The Board of Governors is the highest decision making body at the University of Alberta and votes on issues including domestic and international student tuition, residence rent and meal plan rates, and the university’s budget. Only three students sit on the Board: the Students’ Union president, the president of the Graduate Students’ Association, and the Board of Governors Representative. While it’s not an executive position, and is unpaid, the Representative goes through the same electoral process as the president and vice-presidents.
The following interviews have been condensed and simplified for clarity. The full interviews can be listened to here:
Why are you running?
Yiming Chen: Because I want to challenge myself.
Levi Flaman: I want to bring a little bit of a different perspective to the Board of Governors. I’ve seen in recent years that a lot of the Board of Governors representatives, aside from the SU president who also sits on the board, they tend to be more big picture thinkers. I’m kind of the opposite because I’m more detail oriented and I may catch things that other people commonly miss. There are a few small tweaks that I would like to do at the board level. A couple of years ago, we had a student who came into one of the meetings and started recording. When the student government found out, they came and confronted her and with a uniformed guard with them it was kind of a tense situation. I want to get the board kind of transparent, because a lot of the things that they debate are important to students and students should know what’s going on.
Can you briefly explain your platform?
Chen: I want to help lower tuition for international students. Money matters because most of my friends have to have a part time job. They have lives and too many loans. I want to make some change for them.
Flaman: Essentially, it is just transparency on the board. One thing that also differs with the Board of Governors Representative position, they get to differ on some policies that the board is debating whereas the SU president who sits on the board is limited to debating what is on the political policies of the SU, such as tuition. So if a tuition policy debate comes up they have to vote no on any increases that may or may not be in the best interests of students from all faculties. So, whereas there are only three students who sit on the board, two undergraduate and one graduate, for all intents and purposes it is usually good to vote as a block but I have no qualms with voting against if it something that would benefit students more than what they want.
The Board of Governors can be an intimidating space. Why can students trust you to advocate on their behalf to the board?
Chen: I think that I am a good decision maker. I am good at thinking. I started a business twice in China and I can take many challenges. I learn fast and I can communicate well with others.
Flaman: I consider myself to be a mature student. I had some life experience before coming back to university, so I am a little older than the typical undergraduate student. I think if the board sees that, that I’m not some fresh faced twenty-one year old, that I’m not somebody that is going to be able to be pushed around, I’m not a pushover, I’m somebody that will stand their ground. If elected with a mandate, I will bring students what they want to the board regardless of what the board members that are already there want me to bring to the board.
Unlike the executive positions, the Board of Governors representative is an unpaid role. In light of this, how will you budget your time if elected?
Chen: I will commit. I will make sure to take less courses for my semester if elected. I will attend all our meetings.
Flaman: I don’t mind dropping my course load for the next year to accommodate. There are some who might try to fit the role in amongst a full time schedule and that could be kind of tough. I do have a lot of other extracurricular activities that would have to be put on hold, or I guess, dropped, but if elected this would be priority number one for me.
The Board of Governors is responsible for the university’s fiscal decisions including residence rent and meal plans. How will you make sure students’ voices are heard on these issues?
Chen: Well, I think I may make sure what students really need. I will hear their voice. I balance everything and will make decisions. Also, I can consult others who are more experienced in this area to have a better decision.
Flaman: First, we have to start with some consultation. I know that a lot of people have said this in the past but they often end up not really following through or doing it in a mediocre way. They’ll get 12 people and call it good. I’d like to do a lot of inbound student consultation. I have been fairly prominent on social media so I will be available if someone wants to send me a message on there, or by email, whatever the case may be. At the same time, I want to reach out to all sorts of departments and faculties, get the Students’ Union on board and get them to help get the word out. So, in addition to having people to help send in information, I want to have a lot of people sending out information as well.
JOKE: Board of Governors Chair Michael Phair says that if you wow the governors with a dance on the boardroom table, they will lower tuition for all students. This is the dance of your life. What track would you choose to dance to and what would your dance look like?
Chen: I really don’t dance. I don’t know much music. I may choose some encouraging music because I am an encouraging person. I would do a freestyle dance.
Flaman: The Macarena. It’s energetic, it’s fun and it’s infectious. When the music goes on, you have one person starting to dance and that person seems to get everyone else into it.