The AMS candidates answer The Talon‘s questions

The Talon Collective reached out to the AMS candidates running in the 2015/16 elections to answer questions relating directly to social justice issues on campus. These responses were sent in through an online questionnaire format. The answers sent in below for the various positions are compiled relating to issue and are shared in the words of the participants. Those missing from this article did not respond to The Talon’s request to answer the questionnaire and are therefore not shown in the results.

Thank you to all the candidates who took the time to answer these questions of importance to many students!

Voting takes place at https://amsvoting.as.it.ubc.ca/, and is open until 5:00 PM on Friday March 13.

Cheneil Antony-Hale, President

Please explain your platform.

If elected I will push for legal protection for students in UBC housing, because we are currently not protected under the BC Tenancy Act. Furthermore, I will advocate for increased environmental sustainability within the AMS, as well as an overhaul of the internal AMS structure of the in order to increase responsiveness. I will also lobby for the addition of anti-violence ally training to the current RA sexual assault training, and for greater student control over our fees and university spending, by pushing for more student seats on the Board of Governors. Finally, I will help create a resource group run for, and most importantly by, students with disabilities.

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

Lobbying the Provincial Government for additional seats on the Board of Governors, because as we saw with the passing of the tuition and housing fee increases, despite strong opposition by the student body, students are not being hear, and more student seats on the board of governors would help amplify our voices.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

Aung San Suu Kyi is my role model. She’s been an inspiration in her dedication to peaceful resistance, and her unwavering pursuit of democracy. Also, she’s a boss.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

I support UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

Please explain your position on BDS.

I am incredibly disappointed with the stance the AMS took on BDS. “Anything but yes” completely diverges from the basic principle of being a student union. If you represent the student body you must represent all students. This means that the AMS should have taken a neutral stance, and let the students decide through a referendum.

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

I support the I Am A Student movement, because it provided a medium for
students to voice their discontent in regards to not being properly
consulted by the university on the tuition and housing fee increases. I
chose to continue their fight but addressing housing and tuition in my
platform.

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

I attended numerous protests, and interviewed a member of the IAAS movement, Marina Classen, on the Feminist Club Youtube channel in order to try and help spread the word, and provide students with a more detailed look into the motives behind this movement.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

A safe(r) space means practicing empathy. It means listening, being open minded, and supportive of others and their experiences. It means recognizing your own privilege, and not invalidating others.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

In order to create a safer space you have to be an active listener, and be willing to enact changes within yourself and the structure of the AMS.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

Accessible education means having your tuition and housing fees not take up your entire paycheque if you’re working full-time on minimum wage. Accessible education would mean lectures being filmed and posted online with subtitles for those who need them.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

I will lobby the provincial government for more student seats on the board of governors, so that we can have more control over our fees and university spending. I will also help create a resource centre for students with disabilities, so that they can implement whatever programs they feel would be necessary for campus to be more accessible.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

Having spoken to a few indigenous students, it has been brought to my attention that the funding cap placed on first nations students’ post-secondary education makes attending university a lot more difficult than it should be. I would like to work with the diverse indigenous communities in order to address this issue, as well as whatever others they may have.

Margareta Dovgal, Senate

Please explain your platform.

I want to push for earlier access to learning outcomes (grading breakdowns) so students planning enrollment can make informed decisions for time management, and ultimately reduce their stress. UBC PAIR also needs an overhaul, and while that’s not explicitly in a student Senator’s mandate, I would make the necessary connections with the necessary people to make that a reality.

I want to advocate for students in debt, by getting the Student Awards Committee to consider existing debt as a criteria in more scholarships and bursaries. As well, I’ve heard a lot about the drawbacks of exchange, regarding credit transferability, and I would do what was needed to steer conversation towards solving this problem to prevent academic losses being incurred from an experience meant to enrich.

I care a lot about mental health too, and my chosen approach is tackling the academic conditions that contribute to stress. There are a myriad of complementary approaches, such as improving mental health resources via funding and policymaking to address systemic deficits in terms of accommodation; I support and understand both, however, I think tackling academic environment is both something important now and something I am equipped to tackle.

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

I’m a scholarship recipient and that is how I can afford to study at UBC. I wish that my indebted peers, both continuing and incoming transfer students, would have less to keep them from gaining maximum enrichment from their studies. I love the opportunities to learn about anything and everything, and to critically engage with a breadth of human knowledge. Being in debt is awful; it negatively affects the student experience, reducing students’ appreciation when learning should be legitimately satisfying, not just beneficial for acquiring careers. If UBC awards prioritized alleviation of debt, not only financial need after maximum loan coverage, students in debt would have less [-$$$] to worry about. And though this is the policy which I would like to focus on most, the following is something I would pursue as part of the same initiative.

