Follow along for commentary on the second forum of the Students’ Union elections, featuring all the presidential, vice-president (student life), and board of governors representative races, as well as the referendums and plebiscites. Starts at 12 p.m.
David Draper opened the second SUBstage forum encouraging more students to take seats in academic committees. In addition he committed to improving experiential learning programs on campus. Draper could have spent more time clearly outlining his campaign with the time provided.
Eric Einarson demonstrated a priority on creating tangible creative goals for students to succeed. He pledges to be active in improving academic life for students by working with instructors and faculty to promote open educational resources for undergraduates as well as simplifying switching faculties. Lastly, Einarson brought up expanding BrainPop as a larger event. Despite not explaining concise steps to achieve these goals, these changes seem realistic and manageable.
The Landing is here, and this is the first forum they have attended. Their speaker seems to be woefully unprepared, and is not using a very professional demeanor. Despite this, The Landing is important to many students on campus, and even mentioning the services they provide gathered a round of applause.
Robert Bilak expressed his shock at the summer temporary job program ends. He expressed how important the program is for student jobs, and that the SU should work to facilitate these programs in order to help students find jobs so they may pay for school. Bilak wants updated jobs on campus, and would like to work to promote and advertise with the Edmonton Student Alliance to help attract students to the job board with campus resources. Bilak wants to advocate for the Canada Summer Jobs program and begin to incorporate it with a student jobs program. Bilak wants students to be able to be employed for a year rather than just the summer, and to make student employment easier to find.
Rowen Ley expressed his wish to give back to the University of Alberta campus by protecting it from the threat of a 23% tuition increase and the 100 million dollar cut to the University. Ley wants action against the provincial government and plans to facilitate that with well-funded media engagement to get Albertans and voters on the University student body’s side and force them to pay attention to student needs. Ley wants grassroots student-driven action rather than previous legislative protests that he argued are ineffective.
The VP Ops Fi race starts out with overall weak opening statements in the forum today.
Alana Krahn, who is running for VP Ops Fi, uses her time to discuss the importance of the STRIDE program in getting gender minorities and women to run for office, emphasizing that we are in a time when gender minorities are more uncomfortable expressing their identity of campus. While this is definitely an important issue, it is unclear how this relates to the VP Ops Fi race and Krahn makes no solid commitments as to what this support would look like, making for a strange opening statement.
The other candidate, Samantha Tse, pledges in her opening statement to make the many services that the SU offers more accessible to students, given that many students don’t know about these services currently. Tse specifically pledges to reform the SU website to make it more student-friendly. While this is doable, this statement doesn’t touch on anything new and comes across as a pretty average statement for an VP Ops Fi candidate to make.
Question by Eric Einarson: Clarify the points on your platform about academic committees.
Response by David Draper: A lot of what I included in my platform is building strong alliances with committees and boards on campus.
Response by Eric Einarson: Committees do not always have the student’s best interest in mind. We need to focus more on providing for students on the small scale by providing resources for them.
Both sides bring different perspectives on how to help students, either individually with small contributions or on the large scale in academic boards. The more favorable side depends on what will be more impactful and beneficial to students.
Question from David Draper: How will you effectively lead and support the new members of the General Faculties Council?
Response from Eric Einarson: I have a lot of experience from sitting on CSJ academic boards.
Response from David Draper: From my first day in office, I would be able to get more work done faster because of my more refined experience with GFC. Because of my already established knowledge, I can get started on forging new relationships and working to help all students.
Both candidates have presented a wide expertise sitting on academic boards. While Draper may already have more experience specifically with the GFC, it may be better to get a fresh perspective from someone with knowledge from the other academic sectors of the U of A. Even though the GFC is important, that should not necessarily be the end all be all.
Question: Do you have any intentions of restructuring the Council of Faculty Associations to hear student’s needs?
Response from David Draper: I am already working on the boards I sit on to ensure that students are being heard.
Response from Eric Einarson: Rather than restructure, I would do my best to break out of the board room and take advantage of other experiences.
Question: How do we engage students outside of faculty associations?
Response from Eric Einarson: I would prioritize being more proactive than reactive when it comes to dealing with all students.
Response from David Draper: I would like to reach out directly to students so that they feel represented.
During the question period, Ley asked the first question about how we can push back against the provincial government even if students are a small minority and what plans they have to get ordinary Albertans on our side and show how important post secondary is? Bilak answered that the big issue is that not everyone looks at the same issues as students do. To change that, Bilak plans to work with Students Not Silent, work with nurses and teachers, and publicly advertise that student issues affect all Albertans.
Ley agreed that people only see what impacts them, for example with the cuts on the horizon, parents will save money for their kids, and communities of people living in and around the University of Alberta campus will face job losses. Ley’s plan is to create targeted ads for people who are facing hard times as a result, and to create a public engagement awareness campaign to bring light to the people hit hardest by the provincial government’s policies.
