Categories
Opinions

Letters to the Editors

February 18, 2012

While reading the January issue of your magazine I was disheartened to read that Dr. Anne Leavitt had decided to remove student representation to the Budget Advisory Committee. I understand that one reason she moved to exclude a student voice from this committee was that we lack the moral character to advise her on budgetary issues.
If Dr. Leavitt thinks the Students’ Union is incapable of an open approach to the University budget, then I would suggest she reflects on the Union’s actions in 2009. Shortly after being elected to office, the student representative at the Board of Governors’ Executive, I, voted in favour of approving a budget that presented deep cuts across the board and would spell the end for the girls’ volleyball team. While many of the cuts were hard for us to stomach, the Students’ Union voted in favour of the budget because university services we considered essential to student life were spared the sharpest part of the axe, and we were able to identify those services through Budget Advisory Committee. We were particularly stubborn in our approach to discussing library cuts with the administration, who lacked understanding of how important library hours were to the student body. I think it’s important to note that had students not presented advice to Dr. Barker in his budget advisory committee before the budget was brought to the University Board Executive, this issue would not have been dealt with, and the library would have had 9-5 hours and been closed on weekends during the 2009-2010 academic year. The Students’ Union also voted in favour of the budget in 2011, again in no small part because we had a venue to present our concerns in budget advisory.
Dr. Leavitt would be wise to recognize that student voices are essential to her making the wise leadership decisions that will guide us through the next few turbulent years. Not only does treating the student body with respect reap benefits today, but so too in the long run. How are alumni supposed to support a college that ignored their voice while they were attending it? Respect builds a community that not only makes the college stronger this year, but long after Dr. Leavitt has ceased to serve. Unfortunately this works both ways, and if our president continues with the approach that has come to define her so rigidly this year, then the damage will far outlast her time in office.
David Etherington
President, King’s Students’ Union, 2009-2010

