Debate recap: Board of Governors

The Board of Governors debate yesterday was between incumbent Veronica Knott and newcomer Reda El Maazi. Aaron Bailey was unable to attend due to a family emergency.

Without Bailey, the debate mainly took the form of El Maazi attacking his opponent’s past term as student Board of Governors representative.

The first question asked candidates what they would do to improve the transparency of the Board of Governors. Knott said she would push for in camera agenda items to have written, public explanations as to why they need to be discussed in a closed session, as well as putting public notifications online about all meetings and proactively search out stakeholder engagement.

In response, El Maazi brought up the departure of former president Arvind Gupta and decried that there had been no news as to why this occurred, despite extensive media coverage to the contrary. El Maazi said that Knott “failed” and neglected her duty to students and that he would hold weekly office hours and write weekly reports both to the board on what students were saying, and to students on what was happening at board that week. Knott rebutted at this point, reminding El Maazi the board meets five times a year, not weekly.

The debate turned into a series of rebuttals between Knott and El Maazi, in which Knott defended her actions as a board rep this year, citing her vocal and proactive opposition towards the tuition increase. El Maazi was unclear on what more he believes Knott could have done, apart from that actions existed.

The next question targeted the challenges that board representatives face in balancing their accountability to the populations they represent and the fiduciary duty they have to the board. El Maazi said he would deal with this by holding office hours, living in residence and staying active on social media.

Knott cited her extensive experience in leadership positions in student government and said that office hours didn’t tend to be successful. Instead, she would continue attending AMS and Grad Student Society (GSS) meetings, begin a regular column in The Ubyssey on what was happening at board and continue proactively seeking out student feedback.

When asked by Knott which committees he would serve on as board representative and why, El Maazi did not understand the question — or, apparently, the structure of board, as he first stated that “the Board of Governors would be enough” and needed subsequent clarification by the moderator — then proceeded to ask Knott which committees she would recommend.

In answer to her own question, Knott said she would continue sitting on the finance and governance committees, the latter of which did not meet often in the past year but will hopefully be more functional with Celeste Haldane as the new chair.

The next question was also aimed at consultation — how would the candidates consult practically? El Maazi said he would make surveys online, which is something he has experience in. Knott pointed to the changes made in Policy 71 — the university policy which dictates how the university consults with students on tuition adjustments — and said she would continue building on this. 

A question from the floor was regarding faculty calls for an external review of the board. El Maazi said he believed students were the most important voices. Knott thanked faculty for their input and said she hoped to hear from them at the April board meeting. 

The debate ended with closing comments. Knott emphasized her past experience, stating that students needed an experienced representative with a strong background in being vocal and proactive on actions. El Maazi said he had been a part of many clubs and would be an advocate for students.