The Board of Governors is the highest decision making body at the University of Alberta and votes on issues including domestic and international student tuition, residence rent and meal plan rates, and the university’s budget. Only three students sit on the board: the Students’ Union president, the president of the Graduate Students’ Association, and the Board of Governors Representative. While it’s not an executive position, and is unpaid, the representative goes through the same electoral process as the president and vice-presidents. They also sit on Students’ Council.
An optimistic Board of Governors (BoG) Representative candidate with the sole interest of reducing tuition costs for students might just mean that we will be in good hands.
At all the forums, sole BoG candidate Rowan Ley has argued that what’s good for students is good for the university. This prioritizes the students’ needs, which, at the end, are the university’s needs.
Ley’s campaign focuses primarily on bringing more student voices to the Board of Governors, to make it more accessible to students and to ensure that tuition money is spent on students. He believes this could be possible through constant live streaming of meetings, hosting office hours on campus and other places, hosting at least two town halls during the year to voice student concerns, and having the BoG representative get involved with local organizations, community members, as well as engaging more with students. Direct, face-to-face engagement with students would help Ley voice the concerns of rising international, residence, and student fees to the board. The message Ley seems to want students to take from his campaign is that more engagement with board members and students equals better services for students.
Ley might just have the best interest of students in mind. At the forums, he seemed to have the passion and drive to make sure students are well represented on the board. This being said, his long-term goal, similar to MacEwan University, is to advocate for additional student membership on the Board of Governors. Although this might be a great plan for the long term, it is important to note that having more student membership on the board might not be a reality for a while.
However, although optimistic and looking forward to more engagement with students, Ley does not draw out a clear plan of what he will do with all this engagement. How will Ley make sure that the voices of students are taken seriously on the board if students don’t necessarily have more seats on the board right away? Whose voices will be prioritized on the board? Will the voices of women, Indigenous students, people of colour, and religious minorities be heard? Ley wants to propose a “business case” approach to outline the best interest of students to the board and to demonstrate that the best interest of students are in fact the best interests of the university. Such a method might actually work in favour of representing minority voices on the board. The effectiveness of such an approach will depend heavily on Ley’s research abilities and his temperament, but given his passion, he will likely make strong cases.
Who will win, and who should win?
As the sole candidate in an uncontested race, Ley is very likely to win this position. And if elected, he will have to work hard to ensure his engagement with students is thorough. However, it is important to note that with Ley’s optimism and drive for this position, the questions mentioned above should be the least of our concerns. He’s a great candidate and has my vote.