Zoë Brimacombe hasn’t even been around King’s for a year, but has already made an impact as the KSU’s Member at Large. She hopes to continue to build upon her first year on council by fighting for staff representation on the board, while continuing to push for more gender neutral spaces on campus.
What experience do you have that specifically qualifies you to be a BOG rep?
“Well, as I mentioned I’m Member at Large at the moment, so I do know the groundwork of the KSU. I’ve also had a lot of training in anti-oppression work and equity work, that kind of thing that I think is important for any position in the union, or any position really anywhere. I’ve also served as Chair of the B.C. Youth Adult Committee, I’m from B.C. so I’m all the way from the west coast. But I’ve served in a lot of leadership capacities in a lot of different communities and different groups. At King’s it’s mostly been working with the council which I’ve loved because it’s a new way to communicate. I love how structured it is, this is off topic but I think council’s really cool.
What qualities do you think BOG reps should have?
“I think BOG reps need to be excellent communicators. I think they need to be strong people also. Because, I mean, you’re in a room with 30 people and there’s only three students, so you need to be able to speak up in that space. I feel like I can do that, I’m pretty talkative and a pretty loud person when I need to be. And so I feel that the BOG reps need to have strong convictions in what they’re looking for in the board, and be able to communicate those ideas and be heard. That’s the main thing. I also think that they need to have an eye for oppression and inequity in the system, because again Board of Governors you’re working in a space where students are such a minority that you have to speak up for the student voice. More than that you have speak up for racialized students, students of gender minorities.
Your platform mentions a lot that you don’t think fees should be implemented arbitrarily. Is there any specific fees that we have currently or that you’ve heard about being implemented in the last couple years that drives that?
“Yeah, I mean, the one that everyone’s going to is the technology fee, which is a fee that was implemented a couple years ago to help with the replacement of Wi-Fi on campus. Which is irresponsible in the first place to charge students for a capital project. The fee has not been destroyed even after–destroyed is such a violent word– the fee has not been removed even though the Wi-Fi was replaced, and so currently students are still paying that fee with really no idea of where it’s going. There’s been some vague talk about projectors, so I think that’s kind of the thing, I want accountability for fees, specifically ancillary fees, auxiliary fees. Tuition is really hard to talk about because a lot of it is regulated by dal or how much money we’re going to get from the government. So I think fees is one place that students can really speak up to the board, and we can stand up to the fees that don’t make sense.
Then, what would that accountability look like to you?
” I’m interested in having open board meetings for one. I think that with something like the technology fee I would just like to see a report on where that money is being used. If we aren’t seeing in the budget what that’s being used for, or we aren’t seeing an outcome from the funds that were paying, I think that that’s very shady and not accountable. So I mean I would specifically be asking for things like the technology fee for a report on what that money’s being used for, and if it’s not being used for anything or if it’s just being used for things that aren’t related to the technology, then for the elimination of the fee. Then in general, yeah, like what I said that’s one of my most important points, I really think that board meetings should be open because its part of a transparent and accountable board. I was at the Town Hall recently and George Cooper was basically asked why aren’t board meetings being open, and he kind of said like, board members feel more comfortable talking when it’s not open, and that seems like if there are things that board members are uncomfortable talking about in front of their constituency groups, they shouldn’t be saying them, because they’re there to represent their constituency groups.
What makes you think that the board is the best avenue to seek the creation of new gender neutral spaces on campus?
“Well I knew that I was going to run for BOG, and I knew that I wanted gender neutral washrooms, and that’s something that I want to push for in any space that I’m going to be in. The fact that facilities doesn’t even have a seat on the board is nothing that like is wack. I mean along with staff not even having a voting space on the board.
You would sit on KSU council every two weeks just like what you’re doing now. So, is there anything besides the increase in gender neutral spaces that you would want to bring to council as a councillor and not so much as a board member?
” I feel that the BOG vote on council is a vote for the whole student body in a sense, because the board’s constituency group is a little of a grey area, right? I guess I would say it’s the whole student body, it’s the whole union at King’s, so I feel that it would really depend on the issue were voting on. I would always, on council, be voting in favour of things that going to improve student life on campus, in favour of motions that are going to work towards accessible education.
Do you see any aspects of your job that maybe you’re not totally prepared for?
“I’m really interested in the increase of diversity at King’s, and in bringing more racialized students into King’s. Being someone who is white I really don’t feel that I can speak directly to those issues, so that’s something that I’m really cognizant of, especially because King’s, and council and the board, are all hugely white spaces, and I don’t feel that I’m completely equipped to combat that issue because I don’t have the direct experience of being a racialized minority. So that’s something that I’d be looking to reach out to other folks and other groups on campus for.”
Taylor Saracuse will be a fifth year student next year, but he’s been following King’s campus politics for even longer. Saracuse believes communication and understanding is the key to increasing transparency between the student body and the board, and hopes his experience on campus can help make this a reality.
