Ricardo’s ELECTION SELECTION: VP Academic

This is part 1 of my ELECTION SELECTIONS. And don’t forget, it’s Condorcet so it’s not just the top pick that matters.

Reminder: VP Academic is responsible for working with the university in most university matters outside of the AMS.

#1: Justin Yang

This guy has twice as much experience as most candidates do for any position usually. He’s getting the AUS out of the red, redeveloped the SUS club and student grants last year, and did a solid, error-free job with AMS Mini School including piloting the fantastic Rezgo system (thereafter available to all clubs), all while completing a dual degree. He effectively makes specific statements that are not aggressive yet strong, and he knows how to prioritize (like re-instating undergrad research support following the demise of the Undergraduate Research Office). His goals are key issues right now that are fundamental to the sustainability of the university.

#2: Jennifer Wang

She has some experience dealing with campus issues in regard to her position in an AMS committee but the Equity Office isn’t worth being the top priority she is making it. That top priority should be an afternoon’s work, illustrating her lack of big picture change that’s possible from this position. She gets points above Parson for being able to articulate a concrete position on Gage South but the position of VP Academic has more potential than Jennifer Wang will utilize. She at least needs another year to gain perspective and vision.

#3: Matt Parson

His biggest priority is improving the summer semester. It’s good that he understands the portfolio but this is an issue that already has lots of momentum among members of the Senate and Board of Governors. It demonstrates that he’s not familiar with the present state of the university’s governance (which is key for this position). Also, his experience as top dog in the Greek system provides little benefit to this portfolio.

 

And don’t forget to vote for UBC Vanguard in this elections’ Voter Funded Media competition at the end of your ballot!

 

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One response to “Ricardo’s ELECTION SELECTION: VP Academic

  1. Azim Wazeer

    Warning: I didn’t want my response to this piece to be so lengthy, but I guess the length is an indication of how strongly I felt about it.

    I’m not sure how rigorous you intended your analysis of this race to be, so I want to start by apologizing if I’m taking you seriously.

    After reading this piece I was left, only slightly, confounded by your rankings for the VP Academic race and your points of reasoning for them. Then I remembered how amusing/shallow most of the reporting has been here, which is great and has its purpose, I suppose, hence the preface to my reply.

    My concerns stem from the conclusions you arrived at for Matt Parson. Disclaimer: Yes, Matt and I are Fraternity Brothers. It’s no secret but none of my inquiries around your opinion piece are driven by my familial connection to him, but rather a quest to clarify issues of a factual nature. One might argue that I can’t separate the two, and after reading the rest of this response, if you still believe this, so be it. To each their own.

    1) Where did you get the idea that the summer semester was his no.1 priority? Additionally, although part of the Senate Student Caucus Strategic Priorities (a recommendation Sean Heisler brought to their retreat after hearing rumblings, yes, nothing more than rumblings, of interest from our own strategic sessions with fellow Governors of UBC), to say there is, “lots of momentum among members of the Senate and Board of Governors,” as a reason why you, on one hand, make an implicit suggestion that this issue is not the best utilization of resources for the VP Academic and on the other hand, explicitly state that, “it demonstrates that he’s not familiar with the present state of the university’s governance (which is key for this position),” is at best an indication of your lack of sophistication in understanding the future of Governance at UBC (and one of the main, wrongly identified characteristics of students that will play a key role in that shaping that discussion, which I will touch on in a moment), and at worst, a poor attempt to malign his prospects to win this race by exercising really poor journalistic integrity.

    In the case of prioritization, I’m struggling to figure out where you got the idea that this was his no.1 initiative. Perhaps, you inferred this, somehow, from the debates. The trend in debates that I have seen over the last 4 years is that candidates do their utmost to appeal to the broadest range of voters, thereby limiting points of difference between one another so as not to lose a potential voter, appear agreeable and the most well-rounded candidate. With respect to the VP Academic debates, academic issues are the salient area where the moderator is able to expose differences in the candidates (but by no means is it the entirety of their platform). Ultimately, in debates and student elections, the rhetoric around University Relations tends to be consistent (but will vary by degree of intensity with which the candidates might approach responding to it) in that most candidates will position themselves as deeply critical and concerned by University action and policy.

    Or perhaps you ran with that statement based off of his website. But again, there can be no cause for it there. Not only has he not numbered his platform points as, “1,2 & 3,” in order to imply an order of priority, and even if you were to apply that rubric, artificially, to the way his platform is presented, the issue of the summer semester sits at no.2 (after improving access to teaching evaluations). So, simply put my dear boy, where do you get the idea that the summer semester is his no.1 priority.

    But lest we be unjust to how important it is for our student union to kick start a serious conversation around solving the issue of the summer semester, let me draw your attention to its implications beyond the obvious academic benefits for governance, capital projects financing and even sustainability.

    In the case of governance, and this is why the issue is important (not necessarily his no.1 priority) to Matt, addressing the summer semester will go a long way in fighting the oft-quoted “transient nature” of students that is used as a point to undermine our ability to take the long-term interests of our physical campus to heart. As we are primarily here for 8 to 9 months of the year, it only reinforces that false assertion. By providing a summer semester that is amenable to the needs of most students, we can combat this issue and ensure students are well equipped to argue for a student focused campus.

    An amenable summer semester has joint positive implications for sustainability and capital projects financing. Today, the vast majority of our classrooms go unused in the evenings and weekend, but perhaps the area that some actual traction and progress can be made, in terms of best utilizing our resources, is through addressing the gamut of unused classroom space on campus in the summer, even during regular classroom hours. This is a step in the right direction.

