Devin Branson – VP for Campus and Community Affairs

- What experience do you have that qualifies you for the position you are running for?

All right well First experience, I have been involved in the AS since my freshman year, Vie been working mainly with the Transportation Advisory Committee, with the current VP of Campus and Community Affairs, and on that committee we helped develop the transportation initiative that is gonna go before the students next week and also through that interaction with the current VP I’ve learned about what else he does and what other programs he’s involved with, and things of that nature. And also I’ve helped represent Western students at meetings with the Whatcom Transportation Authority. So I’ve been there with also the current VP, myself, people form WTA and the administration, so I am starting to know how that works, how that system works, and through that I have also kind of learned how the AS works. And before that I guess even back in high school I was vice president of my school, going through kind of a rough time at our school when we had changed from a four period day to a six period day. So that was quite the experience, helping to lead in that type of time.

-What are your three biggest goals you wish to accomplish?

Well, three biggest goals. The first one would just be pertaining to transportation, transportation in general, and improving it for all Western students and not just a certain group of people, but people who drive, people who take the bus, people who walk, and people who ride their bikes. Because there are some simple things that we can do that, with working with the AS and with agencies like WTA, and with the administration and with the City of Bellingham, if the board worked together we really could push for some simple solutions that would make transportation better for everyone, so that’s a big goal right there

-Do you have an idea of those solutions?

Well one solution is the intersection; this is just one example, first of all things like bike racks and cross walks, but one of my very specific points is the intersection of Bill McDonald Parkway and 25th outside of Buchanan Towers, so it’s people who park, who have cars in Fairhaven, who park at Buchanan Towers, who live in Happy Valley, so people who are driving there. There’s no signal, it is just kind of an open intersection with two stop signs, and it’s kind of rough to turn there. And also people who walk, it’s crazy when people walk across there, there’s a cross walk but no way to stop traffic, so it’s just if cars stop. And the city of Bellingham has identified that as a location that it would like to have a signal at, but I think if we really pushed with the administration to say we want this as soon as possible, and we would like to have input on how it is designed, because it is on our campus basically. To really get that as soon as possible instead of waiting years , because that would also help people who take the bus, who take the 114 which turns left there, which is sometimes, it can turn right away and sometimes they have to wait five minutes, so I think it would really speed everything up.
Another goal would be communication. I really feel it is important for student government to reach out to students, instead of students having to go find their student government. And I don’t think the board has tried to hide or anything like that, I just think it’s not been a priority. I mean because one of the simple things is finding the AS Board offices, you know there’s little signs everywhere and things like that, but then finding the AS board office hours, first you have to find their office then hopefully the office hours are correct and if you look online the office hours might be from the previous quarter. So it’s just something to let people know that we’re here, let them know the office hours, let them know you can come talk, maybe you have a, form a time a quarter to say we’ll be here, you can come talk to us about anything, and if no one shows up, well that’s fine, but we have to at least put ourselves out there. We want to hear what you have to say so that we can really focus on what we need to do.
A final goal would be, if the transportation fee passes, if the students vote on that, I think we should work towards integrating the bus pass with the western card. I’ve talked to WTA and it is possible, it would just take time, effort and cooperation. They have the technology to do it, we have the technology to do it, but it’s the process of combining those technologies that would take the time. But I think if the initiative passes it would really make sense in both sustainability and just efficiency means to do that.

-How do you hope to build larger student familiarity and involvement with the Associated Students? What are some of the ways that you want to go about that?

Kinda like I previously said, just really communication and letting people know that office hours are a time where if you have something dealing with anything you can come and talk to a board member. That’s what the office hour is for, and obviously the time for board members to get work done, but it’s really an open door to come on in and talk to us. I think that is a possibility but the problem is right now it’s the student that has to put forth a lot of effort to go find someone to go talk to, and they will listen right now, but more needs to be done to let them know that they’re there to listen. Really how else are we going to know what the students want? And closer ties with even places like the residence halls you know we have a couple thousand students living on campus, that’s really easy access to people who live here who could easily come talk to someone, and if those ties were stronger then it would be a lot easier for, especially those mostly, actually western has kind of a mix of people who live on campus, but just those people who live on campus, it needs to be shown to them especially that it’s really easy to come talk to a board member, or to send them an e-mail or if you have a concern, let us know, and we’ll work on it especially if we hear a lot of things from a lot of people then it is really easy to say this is something the students want, not to say “I talked to some people and this is I think what they want”, it’s “ I had so many e-mails, so many people talk to me about this, we need to do this”. So I think it would actually make it easier for board members, but also better for students.

-Would you name one or two decisions that the board has made this year, that you disagree with, or at least the way they have gone about the decision, that you disagree with.

I guess one of the big things would be the length of time it has taken for the transportation initiative to come on the ballot. I know that’s there’s been some board members who’ve really pushed for it even since last year, of course there are many different people on the board this year. But it took too long to get there. And even more specifically, when they put it on the ballot this year they removed at the last minute a little clause that said 5% of the fee, which would have made the fee instead of $25 it would have been like $27 or something like that, so not much of a difference, but that money was going to be specifically for sidewalk improvements, crosswalk improvements, bike racks, and there is still going to be some money available in the new fee, but it's not guaranteed it’s if there is left over money it’s going to bike racks. This meant we have this money specifically for bike racks, specifically for crosswalks and it could have even meant if we wanted to fund a study to see how to get a dedicated bike path across campus, we could have used that money to do that. Where now, hopefully we have some money left over, and I think there will be some money left over, it’s just the fact that there’s not a certainty, that I wish they would have kept that in there seeing that for an extra one to two dollars a quarter, and before they eliminated it they could have maybe reduced the amount or something like that. Because I also understand the need to, or the desire to keep fees low, and I agree with that, but I think it could have gone about a little different way to keep that guarantee other improvements in transportation.

