BoG Endorsements!

This post is written by guest writer Sean Heisler, who is currently serving his second term on the Board of Governors, and his third on Senate, and is currently the Senate Vice-Chair.

[Note: in the full interview transcripts, the 7th question was blacked out due to some confidential information in some candidates’ answers.]

In a race with only two spots available, to have 7 candidates who all demonstrated a good level of understanding and engagement in the Board process is outstanding – it shows a student interest in the larger issues like we haven’t had in years’ past. That being said, I do have to somehow narrow this list down to my two choices, so let’s have at it and see where we get.

The Highlights

Sumedha Sharma – The Incumbent
As an incumbent Sumedha Sharma is definitely one of the most adept in her answers, excellently outlining the process that items go through, as well as highlighting key players and critical discussions over the past year (all of which you’d expect from an incumbent). Her main issues from the past year included the Student Housing Financing Endowment, a massive step towards attempting to meet the demand for student housing, the SUB approval and the Wesbrook Place Neighbourhood Place approval which laid the ground work what is to come with Gage South. Her main weakness is connecting to students at large, something she’s going to work on through social media.

Mike Silley – The Moderate
Mike Silley brings to the table his year as the AMS VP Admin, as well as a fairly calm set of responses to the questions. The hospice approval and the South Campus Plan were his two critical resolutions which highlight a focus on the “neighbours” lands of the campus, and a strong interest in what is happening outside of the academic core. Ponderosa hub was also raised as an area of interest. Thought his self-identified weakness was the timeline of his graduation, through his response to question 5, I would instead propose fully researching into documentation to be an area of concern. Mike raised a discussion on affordability as one which “has NOT happened in the past few years” which isn’t correct. After the tuition motion this year, strong affordability discussion were demanded by Board members, and strategic discussion took place going over the topic – a some reworking of the Student Financial Aid office being something that came out if it. It would be appropriate to demand additional or follow-up discussions, but recognising what ground work has already been laid is critical. Mike also plans “to vote against any proposed tuition increase”, which would concern me not because of the gesture, but because it implies making one’s mind up before any facts are known. The provincial government is highly unstable right now, and by the time this vote comes up the arena could be very different.

Matt Parson – The Influencer
To be blunt, Matt Parson’s answers were exceptional. He brings a wealth of experience from the AMS VP Academic and University Affairs position, and it shows as he describes the different approval processes and discussions that took place over the past years. He has also gown his ability to influence at a committee level over that year. A strong interest in and focus on the planning, approvals and housing aspects of the Board (similar to other candidates) is prevalent across his answers, and it is also where his largest strengths lie. He definitely brings enough background on many of these topics to impact the direction of the decisions. The biggest weakness he highlights is his reputational baggage from opposing the University a number of times as VP Academic, though given the perceptions I have heard around the table, I believe this won’t stand in his way.

Justin Yang – The Academic
Justin comes from an academic background and has served for a couple years on Senate. He understands the higher levels of the university as well as the best of the other candidates, and I would claim knows the Strategic Plan better than any of the others. His biggest weakness in my mind is the year he chose to run in, this year has stiffer competition than the past 3, if not more. His presented largest weakness is that he is too “acquiescent” (and his strength is an impressive vocabulary), which is a concern I share. It is something he is working on, and knows about himself, which is positive.

Sean Cregten – The Crotchety Old Man
The most entertaining answers to the questions BY FAR, with some gems including listing his biggest weakness as “My low campus profile. The biggest barrier to me being effective on the Board is the election process. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.”, a campaign of “Winning. From Here. “, and explaining work being done on the Board “By Sean Heisler. Or in Reflections”. While the flattery is appreciated it won’t help. Amidst these, however, Sean does convey an understanding of everything that occurs from the Board. What is clear given experience with the Board longer than any other candidate is that he knows what students need, knows what the hot buttons are, and isn’t afraid to push them. Though his cited biggest weakness is his low campus profile, I would point to his graduation creating a potential detachment from campus as a larger concern. His knowledge of policy and ability to research items is possibly only second to Neal Yonson. [Ed: While the flattery is appreciated it won’t help.]

Tagg Jefferson – The Dark Horse
While Sean Cregten claimed his low campus profile as a weakness, Tagg would win that contest. Though he is highly known across Engineering thanks to massive involvements in the EUS and both building projects the Faculty of Applied Science has been undertaking. His answers are well researched, obviously having read minutes from every meeting in the past year, and his description of how work gets done on the Board was the best of anyone. Key strengths are that he would bring is a less politicized perspective than many other “hack” candidates and a fresh perspective from the other side of the building projects that none of the members of the Board have. He also picked out Hubert Lai as a strong ally, which no other candidate did, and I can say I have yet to witness anyone disagreeing with Hubert at, or around, Board meetings.

