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Pair vie for VP (Student Life)

The Vice-President (Student Life) is responsible for university-related, non-academic issues including campus programming, university non-academic advocacy, the U-Pass, the Health & Dental Plan and SU Student Services.

1. What are some of the goals you have for next year as VP (Student Life)?

Vivian Kwan: For enhancing campus health, I’m talking about how we’re currently working to develop a provincial, mental health and addiction strategy. We’re planning to strengthen conversation with the provincial government, because in 2016 our funding for mental health initiatives will end. And due to the unfortunate events in HUB and Lister, it’s pretty evident that mental health initiatives are clearly needed on this campus.

In the past, we focused on boosting services and promoting services, and a lot of students see these services and they want to use them — hence wait times increase. I am currently working with Counselling and Clinical Services psychologists for the Positive You campaign, which is focused on boosting resiliency on campus.

Param Singh: My main goal is to empower the students. I’ll be doing that by conducting online surveys every month so that I can know about the real problems that students face on campus and act accordingly.
My second goal will be to boost mental health services so that I can make it more approachable for students to go there.

Third is to diversify social events to make student life enjoyable.

2. How do you plan on working with international students and advocating for their concerns?

Kwan: Right now, we’re working with the International Students’ Association. We have a blueprint for a campaign we want to set up for next year for breaking stereotypes with international students. A lot of them don’t know how to cope with stress.
We hope to profile international students and start an awareness campaign talking about their story and how they feel about mental health.

Singh: I’m an international student, so I know the problems international students face. It’s hard to get used to the culture, so I want to diversify the events and work with the VP (OpsFi) about the international fees thing too so I can work on that too.

3. How do you plan on working with residence services to address their concerns in residence?

Kwan: I heard the there’s been random attacks in the parking lot at Campus Saint-Jean, so I think that’s an important discussion to be had at the Residence Hall Association.

In terms of Lister and HUB, there’s been issues of removing property without proper consent or informing them, so that would be an ongoing communication as well.

I also hope students use the resident complaint form that (current Vice-President (Student Life) Nicholas Diaz) drafted last year and circulate it more.

Singh: I think residences are pretty good. My friends are staying in residences, but there are some food problems sometimes. So I think I’ll try to figure those out and otherwise I think it’s pretty good.

4. What’s one issue that came up this year that you would have tackled differently from the current VP(SL)?

Kwan: I felt like (VP (Student Life) Diaz) could have done more with advocacy, like Break the Record. I would of still considered Break the Record an option and I would have done more investigative.

In the last three years, the VP (Student Life) wasn’t able to carry out the event. There might have been internal issues we had to evaluate. We can discuss if students are willing to fundraise or pay a participation fee or plan ahead of time. Next year, I want to make it more transparent

Singh: Students have not really been asked when it comes to decisions, so I think we should conduct online surveys every month so we can know about the real problems that they face and focus on the things they want us to focus on.

5. What are some fun activities, programming or events you plan to bring on campus?

Kwan: I want to do more inclusive events. For example, for Week of Welcome, a lot of events are 18 or older. First-year students are getting younger and younger as they enter university. I feel like the first week of the university campus is the most crucial. Our community should be more inclusive and promote events without alcohol, like promoting events that utilize local talent.

Singh: I want to bring multicultural events so anyone from any country can come. I want to do normal parties and stuff, because everyone wants to have fun. You need to make a balance between studies and extracurricular activities. If you just study, it’s pretty hard. In my first year, I was just focused towards studies.

6. This year the Tunnel Ball Guinness World Record and the Hide-and-Seek Guinness World Record were attempted on campus. If you could break ANY world record on campus with unlimited funding, what would it be?

Kwan: I would want to do a break the record-eating contest and see how many students can eat how many pizzas in one sitting. That would be awesome. I’d like Famoso.

Singh: I would do the biggest party. Like all the university students from all campuses should be invited, and just do a really big party.

10 Comments

  1. @That guy
    So i was thinking about the online surveys for different faculties in different domains but the questions will be the same. That way we know what are interests of students from different faculties and we will even know how many students from each faculty are participating and if it’s the cross section of the campus or no.
    I will even try to meet the maximum amount of students and talk to them personally to know about their problems and i will try to solve their problems in the same month. There will be a complaint or information booths.

  2. Param

    Online polls like the ones you suggest might look nice, and provide the illusion of consultation, but there are two inherent problems with them.

    The first is that the answers you get likely won’t be statistically significant. If you want the answers to mean anything, you’ll want to make sure that the people responding to the poll represent an accurate cross section of the campus community. Faculty, gender, residence, year of study, etc – these are all demographic details that you’ll need to consider every time you put a poll in the field. If you don’t, then the poll has an inherent bias – it’s only answered by the people motivated enough to go to the website and find it, and the people who answer it likely won’t be reflective of the greater campus community. You also need to make sure people aren’t voting twice. Proper polling is generally done in person (or over the phone). You need to design the questions and ensure an appropriate sample size, and then get people to go out and conduct the survey. Once you have the results, you then need to enter the data and prepare cross section analysis. Raw data, especially that from an online poll, is meaningless. All of that takes time and money. Surveying and data analysis is something that should be done right, or not at all.

