Lack of student representatives leaves holes in representation

By-elections will likely be held in September or October

KSA election

Nine seats remain vacant on the Kwantlen Student Association council this year after the 2016 general election, leaving many students without representation in the association that collects and uses their fees.

Aboriginal students, mature students, students of colour, Cloverdale students, design students, health students, trades and technology students, and academic and career advancement students all are without student councillors. There is also one empty arts representative seat.

KSA president Alex McGowan says the vacancies are concerning because certain voices won’t be at the student association’s meetings.

He says the reason the KSA has representatives for a variety of positions is to ensure the representation of traditionally marginalized groups, like people of colour or aboriginal individuals.

Accounting student Sheena Kaur says that when communicating concerns at the student association level, it’s more comfortable when a representative has, “gone through the same thing as you have.”

A by-election will be held to elect the open positions, and that will likely happen in the fall, according to McGowan.

In the meantime, he says that students have various avenues to voice their concerns.

The design students, for example, comprise a large department on the Richmond campus. McGowan says that in lieu of a design representative, they should approach the Richmond campus representative, Murdoch de Mooy.

The Cloverdale campus students, however, are without campus representative or a trades and technology representative.

“So we’re kind of screwed,” says Jade Singfield, who is in first-year welding. “I think we’d have to move to Surrey or Langley to get our point across, but then, how are they supposed to help us in a sense, right? They got their own school to worry about. Yeah, it kind of sucks.”

Unrepresented constituencies like aboriginal students or mature students are not academic faculties. Alternative, systemized resources may not manifest themselves as obviously as, in the case of design students, a student experience committee.

Kaur says that if she had a problem that concerned her identity as a person of colour, she wouldn’t know who she would go to.

“The actual KSA people, I don’t know of,” says Kaur.

McGowan points to the KSA’s newly developed constituency committee, which can be filled by anyone, council member or not, who may identify with any given constituency.

Before by-elections happen, non-councillors can also be appointed as voting members on the constituency committees, according to John Shkurtaj, chair of the KSA appointments committee.

He says that the issue with only 16 people on council—four of which are executives—is that 12 councillors need to be stretched across the committees.

“Right now I believe it’s five individuals who currently sit on four committees, which is a large number,” says Shkurtaj.

The 2016 general election had 24 candidates. That’s three fewer than the 2015 election, and four fewer than the 2014 election. More candidates ran for the same positions than in previous years, leaving other seats either uncontested or empty.

“I’m not super concerned about what it means for engagement on campus—we always need to make sure we take engagement really seriously—but I don’t see this as a warning sign or a waning of interest in the KSA,” says McGowan.

Shkurtaj says that including the experience of those not at the table yet is “a hard thing.” While he says “It’s not something that will hinder the performance of the KSA,” it’s an issue they want to deal with as soon as possible.