Many of you know him as the Firehydrant, some of you may know him as Darren Peets, but regardless of how you may refer to him, you probably all know him to be someone who knows a heck of a lot about the BoG. Below is an article he wrote for the Insiders about the race for the BoG. Enjoy!

Several candidates have asked for my endorsement, and it seemed to me that
it would be better if I did a comprehensive job of evaluating people instead
of selectively supplying soundbites. The catch, of course, is that I’ve
been out of the country since the end of September, and was very busy
writing a thesis in the spring, so I don’t necessarily know how people have
done in current roles, or how they’ve matured. I’m trusting you to take
this with a grain of salt, use your own opinions and priorities, and just
generally think for yourself.

The Board race has a very strong set of candidates this year. Since I
served on Board and know all five candidates fairly well, I figure I can
offer more insight here than in other races.

First, Board is tricky, because it requires that students have a very strong
understanding of how the university works. They need to work with
administrators to improve UBC, and they need to work with other Board
members to resolve contentious issues to the extent possible before
the meeting. Student Board members have very few meetings and essentially
no power, but they have incredible access and an excellent opportunity to
guide change. A bright and interested student dragged in off the street
could do a decent job in most (but not all) AMS executive positions. This
is not true of Board. Fortunately, all five candidates have strong
backgrounds. I’ll cover them in alphabetical order.

Bijan Ahmadian is a former student of mine. He can be quite stubborn when
he has an issue he’s pursuing, although sometimes to the point of
infuriating people. While he’d be persistent one-on-one on some specific
issues, I can’t picture him actually opposing the administration or Board if
it came down to it. His specialty is networking, and I have little doubt he
could call up any member of Board or the admin at this point and talk with
them. My concern is that he may view Board as a vehicle for personal
networking, rather than viewing networking as a way to serve students. He
has a year of experience, which is very useful, although most of the other
candidates still likely have more background on the issues. If he doesn’t
know what he’s talking about in the detail required, that may not stop him
from arguing his case, which would be extremely counterproductive —
hopefully he’s stopped doing this (this would be more an issue when talking
with administrators than Board members). He would be best paired on Board
with someone who knows the University inside and out, so they can get him
well versed on issues and put his skills to work.

Speaking of which, next is Andrew Carne. Andrew has a very detailed
knowledge of UBC and most of its inner workings, and he’s been watching
Board meetings for about 1.5 years. On quite a number of occasions, I’ve
seen him have “wait, what?” moments, where he’s been immediately struck by
the absurdity of something UBC is doing or planning to do, often clearer and
faster than me. An ability to spot things out of place quickly is
important, since Board members have very little time with the material
before they have to vote on it. My one concern with Andrew is I simply
don’t know whether he’s good at talking with administrators and convincing
them to do things, although working with then-Dean Isaacson puts a bit of a
trial by fire under his belt. He has a history of first determining exactly
what his constituents want, then working hard to get it. He’d do an
exceptional job, overall, but it might be best to pair him with someone with
better networking or connections.

I don’t envy Mike Duncan for the executive he had to hold together and keep
focussed this past year, but he seems to have done an excellent job, and is
well-known to the administration. I doubt he’s made many enemies, although
he can sometimes spread himself thin enough to seem inattentive on some
issues and he occasionally steps on toes a bit through carelessness. It’s a
bit hard for me to really know how he’d do in the Board role, since people
tend to mature a lot as President and I haven’t been around to see the
results of this. He probably doesn’t have quite the depth of knowledge of
Andrew Carne, but he has strong networking skills (as his Facebook friends
list indicates), and is good at quickly extracting the key message from a
large amount of detailed information, a useful skill. My guess is he’d be
better at strategic visioning than most, if not all, of the other
candidates. That’s a large part of the President’s job and it’s a type of
thinking that takes a lot of getting used to. He’d do a very good job, I
suspect, particularly if paired with someone who can keep him focussed on
Board and on specific issues.

Blake Frederick I have trouble pinning down. Some of his thoughts and
opinions have been very well thought-through and well backed-up, while
others have been quite simplistic and based purely in idealism. (I’m a
practical, pragmatic person, not an idealist, as are essentially all Board
members — they ignore and get frustrated by idealists). His platform’s
introduction contains observations that are true, but not solvable at the
Board level, and assertions that are false but sound good. His platform
points blend President and Board, but most are really about provincial
lobbying (possibly due to his AMS history), and the language (“pressure”,
“oppose”, “demand”, “prevent”) suggests an approach incompatible with the
Board role. Blake knows a fair bit about UBC, and has a lot of things he’d
like to fix. I’m not convinced his approach would allow him to actually fix
much as a Board member, though. His presence serves to keep the other
students on track, but having people like that is more useful on bodies like
AMS Council, rather than Board, where only a handful of people would be
receptive. He’d be better in other portfolios, particularly VP External.

Tristan Markle is another difficult one for me. When Tristan first showed
up on Council, he came in with a background as a protester, and his
contributions were so far out in left field (framing questions around our
being in a corrupt capitalist system, with air quotes around words like
“money”) that he was met with blank stares. He quickly recognized this
gulf, and became self-mocking to deal with it. He was elected to VP Admin,
where the practicalities of getting a building built changed his approach
(although the idealism and some old bad habits are clearly still there — as
of several months ago he was still making statements in which a highly
questionable “should” would become an “is”). Again, I don’t know how much
he’s changed. In VP Admin, he’s in charge of his portfolio and answerable
to The People, and there’s no Man to fight. That’s not true with Board, and
it’s hard for me to guess whether or to what extent he’d fall back into
outbursts that they’d find insulting or incomprehensible. He has a very
detailed knowledge of specific parts of how UBC works, but not as broadly as
Andrew or Mike. I cannot imagine him networking effectively (or wanting to)
with this crowd, nor can I see him effectively convincing administrators to
change their approach. Some students like people who will take idealistic
stances and stick to them. I suspect Tristan would do this. I don’t
believe it would be effective.

