Candidate profile: Shivani Mehta, VP academic and university affairs

Third-year biology student Shivani Mehta is running for VP academic and university affairs (VPAUA) on a platform centred around a safe return to campus, open education and accessibility of learning resources and Work Learn opportunities for students.

She’s running against Eshana Bhangu, co-chair of the UBC Vancouver Student Senate Caucus.

Mehta became involved in student advocacy after seeing the barriers students face when it comes to voicing their wants and needs.

“So many students like myself were being disadvantaged because the right problems were not being addressed, or they were not being addressed urgently enough,” she said.

With experience working as the associate VP academic affairs this past year, Mehta wants to focus on developing “attainable, realistic and long-term goals.”

Mehta referred to her time as associate VP academic affairs as a “big learning experience,” since both she and the current VPAUA Georgia Yee had no experience in the AMS prior to their roles in the executive. Although the pair had “different leadership styles sometimes,” Mehta said she didn’t really disagree with anything Yee did.

Mehta also worked alongside Yee in advocating for the discontinuation of UBC’s contract with Proctorio. She disagreed with the university’s decision to extend the contract and said there’s more work to be done before considering other alternatives.

“There’s so many safety guidelines and ethics frameworks that need to be in place before we start progressing down a line of alternative invigilation software,” Mehta said.

Mehta’s also passionate about advocating for open educational and accessible resources. She said that textbook prices have “skyrocketed” over the past years, so her loftiest goal is starting a used bookstore in the Nest where students could donate their textbooks.

“Another student could then use those resources for their courses without having to go through the bookstore and then repurchase materials at a higher price,” Mehta said.

When asked about the recent updates to UBC’s sexual misconduct policy SC17, Mehta mentioned the difference between a policy change and what it means to “actually change students’ lives and move towards a consent culture.”

“I’m hoping that, with [the revisions to] this policy, we’ll be able to work with our partners and student services ... and approach this communication project in a more collaborative way,” Mehta said.

For the upcoming year, Mehta is expecting most of the same challenges around student engagement as this past year.

“I can anticipate we’ll need to explore new avenues of connecting with students,” Mehta said.

If elected, Mehta wants to build on her work from this past year.

“I really hope to approach this role with an authentic leadership style. And I hope that everything that I’ve been able to work on this past year with Georgia, I’m able to continue and complete those projects this year,” Mehta said.

Voting is open online from March 1 until March 5. This article is part of our 2021 AMS elections coverage.