For incoming students, financial difficulties need to be considered in terms of their impact on accomplishment and involvement. In high school, I had to quit debate and Model UN so I could start a second part-time job to afford groceries. Some of my peers had it worse earlier, never getting the chance to get involved in (often pricey) personal profile (remember that fun thing a lot of us filled out in our UBC applications?) boosters, and their grades suffered too. Broad-based admission is good to some extent, but it has it flaws and those need attention.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

Poverty is the largest barrier to education. Often the worries associated with poverty prevent academic accomplishment or significantly hinder the pursuit of extracurricular activities. I hope you agree that financial inaccessibility for those most in need is the one of the biggest social justice issues at UBC.

Furthermore, my past year as the AMS Equity Commissioner entailed applying my foundational knowledge of accommodating differences in ability to thoroughly familiarizing myself with relevant policy solutions. Anti-oppression, for me at least, includes a few more essential topics: race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender (especially gender variance), and religion. The Talon is probably the last publication I should have to explain how I break down these categories, but suffice to say, I’ve dedicated a lot of my personal and professional work to combating oppression in all of these categories and more. Some more is explained further below. I remain constantly cognizant of my privileges and I will value my anti-oppressive structural training until the day I drop off the face of this earth.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

As much as I worship Ayn Rand (is it sarcasm, is it not? will we ever know?), my latest political role model is Empress Wu Zetian, who ruled China in the 7th century during the Tang (well technically, even though she was preceded and succeeded by the Tang, she dissolved the dynasty to create her own for her lifetime). She took power in a time where women had really limited legal and civil rights, improved women’s situation, and expanded the civil service exams to allow commoners to enter the bureaucracy, which was a totally revolutionary thing. Basically, I’m an Asian Studies geek.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

I don’t personally support divestment at UBC, though I respect that it has been passed and that an overwhelming majority of UBC students want this. My concerns are mainly that UBC may incur an unacceptable financial loss for a symbolic gesture. I recognize the environmental repercussions of fossil fuels but I don’t think UBC’s divestment would make enough of an impact to justify the potential costs to us (financially and in terms of a loss of alumni support in resource industries).

Please explain your position on BDS.

I am against the massive injustices committed against the Palestinian people, and I am against the perpetuation of conflict by violent means (i.e. Hamas). I support BDS, primarily though in the context against those who perpetuate the violation of international law. Israel is a state, even if its origins are through colonial intervention, and many have made it their home, seeking respite from anti-Semitism all over the world, like Europe and the parts of the Middle East. Though I recognize the historical and contemporary reasons for Israel’s creation, I believe they do not justify the systematic disenfranchisement of Palestinians that continues to occur, however unintended it may be by the majority of Israelis. Dialogue is good, peace is good, but the issue is one of overwhelming imbalances in power and wealth. “Peaceful dialogue”, when your home can be steamrolled anytime, is not peaceful nor dialogue at all.

Also, Judith Butler says it best, even if I don’t go so far as to challenge Israel’s right to exist:

“A challenge to the right of Israel to exist can be construed as a challenge to the existence of the Jewish people only if one believes that Israel alone keeps the Jewish people alive or that all Jews invest their sense of perpetuity in the state of Israel in its current or traditional forms.
Butler, Judith. ”No, it’s not anti-semitic.” in: London Review of Books. Vol. 25, No. 16, August 21, 2003. (English).

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

I think feeling frustrated by insufficient consultation is right. I think it’s all too bad that [middle-class] young people, from all over the globe, may not be able to afford to go here. But, I did not get involved because I think directing ire at the university is counterproductive. I think the energy produced getting angry over an issue takes away from energy better spent looking for solutions.

I don’t think anger is the appropriate, or strategically beneficial, response, but that is not to say that I am unaffected by the broader affordability debate or that I support international students paying more. I have no financial support from my family. I sympathize with students who may have wished to come to UBC, but now that 10% increase is changing their plans. Ultimately, I acknowledge the very real concerns that the campaign has brought up, but I reject the method.

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

None. I tend to stay away from Twitter; it quickly degenerates into [well-intentioned but tactless] pettiness. #YesImJoking #NoIDoRealizeThatTheHashtagDoesntEqualTwitter

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

Safe spaces are those where marginalized people can know they are going to be treated with respect. They require the education of those within them, visitors and custodians alike.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

I really like what the Positive Space campaign has done for the campus, by creating a voluntary training module to walk people through understanding the needs of the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex, to use a more international acronym) people.

I think every professor on campus needs access to resources on supporting marginalized students, being an active bystander, and preventing discrimination in the classroom. I’ve been involved with a few initiatives at UBC Equity & Inclusion to review the training matrix for gaps and develop tools for instructors (such as a resource guide for professors and staff on gender diversity). I would like to continue in a similar line of work next year, and if elected on Senate, I would continue applying my equity training to all I do.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

I’ve discussed the financial aspect above, and while that is important too, when I think accessibility, I think of the question “Are we doing enough?”. Institutions have obligations to be inclusive and to lead the charge in spotting gaps in their performance. It should not be up to those who are marginalized to be the only ones speaking. The responsibility of any good institution is to recognize and fix accessibility concerns. I think UBC generally does a pretty good job, but there’s a lot that needs work still, such as the formation of a Task Force to examine the barriers facing those who are trans* and gender variant.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

I want to think that in the last year I’ve done enough my advising lobbying and pushing for a lot of important stuff internally, but it’s not enough. And it won’t be enough until equity education gains critical momentum in society. Until then, I’ll be fighting for that. I care about making sure that student’s needs do not go unheard, especially, particularly, most importantly when these students are experiencing marginalization due to something UBC is not addressing.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

The 2014 Implementation Report for the Aboriginal Strategic Plan covers all of the general points I care about in making campus better for and better with the help of Indigenous communities.

