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Reflections From the SRC Office

What I’ve learned about community, leadership, and change

Earlier this year, sitting in Darren’s office, I was told that people who partake in student government never leave. A vision flashed before my eyes: me, in birkenstocks, now with glasses and significantly more stress lines, working at Quest, still advocating for student engagement and representation. For a brief moment it didn’t seem too bad. I mean, Darren does it, and he’s basically a superhero-I could dig that. Not to mention that, because the administration of Quest works on a much longer time scale than the students do (around five years to accomplish most changes), I would finally be able to do everything I wanted to do over my meager two years on the SRC.

Flash forward to March 2018 and I no longer dig it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Quest (for all its faults), our community, and especially the SRC. The team this year have been the best I could have asked for. I have learned so much from each of my teammates, and from every challenge we have decided to take on (or involuntarily taken on) together. Regardless of this love, after two years on the SRC, I am quite confident that I will not be in Universities for the rest of my life. Although I believe with all my heart that what we have been working towards over the past two years (Board representation for students, transparency within the Academic Council and other school committees, accountability, the engagement of students with hiring, policy, and decision making, and the inclusivity of campus events…to name a few initiatives) is important, I also believe that a person must keep moving, and pass along the torch to people who bring renewed passion, untapped potential, and new perspectives to the table. This moment has arrived for me, and although I ran unopposed last year (except for the counter “vote non confidence” campaign, of course), I hope that I have not let the community, which I care so deeply about, down. Through this article I hope to highlight some moments of (near) defeat and victory that we have experienced this year, and talk a bit about what I’ve learned over my time on the SRC, trying to work within the system, which I know is not something we at Quest like to do. Hopefully I’ll inspire some of you to get involved in some capacity, it may be exhausting, but it’s worth it.

There are Many Ways to Build Community

When we, the SRC, were told in the fall that Questival would no longer happen unless we picked up the slack, I breathed a sigh of relief. We had the agency to either let this go, or revive it. Deep down I wanted to let it go. I wanted to make space for something else, or save the funds for the years to come. Instead, a committed team of four (including myself), decided to plan a school wide event to rebrand Questival into something more inclusive. Measuring the success of an event is something SRC members have talked about over the years, and still don’t have an answer for. We struggled with Dana hospitality, we struggled with our classes, and personally, I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t really hang out with my friends at an event that I actually wanted to attend. We made awards for every faculty member (and most staff members), most of which did not show up to receive them. We ran out of food. We rediscovered the problem of acoustics at Quest. However, we also made people smile, got to hear Bongani Msubo rock our worlds, got officially introduced to Marilyn Iwama, and enjoyed an evening as a community. Did my grades suffer? Yes. Did I walk away feeling like my team had given some of our fellow Questies a good night? Yes. Whether we call this a success or not, Polaris was an effort to make our community more open, more fun, and more connected. Although not the most political of our initiatives this year, I do believe that togetherness and some good dancing are valuable for any community. Hopefully some vital, energetic, creative people will take what we have started and run with it, making it even more our own, and learn from our mistakes to bring smiles to even more faces. *and don’t hang a wreath up on the stage*

It’s Okay to Say No, and it’s Okay to Take a Chance

Most of you reading this probably remember Dancing Bear last year, or the mess that it caused. For those of you who were not here, go ask an upper year for a debrief (you’ll make a friend and learn something new! Maybe, if you’re really nice, you’ll even make that upper year’s day by buying them something from the caf!), and for those of you who were, I do not need to go over the events of last year. Needless to say, the SRC had talked about Dancing Bear many times before the proposal came to us via email in the fall. We knew that we needed to fix the mistakes of the past, and we knew that we needed to ensure the event was one the entire community would want to go to for at least a little while. The funding meeting for Dancing Bear marked our most contentious and divisive meeting of the year. The event did not pass, in part because it was not quite ready, but mostly because there were so many of us that cared so deeply about the fate of the event coming from so many different perspectives that a united vision could not be reached in one meeting. There was hurt, hope, memories, and ‘peer pressure’ all pulling and pushing the proposal in different directions. When you are part of a team involved in decision making or leadership, sometimes you have to make decisions that you know your friends won’t like. Sometimes you will even have to say no to your friends. This is daunting. You will also have to put aside your own memories and feelings in order to serve the broader Quest community. This is what Dancing Bear was, at least for me, this year. We said no in the hopes that it would rise, even brighter, from the ashes, and not be tossed into the dark hole of Quest dreams long abandoned. We said no in the hopes that all of our friends, not just the ones who love Dancing Bear, would have a space at the event in the future. A Quest tutor once told me that you should try and have faith that people mean well and will come through. This is hard to trust in, especially in a community as active and aware as Quest. However, we took a chance, and I believe that the second Dancing Bear proposal represents immense progress towards what our community wants to see. I hope that you all take a chance with us, and support an event that your peers have put hours of work into. Never stop being critical, and never stop expecting better, but don’t settle for distant apathy and anger. Support your community and help it grow. In this case, students do mean well, and have come through.

