The Western Student

commentary about campus issues from unceded territory in British Columbia

Vancouver creates Adult Basic Education Day in support of British Columbia Federation of Students

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-27-54-amOn Monday the 12th of September Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson made a city statement creating Adult Basic Education Day. The move is a part of the Don’t Close the Doors Campaign of the British Columbia Federation of Students.

What is Adult Basic Education?

According to the BCFS Campaign website:

Adult Basic Education (ABE) has been tuition-free in BC since 2007. The provincial government announced a massive $15.9 million funding cut from Adult Basic Education programming in BC and removed the tuition-free ABE mandate. This short-sighted plan will hurt our economy and fuel inequality.”

ABE is high school courses that are taken by students at higher education schools. These courses have a high proportion of returning mature students, Aboriginal people, and single parents compared to other programs. These programs have been free in the past, including when the BC Liberals took off the fees that used to exist.

Many cities already want free Adult Basic Education

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Vancouver is not the first city to support the British Columbia Federation of Students in trying to make Adult Basic Education free again. According to the Don’t Close the Doors website, the following cities have already declared their support:

  • Courtenay
  • Cumberland
  • Parksville
  • Port Alberni
  • Duncan
  • Burnaby
  • Victoria
  • New Westminster

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In wanting free Adult Basic Education, the BCFS is also supported by several groups such as Unifor the Union and the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.

Tuition undermines education

The Don’t Close the Doors Campaign is fighting for free education for students who had it only a few years ago. It shouldn’t be understated that this makes the BCFS Campaign the most pointed push against government under funding of colleges in British Columbia. However, since the Campaign is limited to only high school level courses it doesn’t fight for lower tuition for all students. If students want to eliminate tuition fees, bigger, wider, more inclusive campaigns are going to be needed.

[Note: the BCFS was contacted for comment on this story but did not respond.]

Alliance of BC Students launches campaign for student housing

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It is September and classes are back in full swing, hopefully all of us have a place to live. In the Greater Vancouver Area, housing vacancy is at an abysmally low rate, meaning students are taking what they can for accommodation. The Alliance of British Columbia Students is lobbying government to change that.

Statistics and stories show students are hurting

The vacancy rate for Vancouver housing is less than one percent.

Trying to find accommodation as a student has reached a crisis point that is forcing people to live on couches, in living rooms, or with bed sheets to divide one bedroom into two. Each year there are sad stories about under-sheltered students trying to scrape by. According to the Globe and Mail, average rent a year ago was about $1,200, which is difficult to pay when studying full-time and working low paying jobs.

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High costs in the world of housing have a severe impact on students because they often seek temporary accommodation during their studies. Some students will opt to go to different schools so they can live with family during their education, meaning that the chaos of the housing market is in part impacting the education outcomes of those enrolled.

Media pickup strong on student society messaging

Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) president Alex McGowan has been featured prominently in the news media this week responding to questions about their plan for housing. The group has launched a Where’s the Housing lobby effort about building new residences and student housing near campuses in the Greater Vancouver Area.

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The ABCS is the only group with doing major media outreach to talk about housing for students in British Columbia. With the housing market featured so prominently in the news in recent months, now is the perfect time to garner attention on the issue from a different perspective.

We should note that the ABCS could have been more creative with the name, given that they used to have a campaign called Where’s the Funding.

ABCS solutions fail to challenge funding issues

The ABCS’s work on student housing is timely for many reasons. Housing issues are a hot button topic and students are suffering a lower quality of life because of low vacancies. However, the solutions offered by the ABCS would put the cost of new housing developments on the shoulders of future students and put universities into debt.

Per the ABCS pretentiously named “white paper”, the group is only calling for the BC government to let universities take on debt to pay for housing. Nothing about this demand challenges the broken funding model for post-secondary education across the province, which means that students of the future would be paying for the housing out of student fees rather than the tax system.

