Meet your BoG candidates

Concordia’s board of governors, the highest governing body at the university, went from being an obscure group of people to gaining major notoriety after it ousted president Judith Woodsworth in December and awarded her a $703,000 severance package. Since then, motion after motion has been passed by bodies such as the Senate and the CSU council calling on the 23 community-at-large members, primarily business leaders, to step down because they have overstayed their terms. Ultimately, students, staff, and faculty have demanded a more transparent board, but students’ BoG representatives, including CSU president Heather Lucas, have been denounced for their silence at BoG meetings.

The following four candidates are vying for two student seats on the BoG and recently sat down with the Concordian.

 

AJ West – Your Concordia

Currently president of the Cinema Students’ Association, AJ West says he intends on tweeting BoG meetings in order to bring more transparency to the embattled body.

“I also promise to write monthly reports, even extensive reports, on what took place at the BoG,” says West. “I want students to know what’s up and to see that I’m working for their interests. I’d even bring a camera into the meetings if I could.”

Although he admits he has never attended a BoG meeting, West indicates he has been reading the minutes of past meetings. If elected as a student representative, West promises he will push for the 23 community-at-large members who have overstayed their terms to step down.

“The CSU council passed motions for the members to step down, Concordia students at the SGM asked the members to step down, and while these motions were presented at BoG, I don’t think the message was properly conveyed by our current student representatives,” says West.

The cinema student describes his approach to politics as diplomatic, but firm. Despite the fact he proposed a motion in early September calling for the recall of FASA’s co-presidents, West says he is not overly aggressive.

If elected to the BoG, West says he would push for the hiring contracts of senior administrators to be put online, as well as question the sometimes exorbitant salaries of university officials.

 

Amanda Akman – Action

Despite the negative attention that the corporate leaders on the BoG have received throughout the year, JMSB marketing student Amanda Akman says students should not be making a link between ‘business’ and ‘evil’ when it comes to casting their vote.

“I think people should stop thinking that we’re all money makers, we’re students too and we all want the best for the student body,” she said, speaking hours after posters appeared on campus Monday labelling the JMSB candidates in the CSU elections as ‘corporate whores.’

In fact, Akman thinks her background as a JMSB student, coupled with her experience as VP external and VP executive with the marketing students’ association, would be very advantageous for a BoG student representative.

“A business student would be highly equipped to deal with members of the Board and people in that sort of environment because we interact with these people often, such as getting involved in case competitions,” she says.

She states that it is too early for her to decide if she is comfortable with the majority of the community-at-large members being business leaders, preferring to wait until the findings of the external review committee on governance have been made public.

Describing herself as a very ‘frank’ and ‘transparent’ person, Akman says she would have no problem expressing students’ concerns at BoG and ultimately increasing the board’s transparency.

“If my title is student representative, that is what I’m there to do,” she emphasizes.

 

Laura Beach – Your Concordia

Having gained notoriety this year for not only pushing to ban bottled water on campus, but also to eradicate the secrecy that surrounds corporate contracts at Concordia, Sustainable Concordia’s Laura Beach says her four years of student activism should be proof enough that she is the ideal candidate for the BoG.

“I have watched a BoG meeting before and it is definitely an intimidating atmosphere, but I know I can do this without succumbing to intimidation,” says Beach. “I want to be able to act as a better student representative compared to those we had this year, who were silent at most meetings and didn’t properly represent students’ concerns.”

Beach explains that she would love to see a more diverse group of community-at-large members, and will urge for the 23 members who have overstayed their terms to step down.

“And once the board begins looking for new members, students should be consulted and shown the criteria of what it takes to be appointed a community-at-large member,” says Beach.

For Beach, being a strong representative on the BoG also means fostering stronger relationships with the faculty representatives on the Board. She also emphasizes the importance of monthly reports in keeping students up-to-date on the BoG’s activites.

“It’s in the job description and it’s the least you can do,” she says. “If you’re a BoG representative and you don’t report back on the activities at the BoG, that is the only mechanism for students to see that you are doing your work.”

 

Hassan Abdullahi – Action

Current CSU VP advocacy and Loyola Hassan Abdullahi says he was ready to leave student politics at the end of his term this year, but was encouraged by Action executive candidates to stick around for another year, this time as BoG representative.

“I am hoping that at BoG I can align the interests of the governors with those of the students,” he says.

But Abdullahi is quick to admit that this could prove difficult, pointing out that having business leaders as community-at-large members is a “double-edged sword.”

“These highly influential people also provide back to the university in terms of donations and sponsorship, but at the same time their interests are not really in the governance of the university, so I would try to take a reconciliatory approach to merge these two interests,” he says.

Abdullahi also feels that despite the motions passed by students calling on the 23 members to step down, the message remains unclear.

“There just seems to be a miscommunication,” he says, mentioning that although he protested with other students at a BoG meeting following Woodsworth’s resignation, he has never actually witnessed the governors in action.

He also promises that he can play the good diplomat on the BoG, despite yelling at students when they refused to leave the March 9 CSU council meeting, thereby preventing it from going into closed session.

“I did cross a line at that meeting, but I’m generally not someone who loses his temper,” he says. “I was just frustrated that we had stayed up hours to prepare and present issues that council wanted to hear, and unfortunately something very minor stopped us.”

On the topic of the frequent closed sessions at BoG meetings, Abdullahi says they should be the ‘exception’ and not the ‘norm,’ something he says he will make clear to the other governors.

 

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