Know Your Values

Recently, I have been having an existential crisis of sorts. Growing up I believed that my values were resolute. So, last year, when I was asked at the SRC elections debate what I stand for, the answer in my head was clear. I knew exactly what I stood for. I knew what I would fight for. Maybe not everyone knew, but I did, and everyone else would see through the progress my team and I were going to make. Up until very recently I had no doubt that I had held onto my values this year. I had fiercely represented students, alongside Vrindy Spencer, on the Presidential Search Committee. I had ensured that students played an integral role in Destination Quest. Elijah Cetas and I had presented to the Board on the importance of student representation. Additionally, I had worked all year to support our SRC Ministers through their diverse projects. However, in order to do all of this, I had placed myself within the system and proceeded to work in it. I had made an unconscious decision to be a bridge builder, not an activist. I was not rallying against a system, but trying to put out fires, connect community members, and make small steps towards our big long term goals. Had I smothered my values in order to be diplomatic? Had I abandoned small battles in order to win the longer war? When one of your teammates cries to you about the job, and the walls being put up by Quest that are keeping them out, and you do not know what to do, the answers to these questions become muddled. In fact I am still fighting my way through them as I write this. However, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that sometimes you will need to choose how to fight for what you believe in. The world needs bridge builders and activists. Maybe we can be both, but maybe we can’t be. Where you end up is something only you can reckon with. People may not believe that you care as much as they do, and they may think that your efforts are less valuable than theirs. At the end of the day, what is essential is that you know that you have not betrayed your values, and that you have done some amount of good. As I sit and wait for the Board of Governors email regarding the decisions made after their latest meeting, all I can do is hope that my compromises will have paid off, and that our SRC has been successful in all we have worked for this year.

Change does not come all at once. It comes step by step. Just because you have committed to affecting change in one community does not mean you must stay in that community until the fight is won. You can pass along the torch. You can move forward, continuing to fight for what you believe in wherever you go, learning from each new experience. Sometimes, it isn’t even about the fight, but about strengthening and supporting your team. There is value in community building. There is value in producing smiles. There is value in failing. There is value in giving people second chances. All of this will help you understand what you stand for. All of this will make you, and the people you are working with stronger, and better. The SRC is not perfect nor is Quest, but neither are we. Don’t be afraid to get involved, but don’t forget about who and what you care about, and don’t lose trust in yourself.

Institutional Planning

Conversations with Volunteer Interns

Now that Quest has entered its second decade, the University has begun its second Institutional Planning cycle (IP), an ongoing process set to take place over the next five years. The IP seeks to evaluate Quest’s current internal and external status, and establish institutional goals. The process began with the update of the University’s Mission, Vision, and Values statement in the spring of 2017, and was followed by a series of events in the fall aimed at gathering feedback about Quest’s next decade from students, alumni, faculty, staff, and other interested parties – events otherwise known as Destination Quest.

Quest’s IP cycle consists of four phases: Prepare, Plan, Do, and Review. The University is currently in the the first phase of this cycle – Prepare – which is comprised of three steps: the renewal of the Mission, Vision, and Values Statement, Destination Quest, and an environmental scan to evaluate the University’s internal strengths and weaknesses.   

Since December 2017, several students have completed their experiential learning requirements through internships with Quest’s executive team. Students worked on the Prepare phase of the IP by sorting and compiling Destination Quest feedback, charting trends in higher educational institutions, and beginning the creation of a complete history of the land transactions Quest has been involved with over the past ten years.

After Destination Quest, an email from the executive office was sent to the student body looking for people interested in working with the school on the IP. Third year Mohamed Caydarus  Mohamed responded to the email as it would “let him get to know what the executive office is up to with the institutional plan”. Third year Johannes Bodendorfer also responded to this email. He had previously expressed to President George Iwama and Special Advisor to the President Marjorie Wonham that “it would be really cool if students could actually be a part of [the IP]”.