Proponents of the ABCS plan tell The Western Student that the issue of student housing is imminently important, and that students can’t wait for government to fund education so they can have a place to live. The fact of the matter is that none of the student housing described in the plan will be available in the immediate future even if it is adopted, and that increasing tuition fees to pay for the plan would contribute to the financial blocks to people starting school.

[Note: The statistical images in this article are from the Alliance of BC Students White Paper on student housing.]

Simon Fraser Student Society in a state of disarray

Twenty years ago Simon Fraser University might have been described as the “left-wing school” to differentiate it from the traditionally more conservative University of British Columbia. Today, this differentiation doesn’t hold water, especially in the case of the Simon Fraser Student Society, which is in a state of political disarray after years of poor organisation.

Board decisions lead to bad blood

In August it was announced that the plans for the Simon Fraser Student Society stadium were being scrapped. The project, dubbed Build SFU, already cost the society vast amounts in planning and staff costs.

The thing is, the idea was terrible from the beginning.

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Rather than focusing on getting government to fund education, SFSS leadership of recent years had such a flimsy and narrow understanding of post-secondary education that they deemed it reasonable to propose that students pay for new campus buildings. Public education shouldn’t be funded by student fees, and opting to build a stadium for the University was a shameful waste of student money. Students in athletic programs were promised a better education if they supported and voted in favour of the plan, and are now responding with the only response that should be expected: indignance.

Conflicts between staff and board members

Former President Deepak Sharma’s resignation was described by the SFU Peak writer Rachel Wong as, “a new low for the SFSS.” In the same article, the paper highlighted the gravity of the role of the SFSS, including being the student body’s voice in the determination of new fees and student life. Sharma’s resignation is not a normal occurrence for the organisation, and historical examples of resignations and impeachments usually coincide with times of uncertainty.

In addition to Sharma’s resignation, the staff and board members of the SFSS have also been in conflict. Two SFSS board members have reported that Chief Executive Officer Martin Wyant, who The Western Student has argued is unqualified for the position, has been involved in issues with other employees. The society posted for a new organiser, but having the vacancy at the beginning of the academic year is an operational hiccup that should have been avoided. Further, changes to faculty student unions while the SFSS has been with Wyant have taken away opportunities for students to be engaged on campus.

The Student Failure and Sadness Society

So what can the Simon Fraser Student Society board of directors and SFU students do to make things right? There are some easy solutions and some hard-work options that have to be done.

SFU is not special. It is a big school, it has a level of prestige, but that shouldn’t cloud the judgment of SFSS directors in making decisions about how to spend students’ money. Spending students money building a new stadium is exactly the opposite of the point. The SFSS should be mobilizing the anger of athletics students who want a better campus to fight for more public funding from the BC government. The role of the student society is to be a voice, not a bureaucracy.

SFSS directors, not all but many, spend their time thinking about how good being on the board will be for them. It is a resume builder. Having “I built a building” on your resume may indeed impress some, but it is not the role of the student society. Unless SFSS directors forsake this petty individualism and start thinking about what is best for all students then these issues will continue.

Students’ Unions in BC, a quick breakdown

The Western Student did a bit of looking around with an eye for students’ union demographics and make up of boards of directors. We made a list of 230 students’ union leaders and broke down their gender, position on their board, and took notes on some other interesting tidbits.

Some students’ unions don’t list all or any of their directors, so those are left out of the breakdown. Those left out due to lack of information include Emily Carr Students’ Union, Langara Students’ Union, North Island Students’ Union, Northwest Community College Students’ Union, Royal Roads University Student Association, Students’ Union of Vancouver Community College, and Vancouver Island University Students’ Union. The University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society only has it’s executive included.

Every students’ union has board of directors’ positions that are, well, weird. We simplified these differences as much as possible.

Why would you spend hours doing this?

Why would you click on it?