    In fact, the Province currently measures building utilization by counting evenings and weekends as well the summer (not taking into account various realities about how universities are structured and operate which feeds into that issue) in its facilities utilization indexes. As result, we appear to the province as an institution that under utilizes its space. What does this mean? It means that although the University is aware of the severe classroom shortage facing our campus, their attempts at procuring government funding for capital projects that would improve this situation are met with a great degree of skepticism in Victoria.

    I could also address how encouraging students to undertake a more thorough summer semester experience might also solve issues around orthodox financial modeling that makes 8 month rent-rolls an impediment to capital project financing. But at this point, I’m starting to feel sorry for you.

    2) I’ve already addressed why comments you’ve made such as, “…he’s not familiar with the present state of the university’s governance (which is key for this position),” is more a product of your naiveté, lack of perception, potential attempts to undermine him using non-evidence and lack of sophistication around governance, but how do you justify the following point made in your “analysis” of Jennifer Wang, “She gets points above Parson for being able to articulate a concrete position on Gage South…”?

    First off, I do think Jennifer Wang has articulated a concrete position on Gage South BUT so has every other candidate (read my point above surrounding the nature of student debates if you want to know why I think Ricardo may have confused himself on this and related points, especially if he is drawing from the debates as his source). For the love of God man, although it’s clear that anecdotal evidence serves as the crux of your reasoning, at least give his platform a read. He has clearly stated that the University should be doing a better job in engaging all the major stakeholders in consultation around Gage South and that it should fundamentally be student focused. He’s also the only candidate to recognize how difficult it will be to achieve these aims and offer a solution (regardless of whether you think it’s the best way to address it, you would first have to require other candidates to offer their thoughts on how to address this complex and nuanced issue).

    My question to you then becomes, just how clearly would you like him to articulate his position on Gage South for it to be enough? Would you like him to write an official plan for the area, including design, conceptual drawings, scale, environmental considerations, financing structures and a whole host of other issues that are not pertinent to the electoral period and current discourse? If so, I suggest you hold the other two candidates accountable to these ludicrous and unfair expectations as well.

    3) Where the fuck do you get off saying,” Also, his experience as top dog in the Greek system provides little benefit to this portfolio.”?

    I’ll admit, this one pisses me off personally, as well as it being another example where you are simply, off side.

    First off, Greek Lettered Organizations have a rich, storied and consistent history of involvement on this campus dating back to the early 1920’s. UBC is a large place and different people will choose to different ways to engage with the institution during their years here. Some people choose UBC Rec, some are athletes, some are AMS political junkies, some choose the Varsity Outdoors Club or the UBC Debate Society and yes, some choose the Greek system. All of these things provide great leadership experiences that can be applied to a broad variety of other leadership and involvement opportunities on campus, something the AMS and campus in general could benefit from i.e. bringing diverse and fresh perspectives to challenges that an organization is facing. So please, at the very least, don’t try and discount the different ways people choose to enrich the social fabric of our campus. Its statements like yours that continue to emphasize the stereotype that the AMS is only a place for political nerds and resume builders with hopes of one day holding student-elected office. It creates a false monolithic identity for the Society that pushes many students away.

    Secondly, let’s actually address just how much benefit his experience as IFC President (or as you put it “top dog in the Greek system”) is to this portfolio. Unfortunately, once again, your clear ignorance on the governance problem continues to shine through like the massive wet patch of a four year old that has just soiled their pants.

    With a physical presence on this campus since the late 40’s/early 50’s and its current iteration in the form of the Greek Village in 2003, Fraternities have been dealing with the bizarre quasi-municipal framework that UBC has in place as a governance structure for a little longer than the average student has, and that’s me being gracious. Especially, since the adoption of the University Town vision by UBC and an endowment, now, in considerable part, being built by market oriented housing, Fraternities and their location on campus is one of the most common examples students use to cite conflicting relations between residents of market housing and student activity and culture. Additionally, they are also commonly cited in examples of the difficulties student at-large have in dealing with the campus RCMP. Fraternities, under the guidance of the Inter-Fraternity Council have worked collaboratively with the AMS, this year, to build better relations with campus residents in the form of the UNA, and the RCMP as well. And they have done this, even with the wildly exaggerated media that the system received in the early part of fall.

    At the end of the day, to say that his already established, positive, working relationship with probably the single biggest other stakeholder outside of students i.e. the UNA, in resolving governance at UBC, the biggest challenge this portfolio will face in the next two years, is of little to no consequence to this race is a gross, underhanded, misrepresentation of the facts.

    Lastly, I wanted to comment in general about the article. You are right in saying that Justin has considerable experience. He’s even a really swell guy from the few instances I have interacted with him in. But, his experience is primarily academic and Undergraduate Society oriented in nature. Even in the case of his seat on the Senate which one might extrapolate as being tangible governance experience, it is one focused on preserving a high quality academic experience (which I can attest to, as a two-term Senator elected at-large) at UBC. Having said that, I will not discount that, as a result of his (Justin’s) experience on Senate, he hasn’t developed the right skills or tools to work with the UBC system. It’s just not the whole story (I guess it is when you choose to write though).

    When I ran for a seat on the Board last year, much of my understanding, and credibility, around governance, I felt, stemmed from the plethora of aforementioned issues I dealt with during my time as IFC President. My point is, you chastise Matt for focusing on the summer semester (nominally an academic issue within the context of your writing), call him out on not understanding governance or speaking strongly on Gage South, and yet in your analysis of Justin’s worthy platform, you only speak solely to his academic priorities. Probably because that’s his strong point and there’s nothing bad about that at all, aside from the fact that for the next two years, the University Affairs side of this portfolio will dominate the agenda.

    Ricardo, I know I don’t know you all too well. I suppose I got to know you via Isabel and as a result of the respect I have for her, I’ve always chosen to mirror that same respect on to you. Frankly speaking, your piece does a whole lot to undermine that.

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