After a close three-way race in last March’s Augustana Students’ Association (ASA) election, Ben Curry was elected 2016-17 ASA president. Curry is now in his third-year of Augustana’s Bachelor of Management program. Originally from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Curry was a part of many projects and initiatives as ASA councilor last year. The Medium caught up with Curry to discuss his upcoming term.
What drew you to the ASA president position?
It made me sad that in every democratic society like ours there is a low voter turnout, and I realized that it’s because people didn’t feel like they were being directly represented. I decided to take a personal chance and try and change that as much as possible. I want to make people feel like the changes that they want to see are actually being seen and are done here on campus. We’re a small enough campus, it shouldn’t be that hard to get a higher voter turnout and a higher percentage of representation.
How have the first couple of weeks gone as president?
Well I mean, most of the past couple of days have been sort of stressful. I had to put a couple classes on hold just so I could make sure that student needs were met. But all of the events ran smoothly. My team of executives are working perfectly together. I’m really looking forward to the year if it’s going to be anything like this last week.
What are some of the objectives that the ASA has set out for the year?
There is always talk about the things that facility and staff will be going through this year: There’s the 3-11 schedule and getting the information out about that, they’re changing the academic advising system, and then there’s the issue of sexual assault.
We’re trying to tackle sexual assault as a campus. So, we had a keynote speaker Keith Edwards come in, and we’re working to find out what we can do in a continuation after that. We will be looking into areas where student leaders can actively change the culture of sexual assault on campus.
I try to keep our objectives as fluent as possible because who’s to say that in two months the students are going to want us to complete some other goal. I can personally say that 3-11, sexual assault, mental health, those are goals. Each executive has their own personal goal, and I want them to feel free to change their personal goals as much as possible.
So it’s a flexible council this year?
Yes, and that’s what I want.
What has the problem been in the past with sexual assault?
There is a certain culture that just comes along with Alberta in general, and, of course, it gets brought to campus because most of our students are from Alberta. You don’t really talk about it, if it happens to you a lot of the time people don’t want others to know. A lot of people are from small towns and just aren’t comfortable with letting people know certain things like that.
It did seem like the issue was being put under the rug. I don’t know personally if it has been, but I would say that most likely it just wasn’t brought up because the person affected by the encounter was unwilling or did not want to bring it up.
As you know, this is the last Fall Term of the existing 14-week calendar. What do you want to make sure happens from the students’ perspectives as this is implemented?
I want to make sure the students have as much of a say as they need because students are being affected the most. Professors are being affected by how they have to set up classes and how they have to teach them, but, as Canadian university students, we have the shortest learning period out of the world.
Our terms are already condensed to 14 weeks and I believe what they are trying to do, the faculty and staff, is they are trying to make as much of the 14 weeks as we possibly can which is why they are condensing one course down to just three weeks so that you can really soak up as much knowledge of that one topic as possible.
From faculty to students, I want 100 percent information exchange. I don’t think there is any reason why we shouldn’t have the students knowing exactly what is going to happen within the next year and I don’t want any surprises.
The ASA elections are coming up and I know you didn’t have many councilor positions filled last year but it’s looking good this year. Why should students care about this election?
It’s the same reason why representation is always important. These are the people who are going to be going to meetings and making decisions on students’ behalf so students should know who their representative is and should try and talk to the representative as much as possible. Especially with the 3-11 change, some of these councilors will be sitting on committees which will directly affect students on campus.
Last year, there was talk about a campus nurse or health services. Have there been any developments on that front over the summer?
Over the summer I took a personal look into mental health services. I contacted North Campus and we have a new breakdown on what is available on campus for students both online and in person; that form can be found on the website or in the ASA office. The last I heard, there should be a nurse on campus by Winter Term. If they say it’s going to happen, then I can almost guarantee that it is going to happen, but I wouldn’t say it with 100 percent certainty.
How do you find balancing your academic life and your student governance life?
There are definitely a lot of grey areas and I definitely had to adapt to become what the students need. From first year to now, I have definitely changed. I wouldn’t say dramatically but I’m definitely not the person I was when I first came here so the change of me being elected as president has really affected me.