Camosun College

The Camosun College Student Society (CCSS), not affiliated to the Alliance of BC Students and Local 75 of the Canadian Federation of Students/BC Federation of Students has a board of directors of about twenty two positions. Currently, about 58 percent of the board of directors are women. The senior staffer of the CCSS is Michell Turcotte who is the Executive Director.

The CCSS board of directors is mostly broken down into campus representatives and equity positions.

The purposes of the Camosun College Student Society, in its bylaws, are to, among other things, organize students on a democratic basis for the advancement of students’ interests; to promote and represent students’ interests in relation to Camosun College; and to seek to ensure that Camosun College programs are accessible to everyone.

Capilano University

The Capilano Students’ Union (CSU), affiliated to the Alliance of BC Students and not affiliated to the Canadian Federation of Students/BC Federation of Students has a board of directors of about fifteen positions. Currently, about 67 percent of the board of directors are women. The senior staffer of the CSU is Christopher Girodat who is the General Manager.

The CSU board of directors is broken up into three portions, an executive with external and internal roles, equity positions, and faculty representatives.

The purposes of the Capilano Students’ Union include to advocate for a more accessible, high-quality post-secondary education

College of New Caledonia

The College of New Caledonia Students’ Union (CNCSU), not affliated to the Alliance of BC Students and Local 13 of the Canadian Federation of Students/BC Federation of Students has about eight positions on its board of directors. 25 percent of the board of directors are women, one of the lower ratios in the province. The senior staffer of the CNCSU is Leila Abubakar who is the Executive Director.

The CNCSU has three executives, three equity positions, and a representative for each campus.

College of the Rockies

No one knows anything about this students’ union. They’re not affiliated to the Alliance of BC Students and the CFS/BCFS may still claim them as members but its not really the case.

Douglas College

The Douglas College Students’ Union (DSU), not affiliated to the Alliance of BC Students and Local 18 of the Canadian Federation of Students/BC Federation of Students has a board of directors of about twelve positions. Half of the board of directors are women. The senior staffer of the DSU is Steven Beasley who is the General Manager.

The DSU has a board of directors of roughly three equal portions between executive, equity, and at large positions.

The purpose of the Douglas Students’ Union includes:

to achieve the goal of a system of post-secondary education which is accessible to all, which is of high quality and which is rationally planned; which recognizes the legitimacy of student representation and the validity of students’ rights; and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated

Emily Carr

The Emily Carr Students’ Union (ECSU) does not have a list of board of directors members on their website. They are affiliated to the Canadian Federation of Students/BC Federation of Students as Local 33 and their senior staffer is Executive Director Lori MacDonald.

Kwantlen University

Once dubbed “The Ones Who Sue” for being the most litigious students’ union in the country, the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA), affiliated to the Alliance of BC Students and Local 26 of the Canadian Federation of Students/BC Federation of Students, has about eighteen board members. 28 percent of KSA board members are women, a number on the low side of the spectrum. The KSA General Manager is former UBC AMS President Jeremy McElroy.

The KSA board of directors is massive compared to other similar institutions. There are representatives for every faculty, several representatives for each campus, equity positions, and an executive. The KSA also has a vast staff compliment.

The purposes of the KSA include:

To promote and advance the cause of Universal Accessibility to all forms of postsecondary education in the province of British Columbia

University of Northern British Columbia

UNBC has two students’ unions, one for undergraduates and one for graduates.

The Northern British Columbia Graduate Student Society (NBCGSS), affiliated only to the BC Federation of Students, has eleven board members. With by far the least gender parity of any students’ union in the province, 91 percent of its board of directors are women. The senior staffer of the NBCGSS is former Northern Undergraduate Student Society President Alden Chow.

The NBCGSS board of directors is split between faculty representatives and an executive group.

The Northern Undergraduate Student Society (NUGSS), not affiliated to any student groups, has about thirteen board of directors members. 54 percent of the board of directors are women. The senior staffer at NUGSS is former NUGSS President Duncan Malkinson, who apparently didn’t think it was incredibly tacky and bad form to have himself hired by his own board of directors. The NUGSS mission statement doesn’t speak to accessible education.

