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.
I’m not going to tell you to vote for None of the Above for BoG rep, but I’ll admit that I was tempted.
If you vote NOTA, that means that the BoG rep seat remains empty until the fall when the SU would hold a by-election. That means we lose one of the three student votes on the board over the summer, when the Board of Governors approves their budget. That would be really bad.
So as disappointed as I am with this race, I’m voting Levi Flaman for BoG rep. Flaman has been around student governance for years and he has a functional understanding of important student issues. He seems willing to do the necessary work to gather data and try to convince other board members, and has even said that he would be willing to join students “down in the trenches” if it comes down to a protest. Flaman hasn’t shown the kind of passion or rigour that I would have liked to see in a candidate for BoG, but when it comes down to it, I think he’s in it to represent students, and he’s going to give it his best shot.
Flaman has promised to have coffee with students, so that he can talk to them about issues without making them come to the “ivory tower” of the SU offices. We should all take him up on that if he gets elected. The BoG rep is going to have some hard work to do this upcoming year, and no matter who wins, we should hold them accountable to that. It’s easy to criticize the SU for not engaging students — I know we’ve done plenty of that this election cycle — but we also need students to engage with the SU. If we end up with a mediocre candidate, it’s our responsibility to support them and help them advocate for students as effectively as possible.
I have endless admiration for Yiming Chen, who is diving in headfirst and running for this position. But I don’t think that a first-year student with virtually no governance experience will be able to navigate the complexities of the Board of Governors, which often require not only an in-depth understanding of the issues at hand, but also novel ideas for how to persuade board members to vote with you on those issues. Chen has not demonstrated in this campaign that she has the knowledge or experience required to take on this challenging position. But this girl sure has guts, and I hope she continues to be vocal and active in campus life, and pursue opportunities to help represent students in the future.
What I really hope is that students will keep in mind how powerful the Board of Governors is, and make sure that our BoG rep — whoever that ends up being — is doing everything they can to keep student interests a priority. Whoever you vote for, don’t forget about them once they’re elected, and make sure to continue to put pressure on them to properly represent you.