2011 Candidates for VP for academic affairs

Julia Kelley

Candidate Statement: Due to significant budget cuts from Washington state, our university is going to see great changes academically. I have the necessary knowledge of Western’s academics in order to participate in these changes, and to best preserve the quality of our education. Our primary purpose at this university is to obtain a valuable education; I want your education to be as enriched and well-rounded as possible. As your VP for academic affairs, I will foster student involvement at Western beyond the classroom, encourage working relationships between students and their administrators and ensure that the quality of your Western education continues to be the paramount duty of our university.

Why are you seeking this position?

I’m seeking this position because I’ve become involved with the AS in the last year, by doing student senate, Legislative Affairs Council, Facilities and Services Council, and participating in events like [Viking] Lobby Day and Western Votes rallies. All these things have made me realize not only how important it is, but also how much I enjoy being involved at Western beyond the classroom. So, this position enables me to actively participate by speaking on behalf of Western students. I want to be our voice; I want to be the student representative to help decide how to protect Western in these tough economic times.

What do you think is the role of VP for academic affairs?

My role as VP for academic affairs would be to act as a liaison between students and their faculty and administration. As your vice president I would participate in decisions regarding programs to preserve, classes to cut, how to make the waitlist system more useful and even how to make the university experience richer. This position operates really behind-the-scenes, it’s not on the front lines but yet it works primarily with the education that we as students of the university receive. Vice president for academic affairs embodies the voice of students on campus and ensures that faculty and administration hear those concerns, critiques and solutions when tough choices need to made.

Tell us about one issue affecting students that you think the AS Board of Directors should focus on next year.

I think the most important issue on the table for next year is going to be dealing with the budget cuts. Currently [Washington] state legislature is deliberating over the budget; both the House of Representatives and the Senate have proposed budgets. The Senate has proposed a 13-percent increase to our tuition while the House has proposed a 16-percent increase, both of them at the same time taking big cuts and taking money away and cutting vital funding. The cuts to higher education are a cold, hard reality that we will need to deal with in the next year. My values lie first and foremost with protecting the quality education and experience for students by preserving the depth of choices that we have available. Education is the primary purpose of a university and budget cuts pose a threat to the core values of our institution. There’s no clear solution to the problem but I want to make sure the outcome of the budget cuts does not harm our educational opportunities.

This year, the AS has had to deal with funding cuts and tough budget decisions. How will you help maintain the quality of AS programs, services and events if these budget issues continue?

The quality of the AS lies within the people who support it. The most important thing we can do in the face of budget cuts is to have a united student body, free from competition, which is willing to work towards a common goal. As a member of the board of directors I will encourage collaboration within the AS to make it more effective and useful to students. We all know that next year will be tough, but I will make it my personal goal to work as a team member and promote a cohesive AS because our strength lies in our alliance.

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Greg Knight

Candidate Statement: Western faces an unprecedented crisis. Year after year, the state government balances its budget by raising tuition and defunding education. These budget cuts are the number one threat to Western’s academic programs.
Education funding doesn’t have to be cut at all if the government would simply tax corporations and billionaires. Instead, the government granted corporations over $300 million in tax breaks in February.
Simply writing and calling corporately funded politicians hasn’t stopped the budget cuts. We need a fighting strategy. We need to organize rallies, marches, student walkouts and sit-ins  ̶ tactics that have halted budget cuts in other states. The biggest responsibility for the VP for academic affairs now should be to build a massive, determined movement of students against these cuts.

Why are you seeking this position?

Well, the reason I am seeking the position of AS VP for academic affairs is to represent the student body’s interest. In that, my main goal is to combat budget cuts and tuition hikes, and while it may not necessarily be the specific job description for the position I’m running for, it is what the students care about and I feel that since in the past we haven’t seen candidates really prioritizing what the student body really wants, they’re more prioritizing what the involved members associated with the AS want, is usually those kinds of things that are put through the AS. And I really want to change that; I want to kind of step outside the status quo tradition and actually step outside of what my position description is and fight on top of that for what the students want, which is not just to accept the inevitability of budget cuts, but to actually fight the budget cuts and to help mobilize students to get involved and educated about what’s happening with their money, why their tuition is going up… to represent the students’ interests in fighting budget cuts is my main priority.

What do you think is the role of VP for academic affairs?

The role of VP for academic affairs is…it’s traditionally been the role of mitigating cuts or mitigating the budget after it has been decided on. I guess to mitigate it in such a way that it is the least detrimental to the students as far as the academic impact and curriculum impact. A lot of the job is dealing with paperwork and kind of bland things that are passed through the AS that they kind of have to take the slack up [from] the administration at Western. But I think the traditional goal is just what is on the job description, which is heading several committees dealing specifically with academic curriculum. However, I believe that the role of VP for academic affairs should be… if there is a program that is being proposed to be cut; it is kind of the job of VP for academic affairs to see, to be mitigating that cut. I think that the real goal of academic affairs is to not just deal with the cuts that are going to be passed along the desk, but to actually send out mass emails to students, “This is the proposed cut,” or “This is what the AS board is proposing to cut from your curriculum.” What is it students feel about this? You know, we haven’t really seen that in the past from our board members. We haven’t seen a whole lot of communication with the student body as a whole, as far as what’s going on behind the scenes. I guess to kind of summarize, I see the role of the VP for academic affairs to be one that includes the student body in the decision-making of how cuts are mitigated specifically, but also to be an authority that can unite the student body to come together and help combat these cuts. My impression of it is not necessarily the traditional description of it. Obviously I’m going to have to fill the specific job description, but I think it’s my responsibility to go above and beyond that.  So that’s what I’ll be focusing most of my efforts on.

