Candidate profile: Aaron Bailey, Board of Governors

Aaron Bailey is a fifth-year integrated science major. Having previously served as Science Undergraduate Society president and AMS president last year, he is aiming to bring the engagement and lobbying skills he honed as AMS president to the BoG.

Describe your platform and what sets it apart from your opposition in a few sentences.

I’m someone who very much understands what passion you have as a single student elected representative onto the Board of Governors. A lot of what you need to do on a board is form relationships with other parties. The two points in my platform that I intend to really focus my efforts on next year are working on the governance committee — I’ll be seeking nomination to that committee on board to provide support directly to the incoming UBC president and in continuation of my role on the presidential search committee. I want to make sure that person [the future president of UBC] connects directly with the student body. In addition on the governance committee, I will continue to advocate for a review of board practices to see what can be improved using my track record of transparency and openness.

My second piece is to continue to lobby and keep the board in check in terms of expenditure for the new strategic investment fund that’s adjudicated by the provost’s office. The discussions and the decisions made at board this year based on AMS lobbying led to the understanding that projects from that fund need to be balanced between student experience and research and teaching initiatives. I want to make sure that that commitment to the student experience is upheld.

Lastly, and this is ongoing and continuous, to continue to work with the AMS and other relevant student groups like UBCC350 [who are] working towards complete board divestment of all our investment holdings in fossil fuels, and to call as a member for a revisitation of the sustainable future funds proposal, which I don’t think goes in the direction that we intended both as a student body and through the faculty when we called on the board to divest their holdings.

What drew you to this specific position?

First and foremost, I think I am one of, if not the most, experienced candidate for this role considering my involvement on campus. I have a very strong working knowledge of the board and its committees. I have relationships with members of the Board of Governors currently, which I can leverage to my advantage to lobby for student issues ... without sacrificing my integrity to fight for students. I’ve proven with my track record that I’m able to both balance working relationships with the administration and push hard when necessary. In addition, I think there’s a lot the board needs to work on. I think it’s very clear through the proceedings of the last year … that there are accountability issues, there are transparency issues [and] there are areas for improvement. I really think I can bring some continuity at a bit of a turbulent time for the board.

What are the challenges facing this position in the upcoming year?

The challenges facing this position are the same ones facing student representatives every single year. It’s ensuring that in that very powerful group of people, you are loud enough and smart enough about your lobbying to make progress on issues that students actually care about. It’s going to be really pushing for more accountability and transparency, and the ability to engage the student population in what the Board of Governors does — I think there is a bit of a lack of confidence among the students.

Who is the most important body or person you need to collaborate with in this position, and how will you foster a relationship with them?

The most important people ... are the other student representatives, full stop. We need to be on the same page with all the things that we do or else you don’t really stand a chance of making a dent on student issues. I have experience doing that — I made it a priority as AMS president. 

There are specific Board of Governors members who may have a little more influence than other people, whom it’s important to get in touch with and make sure you’re able to work with to lobby them effectively. One such person is Greg Peet, the chair of the finance committee. Many of the finance committee decisions — revolving things like the strategic investment fund and the sustainable futures fund, which are both in my platform — go through that committee and he has a very strong voice, a lot of knowledge and frankly a lot of respect and influence over the board. It’s less so about what the board does fiscally and more so about the overall holistic health of the institution, forming a really good relationship with that incoming president and making sure they feel supported. They feel that students are integral to the success of their position and also are there to support that individual in that orientation.

What’s the weakest part of your campaign or platform?

If there’s anything I would point out as a weakness to myself, it’s that I’m working from within the system. I haven’t been on the Board of Governors in the past, but I’ve had to work very closely with them as a member of the presidential search committee. I personally think that that benefit outweighs the reduced perspective I could bring as being somebody from the outside. But if I’m being totally frank, I’m not going to have ideas coming from people who don’t understand how the board works. It’s only a year’s time with a very slow-moving body. I think having an insider’s perspective is going to trump any radical notions 100 per cent of the time.

Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.