Kevin Doering is launching his second campaign for a seat on the UBC Vancouver Senate, having first run unsuccessfully in 2016. The fourth-year honours economics student’s platform is aimed at ensuring that Senate will have a “student-focused agenda” for the next three years, as a new set of faculty representatives begin their terms this year.
“I can’t stress enough how much I genuinely care about working on these issues,” he said. “Everything students care about — from affordability to the education they’re receiving — happens at Senate.”
One of his platform goals is the elimination of non-tuition mandatory course fees such as problem set access codes for students, which Doering suggests should be absorbed into tuition fees by UBC. He is also advocating to mandate a textbook review section in course evaluations in order to ensure the relevancy of required textbooks.
“Professors need to be more aware of what the textbook usage and relevancy in their classes actually look like,” said Doering, citing the 2016 Academic Experience Survey which revealed that 94 per cent of students have bought a textbook that they never used, while 42 per cent of students regularly don’t purchase required textbooks at all.
One part of the solution, Doering says, is increasing access to open educational resources (OERs) at UBC, a transition that has already begun to take place.
“There’s been a growing push for OERs at UBC and [the university] has shown willingness to make that push as well,” said Doering. “We’ve actually seen OER options double in the last year.”
According to Doering, another solution to the issue of educational unaffordability is further open access to past course materials, which currently contributes to a system “where students who are financially disadvantaged are also academically disadvantaged.”
“I understand that there are concerns regarding materials from previous years being used inappropriately, but it’s already happening in many ways,” said Doering, referring to websites like CourseHero which allow students access to thousands of past notes, exams and problem sets from UBC courses for monthly subscription fees.
“UBC needs to at least begin to address [the issue] through either making those materials openly available to all students, or coming up with some sort of system where this isn’t happening.”
Doering also stressed that the Student Senate caucus needs to be coordinated and united in the agenda items it puts forward in order to properly advocate for students.
“My platform is largely focused on new ideas that we can see into the triennium [and] that we can see completed rather than waiting for someone else to set that agenda,” said Doering. “It’s important that we start to look at what goals we can set for the next three years.”
—With files from Hana Golightly