The Vice President External (VP External) has many significant responsibilities within the Students’ Union Okanagan (SUO). As the name suggests, the VP External is responsible for several external matters outside the university. This includes overseeing and coordinating “external advocacy activities, attending meetings of relevant local, provincial, national or international student groups,” among other responsibilities.

This year, the candidates for VP External include Ahmed Ahmed, Lindsay McGrail, and Kriti Sud. The Phoenix had the opportunity to ask these candidates some questions related to their platforms and their goals if elected.

Ahmed Ahmed

The Phoenix: Tell us about yourself, and what qualities make you fit for this position.

Ahmed: I’m Ahmed Ahmed. I’ve been on campus now for 4 years. I believe that I know a lot about the campus by now. I also held the position for VP external for clubs on campus and organized large events. I believe that I’m very familiar with the logistics of the campus while pushing my plans forward as VP external of the SUO. I also have good connections with the admin team, club executives, as well as professors, and offices on campus which will help me get through with my plans. I also was the president of the student union in my high school which makes me more confident in my position as VP External. Moreover, my coop year left me with great connections with companies that are working hard towards fighting climate change and transitioning Canada to a zero-emissions country.

TP: What tangible changes do you plan on making? (list 1-2)

Ahmed: As your VP external, I believe that Mental health issues will be one of the points you will see tangible changes in. I will work hard to decrease counseling waiting times (8.9 days average) as well as raising awareness through campus-wide campaigns. I will also create an environment that is conducive to good mental health. I will demand mental health counselors to be present in the committee that creates final time tables. I will push forward to creating an environment where everyone on campus feels included.

I will implement fundamental changes in social justice issues. Processes take long amounts of time and for students that is not accepted. I will work to decrease waiting times and make sure that the resources are there to accommodate fundamental change. I will make sure that cases are dealt with transparently and swiftly. Because victims need to be heard. My platform also includes tangible changes for International Students tuition caps and eliminating interests on loans as well as environmental policies on our beloved campus. I urge you to read my platform and to vote for a good cause.

TP: How are you going to create a greater online presence?

Ahmed: I'll be online at all times for all students through all different social media platforms and video chat applications. I'll create online events as well. Q&A sessions. As well as I will increase the SUO presence on social media!

Lindsay McGrail

TP: Tell us about yourself, and what qualities make you fit for this position.

McGrail: Flashback to 2005, it was a parent-teacher conference, I was in kindergarten. My teacher told my mom that "Lindsay would make a good judge one day," she attributed this to my strong sense of justice and willingness to stand up for others. Fast forward a few years to 2010, my grade 5 teacher told my mom that I would make a good politician after I won the class over by a landslide in my mock-government campaign. My strong sense of leadership and ability to get things done has been a quality that many teachers, mentors, and professors have noticed in me over the years. In grade 12, I won best-delegate award on my student Model United Nations team. Additionally, I was chosen by the staff to be the student representative for the Abbotsford Youth Council in which I worked alongside city councillors and other students from the city to promote youth initiatives such as the red cross beyond the hurt campaign that sought to promote an anti-bullying message to middle schoolers.

In the summer after first year, I got a job working for the Abbotsford Arts Council, I successfully planned an art market and food vendors for a concert series in my home town of Abbotsford - 4 evenings in total. I had to liaison with Fraser health to get the 10-12 food vendors approved by health standards, as well as communicate with over 50 community groups and local artisans to make the event successful. The concert saw an average attendance of over 2000 people each week.

The combination of my experience, my work ethic, and my passion prove how fit I am for this position.

TP: What tangible changes do you plan on making? (list 1-2)

McGrail: I have two big points for this one. First, I want to make university accessible and get rid of any boundaries to entry. Second, I want to ensure the university is working with its external partners to promote sustainability on campus. As far as tangible matter goes, this looks like lobbying the federal government to eliminate interest on student loans (this will save real students real $). Additionally, ‘open textbooks’ is a very tangible movement that will affect students immediately. This movement is to try and mitigate the cost of textbooks and to encourage profs to use free or very cheap online resources so students don't have to pay upwards of $300 for course material on top of tuition.