For his question, Bilak asked what the game plan is for student representatives, such as First Peoples house, in the future.
Ley responded by saying he would do more than just consultation, which he considers a buzzword. Ley wants to talk to SRs and give them opportunities to make change, as well as facilitate a decentralized, student-led movement for both informal and formal leaders to make decisions regarding protests and activism so that they may have influence in student action. Ley doesn’t want to simply ask what these SR’s want; we know what they want. Ley wants to give SR’s more influence and control within these movements.
Bilak says that SR groups are key partners that have connections SU doesn’t. He wants to meet with SRAs and collaborate with them, empowering their advocacy efforts against the University, the provincial government, or otherwise.
In the debate portion for the VP Ops Fi race, both candidates focus on issues surrounding mental health on campus.
Tse specifically questions Krahn’s idea of creating a peaceful space in SUB, saying that students already have many quiet spaces on campus and implying that mental wellness is already being addressed by many SU services. Krahn defends her idea, saying that a peaceful space on campus looks different from areas that are merely quiet. In her question to Tse, Krahn continues to focus on the theme of mental health, saying she was disappointed that Tse didn’t adequately cover the topic in her platform.
Essentially, Tse’s vision for mental health on campus is to make current services more accessible to students, whereas Krahn wants to improve services through a variety of promises, such as expanding the current health insurance plan. Considering mental health has been a longstanding issue on campus, VP Ops Fi candidates should be committing to doing more. As such, this section of the forum leaves Tse in much weaker position, with Krahn coming across as better prepared to handle the issue.
Question: How do you plan to make academic advising more efficient and cost-effective for students?
Response from David Draper: Things have not been getting better for academic advising. I would like to provide students more information before they enroll in their classes.
(Although it was not mentioned, this would probably take place on Draper’s proposed replacement for BearTracks, ORCHA)
Response from Eric Einarson: More open academic advising model. Helping students especially when they are changing faculties. A face-to-face interaction is more impactful and personal than online tips.
Whichever direction is chosen for the future, it must be ensured that the student’s best interest is in mind, not providing poor advice or overcharging for services.
Question: Are you planning on continuing Gov Week/Student Leaders Week?
Response from Eric Einarson: I would like to continue this event as Student Leaders Week by providing more academic resources and empowering students. Attendance can improve after centralizing our platform and moving forward with a clear vision.
Response from David Draper: I would like to change the event on a fundamental level. I want it to take place earlier in the year so that it is more effective and beneficial to students. This way, leadership in these organizations continues to be valued.
Both candidates present a unique vision for Gov Week/Student Leaders Week. However, if the VP Academic wishes to have this event earlier in the year, planning and organization will need to begin as soon as they are elected.
Question: How can barriers be mitigated on academic committees?
Response from David Draper: I have already worked towards reducing barriers in the academic committees I am a part of as well as making our other initiatives more representational.
Response from Eric Einarson: STRIDE would be the number one priority. Including students on these boards allows them to move further into student governance and other opportunities.
Both candidates could improve on elaborating upon the issue of representation.
Question: What would you do about removing some fees for students studying at periphery campuses or on exchange programs?
Response from Eric Einarson: I would not like to focus on that as there are some services still accessible if you are off campus.
Response from David Draper: There are still other fees you have to pay that do not make sense outside of Edmonton such as the physical activity and wellness fee.
Chances are that these fees will not be exempt for students studying outside of North Campus. If funding is tight right now, it will get even worse.
Throughout the forum, all of the candidates have visibly improved on delivering succinct responses. This is a strong positive sign!
In the audience question period, the candidates were asked what they would do to be more visible and get feedback from students on campus.
Bilak answered that he would prioritize provincial advocacy to better represent SRGs and empower faculty and student associations on campus.
Ley answered that he would continue support for Albertan issues, mainly is provincials cuts. He argued that his platform is distinguished from Bilak’s because he’d create meaningful opportunities for formal and informal leaders to create a consensus and democratic collaborative student movements, as well as a chance for these groups and students to personally get involved and make a difference.
Next the candidates were asked how they would operate their fight against government cuts given that Asec and the SU often disagree with each other.
Ley responded that collaboration with Asec on certain issues is possible, but the SU can’t when the two are opposed. However, some issues are shared such as the issue of deferred maintenance and construction of campus buildings. Ley argued the solution is to sit down with Asec leaders and executives and try and work together.
Bilak said collaboration leads to more collaboration, and in the areas where Aisec and the Su agree are mental health supports, which is an issue that needs attention. Bilak argued that the University must remain nonpartisan to work with Aisec, and can’t be seen as a partisan entity.