The NUGSS board is made of strange primary and secondary executive positions.

Nicola Valley Institute of Technology

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology Student Society is a fledgling organisation without long-term staff and frequent board of directors turnover. Most of the board positions are designed to represent students at the Merrit campus, but because there are members at a small campus in Burnaby all board of directors meetings take place through telecommunications.

Okanagan College

Okanagan College has two students’ unions, one for just the Vernon Campus and one for the rest of the campuses.

The Okanagan College Students’ Union (OCSU), affiliated to the Canadian Federation of Students and British Columbia Federation of Students, has eighteen elected student representatives on its website. One of the more imbalanced boards of directors, 72 percent are women. Their Executive Director is Brianne Berchowitz.

The OCSU structure appears pretty complicated. There are campus representatives and campus groups, at large positions, and an executive.

The Vernon Students’ Association (VSA), not affiliated to any student group, is mostly not worth mentioning. The VSA, like the students’ union at College of the Rockies, does little to advocate for students, mostly holding minor events on campus. The senior staffer of the VSA is General Manager Eric Reist.

Regent College

Arguably not worth including here, the Regent College Student Association (RCSA) represents students at the University of British Columbia’s theological college. While UBC should arguably not have a theological college, because theology is silly, a student is a student and there is room for theological students in the student movement. The group is not affiliated to any larger student group. The RCSA has ten directors, 30 percent of whom are women.

Selkirk College

The Selkirk College Students’ Union, which doesn’t appear to have a website, is affiliated to the Canadian Federation of Students and BC Federation of Students.

Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser University has two students’ unions, one for undergraduate students and one for graduate students.

The Simon Fraser University Graduate Student Society (GSS), unaffiliated to any student group, has six executive positions. The executive is evenly split between men and women. Their Executive Director is Pierre Cenerelli.

The Simon Fraser Student Society, not affiliated with any student group, has fourteen directors. 36 percent of the directors are women, making for little balance on one of the biggest students’ union leaderships in the province. The SFSS Chief Executive Officer, a pretty grand title for a students’ union, is Martin Wyant.

The SFSS board of directors is mostly divided between faculty representatives and executive positions.

The SFSS purposes include:

To promote, among other goals democratically determined by the Society, the principles of public, universally accessible, high quality post-secondary education, and of meaningful undergraduate student participation in all aspects of University governance.”

Thompson Rivers University

The Thompson Rivers University Students’ Union (TRUSU), affiliated to the Canadian Federation of Students and BC Federation of Students, has thirteen members of its board of directors. 38 percent of board members are women. The Executive Director of TRUSU is Nathan Lane.

The TRUSU board of directors is divided equally into at large directors, equity positions, and the executive.

The purpose of TRUSU includes:

to achieve the goal of a system of post-secondary education which is accessible to all, which is of high quality, and which is rationally planned; which recognises the legitimacy of student representation and the validity of students’ rights; and whose role in society is clearly recognised and appreciated.”

University of British Columbia

While The Western Student usually stays away from UBC, as they have a robust student newspaper and several student politics blogs already, they are included here for comparison. UBC has three students’ unions, one for all students in the Okanagan campus, one for undergraduate students in the Vancouver campus, and one for graduates in the Vancouver campus.

The University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society, not affiliated to any student group, has five executives. Three of the executives, including the President in whom power is vastly over concentrated both in policy and in practice, are women.

The UBCAMS objects include:

To advance the cause of higher learning in the Province of British Columbia.”

The University of British Columbia Graduate Student Society (GSS), affiliated with the Alliance of BC Students, has seven directors about equally divided on gender lines. The GSS General Manager is Mark Wellington.