Regarding what I can do on Senate, I will always support and vote yes on initiatives created or endorsed by Indigenous communities on-campus. One idea I’ve seen floated around is to ensure that all undergraduate students take at least one course to broaden their knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and I’d love to work on making this a reality.

I appreciate the wording of the question; if there’s any place my settler privilege needs to take a backseat, it’s most suitable when it comes to the empowerment of Indigenous students and scholars. The best way to help is to listen, and when my skills/vote/support are called for, I will do all I can.

Janzen Lee, VP External

Please explain your platform.

My goal is a more informed, interested, and involved student body and a better deal for students. If elected, there are a number of things I would like to accomplish with the office of VP External.

Platform:
* First and foremost, I want to increase transparency among students. They should know what the office is up to.
* I want to establish a weekly blog that all students can follow, updating on my regular progress.
* I want to participate in active dialogues with federal candidates during the upcoming election to ensure a better deal for students.
* I aim to reduce off-campus housing costs to allow commuters a shorter journey to school.
* I will work for changes to the Student Loans Program, making them more accessible.
* I will continue to support transit expansion to the university and fight to keep the U-Pass system.

My campaign is based on difference.
Difference from the trend of an uncontested office.
Difference from an uninformed, uninterested, and uninvolved student population.
Difference from a disconnected external office with the aim of achieving goals YOU want.
Difference from an unengaging and boring AMS.

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

Above all, my biggest priority is better engaging students. It’s what motivated me to run for the office and what I will aim to fix if elected. This is because I feel like the external office has become irrelevant to many students who are unaware or unconcerned with what the office is doing.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

I bring an outside perspective to the AMS. I feel like there are many ways in which the AMS can better be a part of the lives of the tens of thousands of students it represents. There are many clubs, cliques, and communities at UBC and I feel it needs to reach out to all of them.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

I believe it a priority to fight for more funding via lobbying of the provincial government. I aim to rectify the cuts made by the province under the tenure of the current external administration which was the direct cause of the tuition increases imposed upon students by the university.

Ava Nasiri, VP Admin

Please explain your platform.

For the past 10 years, the office of the VP Admin has been split between supporting clubs and the different stages of building students a new SUB. My platform this year outlines exactly how I plan on doing a better job of engaging the 50,000 student population on campus now that there is breathing room in the position.

By improving communications with clubs through Orgsync (a clubs management software project we started this year) we can better engage student groups on campus with relevant issues. By supporting and empowering student groups to have better outreach to the uninvolved population, we can do a better job of engaging the student population as a whole.

My actual platform can be found here (not a shameless plug, but here in case you actually wanted my platform points in this answer and not an explanation of them).

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

The position of VP Admin would be more focused on engaging students with policies rather than a specific policy to work on. I would be pretty interested in the tuition policy because i feel like that storm isn’t over yet though.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

The structure that I plan to create within the AMS as it relates to student groups would allow for increased engagement of the student population with equity and social justice issues through education of club executives in ways that we have not done before through workshops and a re-vamped club executive orientation.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

I have yet to come across the perfect political figure to idolize. Fawzia Koofi is pretty cool though (and quite the badass).

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

UBCC350 did an incredible job and continues to do so. The campaign period last year was very strongly run and it’s great to see the group continue to booth at the SUB every once in a while.

Please explain your position on BDS.

The role of the VP Admin is to support and assist the goals and ambitions of all student groups on campus, especially clubs of the AMS. Although I have a personal opinion on BDS, I feel that it would be very inappropriate for me to share that on any public platform as that would alienate at least one side of the issue and cause them to feel less comfortable coming to me or SAC for support and conflict resolution.

If you really would like to know my personal opinion, I’d be happy to sit down for tea and chat in person!

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

Isolating the unacceptable conditions and actions of the Administration on campus that caused the coming together of #IAmAStudent, it was incredible to see students on campus come together as they did

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

I find it hard to place a label on my involvement in #IAmAStudent. I was in attendance for a healthy portion of the meetings at the inception of the collective. I assisted with logistics/coordination of the General Assembly, creation of the structure of an online document to organize posters/boothing (can be found here), attendance and assistance with coordination of the initial protests and activity in the Facebook chats. Unfortunately work and school prevented meaningful involvement at the level of my involvement in first term in second term.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

A space where any and all individuals feel safe and comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions without fear for their physical or emotional safety.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

I will offer regular workshops open to all student groups in collaboration with the UBC equity office and CSI to increase awareness and develop skills in student leaders to actively create and maintain safe(r) spaces to be run out of the Clubs Resource and Sustainability Centre in the AMS student nest.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

