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Your guide to the Student Union Society election

Voting begins Monday, March 7, and runs until Thursday, March 10

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Interviews and transcription by: Vanessa Broadbent, Ekanki Chawla, Alex Rake, Michael Scoular, Terrill Smith

SUS guide

Executive Candidates

Sukhi Brar

Sukhi Brar — President
Study area: Third year, kinesiology major
Experience: Student representative on Senate and Board of Governors, Student Life volunteer, resident assistant at Baker House, current SUS VP external

What are you hoping to accomplish as president?

I want to be engaging with our membership a bit more next year.

I recognize that one of our weaknesses is that we struggle to put information out and rely a lot on our social media and press releases. I think we need to explore other avenues to do that effectively.

To be fair, over the course of this term, we have improved from where we were. We’re much more prominent in new student orientation. As soon as new students come to this campus, the Student Union is a significant part of new student orientation, so there’s workshops that we do and we table there so that students know what we offer, what we do, how they can get involved with us.

But throughout the semester, we didn’t have that kind of info table. We tried it out in January and it was super successful. What we’re doing now is have that weekly kind of set up now where students can drop by and they can ask whatever questions they might have about the student union, and then we have information out always, so it’s not just that “once a term” engagement with students.

That’s something I really want to see, a regular president’s table weekly through next year. I’m committed to bringing that out, but also I’d really want to vlog or blog or some sort of communication like that, either through our social media network or our website, just to keep our membership in the loop about what’s happening at the Student Union. I’m still looking at other avenues. I think there’ll be a little bit of trial and error to see what resonates with students. If one isn’t working, we’re going to try and look at other avenues as well.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

Because I’m engaged in the process and I’m engaged in discussions, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying, “Oh, this call is wrong.” If you have people sitting around a table that are always just agreeing with everything, that’s not a good thing. That means there’s no discussion happening around the topic. But, once a debate has happened and there’s been healthy debate about something and you arrive at some conclusion, you respect that conclusion, you respect that process. You don’t go, “Oh, that was the wrong call,” because you’re engaged in the process. For people that respect the process and for students that are involved in it, I don’t think it’s fair to go, “Oh, that’s a crap decision.”

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

Having weekly info tables where our membership can come and ask questions, or get to know how they can get involved or get on committees, or applying for jobs or whatever is happening at the time.

I want to do more classroom presentations. That’s been neglected this year. We’ve primarily used it for campaigns — Get Out the Vote. We were actually able to get 1,000 pledges from students that were eligible to vote, partly because of tabling, and so we saw how that was effective in that context. With that, it’s something I want to continue next year so that students know about the Student Union Society, what we’re doing at any given time, ways they can get involved sooner in their undergraduate career.

Hopefully it increases awareness about what we’re doing, because right now, we are doing a lot of amazing things. I feel that it’s students that are close to the Student Union Society that are directly involved in committees or clubs and associations. They’re the ones that tend to know that things that are going on, and I want to see general awareness of the things that we’re doing and those pieces would help with that.

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

Nothing specific comes to mind in terms of policy revisions. Anything that has come up, we bring it to governance committee to discuss. So I think that’s one of those things that if I come across a policy that I think needs revising or we need to discuss, that would be brought to governance committee. Students sometimes bring up policies. They’re like, “Hey, we haven’t revised this in five years, we should take a look at it.” I definitely see us revising policies, just nothing specific right now.

Manmeet Sekhon

Manmeet Sekhon — President
Study area: First year, horticulture diploma
Experience: No previous campus experience

What are you hoping to accomplish as president?

As president, my first priority is to solve the problems of students.

After winning [the] election, I’m not sitting in my office. I’ll walk around to the students and ask them if they have any problems, or if they have a better idea to bring to our university so we can improve our university status.

Right now, our current rank is 56th among all the North American universities, and I want to improve our rank so we can proudly say, “I’m from UFV.”

My other specific goal is to promote Student Union among all local governments so we can get more money from them, grants from them, so we can expand.

The third one, we have to make our university smoke free, even if we have to do more efforts to bring a smoke-free university. So if someone wants to quit smoking, we should provide them nicotine patches.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

No. I’m really surprised. When I’m talking with students about the Student Union, they don’t know anything. We have to make aware to the students that they are paying money to the Student Union, so they have the right to know what they are paying and what services are provided by the Student Union, what kind of help they get from the Student Union.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

My first focus, we have to promote our university everywhere to bring more students to our university. So more students, more money, so we can expand. By communicating students to be a part of Student Union, we are providing bus services, food services, health services — that’s our main focus.

