Kwantlen Polytechnic University has announced this year’s candidates for student representatives on its senate and board of governors. Those who hold these positions will represent the voices of KPU students on two of the university’s most important governing bodies.
This year, there are six students vying for four senate spots and five students looking to fill two board seats. The winners will face a myriad of challenges, as those who have previously sat on the senate and the board of governors have found it uniquely difficult.
“It’s very important to have student voices on the senate because without student voices there’s no actual way that faculty would be able to understand what students go through and what students would need,” says Fatima Romero-Afi, who is running for a spot on senate for the first time. “After all, every good government has a diverse group of members on its board, so having student members is extremely beneficial.”
Under the University Act, all universities in British Columbia must have a senate acting as their senior governing body. The senate oversees the awarding of certificates, diplomas, and degrees. It also sets the curriculums of programs offered by the university, qualifications for admission, academic and grading standards, and policies for discipline and appeals.
According to KPU’s website, the board of governors oversees “the management, administration, and control of the property, revenue, business, and affairs of the university.”
Nominees will be campaigning until April 6, and the elections for both the senate and board of governors will be held from April 9 to April 12. Students will be able to vote online via a Sharepoint portal found at kpu.ca/elections. The results will be announced on April 17.
This year’s nominations for senate include students Rawan Ali, Murdoch de Mooy, Oluwatosin Olugbebi, Fatima Romero-Afi, Lincoln Saugstad, and Christina Wilcox. All of the senate nominees with the exception of Romero-Afi are also running for a seat on the board of governors.
Each candidate has posted a statement on the election Sharepoint. De Mooy urges students to take some time to look into these statements to see what each candidate has to offer.
“Look at everyone’s statements and figure out something that you like. Feel free to contact the people running,” he says. “I know, in my history, every time I’ve tried to contact the senate members who are running they’re more than happy to chat, so contact them and see what they have to say.”
De Mooy, who is running for his second term as a senate student representative, says that his first term was an “eye-opening experience.” He considers the job a difficult one and explains that pushing initiatives through senate can be a very slow process.
Since student representatives are elected to one-year terms while faculty representatives are appointed for four years, many of the projects that student senators can get involved in either start before they begin their terms or start near the end of their terms, leaving them unable to fully complete tasks they take on.
De Mooy says that it’s difficult for new student representatives to catch up on initiatives that have been developing for years. For him, the process of getting familiar with the various initiatives after his election was slow-going.
Another difficulty that student senators and board members have encountered is a perceived power imbalance caused by faculty representatives vastly outnumbering student representatives. De Mooy says that, in the past, this has created an oppositional mentality, as faculty and students differ on perspectives relating to what the university needs.
“Being one of the four students in a room of 30 faculty and staff, it can sometimes seem like it’s us versus them, and they have the odds,” he says. “But then you just need to remind them sometimes, and sometimes even they remind you, that we’re here together and we’re working towards a common goal to make Kwantlen better.”
De Mooy and Romero-Afi both say that it’s important for student and faculty representatives to acknowledge each other’s perspectives and attempt to find consensus.
“I know that isn’t always easy,” says Romero-Afi. “I do know that change is definitely a slow process and it does take a lot of cooperation, a lot of time, a lot of talking, a lot of trying to understand what goes on for both faculty or students.”