What qualifies you to be one of the two BOG reps?
“So, I feel like I’ve always been very in tuned with the King’s wide politics. I have sat on multiple societies, on the elections board of the KSU. I’ve helped with multitudes of KSU campaigns. I have done a lot of campaign type projects the CFS. I was directly involved with helping organize in the 2011 and 2012 Days of Action. Just in general I’ve always had a keen interest in the politics here at Kings’. I was involved with Galley politics, and I’ve been here for a long time.
What sort of qualities do you think that a BOG Rep should have?
“I think communication skills are key, as cliché as it is to say that. You are in a constant parlay with these professional people who sit on the board. Being able to build a rapport with them I think is something that actually, honestly is something that’s been neglected in the past. Not by any individuals, but you hear a lot about this rhetoric of “us versus them” mentality that’s currently existing within the board. I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides, but I would hope that I have you know, the ability to start a healthy rapport with a lot of the people that sit on the board, ‘cause you gotta remember they’re humans too. And we’re in a very unique place at Kings’, having a small board, having a tight knit community where you’re able to create these relationships…so I think communication is extremely key to the position.
“I would say just having an extensive knowledge of what’s happening at the school is important, you know? Having an interest in policy is key, because there’s a lot of numbers and business matters that go into the boards dealings. So this is an important thing to be at least keen about.
You talk about trying to build a rapport with some of the board members. How would you go about doing that?
“I think honestly reaching out with them on like a personal level, seeing if they wanna go grab a drink in the wardroom, you know? Seeing if there’s an interest in inviting them to certain events, you know? Kind of trying to meet outside the Boardroom, right? Because a lot of the time in the past there’s really only these times to meet in the boardroom. And oddly enough I believe there is supposed to be some kind of team time, board tea time. Which I know hasn’t really been a thing, but from what I understand actually part of the position is supposed to have these little board tea times.
Your platform though, your posters talk a lot about things like creating a progressive board structure, opening up the board a little bit. How do you plan on going about trying to change that in a way that hasn’t already been tried, and that might work?
“I think it is part of this, one, creating this real dialogue that’s outside of the boardroom with individuals that sit on the board, that kind of, you know, point towards the importance of these things that the students have been asking for. The open board structure, the more representatives, and I used the word progressive meaning like, again both of those things really fall under the idea of a progressive board. But also, just like a board that is just willing to take on recognizing the progressive and kind of, risky moves that universities need to be taking now in todays setting in order to succeed. Especially a small university.
“I was going to say both top down, bottom up. So, the change I think by talking to these people and fostering individual relationships with them is a top down move. Equally as important is doing bottom up action, which I think is rousing students to get the general King’s public involved with what is happening on the board. I think what I’d like to do is I’d like to get King’s faces, kind of into the boards peripheral vision, pretty much. What I mean by that is I have some actions that I’m not going to disclose in this interview, but that I would like to see happen that would coincide with board meetings.
Do you foresee any aspects of this job that you might not be totally prepared for?
“Yeah, totally. Gotta be honest with oneself right? There is a lot of reading I have to do and specifically in regards to the idea of creating open board meetings. From what I understand this would require us to actually go down to the legislature. There’s actually like governmental things that we need to get in order to change our board structure. A lot of that is actually used against students in the argument as to why we shouldn’t do it just as a deterrent, but I think as BOG rep this is something I’d be interested in doing a lot of research into, into making sure that we know as students what exactly the step by step process to see the board open would be. So to be honest the things that I’m not prepared in would be the mass amount of research that I think needs to go into the position to actually do justice to it.
You also have a voting seat on KSU council. So besides from BOG related things, what will you bring to council?
“I think again just having a long memory in this institution that is few and far between and I think I offer that. Honestly I think all the potential voices that could end up in council are a lot of fantastic people that really excite me like the different combinations of this possible upcoming election. As far as what I uniquely bring to it, again I’ll be 25 in the new school year, so I have you know, I have about four years older than most people who will be sitting on council and I don’t want to inflate that too much because, I know that a lot of them are more mature than me potentially. But yeah, I’d like to think my experience in life and at this school will be a really strong asset to council.”
Joy Shand has been part of this community for the better part of a decade. Shand aims to increase transparency and openness on the board. She also hopes to take advantage of her long institutional memory to provide background knowledge about board decisions, which she would communicate to students.
Would you like to tell me a little bit about yourself and your previous experience at King’s?
