Candidate in focus: Cole Hickson, vice-president external

VP external candidate Cole Hickson talks engagement, Canadian Federation of Students and more

The Omega asked this year’s candidates in contested positions to respond to a variety of questions concerning issues on campus. VP external candidates were asked about how to increase engagement between the students’ union and its membership, how to retain students at TRU as well as their support for leaving the CFS.

Cole Hickson, Student Advocacy Coalition slate. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

Student engagement

Focusing on club engagement is key to fostering engagement with TRUSU’s membership, Hickson believes. As the president of the Eco Club, Hickson thinks that engaging with clubs brings out the people who already want to get involved.

“Club engagement is really important in reaching out to a lot of students, and continuing one-on-one interactions is where I really want to try to make as many meaningful connections with as many people as possible,” he said..

Keeping students at TRU

Hickson believes that student retention is directly tied to the amount of funding a university gets.

“What it comes down to for me, is that the funding TRU gets has not been sufficient for us to be a world-class university,” Hickson said. “We are relying on a lot of things to keep our budgets up, be competitive and unfortunately that is a reality we have to work with.”

When it comes to lowering tuition and getting government funding, Hickson believes that the Fund the Future campaign can do both.

“Fund the Future can lower tuition. Because it ultimately comes down to giving universities more money, which will allow universities to not be so hard on students when it comes to ancillary fees and tuition costs,” Hickson said. “It’s a big issue, and something we have to work on, but I think we can do a holistic approach with a campaign such as Fund the Future.”

On leaving the Canadian Federation of Students

While he has his own opinions on the situation, Hickson said he is still trying to unravel the CFS/BCFS situation. However, Hickson did admit that he doesn’t think that the CFS is providing adequate services to TRU students.

“To be honest, we aren’t getting our money’s worth, and that’s for a number of reasons,” Hickson said. “We have a number of concerns that need to be addressed by the CFS that aren’t being addressed by the CFS. The details of that aren’t truly clear. I will be looking into it as much as possible.”

While Hickson fundamentally agrees that a national coalition to advocate on behalf of students is a good thing to have, he said that he is adamantly opposed to wasting student money. While he’s not quite sure what path to take, he did say belonging to the BCFS would encourage more deliberation and cooperation with B.C. universities.

“I am deferring this to people with a lot more experience than I, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to go out and engage and find out what is the best way forward regarding students,” Hickson said.

On the focus of a students’ union

Hickson said he is concerned with how student money is spent at TRU, noting that TRUSU’s purpose first and foremost is to advocate on behalf of its members.

“Largely it is something that comes down to campaigns regarding student finances, whether we can make this a more equitable place of education,” Hickson said.

On divestment from fossil fuels

Hickson admitted that when it comes to divestment, it shouldn’t be TRUSU’s initiative. While Hickson supports the divestment campaign, has been involved with it and wants to help out where he can, he doesn’t believe it’s TRUSU’s responsibility to throw their all of their weight behind it.

“If there is a lot of support for it, I might incorporate it into TRUSU,” he said.

He also said that he’s been working with TRUSU executive director Nathan Lane to formulate an environmental policy for TRUSU, and that he believes TRUSU should take a stand on the privatization of universities.

“There should be something, especially regarding corporate influence at universities,” Hickson said. “You look at TRU’s donor list, it is consistently banks. Why are they donating here? It reflects a defective tax system.”