Candidate profile: Julia Burnham, Senate

Fourth-year First Nations and Indigenous Studies student Julia Burnham is running for one of five student senator-at-large seats on a platform of pushing for a five-day fall reading break, a review of the awards criteria and an external review of Senate.

She’s also running for VP Academic and University Affairs (VPAUA).

Fall reading break, which Burnham dubbed a “buzzword” of the Senate race, is her first priority.

“Overwhelmingly, students see this fall reading break as something that they want. We have that data and we have those reports,” Burnham said. “Now we really need to be switching gears and focusing on faculty and staff to get them on board.”

Getting a fall reading break has proven to be a complicated task as the AMS clashes with the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS).

“There's definitely a lot of very important conversation happening on whether or not it’s worth it,” Burnham said. She still wants to push for the full five-day reading break nevertheless.

“I think moving forward for maximum positive option rather than sort of stopping short is really the way that we can make it happen.”

Burnham is also advocating for updating the awards criteria. Currently, students must take 24 credits a semester to be eligible for UBC merit-based scholarships, with the awards committee looking at grades from the winter session. Burnham wants summer credits to count towards that, calling it a “huge issue in terms of equity and accessibility.”

“We have a very lively extracurricular and student life at UBC that students are so encouraged to be part of, but if you're on scholarship here, you don't have the time to do all those activities because UBC's forcing you to take a very high amount of credits,” Burnham said.

The third goal that Burnham is pushing for is an external governance review of the Senate.

Internal reviews are conducted every three years, but only two external reviews have been conducted since the 1970s, the most recent one in the 2005/06 school year. Burnham called the low number of external reviews “completely unacceptable.”

“Especially in terms of conversations about equity and diversity, that review is very needed,” Burnham said. “I went to a Senate meeting for the first time and I was shocked at how much everyone in the room looked alike. There's not a lot of diverse representation within the Senate and I think that is something that is incredibly important to address.”

Burnham’s platform is a built on themes of diversity and Indigenous representation, informed by her own studies.

“We really need to be encouraging Senate to push for more [in terms of diversity]. There are nowhere near enough Indigenous students on this campus,” Burnham said. “There's a lot of subtle little pushes that we can do to make Senate more inclusive and get them to […] wake up.”

This article is part of our 2019 AMS and student elections coverage.