For Board, I’d pick Andrew Carne and Michael Duncan, in that order of

The President’s role is the other one where experience is especially
important — if you don’t know in detail how the AMS works and what the VPs
and staff do, they’ll walk all over you for a few months until you figure it
out, and your presence will serve little purpose. If people look to you for
leadership and your response is “come back in a few months”, they’ll look
elsewhere. You can’t change a complex organization you don’t understand, in
part because the people who don’t want to change can always raise some issue
you hadn’t thought of or didn’t know about. While it may seem a bit unfair,
I’m going to summarily dismiss Paul Korczyk on this basis (note that I don’t
know him).

Blake I’ve largely covered, and there’s a fair bit of overlap in skills
required for President and Board. The President sets the overall direction
of the AMS and changes things as need be. Blake can certainly set lobbying
priorities, although I’d question the effectiveness of the approach he seems
to favour (other than as a fall-back once diplomacy has failed). Other than
lobbying, it’s not clear to me what he’d want to do with the role.

Alex is quite bright and would be an excellent team leader — the VPs would
have a lot of autonomy and support where they needed it, while he’d likely
spend a fair bit of effort pondering where the AMS should be headed and how
best to get it there. This could (but might not) lead to significant,
low-profile internal improvements. Externally, he’d be trying to convince
people to implement policy, but in a friendly, helpful manner. I’ve seen
his approach used on the provincial government, and it was quite successful.
At the municipal level, I don’t know how it will work. However, it’s
difficult to guess what issues he’d pursue, because his platform is thin,
vague and buzzwordy. Alex, you can do better.

Of the two, I’d pick Alex and hope that he figured out what he was going to
do with his year.

At VP Academic I only know one of the four candidates, and haven’t had a
chance to see her do much, so I don’t think it’s fair to comment.

At VP External, I know Tim a little, I’ve never met Iggy, and there are two
joke candidates, one the arch-nemesis of my pet Fire Hydrant. Tim is nice
and a great person, but he occasionally has some very strange priorities.
His platform has a significant focus on equity within the AMS, which is
neither a VP External issue nor an issue that any significant fraction of
the student body cares about. (Is it a problem? I don’t know. Should we
study it? Yes, and AMS Council approved doing that almost a year ago. Is
it something you can base a campaign on? No.) Can we trade Blake to VP
External for Tim and a second-round draft pick? One thing I feel compelled
to point out if Council’s make-up is at issue: a remarkable fraction of UBC
students live at home with their parents and commute (if I remember
correctly, just over 40%). When the motion came up almost a year ago to
study this, I asked how many people around the Council table lived with
their parents and commuted. One. If there’s an underrepresented group,
this is it. And almost nobody mentions them.

If I had to vote in this race, I’d need to know Iggy better before being
able to choose who to vote for.

At VP Admin, neglecting the joke candidates, we have Tristan Markle as the
status quo candidate and Crystal Hon as the outsider. I just have to repeat
that — Tristan Markle is the status quo candidate. I’ve pretty sure I’ve
met Crystal… once, and I have no idea how she’d do in the job. Tristan
has done a pretty decent job as VP Admin, is completely up to speed, and
would keep the project moving along rapidly. He seems to have a very strong
commitment to both sustainability and consultation, which are important
here. Someone new in the portfolio (as Tristan was last year) generally
feels compelled to put things on hold while they figure out what’s going on
(or risk getting steamrolled by what’s already in motion), and they
generally want to put their own stamp on the project, setting it back a
month or two. The one caveat is that the speed of the project and the
approach of Mike and Tristan to keep the project going full speed ahead and
leave the admin in the dust if need be (an approach I fully supported) may
have stepped on some toes. In that case, a change of face and short delay
may be beneficial, provided the negotiating experience isn’t lost. But my
strong inclination is to support Tristan here. As for the joke candidates,
Keg and Fountain have far too much in common to be fighting. Surely they
can agree to the installation of campus beer lines direct to beer fountains?
Come on, you two, get to know each other better over a round of drinks, and
just be friends.

At VP Finance, I barely know Ale and don’t know Tim. The budget is prepared
early in the year, and substantial change can only be made by someone from
within the finance portfolio. Neither has that background. One has a
commerce background and one has an AMS commission background, so both are
partway there.

I hope someone, somewhere, found this helpful. And again, keep in mind that
I don’t know all the people or how they’ve matured, that I tend to be the
middle-of-the-road pragmatic type, which you may not be, and that you have a
brain and should make your own decisions.


6 Comments so far

  1. Gossip Guy on January 26, 2009 6:05 pm

    Darren, you’re a very well respected man on this campus, and many people will find this post helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write this.


  2. Commodore Cuddles on January 26, 2009 7:21 pm

    Hey Kin, you said the same thing on the DA too. I though we had something special! How dare you cheat on me. It’s over.

  3. Peter on January 26, 2009 9:09 pm

    Darren, well said. Even from far off Kyoto, you still can’t let go! Good on ya’!

    And, as we’ve all come to love and expect, a very balanced and fair assessment.

    Though, I’m really saddened that your rate of ‘being quote in the Ubyssey on a daily basis’ has declined of late. Is this your way of getting back in the game?

  4. Fire Hydrant on January 27, 2009 3:20 am

    Don’t expect me back. Still fading away, albeit slowly.

  5. concern4ubc on January 27, 2009 5:20 am
  6. Bowinn on January 27, 2009 6:15 am

    Thank you Darren, I fully agree with your post.

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