Student Representatives ready to apply new knowledge
By Jamal Al-Bayaa, Staff Writer
On May 27, 8 out of 12 of the Douglas Students’ Union’s representatives attended the BC Federation of Students Skills Development Weekend, a three-day workshop in Sun Peaks, focusing on what it takes to be an effective student representative and student advocate.
Regularly, a student representative’s job is to take care of the internal aspects of their college. First and foremost, this includes the students and their college experience, especially achieving the goals that they promised in the election, goals which students agreed with enough to vote for. However, it also relates to the running of the school, maintenance of buildings, promotion and organization of events and the providing of assistance to clubs. In this internal level, representatives are required to make a lot of financial decisions on where the DSU’s budget would be best spent.
As a member of the BC Federation of Students, the DSU can also get involved in less urgent but equally important provincial level campaigns and connections. The DSU was 1 of 12+ attendees of this skill weekend, and so they got ample opportunity to connect, share, and learn with other students’ unions across BC.
“We are lobbying groups by nature,” Aran Armutlu, Treasurer, said after the event. “We want to be able to go to government and have a voice because we’re stronger than ever.”
In doing so, they have the opportunity to effect the 300,000+ adults that attend a college, university, or institution in BC every year. Campaigns like “Squash the Squeeze” and “Don’t Close the Doors” are efforts by the BC Federation of Students to decrease tuition fees for students, increase funding to post-secondary, return funding where it has been cut, and make education less of a privilege and more of a right.
These campaigns began with the belief that education should be easily accessible to everyone, and that when students do choose to enter post-secondary they shouldn’t have to deal with the provincial average of $35,000 in debt upon exiting. “Having this type of society,” it was explained, “is better for everyone.”
Douglas hasn’t been part of any major campaigning in a while, and their internal status is less than perfect while they work on building relationships, reputations, and momentum. Despite this, the representatives recognized their strengths and their weaknesses, and knew they wanted to improve their situation.
“One of my favourite parts of the weekend was the strategic planning workshop,” Iman Adbulla, Women’s Liason, said. “The Douglas Student Union has never had a strategic plan before, so us creating those 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year plans will solidify the direction we want to push the DSU in.”
Similarly, Armutlu expressed satisfaction at the fact that he was bringing back ready-to-use information on finances, working with administration, and strategic planning.
That information will be crucial in the coming weeks, as the DSU will be working with staff and administration to create a comprehensive strategic plan that will focus on both short term and long term targets. Ideally, it will first seek to clear up the internal side of Douglas College’s politics, and then focus more heavily on moving to those provincial campaigns to fight against the rising cost of tuition in BC and the continually increasing levels of student debt.