KSA Council Restricted by Seven Vacancies in its Elected Membership
Over the past five years, there have been vacancies following each general election
News / August 12, 2020
Making informed, inclusive decisions can be difficult for the KSA when they consistently lack community representatives on council. There are currently seven vacancies between constituency and faculty representatives.
“We are trying to find more ways to find more direct synergies with KPU and more of their departments,” says Benjamin Newsom, Executive Director of the KSA. “We are trying to find ways to support more people across the board.”
Constituency representatives consist of “groups that have traditionally faced systemic barriers in accessing post-secondary education,” explains the KSA’s website. Currently, there are two vacancies in this area. Students with disabilities and Indigenous students do not have elected representatives on council.
Faculty representatives can voice the interests and concerns of students and potentially staff under a specific faculty. Depending on the faculty, different numbers of representatives are needed on the council. There are five vacancies there.
Academic and Career Advancement is supposed to have one rep, but that position is currently vacant. Arts has three reps, and Science and Horticulture has two, which were all filled in the last general election. Business has five representatives, one of which is vacant.
Design and Health are supposed to have one rep each. However, both are vacant. Trades and Technology should have one representative, but it is also vacant.
“The council is structured to have representation from faculty — as well from as every campus, as well as from its constituents — so when you have a vacancy, you will not hear a voice at the table from students from that particular faculty,” says Titus Gregory, who has been Speaker of the KSA Council for the past six years.
During a meeting with the KSA’s Executive Committee, President Gurdial Dhindsa said these vacancies make it difficult to get all necessary input.
“If that [representative seat on council] is vacant, we don’t have much knowledge about it, so we have to figure it out and we have to do it. But if somebody is on that seat, they are more knowledgeable, and that makes [council] easier and smoother to run,” he says.
Several obstacles could stand in the way of students participating in the council or the KSA more widely. Simply not knowing about the opportunity to do so is one that Sukhpreet Kaur, the vice president of finance and operations, has experienced herself.
“I told my KPU friends [about the vacancies], and they said, ‘Really?’ and that they never knew,” says Kaur.
Gregory says that KPU’s status as a commuter university with many campuses could also explain why students are less interested or active in campus life in comparison to residential universities.
A heavy, difficult course load could also be a cause of students avoiding getting involved, explained Palwinder Singh, Vice President of External Affairs, in the executive committee meeting.
When there are eight or more vacancies on council, a by-election is held to fill them, but because there are only seven, there is currently no talk of holding one.
“We are pushing in that direction at the moment, of [asking ourselves], ‘How do we become more relevant to more students more quickly?’” says Newsom.
Despite these challenges, the executive committee is still excited and optimistic for their eventual return to campuses.