of respecting personal opinions without sacrificing the fundamental beliefs.
“I call for respectful and inclusive and simply overall non-hostile political debate among our members and the student in general. But I think there are a few things that the Union should definitely not compromise on,” he said.
“The union is a pro-choice organization. We are an anti-colonial organization that seeks to decolonize our campus, and we are an anti-hate organization. We can not keep quiet, “he continued.
“I do not want people to be upset that their union does not reflect their views. But in the end, I believe that the Union should be an organization that goes the fairer way to ensure that students are not discriminated against. And that we are an inclusive organization that does not promote or protect any kind of bigotry or hateful thoughts, “Kheppar said.