KSA members say executives aren’t fulfilling their duties

Student politicians are concerned about the student association’s ability to help students without adequate leadership

VP External Affairs Palwinder Singh, President/ VP of Student Life Gurdial Dinsa, VP Finance & Operations Sukhpreet Kaur. (file photo)

Koushal Charan, a student member on the KSA Student Life Committee and External Affairs Committee, considers holding executives accountable for their actions part of his job description. Right now, he says his “major concern” is that the KSA executives are “not doing a lot of work.”

Executives are expected to dedicate roughly 40 hours per week to fulfilling their duties. They are paid about $1,200 every two weeks to accomplish this.

“Even if we’re being lenient, I still don’t think they’re maintaining that,” says Charan. “That’s not what I’m used to as executives like workwise. Even if you’re doing a little bit of work, it should be more than just looking at emails.”

The executive team elected in March includes President and VP Student Life Gurdial Dhindsa, VP External Affairs Palwinder Singh, VP Finance and Operations Sukhpreet Kaur, and VP University Affairs Ravinder Pal Singh.

In response to a request for an interview, Kaur wrote to The Runner that everyone on the executive team is “doing their best.”

“This is our first year of serving in the KSA. Due to COVID, we all know, all of sudden, everything went online. We didn’t get enough training,” she wrote. “Nobody got introduced with other members in the KSA and got familiarized with their roles. Nobody told us to whom we should contact if we have any concerns.”

At the start of her term, she says she wasn’t introduced to her team leads, who she reports to regarding honorariums and budget issues. This caused a delay in honorariums being issued to council members.

Still, Charan says the executives should be actively addressing issues that students are facing during the first fall semester of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are a lot of student issues that the KSA should be worrying about, and it’s just not happening. We don’t have a voice in government or anything right now, and it’s very frustrating,” he says.

“When we came back, I was expecting that the external and student life committees would have at least done something, but we came back, and I’m like, ‘These guys got paid six grand or something over six weeks, and they haven’t done anything.’ That’s student money too.”

As a student committee member, he can not cast votes at council meetings, which means he can only raise these concerns to the council during the question period. Several committee meetings have also been delayed or cancelled over the summer, making it difficult for members to execute plans.

He urges students to put pressure on the KSA to demand more from its executives.

A KSA Council representative  who chose to remain anonymous says they were also expecting executives to be more engaged when they were elected in the spring, around the same time COVID-19 cases began to rise in B.C.

“The pandemic is still occurring. There are still a lot of problems that students are facing like the housing crisis, not having enough work during the summer so they don’t necessarily have money to pay for rent in the fall or feel like they’re fully accommodated in online courses. If  they’re an international student, it can be a little bit of a struggle to go to school when you’re in a different time zone.”

They agree with Charan that “it’s very important for the executive to have a vision for the KSA … where they can be transparent with students, reach out to students, and actually do the work.”

“I don’t think the work that they’re currently doing, which is answering emails, attending the meetings but really not participating, relying on other people to give them a lot of the ideas of what to move forward with in terms of their portfolio — I don’t think that that constitutes enough work for the amount of money that’s been given to them. Something has to be done about it.”

During the question period for the most recent KSA Council meeting on Aug. 28, they brought up their concerns to the executives and received “no response.”

“I asked if any of the executives wanted to respond to the comment I had made, and none of them responded,” they say.

To their knowledge, the issue still hasn’t been addressed by KSA Council directly.

“The issue is that we don’t think it’ll get passed because they have such a majority on council right now. They’re just the group of people that kind of voted for each other on council,” says Charan.

“There were some examples of slating last year especially, and then still a little bit this year. The KSA didn’t do too much about that. It’s kind of reinforcing that behaviour if you don’t make it right, and that still exists on council,” he says.

The anonymous representative shares Charan’s concerns about conflicts of interest within the student government and encourages students to engage with the KSA.

“There are people who are good friends or even sometimes roommates with the executives who are on the board. I’m concerned that there will be people who won’t kind of perform their duty to keep students’ best interest in mind and not put their friendship ahead of all that,” they say.

“Some of the council members actually are friends with the executives, so it’s kind of a hard line to tread when you are outside of the KSA pals with someone, but in the KSA they’re not doing the work.”

As a member of the executive team, Kaur “doesn’t find anything wrong” with being friends with other KSA members.

“Our friendship doesn’t have any bad effects on our work, and we did not become friends after joining the KSA,” she wrote in an email to The Runner. “Are supposed to tell our friends that we will no longer support each other in their roles because the KSA doesn’t like it?”

She urges student politicians to approach executives about their concerns directly so they can “look at them and work with them.”

“We also want to know exactly what they want us to do, and believe me, if they will do so, I would love to work with them as a team,” she wrote. “Just blaming executives without knowing the whole story and without putting their concerns to us directly would not solve the issue.”

While the anonymous representative hasn’t directly spoken about this issue with councillors, student members have told them that “they don’t feel like the executives are doing their job.”

“That’s a stronger message that’s being sent because when you’re a student, they’re supposed to be representing you,” they say.

If executives don’t change their behaviour, the Board of Directors could vote to remove their stipends.

“The money is actually to allow the executives to perform their role without being unable to pay rent or tuition if they actually contribute to this role. It allows for a more diverse pool of people who are able to access that, not just people who are wealthy,” says the anonymous source.

“There may be executives who are truly passionate and want to perform the role well but might not have the skills necessary. And in that case, I want to encourage them to run again when they have the skills necessary if they’re still interested,” they say.

An earlier council meeting on July 17 indicated the KSA’s low output over the summer. As reported by KSA President Gurdial Dhindsa, the executive committee was “mostly involved in day to day activities.”

The VP Student Life was focused on rolling out the U-Pass bursary. The VP University Affairs reported that the Sustainability Committee was “working on possible online events,” gathering feedback about online learning and working through orientation.

The Governance Committee met to discuss election rules and committee recruitment. The VP External Affairs planned for fall orientation, elected a head of the student caucus for the U-Pass advisory committee, dealt with MultiPass suspension and bursary issues, and completed an online learning survey and ABCS training.

The VP Finance and Operations reported that they had been “responding to emails, starting up committees, and planning for conferences online in the fall.” They’re also planning to send 10 students to AASHE in October and are organizing a slam poetry event.

Seven committees presented at the meeting but had little to report. The Environmental Sustainability Committee doesn’t have a chair yet, so it did not issue a report. Neither did the Finance Committee.

The Governance Committee “reported that governance did not have much discussion so far,” and the Student Life Committee reported little more than electing a chair and setting a schedule. The University Affairs Committee reported only a meeting on July 3 with no further details provided. The Social Justice Committee reported working on a draft of a student mental health policy.

The External Affairs Committee seems to have been the busiest. They set meeting dates and picked primary and alternate delegates for ABCS and CASA, discussed ABCS lobby days — which may be online or delayed until February — and developed a questionnaire for international students to learn about the issues they’re facing.

There were no reports from campus representatives, constituency representatives, or faculty representatives after the committees. No topics were raised during the question period either.

The Runner reached out to other executives, but did not receive a response.