Letter to the Editor: If you’re critical of the KSA, get informed and get involved
Columns / March 2, 2019
Editor’s Note: Tanvir Singh has been the president, vice-president university affairs, arts faculty representative, and Surrey campus representative with the Kwantlen Student Association in recent years. He has also chaired and been a member of various KSA committees This letter has been edited for length and clarity.
Now that the recent election for the Kwantlen Student Association is over, students need to keep the elected officials of the KSA accountable by asking the right questions. Those who think that the KSA charges fees and doesn’t do anything worthwhile to them, or have no idea how the KSA works but still pay hundreds of dollars per semester, are responsible for informing themselves and engaging more with those they elect to student government.
Here are a few common campaign platform issues that candidates have identified, as well as my personal analysis on each of them, for students to ask about.
Long wait-lists for courses: One of the biggest reasons for this is that the provincial government does not provide enough money to KPU to fund the right number of teachers and support staff. There are ways to resolve this, such as hiring temporary faculty, having classes on Fridays and Saturdays, or even cramming more students into classes. But none of these address the fact that the provincial government is failing to adequately fund our institution.
Too few online classes: The number of available online classes is an issue that high level KPU administration and Senate members need to deal with. There is a growing need for high-quality online education in our province and KPU will need to monitor this in the years to come. At this point in time, this is definitely an issue that the KSA Vice-President University Affairs can take on.
Availability of the Surrey gym: This issue is one of the easiest to resolve if the KSA can cough up the dough. One of the issues with the gym is that someone needs to supervise students while they use it, which means that people need to be paid, lights need to be on, and maintenance needs to take place. At the end of the day, this all takes up a great deal of funding. The next VP Finance or Student Life can definitely make the gym more available for students after having conversations with the university.
Campus food options/cost/availability: It is important for KSA councillors to be specific about what they would like to change here, and the best way to do that is through Grassroots Cafe, which is owned and operated by the KSA. The main goal of Grassroots is to be a service to students, not to make money. Be sure to talk to your KSA representatives and get them to make the changes to Grassroots that you want to see.
Events for students: Be wary of student politicians that repeatedly tell you that they want to host and support “student events” on campus without being specific about what they want to do. Anyone can “ask the students what they want” but it takes a real student leader to be able to tell you what types of events they want to host and how they will achieve hosting them.
High textbook prices: Open Educational Resources are essentially free online textbooks, and KPU is the post-secondary leader in Canada when it comes to OER adoption. If you want to get more involved or have questions about OERs be sure to ask your KSA VP University Affairs for details.
Mental health support: Lots of student politicians throw around the term “mental health support” when they don’t really know how to support mental health initiatives. Hold your representatives accountable to this particular campaign promise, because in my opinion, it is the most important one. The KSA has a lot of money set aside for students events and initiatives, and any student can come forward to the KSA with ideas and make suggestions on how they can better support students’ mental health.
U-Pass prices: The KSA has negotiated with both the province and with TransLink to provide students with the U-Pass. If your candidate supports the U-Pass, they should also have been supporting the Vote Yes for U-Pass campaign with the KSA.
Limited library hours: The KSA has previously worked with the university library on keeping it open 24 hours a day for two weeks during exam periods. This extra two weeks of keeping the building open ends up costing roughly $15,000. If this cost is acceptable to the students, the university should be held responsible to pay for it. Until then, the KSA has the ability to fund this on a trial basis, which the library has previously agreed to.
Health-care/Dental plan: For the health and dental plan, the KSA negotiates terms with an insurance provider, but its health and dental providers are open to listening to student concerns.
Getting a SkyTrain to the Surrey campus: This will not happen.
Vague promises about “issues”: If a student politician repeatedly tells you they will “look for solutions to the problems,” press them for a more elaborate answer. Student politicians need to ask their voters what needs to be changed on campus, and if they don’t have specific issues they want to tackle other than “fighting for issues” or “using student money efficiently,” then they have no clue what they are talking about.
Now that you are more educated on some of the issues student politicians are talking about at KPU, do what needs to be done and get involved in proposing solutions on campus. Complaining only works when it is solution-oriented. If students constantly complain about corrupt student politicians, wasted fees, or a lack of representation in the KSA, the only thing that’s going to change is that your student council will become uninterested in dealing with the issues that you want to see resolved. Any student that complains about their student government without getting informed and involved is both lazy and ignorant.