After rescheduling due to inclement weather, February 26th marked another opportunity for student engagement, as the candidates for the Board of Directors (BoD) faced their peers to answer important questions about their qualifications. It quickly became clear that some clarification was necessary; questions regarding the purpose and function of the BoD were posed. Common questions such as, ‘what is the most important role of the BoD?’, ‘how is it different from SMUSA or the Board of Governors?’, and the relationship of the BoD to the administration were discussed.
The Board of Directors is responsible for reviewing the executive branch of student governance – SMUSA, and its President. They can initiate and plan policy which guides the direction of the SMUSA President, and the chair of the Board also sits on the Board of Governors with the President and the Saint Mary’s administration, at the highest level of governance on campus. In short, the BoD is quite literally a director – they direct policy and act as mediators between student representatives and university administration.
Some, but not all, candidates were able to answer tough questions. It is difficult, when running in an election campaign for university governance to understand, “the rules of the game” as guest speaker Graham Steele put it. Students cannot be expected to understand every aspect of campus-specific university governance before being inducted into it – perhaps that is partly the reason for student disengagement in university politics. Still some candidates, such as current BoD chair, Bryan Rice and SMU-Q president Kirsten Paula, were able to provide comprehensive answers to tough questions such as “in what ways can the BoD defend student interests in the face of pressures from administration?” To this question, Rice revealed that the student judiciary is currently working on a memorandum to “formalize our (the BoD) relationship with the university”. Paula responded with a declaration of cooperation between the two bodies, but not at the sake of student rights: “the students are not 100% controlled by the university … We do have a standard for advocating for students; things like … making sure that the students feel empowered to go against the university, if that is the right decision.”
Other candidates also seemed surprisingly well-informed, such as Erika Macdonald, who supports the Mend the Gap campaign for encouraging female leadership, worked under two different provincial legislatures, and stressed transparency as a value of her campaign. It was was equally surprising that although certain candidates were not privy to background information, they answered strongly; Mohammed Madokh cited the importance of remembering the BoDs role in representing students at policy meetings and demonstrated a working understanding of bureaucratic governance.
A question was asked about candidates’ future plans regarding relationships with CASA (Canadian Alliance of Student Associations) and Students NS, who work in tandem for the rights of students provincially and nationally. All candidates expressed a desire to continue good relations and support for the organizations, while Rice recounted his experience on Parliament Hill, lobbying with CASA.
All of the candidates running for the Board of Directors showed genuine dedication to representing student interests; the BoD is not a glamorous job. Those who ran did not run for fame or popularity. Some had clear advantages, but all had great courage, and The Journal wishes each of them good luck on March 3rd and 4th, when students will cast their votes.
For more information on CASA and Students NS, visit their websites:
By Sandra Hannebohm