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

Everything is fine, but we have to promote our university worldwide. That’s our main focus first. And the second one, we have to solve the student’s problems at priority, because they are paying a lot.

Ashmeet Kaur

Ashmeet Kaur — Vice President Internal
Study area: Second year, finance and accounting major, economics minor
Experience: SUS finance assistant, member of SUS finance, budget, and clubs and associations committees

What are you hoping to accomplish as VPI?

This position looks at the roles of the finance officer and the clubs and associations officer. What I have in mind is that currently we have a lot of clubs that have been emerging, and these clubs and associations, socials, and workshops that are going on. What I actually have in mind when I get elected is that once our base has been established through these socials and workshops, to take it further in the following year, where now clubs can organize such events for people.

Apart from that, the finance aspect of my role looks at everything to do with budgeting. We have a really huge budget, but just being able to spend it in the most sustainable way, that’s going to be the biggest thing. These are things like making current decisions like where should we hire, how is the Chilliwack campus or the Mission campus going to benefit from whatever we’re doing over here, looking at the role of finance as a big picture, and looking at it into specifics.

Also trying to increase funding for clubs, because this year I feel like clubs have taken a giant leap from where they were before. They’re doing so many things and I feel like they need to be provided with more money so that they can do more stuff. Those are actually my three main things.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

I’ve been supportive of everything. When I hear that something is coming up, I feel like, “What is happening?” But then when I find out what exactly is happening, I feel like that’s a really, really good thing. So nothing yet.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

The biggest thing that I have faced as a student is that there’s a bridge between SUS and UFV students, and some way that bridge needs to be crossed. The best way to do it is to create more awareness about ourselves on campus. I think that’s the biggest thing. Once we create our awareness, we let people know where we are, what we do, why we’re called a “student union society.” I think automatically wherever else we’re having problems, if there are any problems, those will automatically be sorted out — just getting the word out that we’re here for students.

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

There are a lot of policies that come under my job role. I wouldn’t pick just one or two policies to work with, I actually want to look at every single policy. But it doesn’t mean that I want to waste time, just focusing on one policy because I feel there’s a little bit that we can improve from one type of policy, another thing we can improve from another one. I just want to give all policies in focus, not just focusing on one and leave the rest.

Cameron Stephen

Cameron Stephen — Vice President Internal
Study area: Second year, biology major, kinesiology minor
Experience: Former SUS restaurant manager, former faculty of science rep, vice president of eSports Valley, member of clubs and associations committee

What are you hoping to accomplish as VPI?

I would definitely want to assist with lots of the clubs and associations and make it easier for them to do their jobs.

It’s definitely a big thing I’ve noticed, especially when I was a faculty of science rep: some clubs and associations just didn’t know what options they had for them. I know it is getting slightly better, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, so I want to work on that, as well as increasing some of the transparency with stuff.

Working with it, I noticed there was a lot of information that was lacking that should be obvious to people. The main thing I’d want to do is find ways to improve the website. Right now it’s pretty bad. I think I’m still listed as being staff there, and I haven’t been there for about a month now. Definitely improving stuff with the website, making sure information is up to date.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

Nothing that I’m unhappy with, just not necessarily the methods through which it was done. I’ll use the equality resource centre as something.

I definitely think it was something that was a good idea to look into, I just think there wasn’t necessarily enough research done ahead of time to make sure that it would work properly. I would say more research on these big initiatives to make sure that it is going to be feasible and is going to work properly, and that the proper people are communicated with and talked to. That way, we don’t get the big drama issue that ended up creeping up.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

For VPI, a big thing would be the website, as mentioned before, making sure that information is there, and making sure that all those channels of communication are frequently updated and kept up to date. Right now, I think there’s just one person doing it and they do a whole bunch of other things right now, so it’s a lot for one person — some things they can’t keep up with, so possibly looking at a student position that can work on that. They’d be in charge of Facebook and Twitter and making sure those are up to date.