The University of British Columbia Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO), affiliated to the Alliance of BC Students and the Canadian Federation of Students/BC Federation of Students, has fifteen directors. 32 percent of UBCSUO directors are women. The UBCSUO has an Executive General Manager, Bob Dunkemolle.

The UBCSUO board of directors is dominated by faculty representatives an executive and at large positions.

University of the Fraser Valley

The University of the Fraser Valley Students’ Union Society (SUS), not affiliated to any student group, has nine board members. Most board members of the SUS are women.

The SUS has a board of faculty representatives and executives.

Vancouver Community College

The Students’ Union of Vancouver Community College (SUVCC), which doesn’t appear to have a website, is affiliated to the Canadian Federation of Students and BC Federation of Students.

Vancouver Island University

The Vancouver Island University Students’ Union (VIUSU) does not list its directors on its website. VIUSU is affiliated to the Canadian Federation of Students and BC Federation of Students. The VIUSU Executive Director is Michael Olson.

University of Victoria

The University of Victoria has both an undergraduate and graduate students’ unions.

The University of Victoria Graduate Student Society (GSS), not affiliated to any student group, has four current executives half of whom are women. The GSS Executive Director is Stacy Chappel.

The University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS), not affiliated to any student group, has twenty directors. 55 percent of the directors of the UVSS are women, which is exactly the proportion of women students in the University overall. The UVSS General Manager is Dale Robertson, though Research and Communications Manager Ben Johnson is responsible for supporting actual political work.

The UVSS is largely unique in the province by having a board of directors with mostly at large positions. There are a several equity positions, probably more than any other students’ union in the province, and an executive.

The purposes of the UVSS include:

to achieve the goal of a system of post-secondary education which is accessible to all, which is of high quality, and which is rationally planned; which recognizes the legitimacy of student representation and the validity of students’ rights; and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated.”

British Columbia Institute of Technology

The British Columbia Institute of Technology Student Association (BCITSA) is not affiliated with any student group. The BCITSA website doesn’t even have a page for political campaigns. The BCITSA Executive Director is Caroline Gagnon.

The BCITSA has a vision statement that doesn’t speak to education accessiblity at all and a values statement that includes “Client satisfaction is #1”.

[Disclaimer: This article deals in part with gender, a topic that unavoidably evokes many different perspectives. For what it’s worth from an anonymous blog, the method for determining gender was a mix of estimation and entering names into howmanyofme.com. Breakdowns of gender on students’ union boards of directors is valuable in determining proportions in student representation but it isn’t exact. Ultimately, political values and actions are much more meaningful.]

Douglas Students’ Union hires CFS big whig

Last month continued the mostly uneventful 2016 summer for the students’ unions of British Columbia. However, while many were on vacation or away from class, the board of directors of the Douglas Students’ Union have been busy changing their organisation in many different ways. One of these has been to hire a new General Manager, long time Canadian Federation of Students backed staff person Steven Beasley.

Vancouver Island University Students’ Union

The Vancouver Island University Students’ Union, or “view-sue” to students in Nanaimo, was a bastion of Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) activity for the last two decades. Also during that time, Steven Beasley was a senior staff person guiding the many boards of directors of that group. No more than a cursory glance at a few years of CFS meeting minutes and it is clear that Local 61, as the VIUSU is known in CFS speak, was a major supporter of Ottawa’s various projects.

It is unclear what the role of that students’ union is now, given the schism between the CFS and the provincial students’ union British Columbia Federation of Students, which used to be combined.

CFS-BC and BCFS time

According to meeting minutes from both groups, which you can get if you are at any BC Federation of Students affiliated campus in the students’ union office, Steven Beasley worked for both the provincial CFS component and the national CFS at various times. Most recently, Beasley was the Internal Coordinator for the CFS-BC, including during their split with the CFS.

Future of the Douglas Students’ Union

Vote Action, the slate that won the most recent Douglas Students’ Union election, won on a platform to increase resources to student groups, better student spaces, and promote student engagement. With a hire of someone with so much history as a major player in larger student groups, it is likely that there is more to the story.

