KSA advocacy coordinator looking to make university senate more accessible

The KSA says more can be done to help students take part in decisions that impact them

John O'Brian. (file photo)

John O’Brian. (file photo)

Kwantlen Student Association advocacy coordinator John O’Brian wants KPU students to get more involved in the senate, which he says is where most of the important decisions are made. Some of the decisions made by the senate include creating program curriculums, criteria for degrees, diplomas, certificates, admission requirements, and library services. 

O’Brian says he wants students to have the opportunity to have a say in what happens at the university, and that information about senate proceedings should be made more readily available.

In the spring, O’Brian looked into how he could work alongside other student organizations to inform students about being active in the senate. Discussions about collaboration have been at a standstill due to many people previously preparing for the election.  

O’Brian sees the hopeful collaboration as a long-term project.

Since the senate is in charge of making decisions, O’Brian says it is important for students to be involved in the proceedings actively, and he encourages students to go to meetings and run in the elections. He wants them to know more about the board of governors and feel empowered to come up with regulations they feel are appropriate and help students.

“It’s hard to sort of overstate how many things could be affected at the university because ultimately everything passes through one of these committees or a board or senate at some point,” says O’Brian.

O’Brian says that a good example of a decision that student could have had more of a say in was the cancellation of the music program in 2019. When KPU stopped new admissions for the program, the news came as a surprise to many students who protested against the decision. 

The university was criticized by faculty on how it handled the suspension of the program, saying that they were not well informed of the decision, and new applicants were told that the program was no longer accepting new students. The program’s website currently says it’s “postponed indefinitely.”

“There was sort of a flurry of reaction, ‘What does it mean for everybody? What do we do about it? Is there anything to say or places to go?’” says O’Brian. “And it was hampered by most people involved, with students and many of the faculty, I think, only vaguely understanding how it works behind the scenes.”

Even the changes or creation of buildings on campus are decided by the senate and have to go through rounds of consultation and deliberation. There are currently four KPU students on the list of 2021/2022 senators. They are elected by students, and are involved in the meetings that take place before decisions are made. They can vote on decisions and are in office for one year. 

O’Brian says this is important because, by the time students hear about decisions or changes to the university, the debates have often happened months before.

The election for student senates is held during the spring semester. If students want to get more involved and understand what goes on in the meetings, they can find the schedule with a link on the senate website and view past meeting minutes. 

“Nearly everything important that happens in university gets decided at some level or approved or reported on at some governance agency,” says O’Brian.

O’Brian says one of the improvements the KPU senate needs to focus on is how they can make the information on upcoming meetings and past meetings more accessible to students. Right now, he says the university is not taking any steps to make sure students are aware of it.