Frank Ye – a fourth-year Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences student, our former SSC President, has stepped down from the SSC to run as a candidate in the USC presidential race alongside his longstanding friend, Jared Forman. We decided to reach out to get a more personal perspective on his campaign, his story, and most importantly, him as a person.
Here are the highlights of that interview.
MG: What made you want to run in the first place? What made you want to step away from your position as the SSC President to run in the USC presidential race?
FY: What really made me want to run for this in the first place, especially with my best friend Jared, was really looking back to … when I was in second-year as an O-Hall Residence Soph. On my floor, I noticed a lot of the issues and a lot of concerns that my frosh and my friends had that were going ignored by the USC and Western administration.
That was the year that I decided to run for a USC Councillor position, where I got elected. From there I saw in the USC as an elected representative you have a lot of resources at your disposal.
These roles are what you make of them. I saw that if we put our mind to it and we put our heart to [what we’re passionate about] … we can translate that into something tangible and something meaningful for students. That’s why I pushed hard for those two all-gender washrooms in the UCC. That’s why we worked with what was the Women’s Issues Network (now the Gender Equality Network) coordinator to get sexual violence training mandated and delivered by the USC.
For me, I want to take the work I’ve done the past two years as a councillor and a faculty president and bring it to the final step. I want to show the university the work we want to do as well as the work that we have done.
Where did you start, how did you find yourself at Western, and how has that led to where you are now?
FY: In high school, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I remember my parents really encouraged me to do medicine, while my personal passions were in policy and in politics. I really juggled with the different programs that I applied to. If you looked at my OUAC you would have seen that I applied to a very wide range of programs: science and the life sciences, social science, policy, political science, economics.
What made me really decide on Western was when I came to the open house. The concept of the Sophs really spoke to me, how they live in residence with you, and I heard about the best student experience and what that looked like from a Western perspective. Learning about the IMS program and how it combines aspects of social science and medical science … that was something that really appealed to me.
Frank went on to elaborate about how he’s developed since first year, and the key experiences that got him to where he is.
FY: The journey that led me to where I am now is one I could have never predicted. If you had asked me in first-year when I was staying in Delaware Hall I would’ve told you there was no way I would even have a shot at this. In first-year I was that person that stayed in their room all day, stayed in the study rooms all day, just studying.
After first-year I really felt like something was missing. I wasn’t getting that experience that I came to Western for. So I applied to Soph. I was placed in Ontario Hall on 4 West B, and that’s where my passion for getting involved really took off. I had 40 frosh on my floor, and I have really great relationships with all of them still.
Sophing has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had on this campus.– Frank Ye
Being a Soph allowed me to have the drive to be involved in the USC as a councillor. That’s where I got to work with a lot of different community groups and a lot of the people on campus. A lot of great leaders there implanted the idea in my head to go for faculty president. Even that position, when I was deciding, was something that I never thought I would get. I saw Danny Chang and who he was … and the other presidents too. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would one day be in their position too. When I was [the SSC President], I realized there were a lot of people who believed in my message.
I find election season to be such a mix of emotions … it’s exciting in the sense that you meet so many new people. It’s encouraging in that people will come up to you and support you. But there’s also stress because you’re putting yourself out there and people will judge you. Every moment you’re in this spotlight and every moment after, you feel like every action you make is under this microscope.
The positives of it are what really drove me through it. Having seen the role [of president], having seen what it means to be trusted with essentially almost 300,000 dollars in student donation money, being given that kind of opportunity to try and change and help students is what pushed me, in the end, to say “Let’s go all the way”.
What would you say is your proudest moment in student government outside of what you cite in
your platform and your speeches?
The proudest moment I had in student government … was the moment I found the ability to stand up to administration when I thought that something wasn’t right.– Frank Ye
FY: There’s a learning curve – I think that every USC councillor, everyone who has served on the council, knows that there’s this period of time where you’re getting to understand the role. One of the scary things is when the USC invites a campus administrator to come in and give a presentation. It’s often very intimidating to see someone in that position of power and to challenge the knowledge and expertise you feel that they bring.
There was one project that they brought to the council that they wanted to raise student ancillary fees to pay for. That was the 20 million dollar Thames Hall renovation that’s currently going on – the one that the school is funding without additional student fees. I remember one of the VPs was giving a presentation to the council that they wanted student funding to support the renovation of Thames Hall to bring all of the services together.