A world in which the UBC bursary doesn’t require students to be diving headfirst into debt on student loans to access financial support. A world in which UBC Administration places pressure on the government and not students about their funding cuts.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

By empowering clubs to increase their outreach and improving the ability of the AMS to communicate issues surrounding university affairs and civic engagement, I hope to be able to allow the AMS to really have a strong percentage of the student body engaged and aware of issues so that next time there is a protest on tuition hikes, there will be a healthy population of students and clubs engaged, even more so than is the current state.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

I plan to bring together a committee of individuals from the First Nation Studies Students Association, the AMS Aboriginal commissioner, the UBC Longhouse and any other relevant organizations to take the work done in the office of the VP Academic and highlight ways that we can increase outreach and engagement with the student body. An example of an outcome of the committee may be a meaningful segment on acknowledgement of land incorporated into club executive orientations in order to further increase awareness of the land on which we study.

William Pigott, VP Finance

Please explain your platform.

I have a 3 prong platform focusing on communication, providing value to students, and advancing the AMS’s financial policy.

Communication
The AMS needs better communication between students, staff, and the Society’s leadership on financial issues. The AMS needs a shift from reactive to proactive approaches to financial issues, and this begins with an informed Council and student body.

Value for Students
Students deserve accountability in how their fees are spent—so that they can be confident that what they receive is worth each dollar that they pay in.

Advancing the AMS
The AMS needs to be more effective in what it does to support the student experience.

For more detailed information please visit votepigott.ca or please feel free to contact me (will.pigott@gmail.com) if you would like to chat.

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

Seeing as I’m coming from a constituency one of my most frequent interactions with the AMS is getting reimbursements, and the system in place currently is archaic and painfully slow, that’s why implementing an Electronic Reimbursement System will be my priority.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

Speaking honestly my platform centres around modernizing the AMS’s finances and I wouldn’t describe my plans as anti-oppressive. That being said communication with all stakeholders is very important for me because I want to empower all members of the AMS to get informed on it’s finances so they don’t feel uninformed or ignored when they are expected to make decisions on our society’s finances.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

My political role model is Bob Rae, he shook up politics in my home province of Ontario by forming the first ever NDP government east of Manitoba. His work ethic as a politician is what true impressed me, he has always been an exceptionally honest and hardworking politician both at the provincial and federal level. The fact that once he left politics he didn’t transition into a cushy private sector job but went to fight for First Nations groups that were being marginalized in areas of significant natural resource development, fighting for those who too often get pushed around, is why Bob Rae should be a role model for all those leaving politics in this country.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

I believe divestment forces our community to ask difficult questions and I do have a mix of agreement and disagreement with it. The idea of divestment from fossil fuels is simply a starting point, I believe in an overall “social investing” policy, where UBC invests in socially responsible companies across its entire portfolio. This idea does run into problems with divestment because I am of the opinion that the oil industry isn’t going away so I feel that there may be a point in the future where UBC could invest in fossil fuel extraction companies that are leading the charge towards cleaning up the extraction process. If the oil industry isn’t going away we should be open to encouraging companies, through investment, that are leading a positive change in the industry.

Please explain your position on BDS.

To be honest, I don’t believe the AMS should be involved in foreign issues, the AMS’s priorities should be issues at the UBC community, municipal, provincial, and federal level, in that order. I am a firm believer in a two-state solution for the region but I am afraid of the issues, including violence and hate coming from both sides, that arose with BDS referendums at other universities coming to our campus. The AMS should be facilitating the UBC community coming together not fracturing if we want to make sure UBC is a safe space for all people.

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

#IAmAStudent is asking the tough questions but fighting UBC over tuition fees is fighting a single symptom. UBC raising tuition is a reaction to the chronic underfunding of post-secondary schools from the government. All students should be putting pressure on the government to increase funding to our schools. Unfortunately not enough young people vote, so the politicians keep ignoring us. I truly hope that young people show up in the masses during the next federal election so politicians are forced to stop ignoring our issues. Having spent 6 months living in Denmark last year I’ve seen what a society with free domestic tuition looks like and though it would be a long term implementation I believe it is possible with the right political will. To wrap it up #IAmAStudent should look to apply pressure on the provincial government because they fund UBC, and work with students across Canada to pressure the federal government to make increasing post-secondary school funding a national priority.