For sustainability, this looks like working with the already existing on-campus composting to expand and improve it. How will we do this? Bring compost bins to the res buildings as well as promoting information about what can be composted and why it is important. Finally, the on-campus water bottle share program. This is a movement to ban single-use plastic water bottles on campus—which cannot be done without having some kind of system in place to make sure people have access to water.

Sustainability is tangible by nature, without putting our environment first (and in the wake of climate change), students may not have a future to work towards.

TP: How are you going to create a greater online presence?

McGrail: I intend to use all social media platforms that resonate with students like Instagram and TikTok to spread information about the initiatives I will be implementing once elected. Cuz let's be real... Everyone hates the UBC mass emails, they are boring and dry, no ✨spice✨

Kriti Sud

TP: Tell us about yourself, and what qualities make you fit for this position.

Sud: My name is Kriti, and I am currently a 2nd-year management student. I’m an international student originally from India. I’ve always been extremely hardworking, and I am resilient when faced with any challenges. I consider myself to be an influential force and am always learning from everyone around me. What makes me a good fit for the position is my strength in being a team player. What is ironic and perhaps the beauty of it all is that I started as an individual who was extremely conscious and shy but overcame my worst fears and I’m standing where I am today. Being open to learning is another quality that makes me a good fit. I don’t mind criticism, rather I appreciate it. For me, people come first.

TP: What tangible changes do you plan on making? (list 1-2)

Sud: When we talk about changes- I have a lot of those in mind so I’ll state them as points:

- Firstly, I would like to address the most important issue of the current policy that was implemented by the government of Canada on 22nd Feb. The Mandatory Hotel Quarantine requires all students to stay in a list of selected hotels in 4 specific regions upon entry. The estimated cost for this 3 days stay would be 2000$ and up. Such a policy (although effective) may cause harm for students. Not everyone has the resources to even buy a flight ticket at times during covid, let alone spending 2000$ for a 3-day quarantine. This can put off plenty of students and destroy their spirits of coming to university. I plan to reduce, if not eliminate this cost for students. HOW? —> I plan to introduce a new line of funding and with the help of VP Finance, I want to redistribute budgets.

- I want to cater to all student needs and explore their potential, thus I would also be fighting for realigning the scholarship structures and putting a cap on the international and domestic fees. Given the surplus resources that UBCO has, I would fight for a temporary hold on increases or limiting them to the inflation rates as compared to the maximum value of 2% for continuing students and 4% for new students.

TP: How are you going to create a greater online presence?

Sud: The first step in creating an online presence for me is getting over the Zoom Fatigue. I plan to tackle this step by step. Like the 5 stages of grief- the first stage is always acceptance. If students accept that it has to be like that for their own goods and feel a sense of safety and belongingness, their problems can reduce drastically. I would make mental health resources in collaboration with both the university mental health professionals and a collaboration with Bark to all students out of university reach.

Following this, I would try to take into account each students’ individual needs and address their problems. Coordinating with the VP Campus life and organizing fun events online would be a start. Since many kids would be missing Frosh- why not introduce an online version of frosh? An online concert with one of their favourite singers and entertainment ideas like these would be my focus!

The candidates also had the opportunity to speak about issues near and dear to them during the debates on February 25, 2021, as well as answering audience questions. The primary topics of interest that were addressed during the debates include focusing on better mental health initiatives, increased sustainability on campus, and improved tuition and education costs, especially for international students. In addition, they answered questions such as what BC Federation of Students campaign they agree with and want to emphasize, what they believe is the most important role of the VP External and why, and many more important questions.

The VP External plays a significant role in advocating for increased student wellbeing and implementing positive initiatives through external proceedings. Therefore, it is very important that a VP External be elected that can appropriately represent the needs and wishes of students on campus.

The voting period for these elections opens March 1 at 8 a.m. (PST) and closes on March 3 at 11.59 p.m. (PST). Find out more about the candidates here.