Student association adds new conferences to 2014 roster.
By Kier-Christer Junos
[coordinating editor] &
Members of the Kwantlen Student Association will pay a projected $1.3-million to the organization this year, according to the KSA’s budget. With these fees, the student association takes on a number of roles, including student services (like the gym which they recently made free for use, and the campus shuttle), advocacy (like the recent Move Our Cities) and a number of other initiatives that are designed to benefit their members, the students of KPU.
Some of these expenditures include a number of conferences that has sent KSA executives (and delegates of council, staff, and sometimes unelected students that are members of a campus club), which has seen a gradual increase in costs over recent years.
Depending on the conference, the expense is either approved by the KSA council or the KSA executive committee. In budget year 2014, conference locations have included Montreal, Ottawa and Portland. The number of delegates is different in each circumstance, depending on the topic and nature of the conference. Some had issue-based agendas (like Canada’s first Fossil Fuel Convergence in Montreal), and others focused on professional development (like the Student Union Development Summit at UBC).
In 2012, the audited financial statements of the KSA reported that $17,334 was spent on sending delegates to conferences. In 2013, that number had increased to $31,630. Audited financial numbers are not yet available for 2014, but initial documents report that the KSA has spent $27,100.
Conference / Number of Delegates / Estimated Cost (CAD)
KSA Business Trips
In the summer semester, the then-recently elected KSA executives attended conferences that bolstered student executive skills, according to KSA president and vice-president external, Jessica Lar-Son. Among these included Leaders’ Hall in Ontario, the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) in Nova Scotia, and the Student Union Development Summit (SUDS) at the University of British Columbia.
“When it comes to building executive skills, those are the things that have given us ideas to come back and do things on our campus, like therapy dogs, or [the University of Victoria Students’ Society]’s Let’s Get Consensual campaigns,” says Lar-Son. “You go to these conferences, you learn about the great stuff everybody else is doing, and you’re able to take that stuff back to your school.”
CACUSS 2014–hosted in Halifax–was the first they attended in the summer, and Lar-Son says the purpose of that conference was, “To mostly talk about student engagement.” She adds that the conference also touched on mental health, business development and campaign development.
“It was . . . a very round representation of things to do with student engagement,” says Lar-Son. “So it was pretty useful for the executives to attend.”
According to unaudited statements, CACUSS cost the KSA $9,272 for two delegates.
Leaders’ Hall, in Ontario, was directly related to student leadership. The KSA sent four delegates at an estimated cost of $3,857. Lar-Son says the attendees at this conference were primarily student executives. Because of this, Lar-Son says that identically-positioned executives were able to engage with each other. This allowed the KSA executives to glean knowledge from others specific to their roles.
“For me, specifically, as I hold two roles, I was able to engage with those people that were only VP external, or only president,” says Lar-Son. “So it helped me pick out the duties that were important to both of those roles, and helped me … analyze the things that I was already doing, things I could do more of, and move towards having a [fuller] portfolio that encompassed both of my positions.”
Conference / Number of Delegates / Estimated Cost (CAD)
Fossil Fuel Divestment
CASA Advocacy week
The Student Union Development Summit, to which the KSA sent four delegates at an estimated cost of $1,529, was held this year at UBC. Lar-Son notes that it was similar to Leaders’ Hall, except there were many more delegates.
“[These conferences] were excellent for building executive skills and also building networks with other student association executives,” says Lar-Son. “Those were kind of the two highlights.”
Other conferences attended this year included the Northwest Student Leadership Conference in Portland, Oregon (a February 2014 conference focused on student leadership development); the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities conference in Niagara Falls (a June 2014 conference for networking and professional development); and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (an October 2014 conference focused on campus and community sustainability).
In 2012, a majority of the KSA’s conference expenses were as a result of their attendance at events for the Canadian Federation of Students. They also went to the CASA general meeting, COCA (Canadian Organization of Campus Activities), Leaders’ Hall, SUDS and a Where’s the Funding rally (the precursor to the Alliance of B.C. Students of which the KSA is now an active member).
In recent years, the KSA has sent to delegates to a number of new conferences, many of which are at the national level (as opposed to provincial), or related to sustainability or other advocacy issues. In 2014, the new conferences were those of the ABCS, the SUB Summit, UBCSUO, NWSLC, CAC, Gallivan and CACUSS. However, attending advocacy conferences has caused contention amongst this year’s elected officials, as was the case in October 2014.
At the Oct. 17 council meeting, a motion was passed to send a KSA delegation to the Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence, with $7,000 being released from the “Campaigns and Lobbying efforts” line item. Gaurav Kumar, the KSA’s VP-finance, was skeptical about the benefit to the KSA as they had already divested. Alex McGowan, a council member, countered this concern by noting that the conference was meant to bring together students who were trying to divest, and those who have successfully divested so they can work together. Kumar pointed out that the proposed cost was a lot for the budget, and that the KSA was already going to “lots of conferences and meetings,” according to the meeting’s minutes.
In addition to the Fossil Fuel Convergence in Montreal, in the fall semester the KSA attended several other conferences with advocacy agendas, including the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations’ Advocacy Week.
At CASA’s Advocacy week in Ontario, earlier in November, Lar-Son notes in her report that the main goals of attending this conference were “to learn from CASA’s organization of the week, examine their lobby materials, and to build the KSA’s Federal Lobbying experience.”
Vice-president of student services Steven Button attended the conference as well.
“At the end, I believe that we were for the most part in agreement that it was a very worthwhile opportunity and something that we’re going to recommend that future councils send delegates,” says Button. “I would suggest that membership in CASA, with a membership fee of approximately $50,000 per year, would be advisable. But in beginning talks with [Bhulla] said it may not be in the budget at the moment, or rather, it would have to amend the budget in order to do that. So, that’s a discussion that we’re going to have, and will be ongoing.”
The KSA was previously an associate member of CASA, but in 2012 they decided to leave the organization, feeling that the membership fee was better spent in building their own lobbying and campaign base, according to an executive at the time.
Some conferences, as in the case of CASA this year, are attended as a means of determining whether or not membership is worth pursuing–an action which can become repetitive if the turnover of elected officials is high, which it has a history of being in many student associations. Conversely, the KSA also sends staff to conferences which help maintain the institutional memory of the organization.
Understanding the KSA Budget
The costs associated with sending delegates to conferences do not come out of a single line item in the KSA’s budget. Most of the conferences that are tied to advocacy come out of “Campaigns and Lobbying Efforts,” whereas many of the other conferences are from the specific “Conferences” line item.
In the 2014 budget, “Campaigns and Lobbying Efforts” had a budget of $80,000 of which unaudited financial statements reported that 34 per cent had been spent. There are several line items pertaining to conferences, including “Conferences-CASA,” “Conferences-CFS,” and “Time Sensitive Conferences.” CASA was not included in the projected budget, and $6,361 was spent. Time Sensitive Conferences had a budget of $22,000, and $13,657 has been spent.
Button stresses that there is a specific thought process when budgeting, noting that they set a maximum they won’t exceed. “We budget at a set amount, and we take into account: ‘what are our contingencies?’ What are the costs for food, transportation, we add that all up and say ‘this is the maximum budget.’ If we find ways to save money or we end up not needing certain contingencies, more often than not, we will come in under.”