A new student lobby is on the rise as they transition from a campaign called Where’s the Funding (WTF) to a group representing post-secondary students across the province.
The name of this up-and-coming organization is Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) and for the time being, it is primarily comprised of representatives from student unions and associations across the province.
According to Rebecca Davidson, president of the BCIT Student Association (BCITSA) who has been attending ABCS meetings and is learning about the organization herself, the mandate is in line with issues that matter to students at BCIT.
“I think core funding at our institution is the most relevant to BCIT. We’re running at 125 per cent capacity and there’s three year wait lists for some of our trades programs,” said Davidson. “Another relevant issue is student loans; BC has the highest student loan interest rate in the country.”
ABCS has goals similar to another student lobbying group in BC, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) that has been around for over thirty years.
Over half a million students – all who pay membership fees – belong to this national body of federations that makes decisions including how funds are spent at provincial and national congresses, according to the CFS website.
Tanner Bokop, vice president external for the Alma Mater Society (AMS) of the University of British Columbia (UBC), has been involved with the ABCS for a few years in its previous iterations such as the WTF campaign. He says ABCS is a completely autonomous group.
“We do have a lot of respect for other student groups that are pushing these issues forward but we’re completely independent,” Bokop told The Link in an interview.
Bokop says the ABCS is taking a different approach than many previous student associations and federations.
“We’re a non-partisan collaborative organization, so we have no central office, we don’t charge membership fees, we believe in an easy in, easy out mentality,” said Bokop. “We want to create a vehicle where all students feel like they can lobby jointly without a lot of the interior bureaucratic sway – like a lot of federations.”
[pullquote] “We want to create a vehicle where all students feel like they can lobby jointly without a lot of the interior bureaucratic sway – like a lot of federations.” [/pullquote]
Katie Marrochi, spokesperson for CFS, says she has heard of ABCS from a third party but has not yet been directly approached by the soon to be organization. But she says CFS would be happy to work with the new group as long as they exist.
Marrochi is confident in the way the CFS is structured and makes decisions in comparison to ABCS’ approach.
“Our organization has been around for thirty plus years, it’s existed in a very formalized way so that it can maintain longevity and our members are a part of our organization by referendum,” said Marrochi.
BCITSA president Rebecca Davidson was among the representatives of ABCS that went to Victoria in late July to meet with opposition government MLAs.
One of the MLAs there was David Eby, who represents Vancouver-Point Grey and has worked with the CFS in the past.
“I think that a major challenge for post secondary education in BC is that it’s a very low priority for government; it’s a low priority in the mind of the public,” Eby told The Link in an interview. “The only thing that is going to change that is if students get together and organize and make a concerted effort to get their issues on the agenda and I look forward to working with both the ABCS and the CFS and any other student organizations on that.”
[pullquote] “The only thing that is going to change that is if students get together and organize and make a concerted effort to get their issues on the agenda and I look forward to working with both the ABCS and the CFS and any other student organizations on that.” [/pullquote]
Davidson said she will continue to attend meetings as long as the issues discussed are relevant to BCIT.
“If they are advocating and discussing ideas that we are comfortable with and are prevalent on our campus then we will continue to stay involved,” said Davidson. “There are no fees and you can become a member or you could dismember within thirty days really easily.”
Bokop with the UBC AMS said the group will go through all of the motions with the provincial government to register as a society.
A formal press conference and launch with the alliance’s exact mission statement and policy stances will be held sometime this fall.