Kerri Lawrence (he/she, any pronouns other than they/them) is a third-year contemporary studies and political science major with a minor in German. He is running uncontested for the position of financial vice-president. The FVP is the financial officer of the KSU, not dissimilar to a treasurer.
Q: What experiences would you say have equipped you for this position?
A: At King’s I, since first year, have been working with administration on various matters regarding student well-being – many discussions, particularly regarding student safety [and], work with the sexualized violence policy.
In my second year, I ended up on the dining services committee and the sexualized violence policy review committee and have been on both since, as well as the academic committee.
These have all led me to have a good understanding, on top of my personal work with admin on individual matters here and there, of navigating student and university politics. I would like to have a greater, stronger and more regular opportunity to advocate for students in that same way.
Q: And specifically the financial side of the position?
A: Not in a significant capacity…I did work as a stage manager [in a] volunteer capacity for a number of years, which involved overseeing finances for the production and aspects of the theatre department. But I am very excited to learn the further details to do this [to] fulfill the duties of this position, effectively.
Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue for students on campus and what do you plan to do to fix it?
A: I would say mental health, just in a broad term, with the caveat that mental health includes essentially every aspect of people’s lives. For a number of students that is evident in finances. Most of my friends study full-time and are still employed at least part-time in at least one job. This impacts both their ability to work and their ability to study. It impacts their stress.
Tuition is high – even higher for international students – and that’s not to mention food security [and] housing. I would like to ensure that the supports that have been set up for students in recent years and any emergency supports – particularly related to COVID – are kept in place as we go forwards just to ensure that students are able to focus on their studies and on their personal well-being.
This would also include advocating for student employees of the university, not the union, to ensure that they are also receiving the best possible outcomes for their position and that as many students are able to be securely employed as possible at an acceptable and productive wage.
Q: What is one thing that you have done at King’s to improve the lives of students?
A: Over the last two and a half years, both on a personal and a professional level, I have been working with Jordan Roberts and Katie Merwin on the university’s sexualized violence prevention and response policy. Due to personal encounters, experiences of my peers and my work with a sexualized violence policy review committee, we have been updating the policy and using that information to address gaps within it in order to protect students and provide them with the resources that they need to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks and no one is left behind.
Q: About half of the need-based King’s bursaries go unclaimed every year. What do you feel needs to be improved in the bursary process to make them more accessible?
A: I think that a lot of students that I’ve spoken to who have been uncertain about applying for bursaries, when we’ve discussed it, has been this sense of not qualifying for it, or of taking money that other people might need instead.
For some people, there [is] just kind of a societal sense of either shame or pride in accepting money. And breaking down those barriers, I think is the key thing. To make it clear that students are able to access that financial help.
I would like to look into the specifics of unclaimed bursary money, regardless of how the claims process goes during the year. I’m not presently aware of what happens with unclaimed bursary money. But if I am elected to this position, I would like to look into what options exist to use that remainder to reduce the stress on students financially.
Q: What will you do to make both the union and the university’s finances more accessible?
In broad strokes: look at some workshops, events or outreach points to assist students with financial literacy and numeracy after discussing this more with students to see what precisely they would find to be helpful.
What I don’t want to do here is take a patronizing kind of, “I know what’s best” situation, because that’s not what I’m here for. I don’t know immediately what students need. But I would like to look at points of outreach to make it more accessible to students to discuss this. If they have any questions about the finances in the budget, to go over the details of it.
Students have a right to know what is occurring with the money that they are giving. We are there to serve the students.