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Meet your CSA Election candidates: Drew Garvie

Monday, March 7, 2011

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Name: Drew Garvie

Running for: Academic and University Affairs Commissioner

 

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Drew Garvie, and I’m hoping you’ll vote Drew for Academic and University Affairs Commissioner!  I look forward to working with you to make this campus better, more inclusive, accessible and student friendly.

2. Why do you want to represent students on the CSA Executive?

I believe in a student union that is highly visible and active, that fights for students as well as providing resources and services to students.  At my time at Guelph I have seen tuition fees continue to go up each year as the quality of education deteriorates (class sizes, more online courses).  I think students are stretched to the limit and we need to have a strong voice that advocates for education to be more about students as people instead of students as cash cows or customers.  I think there are some things on campus that can be done to turn this around, whether it be plans to reduce textbook prices or get some affordable meal alternatives on campus.  I think students have an important role to play to hold decision makers at this University accountable; after all they work for us: the public.  I think we need to reverse the current disturbing trend in our post-secondary education system which is essentially pay more-get less.  I am firmly committed to quality, accessible and affordable education at Guelph.

Also making sure development on campus is being done with student interest in mind is important.  For example, students need more study space.  I also want to make sure that Guelph lives up to its commitment to be a progressive university in terms of environmental and social sustainability.

3. What experiences or skills do you have that make you an ideal candidate for your position?

I have been involved in a variety of social and environmental justice initiatives and organizations since high school.  This includes immigrant, environmental and human rights movements.  I also have a wide range of experience on various boards of directors on campus including CFRU, OPIRG and the University Centre and have learned a lot about non-profit organizations and good governance.  Through my volunteer work and social and environmental activism I have learned many skills such as how to outreach to students and build coalitions that mobilize students and community members.  I am a passionate and organized hard-worker and would love the opportunity to use my skills working for UofG undergraduates.

4. Can you outline some experiences that have given you knowledge of CSA policies and the way things are run?

I have been involved in CSA life for the past four years.  This includes being very active in CSA campaigns against tuition fee increases for the last three years.  I have been staff at the CSA through being a reporter/photographer at thecannon.ca (maybe you’ve heard of it?).  I am extremely well acquainted with CSA policies which are forward thinking and seek to expand students’ rights.  I have been working first-hand with these policies through the past three semesters where I have served on the CSA’s Board of Directors.  I also sit on the Executive Evaluation Committee which works with the Executive to fulfill their duties and set goals.  Through this I have had a good look at what it takes to be a commissioner and realize it is a huge responsibility entrusted to you by the student body.  I feel that I am able to rise to the challenge!

5. What goals do you have for your term?

Next year, if elected, I promise to push for student-friendly changes to our campus life that can ease the burden on students and make sure that UofG is living up to its progressive commitments.

-I will run a Strong Campaign Against Tuition Fees to make sure that our voices are heard loud and clear: education shouldn’t be a debt sentence.  The fact that the average undergraduate student graduates $30 000 in debt means that we have serious accessibility problems, yet tuition will rise another 4% this year (for domestic undergrads).  International students are even worse off, paying around three-times higher for the same education, even though they pay sales and income taxes.  I will campaign for increased needs-based funding and raise awareness and try to increase the accessibility of funding that is available.

-I will focus on providing students with Affordable Food on Campus.  Hospitality Services assures us that its prices are “competitive”, but it is impossible to find an inexpensive meal on campus.  The “meal plan” dollars reduce costs by 20% but you are paying 20% more when putting dollars on your card.  All this adds up to zero savings.  We need to expand local produce, to help local farmers and combat climate change, while finding solutions for students who simply cannot afford $10 for a simple meal on campus.  Other solutions to this problem can be found at our own student-owned and operated Bullring by making sure we have affordable menu items for a variety of dietary needs.

-I plan to implement a Plan to Lower Text-book Prices.  Textbook costs are one of the fastest growing fees for students today.  The Ontario government’s textbook reimbursement might cover a class or two but there is a long way to go.  In the United States, American students have been successful in getting professors to sign an “open-source” pledge where profs try to use online open-source material whenever possible.  Looking into the usage of unbound and old editions of texts are other ways that have reduced prices on other campuses.  We should move towards systems that are in place at other universities such as the University of Windsor where the administration encourages professors to avoid text bundles, negotiates costs with the publisher, advertises used book stores, provides free online material, and uses older editions without compromising the quality of course material.

-Fighting for a Sustainable Campus is a priority for many students, including myself.  Guelph prides itself in being “green” but we are behind in some areas, such as bottled water.  Ten universities have decided to stop selling bottled water on campus and Guelph should follow suit.  Water is a human right and bottled water causes serious environmental damage.  We are very close to the Nestle plant in Aberfoyle which exploits our community’s water for a very small price in order to make huge profits.  Our campus can and should be setting an example on this particular issue.  We can also take action in other ways, such as increasing the purchase of local foods in the Bullring, supporting the GOTbike initiative, building more covered bike parking and making sure that Organic Agriculture stays off the chopping block.

-Other plans in the works include; working with other unions on campus to increase the quality of our education, pushing for increased library hours, making sure students know their academic rights and making sure that under-funded programs are not neglected.

6. The undergraduate student body is large and diverse; how will you ensure you represent the interests of students?

We need to do a better job at getting more students involved for two reasons 1) there is power in numbers and we can only affect positive change on this campus if the vast majority of students are behind it  2) students have the initiatives to bring forward and the on-the-ground experience to determine where things can be done better

I will do more than say “my door will always be open”.  Of course this is true and I will be posting my cell phone number on the CSA website so students can get a hold of me but I will also be soliciting feedback, participation and ideas from students constantly.  I will stay in constant communication with college governments, special status groups, student organizations and CSA clubs in order to communicate decisions coming down from the University that they should be aware of and also to communicate their ideas to administrative bodies.  I will also organize townhalls when there are changes that need to be discussed happening (which is regularly).  We need to break the CSA bubble if we are going to effectively lobby for students interests.

Also, by following the CSA’s anti-oppression mandate I will be trying to allow for space from marginalized groups on our campus to have their voices heard.  I really believe that when some of us are silenced we are divided and our overall collective voice is weaker. 

6.  The Academic and University Affairs Commissioner is expected to interact with administrative, judicial and academic bodies at the University of Guelph. From a student perspective, what are some of the strengths and weaknesses you have encountered within these entities (i.e. what works and what doesn’t)?

There are structural problems with the amount of say students have at bodies such as Senate, the BoG and elsewhere.  The success of student-friendly changes won’t only come from the Academic Commissioner attending administrative meetings and voicing her or his opinion.  What does work well is students’ desire for a better campus.  Some say that students are apathetic but I do not think this is the case.  Sometimes not all students know where or how to have concerns addressed.  I think that being a resource to these students and groups will help the push for student-centred changes.

7. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you for reading this right till the end!  You are a committed and determined voter and you should vote for a determined and committed candidate.  Please vote for me from March 14th-18th.  I look forward to meeting you on the campaign trail and please approach me with any comments you may have on my platform.  You can email me at or go to my Facebook group: “Drew Garvie for CSA Academic and University Affairs”.

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