UFV students head to polls in SUS elections
Students at the University of the Fraser Valley are headed to the polls from March 7 to 10 to determine their new Student Union Society board of directors. There are both Executive and Faculty Representative positions up for grabs, and a few contested seats. The image above is an actual screen shot from the Web 0.5 election website.
Positions being contested
For the most part the Faculty Representative positions are uncontested. There are two candidates for Faculty of Sciences Representative, Sahil Chawla and Arashpreet Tamber. Neither is campaigning for any particular platform – it is a popularity contest. Tamber arguably has the cooler name.
Ashmeet Saran thinks that being a finance and accounting student makes her perfect for being Vice-President Internal (it doesn’t).
Cameron Stephen thinks he “would be able to bring a large amount of knowledge and experience to the position” (he wont).
The Vice-President Internal should have a good read on what is happening on campus. They should be able to facilitate club activity and understand basic financial information. Apart from that, the position is one that is what the candidates make it.
Saran’s platform speaks to the actual role of the position, that is good. Given her experience, and the background of the other candidates for each position, there will likely not be much opportunity for her to do much more than that with the job. Given the SUS’s relative stagnation as a students’ union, the most impactful thing Saran could do would be to use the Vice-President Internal position to build a campaign to reform the SUS into a political organisation.
Thanh Ma and Panku Sharma are up for Vice-President External.
Although Ma’s resume is longer, that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Most of her experience is through liberal civil society and the University – out of touch committees and bureaucracy. This experience shows through in her platform, which has very little to it. Ma promises that the SUS will increase its bursary program – meaning that Ma thinks students should pool their money and pay for a bit of the cost of one of our peers to go to school. SUS funded bursaries are silly and waste time that should be spent fighting for better funding for the University and improved student financial aid.
Panku Sharma’ candidate statement is short, but not off point. Sharma calls for working with other student groups and provincial and federal lobbying. Sharma’s experience isn’t any better than Ma’s, but it doesn’t appear any worse.
Two candidates stand for the position of President, Manmeet Sekhon and Sukhi Brar. There is a considerable gulf in the professionalism and content of their candidate statements, which Sekhon making more of a simple plea for a vote, while Brar makes a thorough case for her election, citing experience.
“You can definitely say I am an extrovert. I easily mingle with crowds and feel I can relate to any human being. Moreover, I have a strong dedication to lead the student union because by using my skills we can improve the quality of life for us at our university.” – Manmeet Sekhon
Sukhi Brar’s credentials illustrate a relatively strong candidate for President. Brar is currently the SUS Vice-President External. In a candidate statement, Brar touts the UFV Get Out The Vote campaign, saying it pledged 1000 students to vote in the last election. Brar also spent time in the last year organising campus volunteers, a critical component of robust campus activism. The biggest detracting factor from Brar’s platform is her insistence that there is something to gain by working with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
SUS involvement in the student movement
The University of the Fraser Valley Student Union Society is an odd duck. It is geographically quite distant from other schools, and affiliated to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) – Canada’s national Liberal Party farm team. For the most part, the CASA offers UFV students an outlet to meet with Members of Parliament, but the content of CASA lobby meetings is so watered down and reactionary that there is no tangible benefit to students in Abbotsford.
Provincially, the Student Union Society is a non-entity. Not a member of the British Columbia Federation of Students or the Alliance of British Columbia Students, the SUS just floats out in the bible belt by itself. It used to have some affiliation with the ABCS, it still has the logo on its website, but they don’t do anything at that level. As post-secondary education is mostly under provincial jurisdiction, the SUS does a disservice to its members by focusing on federal lobbying and not building a movement to change provincial policy. Most importantly, the should be taking action – really any action at all – to fight for better funding and more accessible post-secondary education.
Ultimately, the members will need some rallying point, some issue of candidate, to get behind to reform the SUS into a group that fights for them.