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

Nothing comes to mind immediately, aside from what I’m currently dealing with right now. Some of the elections stuff — I’ll be really careful with certain things I say here and there because the rules are really vague and unclear on some stuff. So I’ll probably take a look at that first and be like, how can we fix these for future people that come through? Because a lot of things are really vague and unclear on what you can and can’t do.

Thanh Ma

Thanh Ma — Vice President External
Study area: Second year, general studies, triple minor in business, criminology, and communications
Experience: Student disability volunteer, Student Life ambassador, SUS food bank volunteer, member of advocacy, engagement, and clubs and associations committees, SUS equalities officer, Oxfam secretary

What are you hoping to accomplish as VPE?

As a student, I work three jobs; I work 50 hours a week. We don’t make a lot of money, and it sucks because people don’t hire us if we don’t have degrees. They won’t up our pay if we don’t have degrees, and while in the process of getting a degree, we lose so much money. One of the things that I’m looking towards is trying to increase the funding for the SUS emergency grant. So say that you’re a student and you need help, and you don’t have access [to money], you can go to Financial Aid and apply for it, and you will be able to get the funding you need for school.

I had no idea that there was such a thing as student emergency grants, because it wasn’t well advertised, and that’s one of the things I want to change, because that’s not cool. If we’re focusing on students, we need to actually focus and raise awareness for that.

Another thing is that for the new health centre that’s going to be built, I’m going to be helping with the implementation of that. Not just basic general physician care, but also mental health, and psychological and sexual health as well. Us teenagers, it’s really important for us not only to have a general doctor there, but little tidbits here and there as well.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

I think one of the only things is the lack of awareness and the voice that students get out. Sometimes, they don’t realize how students don’t know that we’re there for them. It’s easy for me to go and say, “I’ve done this and this and this,” because I’ve done so many things, but other people who are working in SUS may not have the same opinion. And I want for SUS to actually represent and actually give students the ability to approach them and to help them, because lots of people don’t actually know that we have SUS emergency grants, or that there was a $10,000 scholarship, or that there were SUS awards. Nobody actually knows until you voice them. That’s one of the things that I really didn’t like, the lack of awareness.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

Basically, just to talk to them. Not by website, but to actually talk with them, sit down with them, personally communicate with them. I know that a lot of students, we are a technological era, but talking via email or phone, it’s not as personal. You don’t retain as much as you want to. So talking personally, you actually retain a lot more. I really am trying to focus on personal communication rather than just emails back and forth.

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

One of my things on my platform is that I really want to increase volunteer opportunities and job opportunities. Right now, one of the bylaw policies for the committees is that it’s a 10 max capacity, and I really want to amp it up. There’s about six committees, so that’s only six people that get to volunteer in that specific genre that they like, and I really want to amp it up it to a higher number so that students have the opportunity to come and volunteer.

Panku Sharma

Pankaj Sharma — Vice President External
Study area: Fourth year, political science major, English minor
Experience: One of the founding members of eSports Valley, former Aftermath employee

What are you hoping to accomplish as VPE?

I’d hope to work with the board, work with the other execs, to turn SUS into what I needed in my first couple years here.

I think it’s pretty common for most first-years, where you don’t know anything about SUS until you’re on your way out of school.

I think it’s just more outreach, just that question of, “What does SUS do?” There might even be people who go to events and stuff that aren’t 100 per cent clear on that.

So more outreach and getting students more engaged. And that’s in two ways, because sometimes when we say engaged we mean people who are in clubs and people who write for the paper and [are involved] at the radio station. But not necessarily everybody has the time for that, right?

We’re kind of privileged in the sense that I don’t have to work full-time when I’m going to school. I only work part-time and I have a certain amount of free hours throughout the week.

So for students who, maybe they have a family, they just don’t have the time, they work full-time and take evening classes, I think SUS should also work to give them opportunities if they have any issues that are hindering their university experience or learning experience, I think SUS should be an avenue for them to help.

I feel like the way a lot of students end up getting truly engaged here is because we build personal relationships. I feel like, rather than putting up our stuff on Facebook and hoping that’s going to reach people and that’s going to get people to actually turn out, it needs to be more one-on-one face recognition. People need to know, “Oh, that is my exec, that is my president.” Doing outreach sessions after board meetings. Maybe going into classrooms and doing more presentations throughout the year, especially in the fall semester when students are eager and optimistic. I think that’s probably the best way — I know they’re trying, but I feel like there’s a lot more that can be done to show an image for SUS.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

I know personally that I’ve felt not recognized before, I’ve felt unappreciated before, as both a member of a club and a member of their [food service team].