    The second problem with online polling as a means of student outreach is that it’s passive. If you want to do surveys to give students a voice on day to day issues (rather than providing data to direct business, services, and advocacy efforts), it’s no better than just putting the exec’s email address on the website – you’re making the student come to you, something only the most motivated will do. If the VPSL (and exec/SU in general) want to do real consultation, you need to take an active approach – getting out of your offices and approaching students directly. Hold town halls, Q&As or info booths. All of those are going to be more effective at reaching out to the campus community than putting up a couple questions on the SU website.

  3. @That Girl
    Most of the stress is because of the studies. I myself am a Engineering student and it is considered as one of the most hardest courses. So, i know many students who just want to study all the time. I would like propose different course related events(competitions) and encourage the students to participate. By doing that, students who don’t participate in extra-curricular activities will be able to benefit themselves and have fun through these activities without even worrying about their marks. For example, for civil engineering students, we will encourage them through different associations to volunteer with local habitat to build houses for humanity. Same way, we can have different events for different faculties.

  4. @That Guy
    So i think online surveys should be conducted and those won’t even cost anything and the surveys should be really short like 1 or 2 multiple choice questions. That way most of the people will even do it because if a survey has a long line of questions, most students feel like it is a waste of time. So, I think it is a cheap and productive to know about the opinion of the students.

  5. To be fair I did get a chance to skim through Kwan’s platform and she elaborated much more on her vision than in this interview… I agree they could have elaborated a lot more on these questions and a lot of important messages didn’t get carried across to the audience. But you can skim through http://www.votekwan.com incase you are curious on her take on mental health.

  6. Yes, I agree with “That Guy”. Many people are talking about mental health issues in their campaigns, but not proposing any real solutions. The Gateway actually wrote an article about it a few weeks back – and I’m sick of the band-aid mental health campaigns. We need to deal with the real, underlying stresses BEFORE they turn into anything serious. Preventative medicine, folks.
    My vote will go towards the person who discusses specifics on how they will fix our current level of “mental health initiatives” and how it will realistically deal with the stresses that students face.

  7. While it’s commendable that both candidates mention mental health services, neither provide concrete plans about how they will improve it. The UofA currently has the Peer Support Centre – what additional resources does this service need? More funding? More advertising? More space? How about working with the President and VPX to lobby the government to include counselling and prescription meds (common tools in treating mental illness) under the provincial health plan? Working with the VPA to see how course loads impact stress, and whether the UofA does enough to accommodate mental illness in classes? Neither candidate gives this important issue anything more than a passing thought.

    As for surveys, monthly check-ins as proposed by Singh will quickly result in fatigue, and will be too costly and intensive to do properly. The SU should undertake a campus wide survey on student opinion every 3-5 years so that students will answer at least one during their time at the UofA. The VPSL’s office, and the SU in general, need to do a better job of long range planning – thinking beyond the 1 year executive term. There is a role for the VPSL to play in student outreach, but neither candidate has a fleshed out idea on how this should be done.

    Issues involving CSJ, Augustana, and International Students likewise fall under the VPSL’s portfolio. Again, neither candidate has a fleshed out strategy for how these groups can be embraced as part of the greater campus community.

    The VPSL’s position is equal parts events and advocacy: Student safety, health (mental and physical), services, residence issues, athletics and events all fall under this portfolio. When it comes to events, which ones are working? Which ones aren’t? What new ones would you bring in? Which ones would you axe? While large events like BtR may be fun, if they become too costly and cater to too small a demographic, other alternatives should be explored. The SU doesn’t have a monopoly on fun, and sometimes it’s easier to empower student groups to create a greater range of on campus events. Sadly, neither candidate has shown much vision when it comes to this job. Hopefully they will step up as the campaign continues.

  8. @Harry

    Obvious redundancy aside, I do agree with your statement that it would require the involvement of the collective SU executive for Break the Record and other campus events. However, this needs to fall under the responsibilities of the most appropriate VP. If everyone is involved in everything, then what is the need for 4 distinct VPs?

    Also, If you take the time to do a more thorough reading, you’d see this:

    “The Vice-President (Student Life) is responsible for university-related, non-academic issues including campus programming, university non-academic advocacy, the U-Pass, the Health & Dental Plan and SU Student Services.”

    …at the very beginning of this article.

    Break the Record is “university related”
    Break the Record is “non-academic”
    Break the Record is a campus program.
    Campus programming is the responsibility of the VPSL.

    Therefore Vivian’s comment IS relevant.

    Mind you, there is a name for “the events and production department within the SU” that you spoke of. It is called the VPSL.

  9. Hi Harry! Thank you for the feedback. I definitely believe it is a collaborative effort between all of the SU executives and department the following year and I understand that the programming and events department plays a major role in carrying out this event. However, I still believe that Break the Record somewhat weighs a bit more on the VPSL portfolio because it does fall under the non-academic component in terms of diversifying/promoting engaging events on campus. But yes! A thorough discussion with everyone on the team will definitely be made in the following year regarding this topic. Thank you for your opinion, greatly appreciate it 🙂

  10. Vivian’s comment regarding Break the Record didn’t really have anything to do with VPSL. The events and production department within the SU was in charge of fundraising for and organizing the event and they just never got around to it. Proposing to do it in future years would involve the collective SU executive, not just VPSL, to get that department’s shit together or else Break the Record will never happen.

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