VP External candidates discuss views on tuitition, transportation at debate

VP External candidates Janzen Lee and Jude Crasta met at Thursday’s debate to discuss issues including tuition costs, public transportation, student engagement and the federal election.

Lee, a third-year political science student, plans to increase transparency between the AMS and students by keeping a regularly updated blog which will get students involved with the AMS as well as keep them aware of what the VP external is doing. To address rising tuition costs, Lee intends to give students greater access to student loans and to decrease off-campus housing.

“My campaign is based on difference,” said Lee. “There is a big problem with involvement, information and general fun for the AMS. It needs to be more representative of the students.”

Crasta, the current associate VP external, said that he is campaigning to improve issues related to rising tuition costs, the federal election and public transportation. He plans to get students involved with the federal election as well as improve legislation regarding affordable housing.

“A 20 per cent increase with winter contracts is not something that we can just stand by and take at this university,” said Crasta.

The issue of rising tuition and housing costs loomed large over Thursday's debate. To address it, the candidates discussed how they would work with the federal government, the provincial government and the university to make UBC more affordable for students.

Lee vowed to work to decrease off-campus housing costs and to increase the accessibility of student loans in order to help students pay off their debts.

“This is an issue that has been brought up to me by many students at UBC claiming that they’re having trouble getting access to an education because they can’t access funds,” said Lee.

Meanwhile, Crasta said he wants to give the federal government greater leverage to help fund education. He criticized the provincial government’s minimal funding for education and suggested implementing a mandate where “each province [would] have a needs-based grant system so that students could have the support that they need without having to pay back their interest."

Crasta also pointed out that B.C. interest rates are some of the highest in the country.

During rebuttals, Lee targeted the current VP External office (which Crasta is a part of) for not making an effort to prevent the provincial government’s funding cuts. Crasta responded that the VP external office did play a role in negotiations, but ultimately ignored their input.

Crasta then asked how Lee would lower off-campus housing, to which Lee responded that he would work with figures from the municipal government and city council to increase affordability at UBC.

The final question of the debate focused on student engagement with lobbying efforts. Crasta referred to his involvement with the transit referendum and AMS events such as Coffee For Commuters, while his future plans involve engaging students in the upcoming federal election.

Lee was once again critical on this topic, calling the AMS’ involvement with student engagement “the greatest shortcoming of this office in the past few years.” His plan to create a blog that informs students of the VP external’s activities will revolve around student feedback, where criticisms and compliments could be directed at the AMS.