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BoG Endorsements!

Posted By Neal Yonson On January 23, 2012 @ 12:00 pm In Elections | Comments Disabled

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 [1], 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.

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[1] full interview transcripts: http://ubcinsiders.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/BoG-Candidate-Answer-Transcripts.pdf

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