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

I haven’t had a role within #IAmAStudent but I did have one interaction with them after the AMS AGM where I voiced my concern over someone who I believe was a member of the #IAmAStudent movement “calling the question” on a motion when there was still a number of people in line to speak. I personally did not believe in that action because we should never have a situation that stops students who want to speak from speaking.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

For me there is two main forms of safe space, feeling physically safe in your environment, and feeling safe to express yourself and hold your own opinion.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

When I think honestly about what I want to accomplish as VP Finance in terms of refreshing the AMS’s financial policies, I probably won’t have time to spearhead new safe space creation myself but I want to work to support the other executives with their plans for the creation of safe spaces on campus. Though realistically not being able to spearhead the creation of safe spaces, I still want to make sure that probably the most important service the AMS provides (in my opinion), Safewalk, has all the resources it needs to provide for anyone who ever needs them.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

I like to think of accessible education as there being no unfair barriers that would be stop an individual from attending our university, this ranges from physical barriers, to financial barriers, to mental barriers.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

In my opinion the two most prominent barriers to accessible education at UBC are the financial barriers and mental barriers. With the international tuition increase there are some individuals that can afford the higher tuition but there is probably more people who can’t, so I believe that UBC needs to increase its financial aid if it insists on increasing tuition. In the coming year UBC is planning to revise its financial aid policies and I think it’s extremely important that the AMS participate in this revision process, with all the executives engaging with UBC during this process. With all the executives engaged in the discussion our voices can be louder but all the executives also have specific expertise to bring to the table. Personally I would work on the numbers side of the discussion to make sure UBC is properly funding its financial aid system. To ensure that UBC students don’t face mental barriers to education the AMS needs to prioritize mental health initiatives and pressure the university to do more from their side about the mental health of students.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

I believe that the peer mentorship program in the Ch’nook program at the Sauder School of Business is an extremely beneficial resource for nearby indigenous communities and Aboriginal students. The program pairs a Ch’nook student with a Sauder B.Com. student in a peer-2-peer mentor relationship. This program’s success should be emulated and built into a campus wide program across multiple faculties, and it would be a priority for me lay the groundwork for that to happen.

Ian Sapollnik, Senate

Please explain your platform.

My platform focuses on increasing communication and accountability from Student Senators, giving students more control over their academic pursuits, and creating a more efficient and unified Student Senate Caucus.
I want to accomplish the first by creating better means of communication between Student Senators and the student body and by creating more transparency in the Senate and its committees.
I will work to give students more academic control by creating student representation in curriculum committees, improving research opportunities for students, expanding on the current scholarship program at UBC to match other top Canadian universities, and improving the publication of course evaluations.
Finally, I will cooperate and compromise with other Student Senators to create a Caucus that is unified around common goals, and therefore a more effective voice for the students in the Senate.
My full, more comprehensive, platform can be seen here.

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

Proper communication with and representation of the student body. My biggest priority is not necessarily what I personally want to do for UBC, but rather what the students want me to do.
At the moment, the amount of communication between Student Senators and students is simply inadequate. Student Senator updates and contact information are either non-existent or hard to find. There is no encouragement for students to find out about the Senate or contribute their ideas.
As a Senator, I want to establish strong means of communication between the Senate and the students through campus-wide emails at the beginning of the year, publishing regular updates from the Student Senate Caucus, holding Senator office hours and providing easy means for students to voice their academic concerns to the Senate.
Until this is done, Student Senators cannot truly claim to represent the entirety of the student body in the Senate.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

By empowering students to take control over their own education and ensuring that all students are able to communicate their opinions on academic matters, my platform is inherently anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

It is difficult to pick one, but Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Lester B. Pearson is one of my major inspirations. Pearson’s importance to Canadian history comes from his large role in resolving the Suez Crisis, as well as the introduction of student loans, universal health care and pension plans in Canada. I admire Pearson’s commitment to peace and equality for all members of society.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

The choice between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability is a false one. With the strength and capabilities of modern technology, there is no reason for environmentally damaging energy production to still exist and be as widespread as it is. I support UBCC350’s campaign for divestment, as it is an important step towards increasing UBC’s role in environmental protection and sustainability.

Please explain your position on BDS.

The political situation in the Middle East is a very complicated one. I am both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli; I want what is best for both communities and countries, and I see no valid reason why anyone would want anything contrary. The political tensions and complexities exist because neither side behaves perfectly and both have often acted against peace and cooperation.
The goal of any movement relating to the Middle East should be to bring peace, unity and prosperity to the people living there. To blame one side for the issues at hand and to attempt to punish and alienate that side for their supposed faults is an ill-considered and anti-progressive stance.
Both Israel and Palestine can and should do more to create peace.
The BDS movement unfairly places Israel as a scapegoat for the Middle East conflict. It promotes fear, hate and intolerance, rather than cooperation, unity and communication. Rather than building a supportive community between Israeli and Palestinian people, it creates division and prevents reconciliation.
I therefore do not support the BDS movement at UBC at all. I do not feel that the movement is in accordance with AMS, UBC or Canadian values. BDS is not a progressive solution to anyone’s concerns, but rather a one-sided, hateful campaign.

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

I oppose any measure that prevents accessibility and affordability for students at UBC. I am therefore in favour of #IAmAStudent’s campaign against the large increases to housing and tuition.

