Candidate in focus: Mattias Eriksson, president

Presidential candidate Mattias Eriksson discusses the issues students face on campus

The Omega asked this year’s candidates in contested positions for the TRUSU general election to respond to a variety of questions concerning students and the university. Candidates for president were asked what they thought the biggest issue on campus was, how to increase engagement between the students’ union and their membership, as well as what they believed to be the purpose of the students’ union. Candidates were interviewed in person.

Mattias Eriksson, candidate for president with the Student with the Progressive Advocates slate. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

Biggest issue on campus

“There [are] a lot of issues facing students on campus, but for me the biggest one is money,” Eriksson said. “To me, this school is the ‘ski hill’ of education. Every time you come up here, everything costs a little bit more, everything nickel and dimes you, from textbooks to food, to vending machines.”

If elected, Eriksson hopes to reduce costs to students stemming directly from the students’ union. Decisions made by TRUSU should have students’ best interests in mind and should be cost effective, he said.

“Right now, you have a student board that really can’t say they’ve done much other than waste students’ money on expanding the board, screwed over the teachers and given rich kids a spot closer to the school,” Eriksson said.

Campus communication

As president, Eriksson hopes to adopt a communications strategy based on honesty and integrity.

“I’m a pretty blatant guy, and I don’t want to put my foot in mouth or get myself in trouble. But at the end of the day, I want to get up there and say what’s on people’s minds,” Eriksson said.

Eriksson also wants to re-evaluate TRUSU’s relationship with TRUFA. He believes that TRUFA is essential to not only the university but to the students who study here.

“If you look at any kind of extracurricular activity, there is always a prof behind it,” Eriksson said. “It’s uncommon to see a students’ union that doesn’t support its teachers.”

If students see that TRUSU is cooperating with TRUFA on ensuring student success at TRU, then engagement between the union and its membership will only increase, he said.

On belonging to the Canadian Federation of Students

While Eriksson doesn’t think we are getting our money’s worth from the CFS, he doesn’t expect that the BCFS will offer TRU students a better alternative. He believes that the BCFS asking CFS member unions to break from the CFS will only further divide student advocacy organizations in B.C.

Eriksson said that a better use of student money would be to offer the same services the CFS does directly through TRUSU. Before that happens, Eriksson would like to see a set framework in place to make sure student money is being spent efficiently.

Focus of the Union

The focus of a students’ union should be to be an advocate for progressive issues, Eriksson said. In addition to this, he believes that students’ unions should be there to put pressure on the administration to make more progressive decisions. However, Eriksson believes that there needs be a balance between offering students services and pursuing identity politics.

“As partisan as I am, I don’t want to alienate anyone,” Eriksson said. “At the same time identity politics needs to play a role. But if I get in there and students tell me they don’t like what I’m doing, I’m not going to fight them on it.”

Eriksson is also adamantly against students’ unions wasting their members’ money, and consequently thinks that TRUSU’s latest expansion of board positions may have to be undone.

“We are going to do everything we can to examine how the board functions right now,” Eriksson said. “See how that structure works, see what we can do to reduce the size of that board or see how we can reduce the cost to students from that board.”

On parking, food services and grant funding

For Eriksson, parking is one of the greatest expenses facing students. While he believes parking should be free for all students coming to TRU, Eriksson notes that free parking across campus may not be feasible.

“If I was to fix the parking situation, I would do something really moderate,” Eriksson said. “N lot should be free – simple as that. N Lot is never close to being full. Give the teachers back their lots.”

When it comes to improving food services at TRU, Eriksson would like to see a partnership between TRUSU’s Common Grounds coffee shop and the Culinary Arts department. He suggests that food made by culinary arts students could be sold at Common Grounds at a reduced price.

“I think it would be awesome to use Common Grounds as a venue to alleviate student money troubles, give them a place to go eat something nutritious and good for them,” Eriksson said. “I think it’s ridiculous to have Aramark running all these services and giving students limited choices.”

On government funding, Eriksson believes that TRUSU needs to fully follow-through with campaigns like Fund the Future. He said that TRUSU hasn’t done enough to push the Fund the Future campaign, which he thinks could have gone further in government.