“My experience at King’s has really been over the last seven years working on campus, being on campus, working with other students, living the life of a student. Lots of students aren’t really here for as long as I am, like I’ve said I’ve kinda been going at it part time, here and there. So I think one thing that really advantages me is bringing a sort of institutional memory about past decisions, about past things that have gone on at King’s to the position. The other thing is that I really have a lived experience of being a student here and working with other students and knowing what other students are going through. I’ve worked on Patrol, and I’ve worked on Alex Hall Front Desk, I’m now the supervisor at Alex Hall Front Desk. So I really know what it’s like when you’re trying to get your rent paid, and you’re trying to make those hard decisions between balancing work and life and debt, and fear and anxiety, and academic success. One of the things that I’ve been able to do is watch students as they come through university as well and I’ve been here for so long I’ve seen a couple generations go by me, they’ve sort of lapped me as it were. Really I’ve been able to sort of use that position to mentor students which has been really important for me, talking to those students. I say that I have this personal lived experience of what it’s like to be a student, and while that’s true, it’s really not just a talking point. I live every day with the knowledge of what it’s like trying to get your rent paid, and trying too maintain this balance, and living through that struggle honestly. Using my own experience has been something that’s really important to me and mentoring other students and helping to kind of also make it through.
What does your platform look like?
“As BOG reps we never really know what’s going to happen on the board, right, so there’s only so many things you can have in place in terms of an action plan, but I do have some specific goals I want to achieve. The other thing I’m trying to do is really make sure that people understand my–the sort of personal qualities that I have that make me a really good, strong candidate for this position. In terms of my actual platform, like yes I want open board meetings, I want to work with staff on getting representation. I would emphasize work “with” staff, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the students to make it their agenda to get staff representation on the board. I think it’s appropriate to work with whatever is already going on in terms of the staff trying to generate their own representation if that’s something that they want. If that’s something that they feel is appropriate, I don’t think it’s for us to sort of march in and say ‘now is your time.’
I was wondering if you have a vision of specifically what accountability at the board level would look like.
“I think it’s one thing to talk about ideals, and it’s another thing to talk about reals. Its two sides of the same coin maybe. I think ideally we would have more student representation on the board, I think ideally we would see board decisions that really prioritized students and prioritized access to education, prioritized increasing funding to student services and really making sure that our student services are up to snuff in terms of what’s needed. In terms of what the sort of reality is going to be that’s something else right? So are only three voting members as the BOG reps (plus President) on a board of thirty people? Because we’re only three votes we have a limit to the kind of power which can sort of force our agenda through, and the kind of power which says that our priorities are the things that are going to get done. What I do think is possible in terms of accountability of the board to students is that sort of open line of communication, making sure that board decisions are known to students. A lot of students actually don’t know what goes on at the board and a lot of decisions are made–especially really important decisions by the board– are made during the summer. So you know, summer time students aren’t around, students can’t protest the sort of decisions that are made and a lot of things get pushed through that way. I don’t think that’s appropriate, and I don’t think that’s a good way to run an institution–especially one that prioritizes undergraduate education should prioritize the student voice.
Are there any broader KSU policy changes that you would try to bring up at council outside of your role as BOG rep?
“I would like to see some changes in the way the KSU runs elections. Right now I think we’ve really struggled this year with having a by-election, an election, needing to extend the deadline for last election for KSU councillors. I took part in that election, so I was a part of the second run at getting nominees in place. I think really that difficulty in reaching quorum speaks to a need to shift the way that we are conducting ourselves in terms of elections. For instance, even simple changes like changing the way that we poll–there’s nothing in the bylaws that says we can’t poll in the wardroom, we can’t poll in the NAB, but we only poll right now outside of Prince Hall. There’s nothing that says we can’t poll at different times of day, that kind of thing. I want to make voting accessible to all the students, and something that like, even the graduate students who are now starting to come in through this M.F.A program and through the Masters of Journalism program, they’re not really represented. I want to see things like enabling them to vote, either by mail in, or I mean Bryn Shaffer is talking about creating some kind of online polling system which I have some reservations about but also could be great and could enable that kind of access. Changing a little bit, some of the things that we can change to enable more access to voting in KSU elections. Because right now the demographic of voters is very much dominated by first years, and I think that the first year voice needs to be represented, I think that’s really important you know. King’s is very FYP-centric in a lot of ways, but I don’t think we need to be FYP-centric in our voting. So expanding the way that we can access voting for KSU elections is something that I would see change and something that I would want to advocate for.
Are there any potential aspects of the BOG representative job that you feel you might be unprepared for?
“Really, the thing I feel most unprepared for is just that the board has to be reactive to the sort of external climate. Whether that’s the external political climate, the external economic climate. Things do come up that you just don’t anticipate, that none of the board members can anticipate. So, I mean there’s really no way to be prepared for that. One thing that I do try to do always just in my life as a human being and as a citizen is to try to keep on top of politics, so that’s one way in which I would try to sort of shift the difficulty into trying to anticipate a little bit of what might be coming down the pipeline, but of course there’s really only so much you can do.”