Letter to the people in charge of KSU elections:
This is just another parallel between Dalhousie and King’s but I can’t help point it out, in hopes that someone somewhere will either fix it or show me where I’m wrong.
It’s election season at both schools and there are a few differences that make it really difficult for me to defend my school.
The DSU launched a website off of their own site, as well as a one-stop Facebook page, to give candidates a timetable and keep the public up to speed on where everyone was in the process: King’s did not.
Dalhousie has had multiple debates, one at each main campus and one specifically designated for the presidential candidates: not so much for King’s.
On February 1, they announced and published a complete list of election nominees, easily found with a simple Google search: I’m still not sure who all is running for what at King’s and I’ve already been added to several groups.
These are easy, affordable steps that could be taken to bring the student body into the process. The DSU has gone to the media, being for the most part the Dal Gazette and CKDU, to talk to them about bringing their elections further out into the open. Each candidate now has a published bio with the Dal Gazette and an on-air interview with CKDU to get their message out. No such initiatives seem to have been taken by the KSU.
I understand that King’s is a small school; that’s half the reason most people love it here so much. But it’s not as though we couldn’t be doing this better. Especially considering every one of my above complaints could be entirely unfair, but King’s is such a closed off community that it’s even locking King’s students out now.
I don’t see any election coverage online at The Watch: why hasn’t the KSU gotten on that? I haven’t seen any fliers or anything around campus, and I’m there three days a week. King’s has the potential to be just as amazing as Dalhousie in so many ways, and this is just one of them. Open politics shouldn’t be questioned at King’s. The only reason I even know there is an election going on at King’s at all is because some of my friends are running and have asked me to come out and support them at the debates.
Which, hey, I may have already missed.
Kristie Smith
Since 1990, NSPIRG has worked at Dal to link academic work and research with concrete action on social and environmental justice issues. NSPIRG is a fully-inclusive, consensus-based and non-oppressive group that seeks to empower both students and the broader Halifax community. NSPIRG offers its members a range of valuable resources for projects, events, and campaigns. Our office in room 314 of the SUB is a welcoming space with public access computers, free coffee, and a gender-neutral bathroom. There you will find lots of materials and tools for loan and an impressive alternative library. NSPIRG also provides funding for many new initiatives. Have a great new idea? Come talk to us! The Loaded Ladle, which is itself run largely by King’s students, began as an NSPIRG working group, as did the Dalhousie Women’s Centre and the Grainery Co-op, both of which are very important to many King’s students.
NSPIRG acts as a community hub, and can help connect people to resources and projects to working groups. We contribute to the King’s, Dal, and Halifax communities hugely. If a levy for NSPIRG was passed we would serve as a bank of resources for Action!King’s (the KSU activist organization) and many other King’s societies. NSPIRG will work on King’s campus to engage students and to serve your needs. We will offer a complimentary avenue for King’s students to create change both on and off the Quad.
King’s students have always been excited about NSPIRG, but unlike Dal students who pay a levy into our organization, we’re not able to sit as students on the board of directors, and are instead forced to take community positions. (Of the ten positions, seven are reserved for students and three are reserved for representatives of other communities.) As there has been consistent interest from the King’s community in sitting on our board of directors, this has been a barrier to an active representation from King’s students in our organization. This also keeps representatives of other important community groups from filling board positions. Bringing the King’s student body into NSPIRG through a levy would give King’s students full voting and signing privileges, and would allow for a more diverse board of directors.
Many of NSPIRG’s initiatives have been thought up and run by King’s students and alumni. Study-In-Action, which works to link students’ academic work to charities, foundations and NGOs was started and has often been coordinated by King’s students. Besides finding concrete uses for our schoolwork, the lasting connections made between students and these groups are invaluable. NSPIRG also happens to be the only group at Dal to work with King’s students on the Day of Action. SchoolArts, which brings university students into elementary schools to teach art programs, is both an NSPIRG working group and a KSU society.
We King’s students have a well-earned reputation as engaged citizens, and NSPIRG facilitates the sort critical thought and action that is so important to so many of us. NSPIRG and its working groups have held many workshops, lecture, and film screening events at King’s, which have seen an impressive turnout from King’s students.
There has been some concern voiced about the size of the prospective levy—$3 per semester, tied to CPI. While this may seem high at first, this amount makes a lot of sense. Since 1990, NSPIRG has been operating on $2 from each full-time Dal student. While that may have been adequate 22 years ago, it does not provide adequate funding to maintain all of the resources NSPIRG seeks to offer, which is why NSPIRG is vying for a $1 increase at Dal (which will still not adequately compensate for inflation). It is important to have King’s and Dal students pay the same levy, to ensure that we are given input as members. Of course, there will be publicized opportunities to opt-out at the beginning of every semester. When it comes down to it, King’s and NSPIRG have a lot to offer each other. We’ve been flirting and hinting at something formal for over two decades, it’s time to take the next step. If you have any questions, concerns, comments or queries, or want to find out more about some of our great initiatives, we invite you to stop by the office, check out our new site at nspirg.org, or email sammy@nspirg.org.
Sammy Newman

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

One reply on “Letters to the Editors”

Re: David Etherington’s Letter on Student Representation on the President’s Budget Advisory Committee
Dear Editors:
In his letter, David Etherington writes: “I understand that one reason she [President Leavitt]moved to exclude a student voice from this committee was that we lack the moral character to advise her on budgetary issues.”
This is nonsense. Mr. Etherington is quoting, almost verbatim, an utter misquotation, by Mr. Gabe Hoogers, of something I said at a Board Executive meeting, a misquotation that Mr. Hoogers subsequently included, in virtually the same words, in a written report from the KSU to the Board of Governors. At the Board, Mr. Hoogers agreed to retract this complete mischaraterization of my remarks after he was corrected by those who had also been at the Board Executive meeting and who accurately and unanimously recalled what I had actually said. In my actual remarks, I made no reference to students at all.
Mr. Etherington can be forgiven for trusting that the student representative on the Board Executive might offer accurate reports of what transpires at its meetings. It’s too bad, however, that he didn’t seek me out first to find out what I actually said before firing off a letter to the Watch. I would have been delighted to chat with him.
I believe, and have always believed, that there is a very important place for the student voice in budget discussions at this and other universities. I’ve never thought or practised otherwise. I’ll look forward to hearing any advice he and others might have for me, either through formal channels set up for the purpose (in which students have a number of representatives), or informally as the case may be.
All my best,
Anne Leavitt, President and Vice-Chancellor
University of King’s College

Leave a Reply