In her first bid for a spot in student governance, first-year arts student Eshana Bhangu is running for senator-at-large this election.
Her platform is centred on easing the transition for international students into the Canadian education system, pushing for open educational resources and improving Indigenous representation. Other points include streamlining the mental health support process for students, improving transparency of Senate proceedings and contributing to the ongoing efforts to introduce a fall reading break.
Although she shares similar platform points with her fellow candidates, such as support for a fall reading break and advocation for further Indigenous representation, Bhangu believes her support for incoming international students sets her apart from the rest.
“I haven't heard a lot of candidates talking about [international students],” she said.
While UBC has supplementary English classes downtown, these cost time in commuting and money in registration, both of which Bhangu argues are in short supply for many international students.
Her solution takes the form of free support and tutoring opportunities on the Point Grey campus that will run parallel to the school year, she said to The Ubyssey.
“One guy comes from France — the writing style over there is completely different than what the professors expect over here. So perhaps more classes or courses or something offered during the school year, where people can go. Not just for feedback, but actual teaching,” she said.
However, she admits this will take a lot of resources to implement. She hasn’t yet thought of a concrete plan.
Her loftiest goal is getting courses to adopt open educational resources, such as free textbooks.
“That's a dream of mine, I doubt that it can be accomplished in a year … but I think it's definitely important to push to start it and to extend that to as many courses as possible,” she said.
“A really big problem we might face is copyright laws and they're getting pretty strict, so I think it's important to work with the provincial government,” Bhangu added.
Addressing her own position as a visible minority, Bhangu said she understands the need for Indigenous reconciliation and representation on campus.
“I feel very passionate about that … I do understand the struggles of being a minority. I cannot even imagine the decades of suffering [the Indigenous] community has been through,” she said.
To accomplish this, she’ll work with the admissions committee to recruit and encourage more Indigenous students to come to UBC.
Although she lacks experience in university governance, Bhangu said she’d been passionate about representation and advocation since the age of ten. She’s volunteered in multiple political campaigns, chaired a youth council and has volunteered in a Member of Parliament’s office for two years.
“I've seen the daily work that goes on in a representative’s office, the amount of work you have to do, the compassion and empathy. You need to have to listen to your local constituents … and I’m passionate about that,” she said.
“More than about how to win an election, I think I know and I understand what it takes to represent.”