According to MSU President-elect Justin Monaco-Barnes, the most difficult part of the two-week campaign period was not the rigorous events schedule or grueling series of debates and interviews. It was waiting for the results after the polls closed on Jan. 28. “After a hard day, a hard couple of weeks of campaigning, we were all exhausted, but then it’s the mental stress of waiting that’s the hard part,” he said.
Results night was certainly drawn out. It took 11 hours for the rankings to be released, leading to a tense, sleepless night for the candidates and their campaign teams. “At like, 4:03 my phone started vibrating and I looked down and I saw Ehima’s name on the caller ID. It was a very surreal moment. Apparently [the phone] rang eight times, but in my mind it had only rung once,” said Monaco-Barnes, who was seemingly still a bit shocked the following afternoon. “People keep asking, ‘How did you feel?’ I can’t even tell you. It was everything. Every emotion I could imagine was in that moment.”
“I plan to work really hard to achieve what they started and take it to the next level.”
While Monaco-Barnes seemed somewhat shocked when he spoke with The Silhouette, his campaign manager Shaarujaa Nadarajah was anything but. The two became friends at this year’s MSU Retreat. She said she knew Monaco-Barnes would be a different kind of presidential candidate. “We were eating some awful camp sloppy joes and I was expecting him to ask me about my future plans in the organization because that’s what everyone around me had been doing, but he just sat beside me and asked me about my family,” she said. A member of the Student Representative Assembly, Nadarajah was eager to take on the role of campaign manager. “It’s hard to articulate, but when you have an infinite amount of faith in one person and their abilities, you just want to be in a role that is able to best support them. I wanted to be there for everything,” she explained. “The good, the bad, the challenges, the successes.”
Monaco-Barnes was happy to see fellow candidate Jonathon Tonietto was favoured in the polls as well. “During this process we really got a chance to talk a lot, and I got to know him better, and he’s a really genuine person, so I was happy to see that he did well and that the student body could see what I saw as well.” The two candidates shared a passion for sustainability, and in earlier interviews with The Silhouette, Tonietto expressed his approval of Monaco-Barnes’ plans to make McMaster a more environmentally friendly institution. Monaco-Barnes added he was upset to see Sarah Jama disqualified from the race on results night. “I feel for her. I know what she put into it, what all the candidates put into it, and I totally understand how hard that would be,” he said.
The failing of the VP election referendum by what translates to approximately 20 votes was a reality check for the President-elect. Originally neutral on the issue, Monaco-Barnes came out in favour of the referendum partway through the campaign period. “I remember seeing the number and I was just kind of shocked. Because 20 votes, 20 votes. That’s a tutorial,” he said. However, he noted that more students abstained than voted against the referendum, a sign he believes indicates the need for more education on the matter. “I think knowledge is power, and the more students know about the MSU and their school, the more they’ll get from it.”
Reflecting on the campaign, Monaco-Barnes is proud of the work his team put into the election. “We ran a campaign that was just us. We were staying true to ourselves, and I think the student body really connected with that, and saw that it was a genuine campaign,” he explained. He cited the dedication of his campaign team as one of the reasons why he and his platform survived the campaign with relatively little negativity.
“I think knowledge is power, and the more students know about the MSU and their school, the more they’ll get from it.“
Over the next few months, Monaco-Barnes will wrap up his role as the service coordinator of the MSU Underground and complete his degree in English and Cultural Studies. During this time, he hopes to start working with current MSU President Ehima Osazuwa to ensure a smooth transition into the role of President and CEO of the MSU.
He plans to continue the current Board of Directors’ work on lobbying for lower tuition at McMaster and across the province. “It’s something that means a lot to me,” he said. “They’ve invested so much time and you never want to see something like that go to waste. I plan to work really hard to achieve what they started and take it to the next level.”
Photo Credit: Yung Lee/ Photo Reporter