Caydarus Mohamed was a part of the group of students working on creating an environmental scan charting trends in higher education across the world. One trend that their research found was an increase in community-university engagement. Based upon the idea that the ultimate purpose of any university is to improve communities, the environmental scan suggested that aspects of experiential learning blocks should be changed so that they “benefit the whole community, rather than being something that is individually beneficial”. While the students on the environmental scan had limited time to present their report to the executive office, Caydarus Mohamed “hopes that this community-university engagement trend will be taken very seriously”.

Johannes Bodendorfer’s internship focused on reconstructing the land transaction history of Quest since 1999.

“There is a lot of data. Ten years of an institution produces a lot of legal and real estate documents, and they are all sort of scattered across campus. No one has an overarching view of what’s there” Bodendorfer said. “This is the first time that the executive is trying to put all of these pieces that were known at one point together and write an extensive report.”

After spending three and a half weeks sifting through Quest’s old files and legal documents, Bodendorfer consolidated this information into a hundred-plus page report he plans to present to the executive team outlining the history of Quest’s land transactions and recommendations for further potential work, which includes creating a digital archive to house this data .

Given the small time scale of Bodendorfer’s project, several other aspects of Quest’s history, including changes in the Board of Governors and administration, and academic council changes, still require extensive research. This information will be used to evaluate Quest’s current status and to inform future decisions made by the University.

“This is going to take a lot more to be [called] complete,” Bodendorfer said. There are currently twenty boxes of documents piled in the executive office that were recently discovered in a forgotten storage room. “It took me a month to sort through this one stack of paper, now there are boxes of papers that they have found,” Bodendorfer said.

Wonham and Executive Administrator Bonny Randall are currently looking for experiential learning students interested in assisting archiving and organizing these files for the IP.

Bodendorfer commented on the trust between students and the executive that can be established when students participate in these kinds of internal institutional operations.

“These kinds of activities are really important to allow the students to be a part of their university,” Bodendorfer said. “It’s been a message loud and clear this year that students want to be a part of the process.”

“The thing is that we live in this space,” Caydarus Mohamed said, pointing to the unique perspective only students of the University can bring to the table when addressing the future.

During the March 12th presentation of the students’ work on the IP, a question was raised from the audience concerning the ethics of Quest hiring students for unpaid “voluntary internships” while still charging them tuition for experiential learning. When asked about this aspect of his time working on the IP, Bodendorfer pointed out that “when I pay Quest I’m not actually paying for the education or the knowledge, I’m paying for the credit. Whether this is a credit for a biology class or an experiential learning block shouldn’t make any difference” he said, “if I was to work for an NGO in Squamish and they didn’t pay me [during experiential learning] I would still pay Quest for the credit”.

Bodendorfer also acknowledged that the situation is complicated by American students who may be restricted in their experiential learning opportunities due to FAFSA regulations. “I think Quest needs to do more to address that situation with the financial aid agencies. If you’re forced to do your experiential learning at Quest and you’re forced to do it without pay it’s a problem. I think the way to address that issue is that Quest needs to do more to talk to those agencies and say ‘look our experiential learning is relevant, you need to acknowledge it’”. Bodendorfer also made a distinction between Quest the educational institution, and Quest the business. “I’m doing work for Quest the business, not the educational institution” he said, “if I was working on developing a new curriculum that would benefit me maybe there would be a conflict of interest”.

When asked about his perspective on being unpaid for his work for the University, Caydarus Mohamed stated that “as someone who is an international student I struggle with getting an internship elsewhere” so doing an unpaid internship at Quest for experiential learning was an “easy decision”. “I didn’t really think ‘wow I’m actually paying so that I can help Quest’, and in the end I also learned from this experience and what I learned was very valuable. Do I think I should have been paid for my work? I don’t know. I think that what I gained from that experience was good, but I think that someone else could make the argument that yes, I was working 9-5 so I should have been compensated.”  

As of now there are no concrete plans to implement any suggestions made during this phase of the IP cycle. Regardless, Bodendorfer and Caydarus Mohamed are both optimistic that the work they did for the school will be taken into account in future changes made by the administration. “[Our work] will be taken very seriously, I think, when they make their decisions” Caydarus Mohamed said.

Before Quest moves into the Plan phase of the IP cycle there is still an extensive amount of research to be done regarding Quest’s historical and current status. It is likely that students will continue to play a role throughout this process.  

Honest Descriptions of Quest Facilities

An obvious, but a fresh look of our space and Questies

My dear reader, sometimes I think we forget the true purpose of the facilities at Quest. While we may not have many, may I suggest to you to look at these places from a different perspective? You may believe that at this point of the year, you know everything, but oh how wrong you may be! Let me remove the facade in front of your eyes and tell you the naked truth about where we live, study, and cry.

