Clubs night a qualified success

April 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

More than a dozen clubs filled the Grassroots cafe in Surrey, recruiting new members at the KSA’s inaugural clubs night on March 3.

Thirteen out of the 33 clubs and recognized groups listed on the KSA website signed up to be part of the initiative to generate more interest in student clubs.

Laura Anderson, acting clubs and event coordinator for the KSA, has been frustrated by the lack of campus life at Kwantlen for years. Now studying at Simon Fraser University, she thought more could be done to emulate the success of clubs at UBC and SFU.

“The whole thing was to try and get clubs more active on campus and increase not only their activity, but their membership and student activity,” said Anderson.

Before becoming a staff member, Anderson held various elected positions in the KSA, including stints as director of external affairs and chairperson.

Sociology club member Faith Chern attended the event and was optimistic about its success.

“I thought it was good, better than what I expected,” said Chern. “We’re just starting up trying to become an established club.”

Although it’s just getting off the ground, the sociology club eventually hopes to host events, guest speakers and a lecture series. The club had 11 members, but managed to sign up 15 interested students over the evening.

“I personally hope it becomes a regular event, because students should be more involved in clubs on campus,” said Anderson. “It’s an important part of student life.”

Former KSA executive runs for parks board

April 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A former chairperson of the Kwantlen Student Association, who was connected to a $50,000 Cram Jam loss in 2008, declared his intention to run for the Vancouver Park Board last month.

Trevor Loke announced he was seeking the Vision Vancouver nomination for the fall 2011 election.

Loke served as KSA director of events and student life for four months and chairperson for one month in 2008, and in various staff and elected positions between 2007 and 2008.

He resigned in late July 2008 shortly before the KSA lost $50,000 on that year’s Cram Jam. According to Loke, he resigned because of low pay, internal politics and because he was no longer taking classes at Kwantlen. Loke began organizing Cram Jam 2008, but his replacement Vanessa Knight ended up finishing the event. Loke blamed the KSA for poor planning.

The concert was headlined by Daniel Wesley, Ten Second Epic and Sloan and ended up going $20,000 over its initial budget of $100,000. Ticket revenues were estimated to be $102,250, but actually only brought in $9,030.

Loke was also part of the group of students that ousted the Reduce All Fees (RAF) party in 2007. Since leaving Kwantlen, he has remained involved in politics, serving as a director-at-large with the B.C. Green Party.

Cloverdale students not getting their fair share

April 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Cloverdale students aren’t seeing their fair share of events and services, according to the KSA’s new Cloverdale campus director.

Shivinder Singh, a first-year CAD student, is the first-ever elected campus director at Cloverdale and hopes to better represent his campus.

“Students at Cloverdale aren’t getting their share,” said Singh. He said that most KSA events and spending are directed at Richmond and Surrey, even though Cloverdale students pay the same fees.

This year, was the first time that any students were nominated or elected for KSA positions in Cloverdale since it was opened in 2007.

When Singh transferred to Kwantlen from UBC-Okanagan last year, he was immediately struck by the absence of student life and decided he could make a difference.

“I saw a poster for elections,” said Singh. “So I just put my name in and jumped in.”

According to Singh, the biggest issues facing Cloverdale students are the rapid increase in fees and the near-complete absence of student life and events.

He also says that Cloverdale faces unique challenges. The campus is male-dominated and students range from the very mature to high school students. Because most of the programs at Cloverdale aren’t semester-based, typical orientations or welcome weeks haven’t worked. New classes usually start every month and sometimes every week.

He is still learning how the KSA system works, but is making plans to hold an orientation in the fall as well as other events.

Singh says that students are divided about the incoming U-Pass program. Bus service at Cloverdale is limited and the U-Pass is mandatory for all students, even those who never use public transit. However, Singh acknowledges that those who do use transit are very excited about it.

Cafeteria-protesting Friends 4 Food missing in action

December 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

It started with a bang and went out with a whimper.

Friends 4 Food, the Kwantlen club that attracted attention from local media and students for its vocal protest of Kwantlen’s new food service provider Sodexo, has quietly disappeared.

