In uncontested VP Academic debate, candidate emphasizes good communication, but avoids detail

Tuesday’s VP Academic and University Affairs (VPAUA) debate was more of a casual Q&A, with uncontested candidate Nikol Grishin focusing on major themes of awareness and consultation without providing specifics.

Currently, the president of the Kinesiology Undergraduate Society (KUS) and the AMS Tutoring coordinator, Grishin fielded questions on the new draft of UBC’s sexual misconduct policy (Policy SC17), affordability advocacy and the Academic Experience Survey. She hit all the key VPAUA buzzwords, mentioning the importance of textbook affordability, slowing tuition increases and open educational resources.

Her emphasis on awareness of policy and resources came in response to a question about the new Policy SC17 draft and affordability on campus.

“I think a huge … part of my platform is the lack of awareness surrounding certain services on campus for students to access,” she said.

She highlighted her volunteer work at the AMS Food Bank, calling it as a less well-known service that could improve affordability if expanded.

Grishin also noted that policies such as Policy SC17 are often only known by students involved in advocacy or in student governance, adding that it’s important to make them more accessible by translating them into “simpler terms for students.”

“There are some gaps in the way the knowledge translation is occurring to students on campus or students who are not on Council and are aware of the nitty-gritty details of what the policy entails specifically,” Grishin said.

But she did not include any specific, content-based critiques of the Policy SC17 draft.

Consultation, which was a major theme running through many of the debates Tuesday night, was highlighted when Grishin admitted her own inability to individually understand all the different experiences on campus and the subsequent need for conversation with students.

A question sent to The Ubyssey by current VPAUA Julia Burnham asked which relationship within the university would be important to her advocacy. Grishin gave a vague answer, saying she’d have to consider the various “individuals and backgrounds on campus.”

The moderator challenged her to identify three relationships within UBC administration she'd prioritize, but Grishin named the AMS Indigenous Committee, the Sexual Assault Support Centre and coordinators of AMS services — all of which are separate from the university.

When asked about an under-discussed issue within the VPAUA office, Grishin focused on Indigenous consultation.

“[We should] not only listen [to them], but take those into consideration and try to implement what they’re saying to us.”

Grishin also mentioned a lack of graduate student-centric questions on the Academic Experience Survey and said she would consult with the Graduate Student Society (GSS) to change that. As of now, the survey collects data on graduate students, but no questions are tailored to their experience.

“I think the best approach … is to actually sit down with the GSS as a whole and to see what they would specifically like to see on the survey,” Grishin said.

“It’s hard to say that as an undergraduate student because I have no experience or knowledge towards what being a graduate student is like, so I feel like giving my own knowledge or opinion on that would be unfair.”

Due to the intimate Q&A style of the debate, Grishin also gave a “personal” explanation as to why she chose to run and why she’s passionate about advocacy.

“I personally really, really struggled in my first year, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back in my second year,” she said. “So I know how much students need to be advocated for on campus because I was one of those students who wished that someone advocated for me.

“I think it’s the underlying foundation towards why I do any of these positions for students on campus.”

This article was updated to correct Grishin's position in the KUS.