Area of Study: Fourth-year Philosophy Major
Experience: SUS Aboriginal Representative for the last six months
What are you hoping to accomplish as the aboriginal representative?
I’m running uncontested for this position, and that’s a blatant sign of the level of involvement with aboriginal students at UFV. Before I ran to become a member of the board halfway through last year, there was nobody that was in the position either. My main goal is to try and facilitate some of these younger students to help them get involved with SUS as well. That’s probably the biggest thing that I need to try and work on, so that when I leave one of the first year students that I spoke with is ready to be a leader and take my place. The first thing that I’ve been trying to do since I started is establishing aboriginal clubs to try and get a place for first-year students to meet some of the older students. The biggest thing is getting the first year students, getting them active with some events on campus with the aboriginal community. The first year of university as an aboriginal students is a make-it-or-break-it moment for them. I’m really focused on giving them all of the support that this university has to offer be it bursaries or other things. Maybe these first year students were not sure about school or they don’t know if it’s going to work out for them. I want to provide some incentive for them to stick it out and then make it through.
Is there anything that SUS has done in the past that you would have done differently?
My worry is that a lot of the first-year aboriginal students coming into university don’t have anything to look forward to. They don’t have an identity in the future to look up to, so that’s kind of the thing that I would like to change. I want to focus on providing goals and hopes for these students, as well as positive role-models. The suicide rate amongst aboriginals across the country is extremely high, especially for young people. There’s a lot of questions as to why that is, and in terms of things to look hopeful for, it’s just that they might not I have leaders they are able to look towards as role models, or to lean on for support. So I want to show them potential avenues that would work for them and I want to offer them all of my support. There’s many potential avenues that are great for First Nations students, especially ones that could help them to serve a greater purpose. Aboriginal people bring a unique perspective to the different avenues they are involved in, so to help first-year students recognize this, and enable them to see that they have so much to offer for numerous university subjects, is a major priority of mine.
How are you planning to improve communication with the student body?
That’s something that SUS has been struggling with since I’ve been there. We keep asking how we can get input from the students, because we recognize that everybody has different opinions on things and everybody has their best ideas. When I started reaching out to the aboriginal communities here at UFV, I wanted to get a club together, but a part of student life is being very busy, and it’s hard to get students out to be communicative on campus. This is a commuter campus, so there’s a lot of people coming out from half an hour away or 45 minutes away, so it’s hard to have everybody together for a meeting. I think trying to branch out to electronic platforms for meetings would be very helpful. Communication really is a challenge that is ongoing, and I know it’s something we are working very hard on.
Are there any specific policies or bylaws you are wanting to change?
I can’t think of any specific policies that I would want to change. What I’ve been dealing so far is in-regards to a lot of the reactive governance that I’ve witnessed. People are bringing forward a problem, and we feel we have to sort it out immediately. I want to influence the culture of SUS to be more patient and thoughtful. Another thing I’d like to do is to make it so that aboriginal students going forward have an association rather than a club, because there’s a lot of restrictions on clubs. You have to have certain meeting times and it’s very structured and you have to have a lot of cooperation between the group. So I think that having some policies that make it easier to branch out and have a little less restrictions would help student communication and the community.