First student in KPU history to chair senate committee resigns

Second student senator steps down.

Second student senator steps down.

By Samantha Lego
[senior news writer]

After stepping down as the chair of the senate nominating committee, Christopher Girodat hopes that the university will continue to place students in roles that flip the traditional power balance.

Girodat, who remains a university senator, was the first student in Kwantlen Polytechnic University history to be approved as chair of a senate committee, back in June 2013. The yearlong appointment began in September 2013, but he resigned in December due to employment commitments as the Capilano Students’ Union’s general manager.

Although he says his appointment was a tremendous honour, “It’s just not something that I was able to dedicate time that I thought was fair for the role, and fair for what the senators and the institution deserved for that committee,” he says. “So I decided to step down and make way for someone who could commit time for the role.”

KPU senate representative Christopher Girodat (Runner file photo)

Senate is the foremost academic governing body for the university. Its responsibilities include approving credentials, advising on university priorities and its budget and selecting honourary degree recipients. There are four spots for student representatives on the senate. Each faculty is allotted two faculty senators, who make of the majority of the remaining positions. The province’s University Act mandates the composition of the senate.

“They’re [the faculty] on the ground, driving KPU’s academic vision, so it makes sense that they’re also generally the chairs of most of our committees,” says Girodat.

Yet as the first student-appointed chair, he believes that students have the ability to be more involved.

“Until you’ve had students in the role, I think it’s difficult to demonstrate just verbally and by trying to explain to other people that students can perform those functions,” he says.

Tabitha Swanson, student senator representative for the Faculty of Arts, also resigned in December. Citing issues such as a busier workload and a two-hour commute, Swanson says that if she was living under her previous conditions, she would not have resigned.

“It’s pretty interesting to learn about a different side of the school, like what’s going on behind the scenes and how they make decisions,” she says.

For prospective students, Swanson encourages them to get involved: “I would say go for it,” she says. “You won’t get to be involved in the procedures and the goings-on, the happenings behind the scenes for Kwantlen … without going and sitting on [the senate].”

In the future, Girodat hopes that KPU will continue to take away student-faculty barriers. “I’d like to see a time come eventually where we can stop calling student senators ‘student senators’ and have them be senators like everybody else.”

The vacancies left by Swanson as a student senator have not yet been filled. The elections for student senators are run by the registrar’s office and it would be responsible for a by-election as well.

Robert Hensley, KPU’s registrar, did not return The Runner’s phone calls or emails.