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

I have been very vocally supportive of the #IAmAStudent movement, but I have not directly participated in it.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

A safe or safer space is one in which all individuals feel comfortable with their identity and self-expression, and are not discriminated based on, but not limited to, the factors outlined in Section Fifteen of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

The Senate, as a body that focuses primarily on academic matters, is limited in its ability to influence physical safety on campus. I do and will, however, support measures to improve emotional safety in terms of mental health, as well as the safety of freedom of expression.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

Accessibility in education means enabling capable students to attend UBC without a strong financial strain, and allowing all students at UBC to receive a high quality of education, with necessary accommodations made for students that require them.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

Creating student representation in curriculum committees, increasing access to scholarships, improving the methods of publication of course evaluations, and supporting mental health initiatives will make education much more accessible at UBC.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

I support the improvement and development of more First Nations and Indigenous courses at UBC, in order to increase awareness of the issues surrounding these communities. I also would like to increase accessibility for First Nations students to attend the University.

Julie Van de Valk, Board of Governors

Please explain your platform.

I’m running for Board of Governors to represent students at the core of decision making at the University. The University Act gives the Board of Governors the mandate to ‘act in the best interests of the University.’ To me, the best interests of the University are those that support the students as the main priority. There are many things that I would do to represent and engage with students, but my focus will be on the following points:
>Returning student priorities to the core of decision making on the BoG
>Advocating against tuition increases and for accessible education
>Honouring faculty and student referendums on Fossil Fuel divestment
>Working towards improvements in the consultation policy (policy 71)
>Examining the potential for protecting resident’s rights in UBC housing through a version of the Residential Tenancy Act
>Engaging with a diverse group of students to ensure I represent their views to the best of my abilities

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

Above all, my priority would be to return student priorities to the core of decision making on the BoG. This would be my priority because it applies to all other decision and stances that I would take. This University is about students, and all decisions need to be made with consideration of this.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

When I talk about ‘students’ in my platform, I mean all students. I value equally the opinion of all students regardless of their privilege, gender, abilities, background, culture, sexuality, religion, race, or any of the other wonderful, defining characteristics that make each one of us unique. As a representative of all students on the Board of Governors, I would ensure to consider the needs of a diverse group of students, including those who do not identify with existing structures of student representation. My platform points of accessible education and housing rights will directly work to make UBC more accessible, and my focus on consultation will work to improve the representation of students. I will strive to be an accessible, approachable student representative on BoG, opening up UBC’s Board of Governors to ALL students.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

Elizabeth May is my political role model. She advocates effectively for her constituents, is a courageous leader, an intelligent individual, and contributes towards positive change.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

I am in full support of UBCC350’s divestment campaign. Working on the campaign for the past three years, I have been heavily involved in the conversations on campus about Fossil Fuel divestment. Through those conversations, and based on the results of the Student and Faculty referendums, I believe ample support has been shown for Divestment on campus. Research has shown that divestment of UBC’s Endowment would be in line with their fiduciary duty, and protect UBC from potential carbon risk. Divestment would also, most importantly, be a strong indication that it is unconscionable to profit off of the wreckage of the climate, and that limiting carbon emissions is a priority. As a student representative on BoG I would advocate for fossil fuel divestment of the endowment.

Please explain your position on BDS.

The full implications of economic sanctions would have to be seriously considered, as well as the role that Israeli BDS could potentially play. I do not condone Palestinian oppression and occupation through the many indisputable illegal actions taken by Israel, but I am not sure that further economic polarization is the best way to address the larger issue, although its political value is not to be discounted. Regardless, I am pleased that this discussion is happening on campus, and I think this referendum is a great chance for UBC students to learn, challenge their assumptions, consider other perspectives and engage in their world. I hope that the discussion continues in a way in which all students feel welcome to participate, and unoppressed. In my role as a student representative on BOG, I would respect and represent the outcome of the student vote.

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

I am in support of the goals of the #IAmAStudent movement. I firmly believe that education is a right, and that barriers to this right must be challenged. I believe that it is the role of student representatives to support, engage with and advocate for students. My platform of returning students to the centre of decision making and advocating against tuition increases is in line with the #IAmAStudent goals.

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

I was a participant in several of the protests, etc., that were organized by the movement. My organizing around the faculty vote on Divestment prohibited my extensive involvement in the #IAmAStudent movement, but I am a strong supporter of the quest to make education more accessible.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

To me, a safe(r) space means a space where everyone is welcomed, valued and feels comfortable, accepted and is able to fully self-express. It is a space where all individuals are respected and comfortable.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

In all that I personally do, I will strive to create a safe space through being accessible and receptive to all students. In my role on the Board of Governors, I will work to open this level of leadership to students on campus, and ensure that all students are represented equitably to the Board.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

To me, accessible education means learning available to all without barriers. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, and have a diversity of characteristics, abilities and resources. The past or present situation of a student should not impact their ability to access knowledge.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

At UBC, in my role on the Board of Governors, I will work to remove barriers from learning for all students. I will do this through advocating against tuition fee increases. Also, as other issues and decisions come up at the board, I will prioritize the removal of barriers for all students.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

Campus is located on the unceeded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people, and I believe that a respect and consideration of this is paramount for all students. As we are guests on this land, it is our responsibility to work with the Indigenous communities in all that we do. I will ensure to connect to the First Nations students on campus, and ensure that they know I am an accessible advocate for them. Work can be done with both on- and off- campus Indigenous communities to help create a culture of understanding and awareness amongst students of Indigenous culture and their historical and ongoing oppression.