So if they want to talk about, “Oh, our number one priority is student engagement, reaching students,” well, the people who are working for you are typically going to be the most engaged students. They’re the ones who have to be at your AGMs — so if I have issues in my workplace or within my learning experience, I feel like SUS needs to be more approachable and they need to provide more of a supportive role for me to figure those issues out.

So, I feel like it should be more open, I should feel more comfortable going to them. I feel like a lot of other students feel the same way.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

A lot of SUS decisions are going to be made at board meetings, and I know that I’ve gone to a few in the past year and I’ve had a very hard time getting the minutes for those meetings. The website’s not regularly updated. I’ve had to send emails to get them. Some emails get lost, you know execs have a thousand emails in their inbox, I’m sure. So I don’t get responses, I’ve had to chase people down.

So that’s one thing, because obviously students aren’t going to have the time to go to a board meeting and get the first-hand experience of what was being said and discussed. And at the same time, when stuff’s going on in the offices themselves, with committees and stuff, what’s happened in the past is committees are under NDA [non-disclosure agreement] and they’re sorted out by portfolios, so a bunch of different things are going around and that’s how rumours start getting mixed up and spread around, and people’s intentions get misconstrued because no one has a clear idea of what the discussion is and what’s being said.

I don’t know if taking NDA off committees is a good idea, maybe going into in-camera when it’s like, a really contentious issue. But just being more open about that, the decision-making process, and being more open about what exactly SUS wants and is committing to I think would really help their image and really improve their transparency.

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

I know there was talk at board meetings about mandating that execs do tabling sessions, and they’ve done this this semester, and I think it’s really great. It’s really helped, if that is consistently done throughout the year.

I think that would be something to implement, where they’re forced to go out and stand by their decisions and stand by the things that have been said and the discussions that have taken place. That would be something that really needs to be mandated.

I mentioned the committees thing. Some of the portfolios really need to be cemented. People need to know who’s responsible for what and that accounts for the officers as well as the permanent staff. Because with some of the issues with turnover in the past few years, nobody knows whose job is to do what, so you have a lot of students getting piled on with more than they’re able to take on with a full course load. And you have other employees who have a hand in everything, and they can’t focus and get stuff done in their specific area. I think if portfolios were fully fleshed out, especially for permanent employees as well as for officers, that would be a really good change that could help people work, because then they know exactly what their jurisdiction is.

Representative Candidates

Dong Wook (Sunny) Kim — College of Arts rep
Study area: Third year, criminology major, communications minor
Experience: Student Life and UFV International volunteer, executive of the Criminal Justice Student Association, former SUS equalities officer, current SUS clubs and associations officer

What are you hoping to accomplish as college of arts rep?

I want to represent the College of Arts. I want to be able to liaise between the students of the College of Arts and the Student Union, and try to bridge that gap, try to bring some of the concerns that they have, try to speak on their behalf, try to have a voice. It’s the highest governing body of the Student Union and it’s good to be able to sit at a table where your voice matters.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

In my personal experience, there wasn’t too much that I felt backlash on necessarily. I had a good experience working with SUS. I do think that every organization needs some improvement and growth.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

As a board rep, it’s about making decisions at that level on how to be more transparent, how to create policies surrounding that. In terms of how to communicate with students, I would say at [the board] level, talking about what the executives and the officers can do in their strategic goals and how they can communicate with students. The board reps, I don’t necessarily think they communicate with students directly, but I think they have a voice where we can collaboratively create those bridges.

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

I would say communicating more with students — I think that’s a good policy to improve on because they do a lot of good stuff, it’s just not advertised as much. I think that could be one thing.

Rooiana Alizada — Faculty of Health Sciences rep
Study area: First year, nursing program
Experience: Nursing student association volunteer

What are you hoping to accomplish as faculty of professional studies rep?

My goal for this position is to get involved with every department in health science, so that’s dental, nursing, kinesiology, and then there’s also the different branches of nursing and health care and all that, and pre-med and also pre-dental. I want to go and meet up with all the clubs or the students in those areas, and ask them what they would like to achieve, what they would like for their school, if they want more involvement, stuff like that, and then somehow bring their ideas to the meetings here, and then they can help them, and help me achieve their goals.

