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Meet your CSA Election candidates: Ali Zaki

Monday, March 7, 2011

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Name: Ali Zaki

Running for: Academic and University Affairs Commissioner

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1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Ali Zaki, and I am running for the position of Academic & University Affairs Commissioner.

2. Why do you want to represent students on the CSA Executive?

During the last three years I have worked extensively with UoG students, and you have repeatedly told me that the high cost of tuition and the difficulty in accessing university education are serious concerns. But many students are not aware that about 20% of our “tuition fees” are not for tuition at all. That’s around $1000.00 each year! If you go to your student account in WebAdvisor and click on “Display Account Details” there is a long list of additional fees that we pay – fees that are supposedly voluntary. And the numbers shown when you click “Display Account Details” are only for one semester. We actually pay about twice that much each year!

These fees are called “voluntary” because years ago, some students wanted to make these fees part of our tuition payment. If you elect me, I will fight for your right to choose if you pay these additional fees or not. Students have repeatedly told me that they should be able to decide where their money goes. Currently we don’t have any real choice in this, but I will work to change that.

3. What experiences or skills do you have that make you an ideal candidate for your position?

I am running for the position of Academic & University Affairs Executive Commissioner because I want to continue to represent the interests of UoG students. I have had the privilege of representing the students of this University as your Senator for the last three years, and I have served you in other capacities, such as my work on the Board of Directors of the CSAHS Student Alliance and as the Vice Chair of the UoG Research Board. I have also volunteered my time so that the Student Food Bank’s hours of operation could be extended, and I am the founder and President of the ESL Club, a student-run organization that helps students become more comfortable with spoken English.

4. Can you outline some experiences that have given you knowledge of CSA policies and the way things are run?

Because of my work as a Senator at UoG, I sit on a number of Boards and Committees. For example, I am a member of the Student Services Fees Committee, and through this type of work I have extensive knowledge of CSA policies and how things are run. (Although sometimes I wish that I didn’t know all the sordid details!!!)

5. What goals do you have for your term?

My first goal will be to make a UoG education more accessible by actually making the “voluntary fees” voluntary. Students should be able to choose if we want to pay these fees. The University and the CSA should not assume that all current students want to pay an extra $1000.00 in “tuition fees” just because some former students wanted to pay these fees in the past. With students’ support, I will change the way these fees are collected. Students will not pay these fees unless we indicate that we want to pay these fees.

I will also work to make the CSA more accountable and transparent, and more representative of all students.

6. The undergraduate student body is large and diverse; how will you ensure you represent the interests of students?

I understand issues of diversity, as I have many ethnicities in my own heritage. I am also an immigrant to Canada, and my strong advocacy for multiculturalism and plurality are central to the work that I have done at UoG. For example, it was my support for all aspect of plurality that made me decide to start the ESL Club, so that members of the UoG community who are newer to Canada would feel more welcome. Similarly, as Vice Chair of this University’s Research Board, I have guided the Board to remove gendered (sexist) language from our policy papers. And it was my work on the Student Services Fees Committee that created the Student Access Fund/Student Engagement Fund, whereby students in financial need can participate in extracurricular events and activities.

6. (a) The Academic and University Affairs Commissioner is expected to interact with administrative, judicial and academic bodies at the University of Guelph. From a student perspective, what are some of the strengths and weaknesses you have encountered within these entities (i.e. what works and what doesn’t)?

Strengths are found in the many people within UoG’s administrative, judicial and academic bodies who are really concerned about students’ wellbeing, and about accessibility of University education. (And I count myself among those people!!!) We care about the students, and we are willing to work to improve the existing situation.

Unfortunately, not everyone who is involved with these administrative, judicial and academic bodies is there to help students. Some people are just there because they have to be there, or because they can make money that way. But in my view, the good people greatly outnumber the others, and my goal is to get more people who are concerned about students involved in these governing bodies.

7. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Vote for Ali Zaki, your experienced and dedicated representative. As your Academic & University Affairs Commissioner I will work in your best interest, like I have been doing for the last three years.

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