Kelowna's student politicians under fire at UBCO

Nick Dodds, as seen in his UBC stucent union picture, is facing impeachment for the second time; the first time he kept his job. - Contributed
Nick Dodds, as seen in his UBC stucent union picture, is facing impeachment for the second time; the first time he kept his job.
— image credit: Contributed

Three members of the four-member student union executive at UBCO face impeachment early next month.

Alex Gula, the organization's external coordinator who deals with political lobbying and media; internal coordinator Shaman McLean, who deals with students' issues and student advocacy; and Nick Dodds, the services coordinator charged with handling campus clubs, could all lose their jobs at an annual meeting on Nov. 7.

It is the second time Dodds has faced impeachment in the position, and the proceedings mark a major shift in the university's student politics.

"This is an unusual impeachment proceedings in that it's not like other impeachments you might have seen. There's no scandal, no one has been caught misappropriating funds. This is about job performance," said Curtis Tse, a student representative on the university's board of governors, a separate body of faculty, staff and students charged with governing the university rather than the students.

Equally unusual is the fact that Tse, the public voice of this apparent coup d'état, has nothing to gain. He will not assume power should the three lose their jobs as he is graduating this spring.

"It's been difficult," he said, following an interview with CBC Daybreak South. "I've been called a few names."

The impeachment motion was filed by students Blake Edwards and Courtney Chang and is a 14-page list of perceived failings viewable on the student newspaper's website. While the allegations are different for each of the targeted members, it presents an overarching picture of a union executive unresponsive to its members. Clearly isolated within the list of complaints is Nick Dodds, who has four specific grievances against him.

"Just from my perspective, he's working hard just maybe not as effectively as he could be," said Dave Nixon, editor of The Pheonix, noting Dodd's communication on a recent policy change for clubs appears to be at the root of his problems.

As of this year, every one of the student clubs have been asked to file complete budgets and collect dues, Nixon explained. Under the policy, clubs can now apply for funding from the student union more often, however, the maximum funding a club is allowed to receive from the union is now also tied to the amount of dues it brings in from its members. Only 40 clubs have registered where there were 90 on the books last year.

Paid roughly $16,000 annually for the student union positions—half what counterparts in Vancouver make—union representative roles are coveted for the pay cheque and prestige. But as Tse tells it, the financial reward has not engendered dedication in the eyes of the students the union is to serve.

"There's so much wrong I don't even know where to begin," he said, stressing that by virtue of his position with the board of governors he sits on the student union board as well and feels must speak out to meet the demands of his own position.

Alex Eastman, managing editor for The Pheonix student newspaper, confirmed the last two years have been fraught with political upheaval, as covered in the newspaper he manages. He traces the problems back to a switch from slate politics.

For years the Students for Students slate maintained control of the union, winning elections and selecting members to be put up for re-election, he said.

Somewhat ironically, Tse, who served as financial coordinator for the union before moving over to the board of governors, was on the board when it abolished slates a couple of terms back. Two of the three students up for impeachment are younger members, with less experience than union representatives typically had in the past, Eastman pointed out.

The point may very well come up at a town hall meeting The Pheonix will host on Wednesday, Oct. 30 in the University Centre ballroom, UNC 200.

Every student is a part of the union, paying dues through their student fees with tuition each semester. The decision whether to impeach the three members will be made through a vote Nov. 6.

No one from the student union responded to interview requests.

Twitter: @jaswrites

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