I’m kind of new to it, so I don’t really know [everything]. But I’ll be in the meetings with business and arts and all those, and I’ll see what their plans are and I’ll follow their footsteps, but in the health science faculty.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

I’m new to the school and to everything, so not really.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

Within each department within the health sciences, I want to get the students within each faculty together, meeting so they can share their ideas, and then bring all those ideas together to the board meetings.

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

Not yet. I haven’t really seen anything I don’t agree with. It’s pretty straight forward.

Tanya Vanpraseuth — Faculty of Professional Studies rep
Study area: First year, bachelor of business administration
Experience: Member of SUS finance, advocacy, equalities, and engagement committees, UFV Oxfam and Circle K volunteer, communications assistant in Chilliwack for Student Life, Fair Grounds employee

What are you hoping to accomplish as faculty of professional studies rep?

I would like to be more involved in school and create a positive environment for UFV students, and just generally help people — meet their needs, get more involved, improve clubs and associations and events, and just uphold the values of our school: academics, succeeding in anywhere that you would like at school, finding your true direction, your true passion, getting more involved, and just growing to be a more respectful, responsible person.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

No, I’m pretty happy with the Student Union Society this year. They’ve been pretty great towards me.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

Definitely having better communication with students through myUFV, online, just word-of-mouth, and just having people be more aware of what’s going on here with promoting our events, our committees, and just anything that students read online should be truthful.

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

Not at this moment, but if there are any policies or bylaws that I come across, then I definitely want to be a part of the process to making them very positive for students.

Sahil Chawla — Faculty of Science rep
Study area: Second year, biology major, chemistry minor
Experience: Circle K club president, member of engagement and clubs and associations committees, Student Life ambassador

What are you hoping to accomplish as faculty of science rep?

Basically, I’m going to be sitting on the board and I’m going to be representing science students. If the science students have any questions, they can bring them to me and then I can go and bring them to the board, or if they have questions about certain SUS policies or UFV policies, I can help delegate that. I can help ask those questions and make sure those get answered.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

To be honest, I’m really involved with SUS. I have a SUS scholarship and I’m on two of the committees, and I’m working really closely with Meghan [McDonald], so I kind of know that back end and the front end of what things happen and why they happen.

I wouldn’t really say that I wasn’t too happy with anything … when I wonder why [something] happened, I know exactly why it did happen, and I can ask them right away.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

I was thinking about this since last year. What I actually want to do is have a weekly or bi-weekly session and just book a room or book a space at UFV somewhere, and then any science students, or any students at all, can come and ask me any questions — kind of like what SUS does. They do SUS tabling. It would probably be in the SUS building and basically any student can come up to me, they can come up to me any time, but I would be booking a room for a specific time and advertising that, so if any students have any questions that they want to address, they can either email me, Facebook message me, or we can meet in person.

Are there any specific policies or bylaws you want to change?

At the moment, no. I haven’t looked at too many.

Arashpreet Tamber — Faculty of Science rep
Study area: First year, bachelor of science
Experience: Oxfam and Circle K volunteer, member of SUS equalities committee, and finance committee

What are you hoping to accomplish as faculty of science rep?

This being my first semester here — my first year I came out of high school — and for me it was a huge transition from high school to university, and a lot of kids, older kids especially, helped me settle in and get comfortable with the university environment, and I hope I’m able to achieve that with other kids who come from either high school or who are coming back.

I think it’s important that kids are comfortable with the environment here because it’s a huge transition to university, even if you’re coming back or you’re coming from high school. I think that’s what’s important, knowing that there’s someone that can comfort you who’s been through the same struggles as you and can guide you and make the experience at UFV better.

Is there anything that SUS has done in the past year that you would’ve done differently?

No, I’m happy with everything so far.

How are you planning on improving communication with the student body?

Well, getting students involved and making sure that students know what’s going on around campus. What types of campaigns are there? What type of events are happening? That’s really important, making sure that all the students get all of the information. I feel like if the students are involved, the university becomes a better place to be.

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

So far, no. Maybe in the future if there is something, yes. But so far I’m happy with everything.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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