Erik MacKinnon – The Radical
With one of the most … aggressive blogs being associated with his name, Erik’s answers are not-surprisingly the most provocative. His clear strength is an ability to state confidently whatever is on his mind, so in areas where a student’s opinions align with Erik’s, he would be a very loud advocate. He already knows a great way to get things done on the Board (“Call Reny Kahlon”) , and he knows his biggest weakness is his bluntness. In the final question, however, he makes mention that “They are 47,000 voices brought together into one, and that one should accurately reflect how the majority feels.” when speaking about the role of a representative. In this comes what I believe to be a false sense of representation. While it would be great to represent 47,000 voices, when only 2,300 vote to elect the representative, how can you claim to represent a majority? Similarly, which opinion do you represent; a popular opinion, a researched opinion, a proactive or constructive one? Too often this year I’ve seen Erik land in the popular opinion realm – and though examples exist where this is effective lack of research has been an issue in his statements previously.

The Endorsements

Tagg Jefferson

He presents an opportunity and effectiveness to the Board that I only wish I could have offered. His biggest barrier is by far his name recognition in the election, but I would anticipate given these answers and his experiences, an amazing year if he was elected.

Sumedha Sharma

A knowledgeable incumbent who has been effective in her first year is an excellent choice. Though she is graduating, there is enough passion and affinity for UBC students that I don’t believe a disenfranchisement will occur.

Though not an official endorsement I would like to make an honourable mention to Matt Parson. If he was not in the AMS President race he would have received an endorsement. The reason this worries me are a) Split Priorities, especially if both races are won, and b) Perceived Conflict of Interest. While there has been one instance of someone holding both these positions, with the Governance discussion upcoming where the AMS and UBC are potentially (and likely) directly opposing stakeholders, he would have to step away from some of the most critical discussions if elected.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Thanks for taking the time to put all of this together – I can appreciate that it was a lot of work. I think it’s interesting that I’m “The Radical” while at the same time I “represent the popular opinion” – I’ll let readers decide what they think of that.

    One comment that I will make is that your assessment of me very accurately shows the fundamental difference between how you (and other recent BoG reps) view the elected student representatives’ job on the Board and how I do.

    Personally, I’m not of the belief that it’s the right approach for a candidate or representative to develop/state his or her opinion and then find a bunch of people that approve of that opinion. Yes – you’re elected on the will of some few thousands of people that bother to cast a ballot; I will challenge that a small percentage of those even know (or care) what your “platform” is.

    Where I believe that past representatives have completely faceplanted is in the realization that your job engaging students does not stop with getting elected. As an elected representative of 47,000 students, it’s not your job to cater to the handful that bothered to vote for you – it’s your job to engage as many of the rest of them as is possible, to join the conversation and to contribute in their own way.

    This is why I have stated time and time again that it’s entirely moot to have a “platform” in the BoG race, and that candidates that are coming in with their own personal agendas are doing an incredible disservice to the rest of the student body. I’m running on my vast array of experience in the business, academic, non-profit and other worlds, which provides me with the acumen to sit at the table as a peer and the strength to create real change. I don’t want students to vote for me because I currently believe Opinion X about Issue Y, but because they have confidence that I will consult with them and act on their behalf in a responsible manner.

    Take any issue affecting our campus: Gage South, Municipal/(Other) Governance, Student/Faculty/Staff Housing, Transportation, etc. Some other candidate might say “Hey! I have X opinion on this issue, and I was elected with that opinion so that’s what I’ll push at the Board.” I’m not like that. My response is “Hey, this is a pretty important issue! I’m going to research this, find out the facts, and then raise these points with as many students as possible to find out what they think!” Case in point: how I went after the AMS with their absurd 30% mid-term executive salary increase. Find out the objective facts, lay them out for students, and then carefully consider which is the “right” decision. Finally, have the intestinal fortitude to act, regardless of the minor dings your political capital might take.

    The TL;DR: I don’t claim to represent 47,000 voices with my personal values, beliefs or “platform”, because it’s far better to be elected by students that are confident that you will consult with them before you act on their behalf. What I DO claim is that I am the *only* BoG candidate that has proven time and time again that I will bring major issues to light and ensure that every voice that wants to speak is heard and considered.

    Our elected Board of Governors reps are all that we have at the top level to defend student interests and to make students a part of the future of this campus. If they aren’t massively engaged in asking every one of the 47,000 of us here, listening to answers and acting on what they have heard, they have absolutely failed in their role.

    UBC Student: If this is the kind of person you want representing you on the Board, then vote for Erik MacKinnon.

    Posted by Erik MacKinnon | January 23, 2012, 8:05 pm
  2. As The Crotchety Old Man, I would like to point out that “he knows what students need, knows what the hot buttons are, and isn’t afraid to push them” isn’t too bad a place to start for a governor. Thanks, Sean Heisler!