ABCS meeting adopts “Vision 2020”

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Let no one accuse the Alliance of British Columbia Students (ABCS) of being entirely defunct. On May 14th and 15th the fledgling student group met at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus for its annual general meeting. In addition to hearing from presenters and going through workshops, students at the meeting adopted Vision 2020, a policy document for the years to come.

Small meeting highlights declining membership

The ABCS once declared itself the largest student group in British Columbia, which was arguably true for a time. Now, the organisation has just five member schools, some of which engage very little in the group at all. The Langara Students’ Union, for example, could scarcely be called an active students’ union in its own right and does no policy or campaign work in any significant way. Most of the largest schools that were affiliated or helped with campaigns, UBC AMS, the University of Victoria UVSS, and the Simon Fraser University SFSS, have exited the group for various reasons.

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In past years, annual general meetings of the ABCS were nearly celebratory in discussion and pride in the newly formed organisation. Elected students from various affiliated schools took group selfies and the students’ unions tweeted about the meetings. However, at this meeting the group tweeted a photo of their annual general meeting that showed about 15 attendees. The Kwantlen Student Association and the Capilano Students’ Union, the leading schools in the ABCS, were mostly silent on the meeting in social media.

Previous annual general meetings

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Since its inception, the ABCS has been marred with financial issues. The group has not found a workable solution to the year-to-year inconsistency of student organisations, which is evident in the minutes of previous annual general meetings.

Some members expressed concern over the absence of the Langara Student Union and the Royal Roads University Student Association in the list of owed expenses, but these are doubtful accounts as the LSU has not been an active participant, and as the RRUSA does not exist.” – Minutes of the November 15, 2015 annual general meeting of the ABCS

Discussion on CSU and BCITSA will not be able to pay fees as stipulated in the main motion, given that their budget does not align as ABCS’ physical year.“(sic) – Minutes of the January 31, 2015 annual general meeting of the ABCS

The decline of the ABCS is reflected clearly in its annual general meeting minutes, some of which are available on their website. Financial troubles, waffling members of the board of directors, and inactive students’ union members have all contributed to the groups inability to build.

The organization is owed $6,186.46 from a number of student societies, but also owes $10,049.71 to both member student societies and former members. There is $2,027.30 in the account. … The focus, at the present time, should be maintaining enough of a bank balance to “keep the lights on.”” – Minutes of the November 15, 2015 annual general meeting of the ABCS

minister

Though there are motions to adopt campaigns and policy positions in some of the ABCS annual general meeting minutes, there isn’t much to prove this translating to real work for students who pay into the group. While the ABCS held a lobby week in 2016 at the legislature in Victoria, the British Columbia Institute of Technology Student Association and Camosun College Student Society also held a lobby week in the same semester. The biggest lobby victory earned by students in the 2015-2016 academic years was legislation requiring schools to have sexual assault policies, which was nearly single handed the work of the University of Victoria Student Society (who left the ABCS).

Vision 2020

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Although it was announced that the ABCS adopted its Vision 2020 document at the meeting, none of the documents or the Vision itself is available online. The ABCS declined to share the information when asked. The Western Student will provide coverage of Vision 2020 when it is released.

UVSS fires Events and Communications Coordinator

2After a brutal and divisive electoral campaign, the new directors of the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS) took office on May 1st. The new directors, formerly the Encompass UVic electoral slate, have already begun making waves with the established order on campus. At the May 16th meeting, it was announced that Events and Communications Coordinator Seamus Wolfe had been terminated from his employment without discussion of the board of directors.

What time is it Mr. Wolfe?

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Seamus Wolfe was hired on at the UVSS after a long history of involvement in student politics in Ontario. Having been the president of the students’ union at the University of Ottawa, Wolfe had a lot of experience worthy of the position. Wolfe had also been general manager of the graduate students’ union at the University of Ottawa, a staff position responsible for operations.

