In early April, the 2021 election results for Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Senate and Board of Governors were announced. Voted in by fellow KPU students, the four student representatives elected to KPU’s Senate were Olivia Takaoka, Xavier Ardez, Purru Sandhu, and Remi Jazvine Zulfikar Reshma. Elected to the Board of Governors as student representatives were Rahul Malhotra and also Purru Sandhu. Their terms will run from Sept. 1, 2021, to Aug. 31, 2022.
Under the University Act, the Senate is the senior academic body at KPU. Their roles include setting criteria for awarding certificates, diplomas and degrees, setting qualifications for admission and curriculum content for programs, setting criteria for academia and the grading system, and laying out the student appeals process. Likewise, the Board of Governors is responsible for the management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business, and other affairs of the institution.
Each student senator oversees the interest of all students being represented on a higher academic level, such as the university budget and curriculum planning. By participating in deliberations and voting, student representatives ensure that it’s not only faculty or staff who have a say in important decisions.
First-year English student Olivia Takaoka has always been an outspoken person, but when she saw an email advertising for student Senate nominations, she felt it was a perfect opportunity.
“I’ve always been very outspoken, and so I thought if this was a productive way to use my voice, then I may as well do it,” she says.
Prior to officially campaigning for the position, Takaoka says she noticed a lack of student involvement and gaps in the quality of students’ education, and wanted to make meaningful change. While she doesn’t take office for a few more months, she already has a list of goals.
Her biggest priority is enhancing the quality of education for KPU students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a very different education that I received when I was in-class. There are definitely some really great components that have transferred over, but also some holes, so I wanted to make sure that all my courses still provide the same quality of education that they would as on campus,” she says.
When KPU does shift back to in-person learning, she wants to make the transition as safe and meaningful as possible for students who might otherwise feel overwhelmed.
“For the students who were freshly out of high school and went into college, and all they know is Zoom university, it’s going to be very overwhelming,” she says. “There’s going to be even more students coming to campus who’ve never been on campus before, so I want to make sure that they have a really positive experience.”
Also on her “to do” list during the term is continuing to advocate for social justice issues, which she wants KPU to be known for.
Takaoka says she wants to make sure that KPU is a safe place for every person, no matter what, and that it is actively working towards being progressive.
In preparation for her upcoming role, Takaoka has been in contact with her new Senate colleagues and is taking on additional duties. She’s trying to get to know as many people as she can, including students, in order to foster positive relationships and gain as many new viewpoints as possible.
Takaoka says she put in a lot of effort campaigning for this position with her fellow classmates and felt a sense of accomplishment when the election results were announced.
“It definitely was a really great feeling,” she says.
Xavier Ardez, a second-year student studying in the computer-aided design and drafting program, was also voted in as a student representative in KPU’s Senate.
Listening to his peers, he noticed a problem with the current situation of classes and scheduling at KPU, and addressing those concerns is what motivated Ardez to run for the Senate position.
“I wanted to be able to bring situations like these to the institution to be resolved. I wanted to be the representative for students so their ideas and opinions are heard,” Ardez wrote in an email to The Runner.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on many aspects of life, and his campaigning for the Senate position was no exception. While he was confident in his campaign, all of it was done online and through social media, so he was unsure if his efforts would be validated by KPU students until the Senate election results were finally announced.
“Though it was a challenge, I persevered and tried my best,” wrote Ardez. “I felt that I now had a duty to uphold. I felt immense support from my classmates and peers. Overall, I felt pride and motivation to ensure that I support every student in their endeavours.”
Ardez is preparing for his new role by reading and learning about the responsibilities of a student senator, and the purpose of the Senate committees. So far he has met most of his fellow student senators, but has yet to meet the student representatives elected to the Board of Governors. Regardless, he wrote that he hopes to meet everyone eventually and looks forward to working with them.
For Ardez, his most important goal when he joins the Senate is amplifying student voices.
“Many students have ideas to implement into practice,” wrote Ardez. “However, these ideas are sometimes not brought forward and slowly lose their relevance and meaning. By giving the students a chance to voice their opinions through student senators, the students’ ideas can be discussed. I wish to bring new ideas and opportunities for KPU students.”
While his term will only last for one year, Ardez wrote that a lot can change in that period of time, and KPU must be able to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
“Ultimately, I hope KPU grows as an institution and excels in student learning,” wrote Ardez.
One of two students elected to the Board of Governors, first-year computer information systems student Rahul Malhotra wanted an opportunity to do something a little outside the box for a typical university student.
In an email to The Runner, Malhotra wrote that as students, their roles are usually limited to studying and doing projects. Still, he had a “curiosity” to learn more about the behind-the-scenes operations of how KPU functions as an institution.
“I will feel privileged to become a part of the KPU team for a year,” he wrote.
The purpose of the Board of Governors is to maintain the standards set by the university, ensuring those rules are followed, and other tasks, such as setting the budget, wrote Malhotra.
Like other student representatives, COVID-19 posed a challenge when it came to campaigning. Malhotra wrote that many students were unaware of the election, so appealing to them for their vote was difficult.
Likewise, Malhotra felt anxious about the Board of Governors only having two student vacancies, but he was “very much excited” and began imagining his goals for the university once he learned he’d been elected.
“First of all, I promised myself to follow all the rules and policies honestly, and then I will discuss and will understand this in a better way to serve my institution in the best way possible,” he wrote.
Although his term will also last for one year, Malhotra has big plans for how he wants to see KPU grow in that time.
“Moreover, I will try to interact with the students and listen to these problems as a student at KPU and will raise those topics in meetings,” wrote Malhotra. “KPU is an excellent university, so I want to expand this name at a higher level in the best ways possible.”
Purru Sandhu and Remi Jazvine Zulfikar Reshma could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.