Tell us about one issue affecting students that you think the AS Board of Directors should focus on next year.

I guess I can’t say it enough: budget cuts. It’s something that’s been addressed pretty regularly, but it’s something that hasn’t really been addressed in an effective way. I think the goal for next year’s board is to not only deal with the inevitability of the cuts, like the presidents proposed last night at the debate. They pretty much unanimously said, “The cuts are going to happen, we just have to deal with them in such a way that they’ll have the least detrimental effect on students.” I think that that is not what the board should be doing. The board should be doing what the students want, and the students want no more cuts to education, no more tuition hikes. So the board should work together to find a more active way to combat these cuts, and not just sit back and let the cuts keep happening. That’s something that I will very much be pressuring the other members of the board next year to do, to really find new ways to mobilize students, to get the student body involved and actually get numbers of people and combat the cuts, not just sit back and accept them.

This year, the AS has had to deal with funding cuts and tough budget decisions. How will you maintain the quality of AS programs, services and events if these budget issues continue?

It would be really difficult for me to give any specifics at this point in time about how I would do that. But I guess the way to answer this question, without being repetitive… what I would do is to pull the student body in, to include them in the process and let them know before the final decisions are made, to let the students know what decisions are on the table that are directly affecting them and their education experience. Just really involving students would be a much more effective way of, maintaining the academic prestige of our university and the quality of our programs. And also, like I said, to not just sit back and take the cuts but to actively search out methods that have been proven to be effective in the past to fight the cuts—whether that be student walk-outs, sit-ins—things that we know for sure have worked consistently in the past at other universities, like in California or Puerto Rico. We know for a fact those tactics work. So I would be putting a lot of pressure on the other board members to help me get other students involved to use tactics that we’ve seen work in the past because only then can we actually properly represent the students’ interests.

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Fabiola Arvizu

Candidate Statement: Academics unite us all as Western students. This upcoming year, I will work with peers and administrators to outreach what academic affairs encompasses and how we can positively impact our education. I believe in the power of student representation and together we can reflect our concerns as students.
Budget cuts have become an undeniable part of our academic future. However, I am committed to working towards keeping class sizes low, improving the GUR system and saving necessary elective and major-related classes.
Academics go beyond the classroom and we all deserve to have a voice in how education is provided to us. Please vote Fabiola for academic affairs for the best student body representation in academics! I will be out on Red Square so let’s chat!

Why are you seeking this position?

I’m seeking the VP for academic affairs position because I am very passionate about higher education and I want to be part of a team of students who are and want to lead a strong student body. I think that most of us don’t stop to think about the intricate bureaucratic systems that make up a university, and even less of us know how to get involved in academics beyond the classroom. So with this position I want to redefine what it means to be involved at Western by providing students with new, approachable yet effective ways of voicing opinions when it comes to academic affairs and the university at large.

What do you think is the role of VP for academic affairs?

I see the role of VP for academic affairs as a liaison between Western students and the university governing board. I think it’s so immensely important that students have a voice in the politics that go into the university; ultimately as students we’re the reason why universities exist. So our administrators, faculty and staff value our voices and it’s up to the VP for academic affairs team to pretty much figure out what our student body needs from WWU academics. Right now we’re facing anywhere from a 12 to 16-percent increase in tuition in the next few years and our academics are changing drastically. It’s pretty much set in stone that classes are changing and that we’re going to be seeing a restructuring of the system but it doesn’t mean that the quality of our education should be compromised. So that’s why I am here.

Tell us about one issue affecting students that you think the AS Board of Directors should focus on next year.

I would say that one issue is probably figuring out if the way our student fees are being spent is what we really want and really need. I know we’ve been assessing specific programs and organizations within the Associated Students but I think it would be nice to see each VP also assessing the ways our fees are used. For example, [the vice president for] academic affairs is in charge of the Student Technology Fee and it would be great to see some kind of system that assesses if every year we’re putting those funds towards something we want as a collective student body. So you know, fees are very important and we want to be sure we’re using them in the best way possible.

This year, the AS has had to deal with funding cuts and tough budget decisions. How will you help maintain the quality of AS programs, services and events if these budget issues continue?

One of the ways I want to help maintain the quality of AS programs, services and events is uniting with the rest of the VPs and the president on the board. I think at this point, it’s not a one-VP or president issue, it’s not an issue that the VP for governmental affairs can just take up on their own or with just the help of the president. It’s about all of us coming together as a collective force, as student leaders, reaching out to the entire Western community and being the leaders of a whole unit. I think there’s strength in numbers and I hope that politics don’t get in the way of us being able to lead the way.