    To Erik: the electoral process isn’t just a contest of personalities, it’s also a contest of ideas. I really respect the way that you recognise that preconceptions are not always the best thing to stand by once elected, as they may not reflect the general will of students. It is absolutely critical that any governor be willing to change their stance on issues when it becomes apparent students are not on-board, or there is new information. We should not be ideologues. However, by being up front about our ideas in the electoral campaign, we do give students the very real choice to reflect what they want to see on the Board.

    This contest shouldn’t just be about personalities; it should be about ideas, and how we can push student’s interests on the BoG. That’s why I issued my challenges to other candidates (http://cregten.wordpress.com/challenges/), and that`s why we had such a productive debate last Friday.

    Issues and debate. That`s what we`re here for, and that`s what we have to do (successfully, and in student`s interests) on the BoG.

    Posted by Sean Cregten | January 23, 2012, 8:41 pm
  3. Just thought that the Academic ought to post a comment for posterity’s sake.

    As I have already tweeted, I wanted to thank you for your lucid, insightful analysis and for posting the rationale behind your questions. (Aside: Blacking out the text was a good idea but if one copies and pastes from the PDF, one may view the answers without very much difficulty.)

    It concerns me deeply, however, the ways in which you have rhetorically constructed yourself and your perceived ideal conception of a student representative to the Board of Governors (BoG). I believe you are reifying what makes a “winning” candidate, working prescriptively rather than descriptively. By doing so, you are (perhaps unknowingly) legitimizing a structure in which only those students who fit the criteria you (and others like you) have established can be considered seriously, even as viable candidates. I believe that this contributes to a democratic deficit in which individuals with verve, heart, and outstanding work ethic are made to feel inadequate and incompetent.

    This should not be so. For it really cannot. This is what plagues the AMS and will always do so until we shift our paradigms.

    I am speaking in the abstract here — I will seek to use an illustrative example. Two years ago, you were running for BoG for the first time. You were absent for your debates for (what I believe were) very legitimate reasons though you did send a cardboard cutout in your place. Voters could have chosen among you, Guillaume, and Blake. (Azim, I assume, was assuredly safe.)

    As a writer for the UBC Spectator, I was happy to see that we chose to endorse you at the time. You demonstrated, verve, heart, and a willingness to learn and work hard. We never asked if you could name Reny or Hubert. We didn’t need you to qualify your professional credentials. We didn’t even need you to be physically present at the debates. We just wanted someone with goodness, not necessarily greatness.

    And I don’t think we were alone. I am going to take the risk and say that people voted for you not because of your astounding memory for minutes or your insight into the finer nuances of endowment fund structures but because they believed you were doing this for all the right reasons. They believed that you had the right skills, some relevant experience, and the ability to learn fast, and work hard. But above all, you were elected (as we have all been at some point) because people believed that we could genuinely effect change at this place of mind.

    That you are adjudicating us candidates on criteria you would be hard-pressed to apply to yourself two years ago is, I think, patently unfair.

    At the risk of allegedly “slate-like” behaviour, I want to draw attention to the fact that every person who is running in the elections for BoG affirms his/her personal commitment to working very hard for students. I am disinclined to believe that I am unlucky to have run this year nor do I believe it is a legitimate “weakness.” As much as anyone, I demonstrate an adequate knowledge of the issues, I work very hard for students, and I am willing to learn very quickly if elected. You damn some, including me, with faint praise and others with masked scorn.

    Every candidate listed here is courageous and hopeful. Courageous for daring to put his/her name out for public scrutiny and criticism; hopeful for believing that students can genuinely and positively effect change on this campus. Every person listed here has the potential to be just as, if not more, effective as you were on the BoG.

    In this spirit, I respectfully submit this comment, decline your non-endorsement, and celebrate my fellow candidates.

    Posted by Justin Yang | January 23, 2012, 10:04 pm
  4. Erik’s right about a couple things here, and I’d like to stress those with a different perspective.

    I, like other typically politically inactive citizens, come from (and am trying to move away from) a position ov complacency and belief in the good will ov all men. This complacency leads to being taken advantage ov and, in turn, bitching about political outcomes that directly affect one’s life. The thing that I think make’s Erik’s “platform” so exigent at this moment ov over-arching apathy is his desire to actually find out, and not GUESS what a good decision is. Not one ov the candidate’s answers to these questions come from a deep understanding (or, perhaps, caring about) ov the current failings ov democracy at large.
    I believe the accusation ov under-researched opinions is flawed, and would like an explanation. Regardless, it won’t change the fact that it’s his attitude alone that won my vote over the other candidates.
    Everyone wants change, but most don’t care enough to defeat their own sinful complacency or the system’s sinful bureaucracy. I believe MacKinnon’s heartfelt desire to amend the suffering ov the common apathetic (though he may not put it that way) will bring about some ov the realest change UBC has witnessed in a long time.

    Posted by Deraek Menard | January 24, 2012, 1:51 am
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