Candidate Questionnaire: Bijan Ahmadian

Posted by: | January 10, 2008 | Comments Off on Candidate Questionnaire: Bijan Ahmadian

Why do you want to be a student representative on the BoG?
As a student senator of three years, I have built a constructive working relationship with the University administration. For example, I successfully drafted and negotiated a new policy for viewing marked work which requires instructors to respond to students’ requests within 30 days. I feel that my skills and experience will make me an effective voice for students – a voice that can bring tangible results. I would like to use the position a representative to bring more constructive engagement between students and the Board and to help support student communities such as student clubs on campus.

How would you use your position on BoG to enhance students’ voice on campus?
I have learned that as a student leader, my strength comes from my ability to negotiate in a collaborative manner. Rather than attacking the University, I have learned to engage with the University and attack the problem together. I would first get to know the members of the Board and start off with setting a collaborative atmosphere between us. I would listen, educate myself and pick my “fights” carefully to maximize my effectiveness with the members. I have been very effective with bringing positive change for students and I have a track record supporting that.

When I was appointed the AMS Ombudsperson, it was well known that the administration did not think highly of the Ombuds Office, convinced that it created more conflicts than resolutions. I decided that I would devote myself to transforming the office of Ombudsperson, making it a useful resource for both students and administrators.

Over the course of the year I put effective new protocols in place for dealing with student-administration conflicts. I also began to hold a workshop I called ConRes to help train students to deal with conflict on their own. The workshops consistently filled up, and soon particular departments began requesting private sessions for the benefit of their students and staff. A turning point for me was the day a student walked in saying his Associate Dean had told him to file his complaint with my office. I had progressed in transforming the image of the Ombuds Office. At the end of my term, the Ombuds Office was granted the 2003 Helen McRae Award from UBC for “exceptional contributions and significant improvements to the student experience and learning environment at UBC.”

What specific changes to the University Boulevard project would you advocate?
I would advocate for a a campus development vision that emphasizes an accessible, welcoming, sustainable and and environmentally friendly space for students. Whether it’s about the University Boulevard, the University Square or generally the campus plan, students are a significant stakeholder. They care about affordable housing. They want to see buildings that use energy efficiently and are environmentally friendly. Students need affordable access to suitable space for project work, conferences, meetings, studying and for running licensed events.
Students also have their differences on what they think the campus plan should look like. Issues such as the amount of green space, the presence of retailers and development of the endowment lands have been sources of tension for many students.

Issues around the campus plan are complex and involve many stake holders. As a leader with a track record for reconciling competing demands, I am committed to ensuring that students’ diverse opinions are sought and taken into account by the Board.

This year Jeff served as both a governor and AMS president, which seemed to strengthen his voice at the BoG table. What would be your relationship with the AMS?
I would stay engaged with the AMS by regularly going to Council meetings. I would also keep AMS executives involved with discussions that relate to their portfolio. My goal would be to speak with a sense of confidence that I have consulted my peers and can represent their views as accurately as possible.

What experience(s) and skills do you have that will enable you to convince the Board appointees that your point of view is preferable to theirs?
I have graduated from a three year negotiation program at the Justice Institute of BC and have since then run Conflict Resolution workshops on campus. As a Senator, I worked constructively with the University executives and with the current Chair of the Board. As AMS Ombudsperson, my job was to influence the University to try an alternative approach that also takes students’ interests into account. The Ombuds Office was recognized for excellence at the end of my term.

What is your vision for the governance model of UBC?
The governance of UBC is done by two boards: the Senate and the Board of Governors. Along with students, the academics on the Senate preserve the academic rigour and integrity of the University. The Board of Governors preserves the fiscal integrity of the University – making sure that University stays financially viable. This has proved to be a functional model to protect both academic and financial aspect of the University. While effective, the model presents some challenges.

One challenge is in how these two bodies communicate and work together. As a member of the Agenda Committee of Senate, I was part of creating a communication process that overcame some of the challenges especially around expediency.

Another challenge is striking a balance between the Board of Governor’s duty to ensure that the University is fiscally responsible and its duty to providing an accessible education to students.


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