However, Wolfe’s previous students’ unions and the legacy of his time there stands in stark contrast to the political agenda of Encompass UVic and the new board of directors. While Wolfe was at the University of Ottawa, the students’ union was a very active political group that ran campaigns to drop tuition fees. When Wolfe was president, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa was very active in the Canadian Federation of Students.

This history shined through during Wolfe’s time at the University of Victoria Student Society. Over the last year, the board of directors became (and was criticized for being) involved with the Canadian Federation of Students. Ironically, UVSS director Kenya Rogers, a vocal advocate of Wolfe’s at the May 16th meeting, was herself criticized for getting close the CFS when they stand accused of anti-union activities.

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Dinner time.

Over the history of students’ unions, it is common for staff employees to get fired when a new board of directors get elected. It is also common for elected students to entirely botch staffing changes, whether they are malicious “constructive termination” (bad) or good intention and legitimate layoffs (less bad). The University of Victoria Student Society is a union employer, most of its employees are members of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, meaning Seamus Wolfe will likely have some sort of recourse to get his job back or a settlement.

It is impossible for outsiders to know the intentions of the UVSS board of directors, particularly the portfolio holding executives responsible for terminating Wolfe. At this point, the other members of the UVSS board don’t have the know-how or mettle to challenge the executives, but it is possible. After not ratifying a club (another story, though important for another time) and terminating an employee without consulting the board, the UVSS is opening itself to multiple forms of litigation. More importantly though, any member can petition to hold a general meeting and impeach the board of directors. If they continue as they are, the UVSS will be in for a tumultuous year.

Capilano students head to polls on Students’ Union representatives

On March 15, 16, and 17 students at Capilano University will be able to vote for their representatives at the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU). Several positions have contested elections, giving students at the University a choice of representation in through students’ union.

Issues at stake make a difference to students’ pocketbook

The CSU election has both a direct and indirect impact on students’ pocketbook. Both internal issues at the students’ union and external challenges off campus impact the University community.

Elected representative pay

CSU Vice Presidents make a whopping $1,300 per month on the board of directors. This means that Capilano students pay $62,400 to the four executives alone. All together, the directors of the students’ union make $139,200 combined. Students should be sure they’re happy with what the CSU does for them, or demand more of the students’ union, before and after they go to vote.

Students’ union building

The Capilano Students’ Union is currently in the process of planning for the construction of a student union building on campus. As a part of this process, Stantec Architecture was contracted to develop building plans. Most students on campus now will not be students when the project is completed, but the CSU representatives elected now will have an impact on the end result.

The CSU is planning for the new building despite having a newly renovated student lounge in the Maple building, as well as an existing student union building.

Education issues and tuition

Students at Capilano University rely on the CSU to represent them to the provincial and federal government when it comes to education issues and tuition. Currently, the BC Liberals are being criticized for possibly increasing tuition fees beyond the cap that was in place. If tuition fees go up, it could have a big impact on Capilano students.

The CSU is one of the few students’ unions holding onto hope for the mostly dysfunctional Alliance of British Columbia Students (ABCS), which it help create. Representatives of the CSU have held various positions in the ABCS, but very little about this work is effectively communicated to students. If the ABCS is to continue as a provincial student group, students at Capilano have to choose representatives that are interested and active.

Candidates come from various backgrounds

Vice-President External

Two candidates are running for Vice President External, current Vice President University Relations and Services Sacha Fabry and Kevin Khamseh.

Fabry says this in his candidate statement:

In this role, I’ve been successful in building and maintain good working relationships with all stakeholder groups throughout Capilano University and have used those relationships to further projects that support students. If elected to the position of VP External, I’ll use those skills to leverage government on projects like student housing, support for post-secondary institutions and advocate for student’s interests.

