Faculties face many barriers when finding student representation
// Gurpreet Kambo

At Capilano, there are many opportunities for students to get involved. One of these ways is through becoming a student representative on one of the institution’s five faculties, as well as sitting on the Senate or Board of Governors (BOG). However, each faculty is different, and as a result, they may not be getting the student representation they need from their decision-making bodies.

Provincial laws mandate that these university structures facilitate student representation and participation in these bodies, which ensures that those for whom decisions are being made have a voice and influence on the outcome. The University Act of B.C. requires all universities to have two students elected to its BOG, and four students to its Senate (something that was not required when Capilano was a college). It also requires that a certain number of students sit on the committee that governs each of the faculties of the university (which are also made up of the faculty’s Dean, the president, the faculty, and staff).

Capilano University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences recently held a call-out for nominations to fill its newly vacated student representative positions. The Faculty’s terms of reference stipulate that “an election is to be conducted by the student union … [and] the term of appointment of a representative is one year.”

Stanley Greenspoon, vice-chair of the faculty, coordinates the elections every year in partnership with the students’ union. “It was my feeling that students shouldn’t just be appointed … they should elect their representatives to these meetings themselves. Student input in the direction of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is important,” he says.

However, this year’s election ended up with an unusual outcome. The faculty has two student positions for arts, and one for sciences, and there were two nominees in both categories. Greenspoon decided to exercise some creativity, so as to maximize student involvement. “I thought, why discourage one student from being on [faculty], so I asked the dean, ‘How about if we have four representatives, but they only have three voting rights?’,” he says.

Dean Robert Campbell agreed to this proposal, and subsequently, an election was not held. The candidates for the sciences position decided to share their vote, rendering the time and expense of holding an election unnecessary.

“Being a student representative in the faculty seemed like an interesting way to learn about, and participate in, the running of the school,” said Christina Coambs, a biology student in her first year. Coambs holds one-half of the vote representing science students, the other half held by second-year student Daniel Zayonc.

Addressing the issue of how they will make decisions on how to vote on items, especially in the event of disagreement, she says, “For myself, I plan to attend all the scheduled meetings, [so] vote by consensus will no doubt be our approach to any arising topics.”


Although the Faculty of Arts and Sciences typically holds elections to select its student representatives, this does not appear to be common practice amongst the five other faculties. New representatives have been selected for these positions throughout the last year, but it was rare to see posters around campus advertising the available positions. However, a resolution approved by Senate in 2009 reads, “There shall be a minimum of two students identified to participate in Faculty meetings with voting rights. Each Faculty shall work with its students to establish clear procedures for the selection of student representation with the goal of fair proportional representation. Students may be selected by faculty members in the absence of nominations from students in the Faculty.”

It is apparent that all of the deans want to facilitate some meaningful student involvement. Each faculty faces its own unique barriers to achieving student representation, and as a result the processes used to find student representation are diverse.


Jean Bennett is the Dean of the Faculty of Health and Education, and the acting Dean of Student Services and Development. Bennett has noted that there is difficulty finding representation from her faculty, “because there isn’t a single student body within the Faculty of Health and Education, [so] we have looked to groups like the Human Kinetics Student Council, music therapy, and early childhood education, that have a student club … to appoint someone to the faculty,” says Bennett.

Part of the challenge, she says, is that the faculty has programs that have unusual timelines, such as the Health Care Assistant program, in which students study for seven months, partly in placements off-campus. “Quite frankly, we’ve had students appointed, and then they maybe attend one meeting, and then they don’t make it to another meeting. Because this is all relatively new, we’re trying to figure this out; how to do this more effectively. So it really is more about ‘how do we make the student voice in the faculty an effective voice?’”


The Faculty of Student Services and Developmental Studies includes programs such as Adult Basic Education and ESL. “I don’t think they, at this point, have had any student representation,” says Bennett. “I think it’s partly the challenge that almost all those programs, you’ve got people that are coming in for a very specific time period, or there are going to be really different kinds of things to consider in how to involve them.”


The Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts does not currently have sitting student representatives. “It hasn’t worked well for Fine and Applied Arts yet,” says Dean Jennifer Moore. “Fine and Applied Arts programs are so time-intensive, it’s like an immersion program.”

In the past, the Faculty has made call-outs for students in the fall, organized by the heads of each school in the Faculty. “It’s different in each of the schools. Typically, the cohorts will elect a cohort representative, and amongst the cohort representatives, they will elect people who will represent the year, the program or the certificate, depending on how it is organized, and generally out of that group of people, someone is nominated to be a rep to the faculty.”

Moore confessed that she was not familiar with the details of how each representative gets chosen, due to it being run by the division heads.


The Faculty of Business, similar to other faculties, has the problem of lack of interest or ability from students. “We’d never get enough students. If there was more than the number [of students] that were required, we would hold an election as well, but we haven’t yet, because there isn’t. So it’s an election by acclamation, or the equivalent of an appointment,” says Dean Graham Fane.

The Faculty of Business also asks its student organizations to submit representatives. “We have an undergraduate student society, CUBES, and they get together and say, ‘Who among us would like to do this?’ I guess they have gone through some process within their society as to who will have their name advanced, as it’s only ever the prescribed number that we need. [CUBES does this] just for the school of business representatives. The other departments will have a similar process, in that they go to their students and say, ‘What would you people like to do in terms of making this appointment?’”

Fane adds that communication within business may be somewhat different than in other faculties. “Within my department, we are cohorts … [so] the student organizing group talks to all of the eligible members of the group because they are all in classes together,” he says. “There’s no need for posters, because the system of communicating is by students talking in classes. If I want to talk to all students in the school of business, I know that there are four classes on Tuesday that I go to.”

“We do a hiring process, and we try to get as many students aware of what’s going on as possible. And then they apply for the job,” says Adam Browne, CUBES President. They do outreach by talking in classes, email, social media, and on their website.

The currently sitting representatives are Browne himself, and Kelly-Ann Warawa. In terms of the differences between how the different faculties elect their representatives, he explains, “We don’t have a list of the students in the faculty of business, so that’s one of our difficulties in having a voting process, in that we don’t have the ability to contact every student. We try our best to get awareness out.”

Chris Bottrill, Dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Outdoor Recreation, did not respond to requests for an interview.

///Gurpreet Kambo, news editor

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com