By Ashar Memon, March 2 2018 —
The three candidates vying to be the next Board of Governors student representative in the 2018 Students’ Union election faced off at a forum held in MacHall on March 1.
Chinmoy Ayachit, Frank Finley and Mike Moman answered questions from current BOG representative and forum moderator Sam Sirianni, as well as several audience members, during the 45-minute session.
When asked under what circumstances a tuition increase should be approved by the BOG — as the SU president and BOG representative are the only two voting student members — Finley said the only way he would vote in favour of a tuition hike is if tuition were tied to inflation.
“While we’re all happy with the tuition freeze, this cannot remain forever,” Finley said. “While I’d like to see tuition roll back to 1992 levels and then tied to inflation, I think it’s more likely — reading documents and seeing advocacy policies — that tuition will be tied to inflation.”
Ayachit agreed with Finley, saying that the BOG representative needs to advocate both to the Board and the provincial government to tie tuition to inflation. Moman said that the BOG representative needs to work with other university boards around the province to advocate to the provincial government.
Sirianni also asked how the candidates would ensure that the BOG lives up to the commitments and promises it made in creating the new residence meal plan earlier this academic year.
Ayachit said the execution of the new meal plan is far more important than the plan itself and that he would keep the university in-check with its commitments as the plan is implemented. Moman said that he wants food choices and services to be centred on the needs of students. He added that every time he goes to Ikea for breakfast, he wonders how food from a for-profit company is less expensive than food at the university.
“Can we be an Ikea for students, while still providing fine-dining for students at the same time?” Moman said. “Students need a full belly to get a proper education, and I’m one for advocating for a full belly all the time because, well, I’m very, very fat.”
When asked how the BOG representative can increase student engagement, Ayachit said social media could be used as an effective tool for informing students about issues and getting them more involved. He added that a meet-and-greet session with the BOG representative could also be used to increase engagement.
“Students feel that the positions in Students’ Legislative Council and the BOG are removed and they do not really engage with them very much,” Ayachit said. “They feel a bit of a disconnect.”
Finley said that he wants to make the board more accountable to students by forming a student advisory committee that is engaged with the activities of the board. He added that the committee would be mostly informal and consist of students from large groups on campus — like the Muslim Student Association, the Indian Student Association or faculty clubs like the Faculty of Arts Students’ Association.
Moman clashed with Finley’s idea of creating an advisory committee, saying that it would only engage a limited number of students who are already involved with student politics. Finley said that while he understands that most students won’t care about minute changes in policy, many students do care about current issues like the meal plan or the appointment of a new university president.
All three candidates agreed that the BOG has a responsibility to improve the lives of students and said that any benefit to students is also a benefit to the university. They all also stated that they think cooperating and building relationships with other board members is the most effective way to accomplish their goals.
There were about 35 attendees at the forum, which was held immediately before the forum for SU vice-president student life. Voting days for the 2018 SU general election are March 6–8. Students can vote through their my.ucalgary.ca page or at in-person voting booths around campus. The Gauntlet’s SU election supplement for Board of Governors representative can be found here.