Douglas Student Union election heating up
Two slates of candidates have declared their intention to take over the students’ union at Douglas College. NeXgen and Vote Action, both with members of the current Douglas Student Union board on their team, have begun to campaign on campus.
Slate process explained
Slates are organised, officially or unofficially, at most students’ unions in British Columbia. Slates are groups of students who share a platform or electoral approach that don’t run against each other for various positions. At Douglas College, it is common for slates to plan their election before the nominations are open for an election.
2015/16 Academic Year of the Student Union
The current board of directors of the Douglas Student Union have presided over a costly year for students. In August 2015, the DSU board voted to pay $160,300 in a lump sum payment to its Executive Director, Tim Rattel, to pay him to no longer work for them. The severance agreement, publicly available on the DSU website, includes no provision for confidentiality.
One of the NeXgen candidates, Pardeep Jaswal, was actually banned from attending meetings of the Canadian Federation of Students by the DSU board of directors. Nearly three pages of minutes, that include the decision, outline that current DSU College Relations Coordinator Ruab Waraich called into question the behavior of Jaswal at a previous meeting and after a lengthy discussion the board voted to prevent him from being sent in the future.
Recently, meetings of the DSU board of directors have been scenes of heightened conflict between representatives. As the minutes of the January 11th meeting reflect, representatives have resorted to voting against motions because they “just wanted to vote no.” The DSU board has fought about the hiring of its employees for several weeks. The same meeting minutes indicate that External Relations Coordinator Chris Budzynski had been attending risk management meetings about accusations he had sexually harassed another board members, Internal Relations Coordinator Derek Goundar reported that he spent time just cleaning the office (rather than dealing with the various internal issues at the students’ union), and Treasurer Karan Bains responded to a question about a labor report with, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
DSU slate platforms
NeXgen does not include group platform points on its web available materials. Most of the candidates for the slate do not have public Twitter accounts, and the Facebook group has little information. Each of the candidates have their own platform, spelled out in the relatively hidden comment section of their individual pictures on the Facebook group.
Many of the NeXgen candidates walked out of the Douglas Student Union General Meeting held on February 17th after losing votes regarding DSU bylaw policies. The NeXgen delegates opposed term limits and GPA requirements for student union representatives. Some of the NeXgen delegates returned to the General Meeting after walking out to have the free pizza.
Vote Action has a three main point platform calling for increased resources for “student groups” on campus, better student spaces, and to promote “student engagement”. It is hard to say what “student engagement” means in this context, given that anything the DSU is by definition a matter of student engagement. Much like NeXgen, each of the candidates have their own platform, spelled out in the comment section of their individual pictures.
What differentiates Vote Action is its common platform, broken down on their Facebook page in detail. While every little of the longer platform comes through in the slate’s materials, the platform does include several promises related to what the group calls academic costs, events, community, and culture.
Real issues ignored by DSU candidate platforms
Unfortunately for the students of Douglas College, both slates of candidates have mostly ignored high tuition fees and student debt. Douglas College, like every other college in the Lower Mainland, has increased tuition fees for many years.
NeXgen candidate Satinder Hbk did mention tuition fees in his personal campaign, saying “As we are aware, tuition fees have been increasing by 2% each year for the past 10 years. Our goal is to fight to lower tuition fees for both domestic and international students.”
NeXgen candidates Derek Goundar, Chad Conley, Chris Bud, and Pardeep Jaswal, as well as Vote Action candidate Prabhjot Kaur Hundal, also promise to fight against tuition fees going up.