Viet Vu, Senate

Please explain your platform.

3 main points:

1 – Learning Technologies: push for greater integration of technology in the teaching and learning process of the university, especially on how it affects students, accessibility to education and also to faculty members.

2 – Mental Health – it’s an issue that I struggled with myself personally and something that the university can do more to both increase the amount of resources on short term relief and long term capacity building of the community.

3 – Legacy projects – it will also be an honour to work on and complete legacy projects that many senators before as well as the VP Academics office has worked on including exam database, midterm evaluation of teaching, course syllabus changes and others.

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

My biggest priority will concern the first point. Technology is fascinating and there are a lot of good that can be done. But a serious framework must be developed on how we use these technologies in the most effective way. Once we are able to establish it, many direct (and indirect) position changes can take place including opening up education to many that may not have the opportunity to participate in it.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

A big issue in technology in learning and teaching is how we can make it accessible to all students, not just students who have the physical (and/or mental) capability to operate the technology. If done right, it will go towards enhancing accessibility of education (through massive open online courses, accessibility technologies that allow for note taking, a fair grading system…)

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

I usually don’t like having political figures as my role model but if I have to choose anyone, it would be Kofi Annan. His work on conflict resolution has been amazing even after his appointment as the Secretary General of the UN ended.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

I support Divestment on principle and I agree it has value. That said, the main question I’m still trying to explore is if we can spend the resources we’re spending on pushing divestment is the best way to spend those resources.

Please explain your position on BDS.

My position is going to be as follows: It is not in my place to talk about BDS. Even though I do have some background knowledge, even though I have heard stories from many sides, it’s not something that I feel I can push a judgement on either side of the conversation. It wouldn’t be appropriate and fair to either side.

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

I am a student was great in terms of pushing the idea about tuition increases and attracting conversations about fee increases. I believe it wasn’t effective in addressing the fee increases itself though.

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

I was a critic of some (not all) parts of the movement, especially questioning its effectiveness in negotiating and working with the university.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

Safe space means a space where all parties in that space has an intrinsic sense of trust that they are not to be harmed or judge regardless of what their opinion is.

Safe space is a place where even when an unpopular opinion (or, in some cases, wrong) opinions can be given without the person’s character being challenged.

Safe space is a place where everyone’s objective is to learn and share and a place where people are comfortable sharing ANY idea that they have.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

This goes back to the second platform point I raised in terms of improving the capacity within UBC to aid students going through mental health. The indirect effect of this is to create a campus culture where people can leave their title and creed behind in a discussion (Acumen+ Salon is a good example of this.)

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

Accessible education means the ability for everyone to gain and share knowledge. Education is also accessible when those same people have the platform to discuss what they have learnt in a safe place.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

Directly advocating for responsible and effective technology use in the learning and teaching process. If successful, this will enhance the accessibility of education to many physically less-abled persons as well as those who have financial or geographical constraints.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

Indigenous community is and has always been a topic I can only continue learning. I’m a visitor to this land, especially as I only came to this land three years ago. I hope to be able to learn more and more about this issue through interacting with indigenous communities.

Hannah Xiao, Senate

Please explain your platform.

I am passionate about having student opinions heard and actions taken. I plan to implement events where senators are accessible and can interact with students. My goal is for the Senate to create a great rapport with students.

My platform includes:
– Listening to issues and concerns of students and creating connections
– Increasing senate communication to the student body, including more information available online
– Access to course syllabi and exam dates prior to registration
– Supporting holistic approaches to teaching and learning
– Increasing student input in policy development
– Advocating for issues concerning the student body

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

My biggest priority would be for students to have a greater access to information, regarding both senate developments, and course information, so that students can have a greater input.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

More access for information.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

I admire Obama – not because he made history, but because he challenged precedence and conquered issues people were concerned with, with respect and grace.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

I support it; sustainability is essential. I have worked with the many sustainability projects in the past, including the Environmental Youth Alliance, and I believe that environmentalism is not a movement, but a way of life.

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

Students have a right to have a say in their education and should be consulted on ALL matters pertaining to it.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

A safe place is a place in which I do not feel threatened and am not weary of my surroundings.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

All spaces on campus should be considered safe. Awareness is key for spaces to be safer; I believe that promoting that abuse is not tolerated and advocating for individuals to feel safe is essential.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

Accessible education is available to people who desire it despite racial/ethnic, economic, backgrounds, or sexual orientation.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

Increase bursaries available to students and awards to those who require them. Promote diversity acceptance.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

I went to an elementary school with a great percentage of Indigenous people, and I believe that treating them as equals (because they are) and being more inclusive will make the campus a better place. This difference in titles that we give people are unnecessary because everyone should have the opportunities to do the same things regardless of their background.

Eric Zhao, Senate

Please explain your platform.