Friends 4 Food had clashed with both Kwantlen Polytechnic administrators and the Fraser Health Authority over serving free vegan stew in the Surrey campus courtyard.

Though still listed as an active club on the Kwantlen Student Association’s website, the group has not served any more meals on campus since early October. The Friends 4 Food website is no longer available online and their Facebook group hasn’t been updated since Oct. 4.

The disappearance of the group may be part of a wider trend: When it comes to extracurricular clubs on campus, Kwantlen students have been traditionally slow to get involved.

Nursing student Amy Lange organizes the Kwantlen chapter of University Christian Ministries. She says that her group would like to be more active on campus but that they’ve struggled against the commuter campus dynamic.

“[Kwantlen students] just come to school for school, they study, and they go home,” said Lange. “They’re not looking to get involved in any extracurricular school activities, so to run a club means you’re constantly trying to work against that.”

Kari Michaels, the founder of Kwantlen’s Animal Rights Collective, also understands the frustration of starting a club on campus.

“It’s pretty tough, especially if you aren’t as well connected. Having 10 people sign a form isn’t that difficult, but finding 10 people who will want to attend your meeting is another issue,” said Michaels.

“I think that’s where the real stumbling block comes with student clubs is. There’s a lot of people who want to support your ideas. It’s just getting the real committed people to get involved is a lot harder.”

There are 24 clubs and four recognized groups currently listed as active on the Kwantlen Student Association website.

The Kwantlen Student Association website lists another 23 clubs and recognized groups that are either inactive or have been dissolved. Among the defunct groups are the Anime Club, the Mahjong Club, the Muslim Student Association, the Young Liberals of Canada, and Campus for Christ.

How to Start an Official Kwantlen Club

If you’re tired of complaining about the nonexistent campus culture at Kwantlen you can follow these steps to become the master of your own social life and start your own club.

(1) Decide what kind of club you want to start. What interests you? Clubs fall into four categories: social, cultural, athletic or academic. Check out the KSA website for a list of all current clubs to make sure that your ideal club doesn’t already exist.

(2) There are a few basic requirements to start a club: You must be a Kwantlen student, your group must be open to any student who wants to join, and you must have a minimum of 10 members.

(3) Fill out the KSA clubs package forms and hand them in for approval. Your application will be evaluated and, if all goes well, your club will become official in one or two weeks.

(4) So you’re official: now what? As an official club you are able to book space on campus for your meetings or events, you can also request help from KSA staff and officials and apply for funding.

Meatless eating on campus still a struggle

December 14, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Vegetarian and vegan students at Kwantlen have some options when eating on campus, but still struggle to find nutritious and tasty meals that won’t break the bank.

“There’s not a lot surrounding Kwantlen to eat at. I generally bring in my own food,” said committed vegan Kari Michaels, a third-year philosophy student.

When she does buy food on campus, the GrassRoots Café is her venue of choice. Vegan menu items at the GrassRoots include wraps, with fillings such as rice, beans and veggies, and stir-fries.

“It’s pretty tough to be a vegan at Kwantlen. Luckily, the GrassRoots Café is really flexible. I’ve never actually gone to Sodexo to see their vegan options,” said Michaels.

A Sodexo representative reached by phone was quick to list many of the vegetarian and vegan choices available in the cafeterias and their willingness to adapt to each person’s dietary restrictions. Beyond the usual vegan and vegetarian-friendly sandwiches and salads, they offer hot entrées, including curries, stir-fries and pastas. Meatless options at Sodexo can also be cheaper, usually priced at a dollar less than the entrées with meat.

Vegetarian choices are now easily found on most local menus in Vancouver, a welcome respite from the days when often the only veggie-friendly items were salads.

Between four and 10 per cent of Canadians consider themselves to be vegetarian or vegan, according to multiple studies. That would suggest that between 680 and 1,700 of Kwantlen’s 17,000 students are either vegetarian or vegan.