Academic Building

This is the place where you will give a shit for  most of the time. Sometimes you will not only give a shit, but you will also give an arm, a leg and a bit of emotional stability for a grade from tutors who see grading as a poor indication of your skills. It’s okay though, I think that  your sleepless nights in the breakout rooms also deserve an A.

This is the place where natural science classes will show you how cool the world is while social sciences will show you how shitty it is. From mathematics you will learn how to see the world in numbers, only for social science classes to argue that not everything is quantifiable. On rare occasions, when you will get to have an actual art class, exploring your true creative potential, only for social sciences to tell you that “art is political”, thus affiliating your artwork with a political stance.

Atrium

The atrium serves as a public space filled with students like you and me however it reaches full potential only at 12:00 through 1:00 PM.  This is also a perfect place for passive-aggressive posters, banners and illustrations to increase awareness of things that everyone is aware of. In addition, you can find a bunch of offices here, with people who will know your finances, grades, mails, places of birth, where you live, and perhaps even your your internet history (naughty, tisk tisk!). They closely resemble a government (so much that you might wonder might if they could be watching you through your laptop’s camera).

It also has the only legal Quest shop, where you can buy overpriced books which you can mostly find free online. If you are like me and your morals get the better of you (or you just don’t want to admit that you can’t find one), you will never forget this delightful experience of buying 4 books for 100$ or more.

Library

Perhaps the most chill and quiet place at Quest. This is where you find books. Wow. Libraries are such a fun place to be. But oh wait, it doesn’t have many books! Have no fear there is an online library. But oh wait, you can’t open your article/book for free for your last-minute midnight essay that is due in the morning. Have no fear, you ask librarians to buy it for you and it will come in a week. As for your essay, you will have to rely on authentic and compelling Buzzfeed sources to get your point across.

Cafeteria

This place is a fucking battlefield on weekday afternoons. With the amount of people there at that time, you might wonder if the cooks must put something in there that draws so many of us to them…

Whilst people are waiting for food, you occasionally might observe a touching interaction of 3rd and 4th years establishing connections with the 1st years.  For some it might look like they are begging for food-based patronage, but I will argue that it is purely done to bond community together. I mean, I wouldn’t have such ulterior motives…

Not at all.

However, I would never deny free food.

Multi-Purpose Room (MPR)

This is an amazing place full of wonderful performances including; white people telling you about checking your white privileges; talks of very specific subjects that will only matter to 10-12 people on campus; overfilled drag-shows that violates the fire code; NAKED show, with no actual nudity, and bunch of Quest students trying to prove that by skiing they will answer their question about environment sustainability.

As suggested by the room’s name there are various events that only around 15% of campus knows about.

There is also a team of students who call themselves “special events crew” who set up these events. I heard that there is this amazing dude, who like – does all the work – all by himself while others don’t work. I think his name starts with a K? Something like Merill? Derill? Anyway, he truly deserves to be paid triple for his time, so please convince his boss to raise his salary. Thanks.

As you may now see my dear reader, Quest has a lot of wonderful facilities that push you to become a better human-being. I hope that after seeing these new perspectives, you will be able to have a fresh look at our lonely university in the mountains.

Juuls: A healthy smoking alternative, or a dangerous gimmick?

Over the past few years, the rate of smokers in Canada has experienced a slow but steady decline. According to the CBC, the rate of smokers over the age of 12 fell from 18.1 percent to 17.1 between 2015 and 2016. While a variety of factors can be attributed to this decrease, it’s difficult to pin down what exactly is reducing tobacco consumption in Canada, as the reality of the situation is quite convoluted. A complicated nexus of shifting cultural attitudes and governmental initiatives seem to control the baseline for smoking rates in Canada. Regardless, one thing remains clear: smoking is slowly on its way out.

Enter the Juul. The Juul is a small handheld nicotine vaporizer frequently characterised by its potency and ease of use. It is slim and rectangular in shape, and is fueled by small disposable “Juul Pods” that insert into a port at the top of the vape. Each “Juul Pod” is reportedly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes in terms of nicotine content.

According to it’s website, the Juul is the brainchild of Stanford graduates James Monsees and Adam Bowen, who in search for a more satisfying alternative to cigarettes, created the Juul. The Juul was originally produced by Pax Labs, a company known for its luxury marijuana vapes. In 2017, two years after it’s original release in 2015, the Juul was given its own dedicated sub-company of Pax Labs: Juul Labs.   