While Fabry touts his relationships and experience, he is currently the Director of Campaigns for the Alliance of British Columbia Students. Despite being on the board of directors of the ABCS, Fabry has been unable to bring stability to that organisation. Membership in the ABCS is shrinking quickly, and if it is to right itself it will need directors who are able to do that. The Campaigns section of the ABCS website only has two old posters and nearly no information. It isn’t just impressive to be a part of a provincial group, CSU representatives have to do something with that opportunity.

1385478_453465644762173_972846406_nimage from the website of the Alliance of British Columbia Students

Unfortunately, Kevin Khamseh did not submit a candidate statement to the CSU. His LinkedIn profile describes him as:

I am an extrovert individual with creative attributes. My core areas of interest are mainly politics and economics. It’s very clear that business and economics, are deeply connected with our environment that we live; in the 21st century. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand that climate change is real and happening. I’m confident that by integrating the two in my future endeavours, I can be an important asset to any business.

Vice President Internal Development

The only other contested executive position on the CSU board of directors is the Vice President Internal Development. Amina Mantari and Farhood Fadaghi are both running to take the position, both with candidate statements available for students to read.

Mantari’s candidate statement suggests a wealth of experience in human resource management:

I have three years of diverse Human Resources experience that spans start-ups and established organizations. I have extensive hands-on experience with accounting and leading HR initiatives, including policy design, compensation, performance management, recruiting, compliance reporting, and HR workflow development. My passions include employing student talent and inspiring students to participate in a vibrant study life where the spirit of diversity can flourish. Currently, I am the president of Capilano HRMA and I’m a BBA candidate majoring in Human Resources.

This is all well and good, but it speaks very little to Mantari’s plans if elected. The opposite is true of Fadaghi, who says:

…plan to address issues that impact students on a regular basis such as the U-Pass, campus wide events and financial aids. Specializing in accounting, coupled with extensive work experience, utilizing the necessary skills in this new work environment will come readily and effortlessly. In addition, I have learned how to manage, lead and evaluate performance measures in order to meet deadlines. Lastly, my ability to plan ahead and tailor make decisions for each matter will surely bring peace of mind to all students, validating the choice they have made.

The U-Pass program is exceptionally important at a commuter campus, and Capilano students rely on it. Electing a representative that is thinking forward about the program means less time training and more time for action on their part.

Faculty representatives, Coordinators, and Liaisons

There are several other contested races for CSU positions representing specific demographics on campus. Students in those programs and constituencies should take the time to see out candidates and ask the their priorities. Even if the position does specifically speak to a given issue, all CSU directors are equally responsible to the students of Capilano University. If you want the CSU to fight for lower tuition fees or better education, demand it of your candidates.

UNBC graduate students vote to join British Columbia Federation of Students

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Graduate students (members of the Northern British Columbia Graduate Student Society [NBCGSS]) have voted to join the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). After about a two week campaign period, graduate students voted in a majority to join the provincial students’ union.

Though small, the Northern British Columbia Graduate Student Society adds an exclusively graduate student voice to the provincial group. Before joining, the BC Federation of Students had graduate student members, but all of those members are represented by students’ unions with both graduate and undergraduate students. The NBCGSS also adds voices from an additional research intensive university.

UNBC graduates spent two years as prospective members of the provincial group before voting to join. During that time they participated in campaigns to improve post-secondary education and various social justice causes. The NBCGSS will now have long-term access to campaigns, services, and organisational resources of a students’ union many multiple times its own size.

UNBC graduate students are the first to join the British Columbia Federation of Students since it changed its name in January 2016. Previously, the BCFS was named Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia. The organisation changed its name as a part of the process to split from the much reviled Canadian Federation of Students based in Ottawa. The vote may indicate a renewed interest in British Columbia students working together through the provincial organisation.

UFV students head to polls in SUS elections

uggStudents 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

Faculty Representatives

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.

Vice-President Internal

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.

Vice-President External

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.

President

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.