Differences in experience come to the forefront of the first Senate debate

Last night, eight candidates vied for one of five student senator-at-large positions in the first debate of this elections cycle. Candidates shared their takes on AI use in classrooms, the value of Student Experience Surveys and concerns over UBC’s international exchange and research partnerships.

The candidates present were newcomers Alex Chui, Jasper Lorien, Sahib Malik, Kyle Rogers, Taushifa Shaikh and Solomon Yi-Kieran, joined by incumbents Kareem Hassib and Kamil Kanji. Ferdinand Rother was not present.

Malik and Kanji first advocated for a complete university wide policy on AI, but Chui, a science student, voiced doubts that such a comprehensive policy could account for the differences in AI use between faculties, suggesting there should only be rough guidelines at the university level.

“I believe we shouldn't be looking at it totally in the scope of black and white,” said Chui.

Shaikh agreed and said she would advocate for a department oriented approach to AI policy — Rogers, Yi-Kieran and Lorien echoed similar sentiments.

“It's really important that the university create [a] comprehensive policy on this,” said Hassib.

Candidates were also asked about their stances on UBC’s international academic partnerships, due to concern over partnerships located in countries with histories of human rights abuses or records of obstructing academic freedom.

Lorien emphasized the importance of cutting ties with universities that engage in activity that conflict with UBC’s ethical principles, but warned against cutting ties with universities simply because the country they are located in has a questionable human rights record.

“Universities are often the front ground of activist movements,” they said.

Yi-Kieran emphasized the Senate should take on a strong role in advocating for international issues to represent UBC’s global student body.

Malik said UBC should have a strong policy on this. “If it's unsafe for them, we shouldn't even be sending students there in the first place,” he said.

Shaikh agreed and suggested the Senate push for students to be provided with better information to make choices about their safety abroad, as longer term policy change can take time.

Chui restated much of what candidates before him had said, and Rogers stated that he did not have enough information to comment with any specificity. Kanji and Hassib both mentioned this issue had already been discussed in the Senate, and changes are slow to occur, but reinforced their commitments to continue working towards student safety and policies to address the complex situations.

Incumbents highlighted the importance of continuity in the Senate when explaining why they should be re-elected.

Hassib said “I think there is a big advantage to having incumbents continue in the role just because the Senate has such a steep learning curve and operates so slowly.”

Newcomers immediately rebutted this sentiment and Yi-Kieran acknowledged the value of experience but also asserted that “it’s important to have new people coming into spaces all the time.”

Shaikh added “advocacy should be a lifestyle, not just a role or a title.”

Kanji reinforced the value of Senate experience, arguing that it takes a whole year in the Senate just to understand how it works, and further terms are needed to start getting things done for students. He said he “understand[s] how to navigate the complex bureaucracy at UBC.”

The candidates will debate again on February 29 at 3:30 p.m. in the Michael Kingsmill Forum.

This article is part of our 2024 AMS Elections coverage. Follow us at @UbysseyNews on X (formerly Twitter) and follow our election coverage starting February 27.