While the Juul is not currently available in Canada, it has quickly become a distinct phenomena in the US. Juul was originally introduced to the market in 2015, where it rapidly gained popularity. Currently, Juul is dominating the American E-cigarette market. A couple of months ago, it usurped Vuse, the previous e-cigarette market frontrunner. According to Tobacco Business, Juul now controls 46.8% of the e-cigarette market which places it leagues ahead of its fellow contenders.

The slow-burn decline of the tobacco industry has incited an ever-expanding vacuum characterised by a collective interest in products that have addictive properties. In all likelihood, Juul is poised to fill this vacuum, at least in the US. The mission and values section of the Juul website states that “[our] mission is to eliminate cigarettes by offering existing adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes.” Even as Juul portrays itself as a tool for smoking cessation, its accessibility and assortment of tasty fruit flavors present a significant risk of drawing in new users.

I spoke with 3rd year, John Smith (name changed), a Juul user for the past 6 months, to better understand the on campus realities of the device. Prior to owning a Juul, John was not a smoker. Now, John vapes an entire pod of Juul juice per day. As stated earlier, this is the nicotine equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. I asked John if it was difficult to avoid other nicotine products when he runs out of pods (as they are unavailable in Canada); he said “No, not exactly. But I find myself smoking heavier ratios of tobacco in my spliffs.” My conversation with John highlights the potential that the Juul has for creating a new dependency on nicotine for its users.    

A variety of inconclusive studies have been published on the health impacts of Juuling. Juul labs itself has funded a group of studies in an attempt to protect the reputation of their product. Even still, FDA regulations still bar Juul from stating that their products are “less harmful or safer than cigarettes.” Presently, it seems the Juul is stuck in a limbo of health impact ambiguity. It’s clear that the Juul’s future as a mainstream alternative to cigarettes will only be cemented once it escapes this state of limbo.

Hot or Not February 2018

If you missed it, no need to worry! Hot or not offers a comprehensive review to the best (and worst) new trends of spring 2018.

Making your own pizza

Our vote: HOT

Homemade pizza was a common theme around campus this month. Our very own president George Iwama was even seen making pizza at a floor event in Ossa! So grab some dough, sauce, cheese and your leftover veggies and hop on this bandwagon.

The sun makes a comeback!

Our vote: HOT

You guessed it! The sun is back in business this spring bringing a whole new set of fresh trends (see the following)

Sandals WITHOUT socks

Our vote: HOT

Let your toes drink sweet freedom.

Floor Reps

Our vote: HOT

Coffee before class? Crumby Mondays? Harry Potter trolley? Movie night in Whistler?  Floor reps are taking the spotlight this spring.

The new SRC

Our vote: HOT

Is quite literally in this spring. Voting is also HOT in 2018.

Bar soap in the shower

Our vote: NOT

There is no point in having so many kinds of soap. They are all the same. Bar soap is unnecessary and sticky and dissolves in the shower corner. Just use shampoo.

Leaving dishes around campus

Our vote: NOT

Definitely not trendy this spring. Let’s keep things fresh.

Leaving clothes in the dryer indefinitely

Our vote: NOT

Welcome to having your clothes left on the floor!

The poop bandit

Our vote: NOT

Thank you to Elise’s secret kermode for buying her a new lawn chair… and no thank you to the poop bandit for his/her/their special present.

Seasonal Allergies

Our vote: NOT

Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, noses are running… My eyes are red from weeds, but not in the way you might hope.

Helping Questies Get Lucky

How is someone like you still single? To be honest, I’m just as shocked as you are. It’s probably to be blamed on the lack of chivalry these days. When was the last time you were asked on a date? I know you can’t remember because it’s most likely never happened. Below you’ll find oh-so so perfectly crafted pick-up lines for your partner of choice, curated specifically for Quest.  

You Kant deny that it’s categorically imperative that we go out.

Like a job after Quest, you are unattainable.

You are out of this curriculum!

Controvers-tea and chill?

How big is your (Charles) Dickens?

Just like this campus bubble, I’ll never leave you.

I think you’re attractive within and without socially constructed standards of aesthetic beauty <3

Will you be my Blundstones and let me slip right in?

What is life …Without you?

You and I fit perfectly together, just like me and my three-year-old Birkenstocks  

***Be aware that without the right amount of enthusiasm and gusto these pick-up lines may come off as unoriginal, forced, or inauthentic. Use at your own risk. Poor results cannot be blamed on the writer of this article. It’s not my lines that are at fault, but your delivery of them.