Letter to the Editor: The KSA facing dwindling student engagement is its own fault

David Piraquive, a former president and arts representative for the Kwantlen Student Association. (Submitted)

Editor’s note: David Piraquive is a former president and arts faculty representative for the Kwantlen Student Association. 

One of the common criticisms of Kwantlen Polytechnic University is its lack of events on campus. Regardless of what the root cause may be, running events on campus has its challenges. Achieving any type of attendance is also further complicated due to COVID-19, in particular having 100 to 150 students attend an Annual General Meeting (AGM). 

The AGM of the Kwantlen Student Association is important because it allows students to set the direction of our student union, and it is where the annual reports and financial status of the KSA are presented to students. Additionally, it provides students with the opportunity to ask our elected representatives questions. 

In an article titled Catching up with the KSA by The Runner, re-elected Students with Disabilities Representative Lesli Sangha was quoted saying, ‘It’s the students that should have been there at the AGM if they really wanted a student union building… If the students wanted us to set goals for next year, if the students wanted change … it all comes down to the power of the students.” 

Although I agree that there is an onus on students to be aware of what their student union is up to, representative Sangha, in this case, seems to be unfairly shifting the blame to students. 

I can empathize with the struggles of running an AGM, since during my three years on the Board of Directors only once did we reach quorum by having 200 students — keeping in mind that the 2020 meeting was cancelled due to COVID-19. 

Admittedly the KSA’s outreach has always needed improvement, even during my elected period. Kickstarting student engagement through the KSA should start with our elected representatives and staff. 

The KSA should take into consideration that many first and second-year students have probably never heard of the KSA, given the shift to online classes. The blame does not solely lie on Sangha, but on the institution as a whole. 

Furthermore, the outreach over the past two years has been subpar. One could argue that during this period, the KSA board of directors was plagued by a dysfunctional council followed by a council with only two elected members and an executive assistant. Not only are the KSA executives full-time paid positions, but it is their duty as well as the board’s, especially the executives, to ensure that they run a successful AGM. 

Additionally, the KSA employs staff who make above the living wage in the Lower Mainland that are able to assist with outreach for the AGM. It also has the ability to hire staff temporarily to aid with these endeavours. Students should not be blamed, given that the only notice provided to us was by email through KPU, and the KSA made a post about the AGM only one day before the scheduled meeting. 

Lastly, the KSA has not posted any minutes of its council meetings since August 2020. This was an issue that the KSA encountered during my last term. It was wrong then, and it is equally wrong today. However, this is not the fault of just one individual, but the organization as a whole. Such documents are vital as it ensures a level of transparency and accountability to the membership. 

I hope that Sangha and the KSA take my comments as constructive criticism. At the end of the day, I will always care about the KSA and more importantly our student population. It is my desire that we can all take this as a learning experience. The KSA has the ability to offer many opportunities outside the classroom, and I highly encourage my fellow students to join the KSA either through committees or as an elected official.