For me, my opinion was “is this really solving the problem?”. The problems that we heard weere that there are not enough counsellors, not enough services to begin with. There was no consolidation of these services. Does moving it to a nicer and fancier building really solve that? I remember hesitating to ask this question to [the presenter] … but I did it. I felt that the student’s concerns needed to be heard, our ancillary fees are already high, and we can’t be taking on a 40 dollar increase per student to do this renovation that might not even benefit us.
I asked him: “Where’s the data? Where are the surveys, where is any feedback to show that students will tangibly benefit from this?”
For me, that was the day I realized that being a student leader, being able to bring that expertise and knowledge to challenge administrators when you think that what they are doing, even when it’s in good intentions, may not benefit students.
I’ve heard a lot in the public forum saying that the platform you present is “more of the same”.
What are you saying to respond to that?
I would say take a look at our first pillar. Look at the fact that we are the only slate that has any response or plan to the government’s plans on OSAP cuts.
I think that this year’s election is unprecedented. In the USC’s history, nothing like this has happened. [We’ve never been in a situation] where an election hinges on who can best handle waters that the USC has never had to navigate before.
Yes, many of our pillars are ones that are often seen, but these are very important pillars. It would have been completely irresponsible of us to have nothing on mental health. It would have been completely irresponsible for us to have nothing on sexual violence prevention. It would have been completely irresponsible of us to not have any plan regarding, if we were elected, how we would handle the inevitable cuts to the administration (the 43 million dollar deficit they would be in), but also the inevitability that the USC is likely going to lose money too.
So, what I would say to someone that says our platform is very similar: there are a lot of long-term goals on there that we want to keep building on and we want to keep working towards, but I want people to consider that we do have a plan going forward to navigate very uncertain times.
Historically speaking Frank Ye outlined instances where similar measures were taken in other countries, such as Australia, France, and Spain. When students were allowed to opt out of compulsory ancillary fees needed by student unions, many student unions nationwide collapsed. The USC is apparently very much at risk of the same thing.
FY: I want to emphasize that this year is unique, and our platform is unique because we need to plan for [the OSAP cuts]. We need to make sure that the USC and the services we provide do not collapse. Yes, some students may want more money in their pocket, but there are other students who depend on these services such as the LTC, health and dental, and student employment opportunities that the USC offers. The fact that we have a plan to protect these services is what makes the platform unique.
Beyond your platform, what do you
feel you bring to the table as a person?
FY: I understand that perspectives that I have are based on my own unique experiences as a student at this school. I know what it means to have experiences that not every student on campus does, and I know that I may not experience challenges that other students on this campus do. Jared and I try to be very cognizant of that. That’s reflected in the consultations that we did.
Outside the tangible platform points that we bring, the personal aspect of that is very important because traditionally one of the biggest criticisms of the USC has been the fact that they have not listened to student voices. That’s we found it very important to take a community-based approach, to say that as a person we understand that we have flaws, we’re not perfect, but we’re here to listen to you and we’re here to bring that voice to council.
What do you feel people at Western
don’t see about you during election season?
FY: I would say there is a side of me that isn’t a part of my professional life. The more personal thing that I enjoy from day to day, whether it’s that I have over 200 points on my Chatime rewards card … (some context: one drink = one point. one drink is about $5. He’ll let you do the math there.) or that I’m still an avid Pokemon GO player. I’ve collected all the ones from Europe, all the ones from Asia, just haven’t been to Australia yet, unfortunately.
The aspects of me that people don’t see, and maybe people don’t care about when election season is happening are the sides of me that my friends know about and the things that I enjoy.
In election season, You want to say that I’ve prepared this platform – we prepared this platform with consultations from students like you. There’s this other side people want to see: a part of themselves reflected in the platform. That’s really what we try to go for.Frank Ye
Before I end this off, I’d just like to give an acknowledgement to Rachel Park for making this interview possible, and to Frank Ye for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me.
Be sure to catch the USC Presidential Debate tonight (January 28th) at 6pm (free food alert!)
Regardless of who you support, try and get out to vote if you can. May the best slate win.