By Tina Shaygan, November 6 2017 —
Almost two weeks since Puncham Judge’s unanimous appointment to the position of Students’ Union vice-president external, the Gauntlet sat down with her to see what she has her sights set on for the year, what her advocacy priorities are and what she thinks the most pressing issues are for the VP external portfolio — which is the face of advocacy for students to all levels of government.
Judge is a fourth-year combined political science and law and society student involved with the World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA). She said she applied for the position of VP external due to her experience in working in politics through the WFUNA and desire to run for the position in the March 2018 SU general election.
“I have a political background and found this position would be perfect for me and it’s something I wanted to do next year,” she said. “I am fairly familiar with the way that government works and how to build that relationship with certain figures and authorities and what needs to be done to get what you want.”
Judge said her main goal is extending the tuition freeze, which is set to expire this year. The current tuition freeze was implemented by the Alberta government in 2015 during the ongoing review of the tuition and funding model took place. Judge said she would prefer to get tuition freeze extended for another year instead of reviewing legislation because of time limit on her term in office, which is until May 2018.
“If I got tuition freeze extended for a year, at least that’s a guarantee one year that students won’t be paying higher fees,” she said.
Judge added that her priorities for the year are affordability and accessibility of post-secondary education. When asked about secondary suites — which are housing units inside single-family homes that typically consist of a basement with a separate entrance, kitchen and bathroom and their legalization and safety is often a divisive issue in Calgary city council — Judge said she is not familiar with the issues surrounding the topic as she is new to the position. She mentioned transit as one of the key goals she will be working on for the remainder of the year. She said she hopes to get more buses running on campus between 6–9 p.m.
“I will work with the municipal government and Calgary Transit to hopefully get more buses during [6–9 p.m.] so that students aren’t waiting around for half an hour, 45 minutes for a bus,” she said. “Maybe we can have certain university buses come every 15 minutes in that time frame because there are still lots of students at that time using transit.”
Judge said the transition to the new position has been stressful but that she feels supported by SU staff. When asked about which Member of the Legislature represents the University of Calgary provincial riding, as well as for City Councillor for Ward 7 — which is the ward the U of C is located in — Judge could not provide an answer.
This week, Judge is travelling to Edmonton with the four other SU executives for Council of Alberta University Students’ advocacy days and 30-year anniversary. As VP external, Judge will sit on the CAUS board.
CAUS is the primary advocacy group for Alberta post-secondary institutions, traditionally made up of president and vice-president external of post-secondary student organizations in Alberta. They collectively represent over 100,000 Alberta post-secondary students to the provincial government through five participating students’ unions and advocate on issues like tuition freeze and mental health funding, among other things.
All the SU executives can be contacted via the SU website and at Students’ Legislative Council meetings every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in MacHall Executive Council Chamber.