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Election candidates

Alyson Gher-White – Vice President External



Area of study: Third-year Criminology.

Experience: Worked with a variety of people, volunteered in martial arts community for over five years. Current Advocacy officer, helps run events and programming

What are you hoping to accomplish as VPE?

As vice president external, part of my portfolio is overseeing the three officers, so engagement, advocacy, and equalities. So part of what I would like to accomplish would be to see that all the officers are creating, with my supervision, permanent programming that will have lasting effects on campus, even after I’m gone, after I’ve graduated or whatever I go on to do. I would also like to promote sustainability on campus as in the economic and environmental sustainability because right now we don’t have a lot of composting other than we promote composting on campus, and Abbotsford is a big composting place, we have a lot of farms, and not a lot goes to waste. I’d also like to discuss and start conversations with students.

I’d actually like to work in part with UFV sustainability, I think what they’re doing right now is great. They come out to a lot of events, they help out, they contribute, and they take all the garbage cans and they make them inaccessible to everyone unless you go to UFV Sustainability to throw out your trash. Then they go, “Is it trash, is it recycling, or is it compost?” which I think is really great. We just need more knowledge on it too.

Another thing is as VPE, vocalization of student issues. We have a lot of mental health issues. The reason we have reading break in February is because we were noticing a trend of students who were having higher suicide rates, higher depression rates, seeing more councillors, getting more medication, and that’s not necessarily always an issue that was outside of university or it worsens with university. So addressing things like why we don’t have a fall reading break, also addressing students sexual and gender diversity. We have the women’s centre and the pride centre and there’s a bit of ambiguity. In the building, a lot of people will talk about what we would like to have in the building, but actually achieving those goals involves everyone coming together as a community to decide what does the community actually need.

Is there anything SUS has done in the past that you would have done differently?

Maybe the responses we have to student needs that are miscommunicated, they’re ambiguous or they’re vague, and students may have misinterpreted in the past what we’re trying to address. I think back to certain times when students have asked us questions and we’ve responded in ways that were administrative and appropriate for how our policies work, but students didn’t understand that or couldn’t reciprocate it. Maybe communication with students probably should have been a bit more open, but specific wise, I can’t really say. If I was in the same position as them under the same stress or the same situations that they have, I’m not sure.

Under the last year SUS operated in a very conditional way because they didn’t really have an executive director and I can’t speak too much on it, but would I have done things differently? Yes, but I’m also a different person than they are, right? I have different goals, I have different desires for people, I have different levels of empathy than other people. So would I have done things differently? Yes, but is that to judge or criticize what people have done? Not necessarily.

How are you planning to improve communication with the student body?

Just talking to people one-on-one; sitting down in the atrium, going to classrooms and having little forums every so often. I know that’s what people may have said they were going to do previously, other executives may have said that and they didn’t. It’s a matter of time constraints because when you’re running events, when you’re implementing permanent programming, you get swept up and you get swept in the whole scheme of it. But communication needs to be through email because we lose a lot of what we’re trying to say and what we mean to say when we talk over text. Even as the advocacy officer, I’ve dealt with student cases and they still keep up with me now, just on a personal basis, because I’ve reciprocated their needs, I’ve talked to them, and I make sure that they’re still okay, even though the issue has been addressed or resolved.

A big area is going to residence. Residents are some of the most active people on campus, right? So maybe going there every so often, depending on what their needs are, and talking to them and holding forums to say “Hey, what are your issues?” A lot of the other universities have a policy doc which is something I wanted to talk about the policies a bit, but they have a policy doc to say what are student needs, what’s the research behind it, how do we implement it? And it’s as simple as that. If you have an issue with how things are operating, if you have an issue with SUS, if you have an issue with a professor or anything, it should be easy to talk to someone. It shouldn’t be hard or diplomatic.

Communication is difficult. I’m generally a person who’s one-to-one, or not necessarily one-to-one, but who likes to see people. Even communication over media outlets like Discord where people can join into the conversation or contribute and just hop in and be part of it as a whole rather than one-on-one, because I know it can be intimidating, or distant students who email. When I mean communication too, I don’t just mean on Abbotsford campus, I mean Chilliwack campus, Hope campus. I can’t really go to Chandigarh.

Are there any specific policies or bylaws you’re wanting to change?

I would like to review and have a policy doc. I heard from another student before that was from ***The Cascade that we should look into a student charter in a sense, a document that’s agreed upon with UFV and us, and we do have the mandate that’s on the rock, it is solid, it will never move, but I think the conversation could go further. I’d also like to review, once it comes out, the sexual violence policy from UFV. I’m part of the committee, but I want to see how others reciprocate it or how others feel about it. Another thing I would like to look into is international fees. Last year UFV hiked up the prices for international students and I think it’s getting a bit ridiculous to obtain an education because education is already so hard to access and I understand that UFV’s fees aren’t necessarily as high as other places, but education should never be a privilege, it should be a priority to accept, for access for people. Right now we have an issue, it’s being worked on with UFV, but agriculture students couldn’t get funding because the way the program was set out didn’t meet the mandatory minimum requirements for student aid, so it’s things like that, things that come to my attention under my radar that need to be addressed that I keep looking into. There are a bunch of policies, there are a bunch of things. When they’re brought to my attention as needs, I will address them. But definitely reviewing the sexual violence policy, reviewing how programs meet the mandatory minimum for StudentAid BC so students can actually access education, and then international fees.

Any last remarks?

I am running uncontested so it’s difficult because I know if I make a mistake or I make a decision — not necessarily a mistake because decisions I make are based on informed information and opinions of others — I know people might be wary of me running, but I’ve never been the type of person who runs on my own. My slogan is “We for VPE” because it’s not just about me. I am the peg in which everyone speaks to and I am the vocalization of that. Not to say I’m the centre of attention or anything like that, but I can’t function without students who tell me what their needs are and I can’t function without the passion and advocacy of other students to tell me what they want so I can figure out how we get that done.

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