The UBCO By-election is just around the corner which means students will be able to vote for two directors at large and faculty representatives. The elected candidates will have the opportunity to participate on the SUO Board of Directors team and represent the interests of UBCO students.

The UBCO By-election is held annually and according to Tyleigh Massey-Leclerc, the Chief Returning Officer,

“Although the technical objective of this By-Election is to elect candidates for Board of Director positions that were previously appointed, there is a much greater underlying significance. With the move of classes and general campus life to an online environment, it is of particular importance that the SUO Board Members address the many valid concerns of incoming and returning UBCO students.”

This year, the Director at Large candidates include Carlos J. Real Lopez, Jakson Pashelka, Jose Carvalho, and Taha Ilyas. The faculty candidates are: Mohana Rambe, faculty of management; Arshdeep Purba, faculty of science; and Richardo Brown, faculty of applied sciences.

In order for the candidates to discuss their platforms and advocate for different issues and resources on campus, the SUO held a debate on October 8 in which the director at large and faculty candidates discussed numerous questions posed by both organizers and the audience.

The debate began with questions posed for the Director-at-Large candidates. One of the questions we considered of utmost importance was, “in your opinion, what is the biggest challenge that students currently face at UBCO, and how will you help solve this challenge if elected?”

Pashelka talked about accessibility and how students lack either the knowledge or the ability to gain access to the resources UBCO has online. To address this issue, Pashelka stated that, “probably the most important thing we need to do right now is making sure that we are open and transparent in all our resources and everything that we have laid out for students.” If elected, Pashelka intends to keep promoting these resources and assuring that students receive the help they need through these resources.

Lopez pointed out that UBCO students have many challenges to face. These include lack of social connections, accessibility to resources, especially mental health, and not having adequate accessibility to educational resources like office hours. The latter happens to be an issue for students in different time zones who would like to communicate with their professor, but are unable to do so. If elected, Lopez intends to emphasize connecting with others especially with the lack of social connections created by the online learning environment.

Carvalho believes the biggest challenge to students is lack of comfort. This includes lack of comfort in getting the education they paid for, the resources they deserve, social connections, and also a lack of comfort in opportunities. If elected, Carvalho will try to develop opportunities for students to find part-time jobs to sustain themselves and create apprenticeships among other things.

A question posed by an audience member was, “how will you as a director at large stand in solidarity with the Black community, prevent and condemn racism on campus and ensure that students of colour have a safe and inclusive environment at the SUO?”

Lopez stated, “it starts with communication.” He explains that the best thing the SUO can do is communicate, have meetings, and make sure the SUO is free of prejudice by ensuring that their programs, such as mental health resources, are available to everyone. This communication can begin by reaching out to minority clubs and associations on campus, and creating certain programs. No matter who you are, UBCO is a safe space for everyone, so the SUO needs to make sure constant communication and transparency are taken into account.

Carvalho took a powerful stance by stating that words are not enough. He said, “I think this university and the SUO has been focusing a lot on just talking and not doing anything for these students”. He describes how there needs to be tangible change. This includes expanding resource centres, social justice initiatives, and creating safe spaces through communication channels led by students of colour. This is one way to go about condemning racism, and providing comfort and engagement for all students.

Finally, Pashelka answered the question by stating that UBCO is a community that is supportive of initiatives and is strong in addressing concerns. Pashelka stated that if students feel discriminated against, it is important we bring to attention what they are trying to achieve - fairness and equality. Pashelka stands in solidarity with students of colour and stated that these students are an important part of our community. Pashelka believes that the SUO should take action by bringing to light these issues on social media, taking action by reporting issues, and making these issues transparent to everyone.

The Director-at-large debate was followed by the faculty representatives debate. One question posed was, “how do you plan on advocating for your specific faculty in an online environment and what do you feel is an ongoing issue or important topic among the students within your faculty?”

Rambe states that she plans to advocate for her faculty by bringing awareness to her position so that students know that she is someone they can confide in. She wants students to be able to bring their concerns to her so that she can represent their interests to the board. In addition, Rambe explains an ongoing issue within the faculty of management concerns synchronous classes. Management students have so much to do and with lectures online, they feel they are not learning anything. Rambe would like to look into receiving feedback from management students and see what changes can be implemented for next term.

Rambe was followed by Purba, the faculty of science representative. Purba states that utilizing online resources and engaging in conversation with students is something that she hopes to achieve. This is especially important since everything is online this year. In terms of an issue, Purba thinks there is a sense of a lack of community in the science faculty which is something she hopes to build on. Purba explains “we all need support and we all need people around us to help us out through hard situations, courses, exam and midterm seasons, and assignments”. Therefore, this is a critical time to create a sense of community.

These candidates will be responsible for addressing the concerns of students at UBCO, therefore it is vital to vote and elect a candidate that will best represent the students and speak up for our best interests. The voting period for this By-election begins on October 13, 2020 and closes on the 15th. The By-election polling can be found on UBC SSC WebVote.