InstitutionalOpinion

Bite The Ballot: Undergraduate Board of Governors Representative

tl;dr I like Armand Birk, but the race is close, and if Sandare’s platform speaks to you, vote for him.


The race for Board of Governors Representative can get lost in SU Elections. After all, the rep isn’t paid, they don’t have an office with the rest of the exec, and don’t often show up in SU publicity.

Despite the perception, this position has arguably the second-most power of any on the ballot, only trailing president in influence. As such, this is an incredibly important race, it has two experienced candidates running in it.

Sandare, for his part, ran in and won a hotly contested race for Vice-President (External) last year. Having served that term, he’s now running for a seat at the big table on the Board of Governors. Armand Birk, on the other hand, has been president of the Campus Saint-Jean residence association as well as president of a fraternity. Though both have extensive experience in student governance, Sandare gets an edge here, as his position has been more in the public light, and his involvement with Students’ Council more extensive.

Okay, one down. How about platforms? Birk’s is 636 words long, covering two main points. He has pledged to “improve and implement the student consultation process,” and “formalize the BoG role.” Both simple enough. Conversely, Sandare’s platform is extensive. It promises that he would work to increase awareness of Board activities among students, advocate for lowering the financial burden of being a student, and fight for affordable housing and a more student-friendly meal plan on the Board.

Board of Governors Representative candidate Mike Sandare

Essentially, who takes the “W” on policy comes down to how you want to define the role of the BoG Rep. Would you prefer a candidate who takes their marching orders from council and the student body, or do you want someone who will consciously push dialogue on specific talking points in Board meetings in addition to engaging with the council and the electorate? The definition of the role is mostly what the winner of this race makes of it, and as a voter, you get to decide whose definition you like best.

For me, I like the way Birk’s platform has shaped up. My take is that the BoG Rep’s main job is to listen to their constituents and council, and to take what they hear and the data they collect to the Board. Though both candidates put an emphasis on surveying and amplifying the student voice through a variety of means (Birk would do surveys, Mike would implement confessionals), Birk’s campaign seems to dilute that voice less. I like that.

Okay, now we look at campaigns. I’m going to list some of Birk’s main talking points:

  • He’s a small-program guy. Birk has gone from CSJ to the music program, so he intimately understands what it’s like to be the little fish in a big pond.
  • He wants to use surveys and quantitative data collection to bring the student voice to the Board.
  • He wants the BoG rep position with standardized office hours and meetings with SU exec

With Sandare, the list looks something like this:

  • He’s spent a year building relationships with university stakeholders including students, faculty, and those in governance.
  • He’s intimately familiar with the structure of the BoG and SU.
  • He wants to implement confessional-style interviews with students to bring feedback to the board.
Board of Governors Representative candidate Armand Birk

Both have emphasized the importance of the student voice to their job, as well as shown a knowledge of what the role entails. When it comes down to who gets the edge here, I’d again give it to Birk. I like that he’s a part of a small program, I like his emphasis on quantitative data (after all, the Board does love quantitative data), and I like the formalization of the role. I’m also not sure how Sandare’s confessionals would look, and the efficacy of the feedback they would return.

Again, I am not everyone. Sandare’s experience is nothing to scoff at, and if his points resonate more with you, then vote for Mike. What I would encourage you to do is look at those points and break them down. I spout a lot from the ivory tower that is The Gateway, but the voters need to decide whose views align best with their own.

So, who do I think should win? Birk.

First, he’s ahead 2-1 on my informal scorecard. Second, his platform and approach to the position reminds me more of current BoG Rep Colin Champagne, who has certainly been the best at the position in my time on campus. If I could vote for Colin again, I certainly would.

Most importantly of all, I believe that neither of these candidates would negatively impact the BoG position. They are both capable of fulfilling the requirements of the role, and both will serve the student body should they be elected.

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