Director of external relations candidate 2014: Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson is the director of external relations candidate for Link UVic. He is one of two candidates running for this position. Voting for this election opens March 5, 2014.

What is your area of study at UVic?

I study political science and environmental studies and I’m in my third year.

What made you want to run for director of external relations?

I’ve been really passionate about post-secondary education issues and issues facing students and so I feel like the UVSS—and student unions in general—should be a vital tool for fighting for those issues. I just got really excited about the possibility of running and using that for a platform for talking about that and making some progress.

What makes you the best candidate for this position?

That’s a good question. Nobody’s asked me that yet. I think I bring a lot of experience and a lot of passion. First of all, I have the experience of being a student. I’ve been a student for a while now and taken some time off for work—trying to afford school—and came back to it. I have experience with the loan system. I’m one of those students in B.C. that has the unreasonable student debt load and have experience paying back interest. I spent a bit of time working in political parties and making sure that they adopt policies and resolutions in order to support post-secondary students. Working to lobby for needs-based grants, lower interest rates, that sort of idea. So I definitely bring my experience and my passion and my very personal lived experience of working with these issues.

How many hours a week would you plan to work in this position?

I think the official policy is it’s expected to be 35 hours a week. I expect that will be the minimum—a very light work week. I’m expecting to have my work cut out for me. Fighting for post-secondary education is not a cut and dry and easy kind of thing that I can just show up for.

What would you have done differently this year compared to the current board of directors?

First of all, I’d like to say that Rachel’s been doing a great job and that it’s been really great to see her in that position. One of the things I really want to work on improving and one of the areas I see a lot of need for improvement is linking students to those issues and making sure that the office of external relations is really transparent about what they’re doing, what progress they’ve made on issues and ways for students to get involved. So I want to look into things like linking up with events and the events coordinator and seeing if we can do combined campaigns and events and engaging students in that way. Working to get students out to committee meetings, going out to students and talking to them about post-secondary education—really providing ways for students to get involved in that.

What is your position on the UVSS’s involvement with Divest UVic?

That’s something that I think holds a lot of potential for some really great kind of progressive stuff. To be honest, I haven’t looked too much into it myself and it’s something I’d be open to exploring and dialoguing more with. I know a lot of people on the slate that I’m running with, with Link, are really passionate about it. I’m excited to hear what they have to say about it a bit more.

What student campaigns would you like to further and support?

Definitely fighting for post-secondary education and also Make Transit Work and ending bus pass-ups. I think transit is a big issue here in Victoria facing UVic students—and Camosun students as well. Working with Camosun College and the Camosun Student Society to take advantage of the municipal elections that are coming up in 2015 and working to see progress on a unified transit structure and one that works for students— one that isn’t passing by students.

How do you plan to engage with the university and the government to effect change?

Working with them to make sure that they’re [the university] supported by our governments. I think that our governments often overlook post-secondary education and there’s a lot of evidence that even just infrastructure is severely lacking. So working with them to fight for those issues is really key.

What are your main goals if you’re elected?

Really to establish a better connection between students and the office of director of external relations, really working to connect students with post-secondary education issues and really starting to campaign for, not just post-secondary education like tuition and student loans and interest rates and that sort of thing, but also looking at issues like cycling infrastructure. I know a lot of students—I, myself—bike to school and biking in Victoria is a scary thing, so working to develop campaigns centred around that. Working to campaigns centred around affordable housing. As most students who are renting housing here know, it’s kind of ridiculous how much we pay for housing, so working to develop campaigns around that as well.

Where’s your favourite place to eat on campus?

Felicita’s probably. I love the staff there. They do really good food and they’re just really friendly people. I was just there having my dinner right now.

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