There is no one simple definition of a vegetarian. Some vegetarians eat poultry or fish, some avoid all forms of animal flesh. Vegans consume no animal products, including dairy and eggs.

Michaels became a vegan partly for health reasons. “I had dairy and egg allergies so I didn’t have much choice. I was already vegetarian before making the switch to vegan,” she said.

She has since researched the conditions and methods used by modern dairy farms and was disgusted by what she found.

“But, now that I am vegan, the reasons I wouldn’t go back even if my allergies went away is just the innate cruelty in factory farming, the horrible practices involved in keeping cows pregnant . . . the whole industry around that would definitely keep me from going back to that.”

Michaels is philosophical about her limited dining options at Kwantlen.

“It’s hard to be vegan in Surrey and Kwantlen’s just a microcosm of that.”

Opinion: Lack of controversy around prayer room refreshing

December 14, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Kwantlen’s introduction of a dedicated prayer and meditation room earlier this semester was decidedly uncontroversial. Refreshingly so.

There were no public protests and no letters to the editors of the school papers complaining about the intrusion of religion into the public sphere.

The room was created in response to multiple requests from students and staff for a space to practise their respective faiths. Whether you chalk it up to typical Kwantlen apathy or an extremely enlightened outlook on faith and tolerance, the prayer room has continued to operate freely and without incident.

Compare that non-reaction to controversies generated about religious accommodations on other campuses across the country. Five years ago, McGill University in Montreal closed its prayer room and argued that a religious space didn’t belong at a secular university. Students responded by filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

Admittedly, the Kwantlen prayer room is nothing to write home about. It’s the size of a very small office or cubicle and the bare concrete floor is reminiscent of a prison cell. Several groups on campus have expressed concern that the spartan room is not large enough for group prayers or other religious meetings with more than two or three people.

In response, university administrators have promised to look for new space as it becomes available, with the aim of eventually opening prayer rooms on all four campuses.

Conflicts between the secular and religious sectors continue to make headlines all over Canada. The questions of how far religious freedoms extend and what place religion has in the public square, or more specifically at a public university, aren’t going to be resolved anytime soon, but they are ones we should think about carefully.

Because what better place to foster a reasoned and educated discussion about faith than at a university?

Prayer room opens on Surrey campus

October 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Surrey Kwantlen students looking to practise their faith now have an answer to their prayers, after the September opening of an on-campus dedicated prayer and meditation room.

The Centre for Student Life and Community quietly opened the prayer and meditation room in the learning centre in the Surrey campus library on Tuesday, Sept. 21. The initiative was created after the university received requests from students of different religious faiths seeking accommodation.

“Having the space available allows students of multiple backgrounds and faiths to be able to come in and make use of the space,” said Jody Gordon, the associate vice-president of students. The room has been made available seven days a week for use by students, staff and faculty as a space for quiet prayer and meditation, and can be booked in advance or used on a drop-in basis.

“But it’s not exclusive to those who may come looking for the space for religious purposes. It is also considered a secular space where someone may just need to the use the space to relax and let the stress go, that they’re often experiencing as students,” said Gordon.

The semiprivate and modestly-furnished room is used by an average of 10 to 12 people a day and the demand is already growing, according to Gordon. A student faith group on campus has also asked to use the space for its meetings.

She says that so far most of the requests for space have come from the Surrey and Richmond campuses, but she is expecting to offer similar a service on all the Kwantlen campuses as the space becomes available.

She said the department of Student Life will monitor the success of the pilot room with an eye to seeking improvements and meeting demand. “It’s a first and . . . modest attempt at trying to dedicate some space to quiet prayer and meditation,” said Gordon. “If this is something our community really wants to see us continue to have, then we want to continue to commit the resources to it.”

Amy Lange, a student representative for Kwantlen University Christian Ministries, has looked into using the room for her group’s weekly meetings, but discovered that the room can only accommodate six students and is too small for the group.

“While these changes are good, there is still a ways to go,” said Lange in an e-mail interview.

Students interested in using the space can call 604-599-2900 for more information.