My platform is centred upon fostering a student-first campus, which fosters learning, opportunity, and wellbeing. These are all student-led initiatives which I have had substantial involvement in this year and plan to champion in the upcoming term.

These fall into three key areas: (1) experiential learning, (2) mental health & wellbeing, and (3) student rights. I am well positioned to engage in each of these areas through my current involvement as (1) vice chair of the Senate Teaching & Learning Committee, (2) Chair of the SSC Mental Health Working Group, and (3) a member of the Senate Appeals Committees respectively.

Above all, which policy would be your biggest priority if elected and why?

My biggest priority is to establish University acknowledgement of Student Rights, because this is my most broad-reaching project and a substantial impact on future student advocacy. Establishing a Charter of Student Rights at UBC would ensure that these rights are protected and that new policy is considered in light of its effect on student rights.

If applicable, please explain how your platform fits into the anti-oppressive frameworks we centre at The Talon.

Ensuring individual freedoms is central to maintaining an anti-oppressive society. Formal establishment of student rights and responsibilities will help to ensure that these freedoms are protected. Passing a Charter of Student Rights would serve as UBC’s acknowledgement of the importance of such freedoms.

In 1-3 sentences, what political figure is your role model and why?

In the chilly climate of American healthcare politics, I admire Nancy Pelosi’s work on health reform. I strive to bring her degree of daring, personality, and wit when I engage in discussions at the provincial legislature on health-related issues here at home.

Please explain your position on UBCC350’s divestment campaign.

Although this is not strictly a Senate issue, I am generally in support of policy which decreases UBC’s dependence on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources. As an academic institution, I hope to see UBC take leadership on sustainability. From a Senate perspective, I am in full support of the development of sustainability-related academic policies, programs, funding, and research innovation.

Please explain your position on BDS.

I generally support any stance which prefers peaceful resolution over war. I also support greater understanding of Middle Eastern issues, and participated in advocacy for a Middle Eastern studies minor program at UBC. It is always a difficult decision for student unions to decide whether or not to support politically charged movements such as BDS. It is unclear whether this movement contributes positively to reasoned understanding of the Middle East, and I am concerned that if a student government were to promote BDS, it would alienate a significant portion of the students it seeks to represent.

Please explain your position on #IAmAStudent.

Higher education should not be a privilege. Unfair tuition and campus housing prices commoditize education and contribute to socioeconomic disparity. I believe that an educated populus which best represents the community will best serve the community, and not only its own needs. I also believe that a diverse student body benefits all students who are a part of it. I therefore feel that unfair tuition and housing prices set up a barrier to education which harms our education, our society, and our core values as Canadians.

What role, if any, did you play in #IAmAStudent?

I helped to promote the AGM where the AMS voted to take an official stance on tuition increases through social media.

What does safe(r) space mean to you?

To me, a safe space is not simply a space free of imminent threat. Safety means a space where one can expect to be free from discrimination, judgement, and prejudice.

What will you do to create safe(r) spaces on campus?

The start of my Senate term this year was marked by taking part in a meeting to give feedback on the recommendations drafted by the President’s Task Force on Gender Based Violence and Aboriginal Stereotypes. This sparked in me an immediate interest in working towards a safer campus.

I quickly found that pre-recorded Translink announcements playing a computerized “Call Safewalk” announcement was not the answer. Instead, it is important to establish a campus culture that does not tolerate physical, sexual, and emotional harassment.

As a student senator, I will support the advocacy activities of the Student Senate Caucus Working Group on Intercultural Understanding. One initiative I am in support of is establishing a require equity elective, drawn from a list of courses which can help to instill an understanding in these critical topics. This, of course, is just a first step. It is my hope that we can turn past mistakes into tomorrow’s opportunities for learning.

What does “accessible education” mean to you?

Accessible education means education which is equally obtainable by all, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, age, race, creed, ability/disability, or sexuality. It means the right to a space to learn free of discrimination, bullying, and harassment.

What will you do to make education more accessible at UBC?

On Senate, I will provide support to my colleagues on the Intercultural Understanding SSC Working Group and ensure that the student perspective is well voiced on issues surrounding campus safety, bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

In addition, I will work towards my platform of establishing a Charter of Student Rights and help inform students of their rights and responsibilities as students and citizens.

How will you work with the on- and off-campus Indigenous communities to make campus a better place?

As a proud Canadian, I am pleased that the Talon goes the extra mile to acknowledge that they write and publish on unceded territory. I learned this year that there are campuses where such acknowledgements are not the norm, and even discouraged. Campuses where students cannot get approval to fly an aboriginal flag on National Aboriginal Day.

I have been the beneficiary of many lessons from the First Nations peoples. Last year, I attended numerous Truth and Reconciliation events including the Walk for Reconciliation in September 2013. Under the pouring rain, I was touched by the fervent support shown by all those who walked alongside me.

As a senator I support promoting a deeper understanding of aboriginal culture and traditions through education. I believe that a true understanding of any peoples builds respect, trust, and celebration of that peoples.