Nina Lau – VP for Campus and Community Affairs

-What experience do you have that qualifies you for the position you are running for?

So I am running for VP for campus and community Affairs, and back in high school, I am a freshman, back in high school I was ASB president my senior year. I was also the school board student liaison between the ASB and the school board. So I have that experience and as far as that. I guess there is not a whole lot specifically that from some other previous experience applies to this, but I think that a lot of my personality traits and just the kind of person that I am to begin with is a kind of ‘go getter’ and I’ve always been really responsible with all my commitments. I am pretty much on time and everything. And I like talking to people, and I think that’s the most important thing is making connections with people. And I love talking to my community, I came form a pretty small town, and so I guess you can say its been kind of a life long thing, because I always made connections with people throughout the community, adults as well as students my age. I like talking to people, I like meeting people and I like figuring out what’ wrong and hearing peoples opinions. And my junior year I was also ASB treasurer, so I have had a lot of experience with leadership, in types of positions like this.

-What are your three biggest goals you wish to accomplish?

My biggest goals would be, not in any particular order because I think they are all pretty important, and these are just kinda my ideas I wanna hear other peoples and I know there is a lot of issues. I guess number one for me personally, is I wanna push for more sustainable food options and increase energy conservation on campus. One of the things I plan to do is just go to the Recycling Center and see if we can get more recycling bins in high traffic areas, like Red Square, because there are not enough of those, you know we have garbage cans but they are not the same as recycling for newspapers and magazines, and glass bottles and plastic bottles and that sort of thing, and that’s kind of an issue. I tend to walk around with my bottles until I find a recycling thing, and that’s just a simple thing that I think needs to be done.
The second thing is increasing safety on campus. Especially up on the ridge when it is dark at night. I want to look into the possibility of installing more emergency blue phones.
The third one I guess is, to me one of the biggest things the AS needs to work on, is out reaching to students. Because as a freshman the way that I am learning about the AS is jumping right into elections, and that’s the type of person that I am so it’s not a problem but I know that the majority of freshmen and new students that come to Western aren’t going to be as up to just do that and do the same thing that I’m doing. In the future I’d like to see more freshmen running, and more candidates, less candidates running unopposed, so that people have more of an option to decide who is the better qualified candidate. And so my idea is to implement some sort of internship or even to just start a club, not to be confused with the clubs already existing within the AS. We both know that there is around 200 I think, or over 200. So this would be club AS or something, and students could get together and learn about all the positions, we’d have guest speakers from across campus, it is still an idea that hasn’t been solidified but it is still something I really want to do, I plan on starting on it right away as soon as elections are over I’m going to do it however elections turn out. I just kind of want to run with it. We would go to senate meetings and board meetings, people can better inform themselves about the issues on campus, so that they can make more informed decisions when voting for, and it would just be a non-intimidating space for people to learn about the AS, and get kind of a leg up and open doors and learn about it, spike an early interest.

-Will you explain more about what you mean by sustainable food options?

Sustainable food options, I want to work with Sodexho, the main contract around campus and see what out options actually are. I was only able to read half of the contract, so honestly I don’t know the full breadth of what we can actually do, based on that contract and what we can actually push for. If we could get more organic options, local options, and try to keep the prices as low as possible I think we are going to be better off

-How do you hope to build larger student familiarity and involvement with the Associated Students? What are some of the ways that you want to go about that?

Mostly through the AS Club or internship offering and just putting it out there, going to the students. I am a sociable person, I like talking to people, I like being around campus, just making people feel welcome and making people feel that it is ok to ask questions or if they don’t know something speak up and the AS is not as intimidating as it might seem at first. Everyone’s really friendly I have always had that kind of attitude and approachable. I think it is really just getting ourselves out there, and the VU is and it is hard for people and I know I don’t really like coming here because it’s like what office is it and what floor and there is so many different sections and I am pretty sure the majority of the student body is like that too. Living on campus I know a bunch of freshmen in dorms, who do hall council because they know where that is at, and that’s successful, it is easy, they know everyone, it’s more of a comfort level for them I think and I think we can make the AS the same thing. Just by putting ourselves out there maybe less posters, not as many posters but more personable [and] approachable, being out there yourself physically and actually talking to people and gauging them and telling them. Face book is a good resource I think because a lot of people tend to get on there and it is easier to have discussions than it is in person, so those are my personal goals, just to be really available, and be out there. I know that this position requires a lot of work so it will be a lot harder than it seems to me now but I am willing to work as hard as I have to be able to ensure that people can see me and know where I am at and what I am about, and what the AS is about.

-Would you name one or two decisions that the board has made this year, that you disagree with, or at least the way they have gone about the decision, that you disagree with.

No, I can’t. To be honest I haven’t been to one of the board meetings because I am a freshman and this is my first spring quarter. So I am just kind of getting into it but I am really definitely looking forward to learning more about it. That is one of the downfalls, but I am definitely going to work as hard as I can, and I am learning a lot throughout this process. I am enjoying myself, it’s stressful, it’s intimidating but I defiantly plan on being out there, I plan on going as soon as elections are done, and this is just the beginning for me.

-Is there anything that you would like to add?

I hope that the students give me a chance next year to show that I am fully committed to Western and improving student life on campus as well as other aspects. And I just want to fully integrate myself into the student body, and it’s not like [the] AS or student body, it’s everything is the AS to me, and so I want to fully embody that. I think that is the most important aspect, I plan on being here for the next three or four years, and I am a very committed person, I love Western so I am going to try to make the best decisions for the student body as possible.