A FYP student looking to build upon her first semester on council, Arts rep Melina Zaccaria is already a veteran of formal meetings and committees. She hopes to take advantage of the skills she’s acquired this last year to consult and communicate board issues with the student body.
Why are you hoping to change from Arts rep to BOG rep?
I would like to do something that’s a little bit more political. I’ve really enjoyed being Arts rep but I’d like kind of take a step up and try something that’s maybe a bit more difficult, and maybe a bit more specific. I’ve really enjoyed the political aspect of what I’ve been doing as Arts rep, and I’d like to sort of focus in on that.
What experience do you have that would specifically qualify you to be a BOG rep?
I’d like to narrow in on a few specific things. The first is that I’ve been the Arts rep, so I’ve had a lot experience speaking with students and communicating with them, and relaying their wishes to the union, and I think that I would be able to do the same with the board, and hear what the students want and relay their wishes to the board in the same way that I’ve done with union. Another specific thing would be the By-law Review Committee. It’s given me quite a good understanding of school politics and school constitutions and things like that. So I think it’s given me a pretty good idea of what sort of documents I would be looking at if I went into the board.
You were just talking about communication, so what do you see the “student consultations” you mentioned on your campaign page on Facebook looking like?
Yeah, I would like to do student consultations approximately the week prior to and the week following board meetings, but of course that would depend on what we were talking about in the board meetings. So for really big discussions I would want to have a little bit of a longer consultation period. I just want to reach out to students and have them come and speak to me because I want to make sure that when I go into board meeting I have a good idea first of all of how they feel about the topics that are going to be discussed, and how they want their views to be represented. Then coming out of meetings I want to make sure that there made aware, particularly because we don’t have open board meetings right now, and that’s another thing I want to work towards, but until we have those open board meetings, I feel that there’s kind of a lack of awareness that I’d like to improve upon, and I’d like for student to know what’s going on and get their feedback following meetings.
Do you have ideas that might actually lead to getting the board meetings opened up?
Yeah, that’s definitely something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. I know that the board is going to take some convincing on that one. I know that at the town hall George Cooper talked about the two main reasons why they could not open the board, the first being a legislative problem, there’s something in their rules that says they cannot open the board meetings. The second reason is that board members wouldn’t be able to speak openly if the public were invited to the meetings. I think my big focus on that would be that the fact that the board members are representing the students, they’re representing the school, and as representatives I think that they should be held accountable for what they’re saying. So I think that by pushing that point in the board that would be the best way to work towards open meetings. I would definitely like to work towards a specific plan for opening meetings. I don’t have any absolute plans right now, but I think that also through student consultations, talking to people, and hearing how they would work towards that would help me to do the same and to get a lot of support from students and from faculty.
Why do you feel it’s so important to have staff represented (on the board)?
When I found out that the staff were not represented on the board I was really bothered. They are the lowest paid employees at King’s, they’re in a very vulnerable position. I mean “staff”, that’s anyone from the workers at Alex Hall front desk to the Security, to Sodexo—well Sodexo’s under a private contract I suppose—but I am very bothered by the fact that the decisions that affect their jobs are not decisions that they can partake in. I just don’t, I think that’s kind of ridiculous. I really want to support them, they’re the ones who make it possible for us to go here, and I think that they deserve a say in what goes on in their lives.
Are there any policy changes or campaigns not directly related to the board that you would support, or try to reform, strictly within the context of the KSU?
There’s a couple of things that I’m sort of working on right now that I would like to continue to work on within the KSU but not specifically related to the board. For example, I’ve started working Meg Shields and Bethany Hindmarsh on a project that is creating a comprehensive list of women in FYP. That’s something that I would really like to continue to work on, and work on that within the KSU. Then also, its essentially something that would be brought to the board if we made any decisions based on our findings, or if we wanted to move forward on say creating a committee, creating a task force, anything like that to take a look at the women that are studied in FYP and within King’s. So that’s definitely a project that we’ve started working on that I fully intend to continue with going into next year. Besides that I can’t think of any specifics, but I would really like to just be a support system for the other members of council. This year for example I know that Aidan who’s one the BOG reps, worked a lot on the Day of Action. She’s one of the main planners for that. Anything like that where I could just sort of support and be there and work with the exec and the councillors I would really be interested in doing.
Are there any aspects of this job that you foresee maybe being difficult for you or that you’re not quite prepared for?
I wouldn’t say that there’s anything that I’m not prepared for. I would say that there are some things that I know will be difficult. I know that it can be hard in a board room full of adults with a lot of experience to be an 18 year old who’s trying to represent the voices of the students. While I understand that the board members are—I mean really at the end of the day—trying to support us, I think it will be hard at times to make my voice heard. But I also think that I’m a pretty strong willed sort of person. I think that ill be able to work through that, and I think that I am prepared to do that. Other than that I am looking forward to a challenge but I don’t think it’s anything I can’t han