Empowerment drives student senator

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

TRU student senator Chris Albinati just wants the world to be a fair place. – Photo by Devan C. Tasa

If there’s any constant in Chris Albinati’s life, it’s his drive to empower marginalized voices.

Albinati is one of four student members of TRU’s senate, which has power over anything academic at the university, up to and including the creation or deletion of entire degree programs.

Three years ago, Albinati lived in Montréal and worked as an executive producer at a community radio station, responsible for managing volunteers and producing journalistic pieces.

As a journalist, he focused on giving a voice to groups such as immigrants and refugees as an alternative to getting stories from those that already had power, like politicians and public relations officials.

“The mainstream media goes to those ready-made, manufactured, pre-fabricated stories and sources for stories,” he said. “Oftentimes what the mainstream doesn’t do is it doesn’t talk to the people as much.”

As an executive producer, it was important to Albinati that people were able to tell their own stories, without members of the media acting as intermediaries.

“By working in that field, you talk to people,” he said. “Your focus is on people and hearing their stories and getting them to tell their own stories.”

It was that desire to empower citizens that lead Albinati to apply to the TRU and McGill University law schools for the fall of 2011.

We live in a society that is structured and governed by laws, Albinati said.

“I wanted to study law so I could better understand those structures and hopefully better understand how I could advocate for people who are underrepresented in the structures,” he said. “But it requires understanding.”

According to Albinati, the law seems to benefit those that are rich enough to pay for lawyers and that’s something he would like to see change.

“If law is supposed to apply to everyone, it should also benefit everybody,” he said.

When Albinati found out in 2011 there were only three students on the senate despite there being four seats, he wanted to ensure in the next election all seats would be filled, so he decided to run.

“The reason that I choose to represent anybody, is because I’m very passionate about advocating for marginalized voices within the communities that I’m part of,” he said. “I feel that the student part of [the TRU] community is marginalized to an extent.”

To prepare for senate meetings, Albinati talks with students to find out their concerns.

“I try to get a sense of what issues are facing people and as I can I bring those issues before the senate if I can or at the very least all of the matters that are raised at the senate I try to express what the student opinion is on that,” he said. “It’s not my own personal opinion all of the time, or most of the time.”

But Albinati isn’t afraid to speak his mind and act on it.

Over the summer, he organized two “Casseroles Night” rallies in Kamloops, in which participants banged on pots and wore red patches, in support of the Québec students that were protesting proposed tuition hikes.

The Québec student protestors are part of a movement that’s questioning the increasing amount of wealth concentrated by a small part of the population at the expense of the majority.

“They are about bringing an argument for free tuition, for free education,” he said. “Education is a right, as the argument goes. We need educated people. The future generation needs to be educated in order for our country to continue to improve, to seek innovation.”

The high tuition rates students face today means they have to take out loans, which harms their ability to participate in society in the future.

“When they have to take out heavy student loans, they’re only going to choose their education based on prospective job opportunities because they’re going to have to pay for this education down the road,” Albinati said. “When you start to do that, you start to close off fields of study.”

Another thing that drives Albinati to be an advocate for changes is his 16-month-old son, Theodore.

“A lot of reasons why I want to change the world is mostly because I want to make sure the world is good for my kid when he grows up,” he said. “A lot of parents take the stance that they want to prepare their kids for the world when they grow up, while I see it as I want my kid to be who he is when he grows up and I want the world to be a fair place to live.”