Braden Freer is a 4/5th year student, and majors in Business, and Ancient Greek and Roman Studies. It is his second year on the TCSA Board of Directors. Last year he worked as senior senator for Gzowski.
How do you feel about your new position?
I am excited and nervous. It has been very busy the past few weeks in planning and realizing that I just have less than six months to do everything I want to do.
Has the transition been smooth?
Since I have been to TSCA meetings and was aware of what was going on [before Tessa resigned], this helped, together with having been on the Board last year, too. I am very comfortable with what Tessa left, and also what the interim VP Boykin Smith was working on.
Will the previous campaigns be continued?
In terms of previous projects, we will be continuing the “On the Move” campaign. I do not know to what extent yet. We are discussing how it is going to continue, but there is a desire to continue with the campaign. Also, the discussion over the raise of international students’ tuition is another issue that we will continue to campaign about. It will be handled by one of our equity commissioners, Boykin Smith, and my role on it is supportive.
What is your plan for the rest of the year?
I am planning five campaigns that I will be spearheading. The first campaign is going to be on student apathy. There was a low voting turn-out which the Board is concerned about. It was just over two percent, which is normally what we get for a fall election, but still, there is room to improve.
In the spring election last year, there was concern raised by individuals and groups that we were not getting the message out. Last year, the turn-out was about 18 percent in the spring, which was not bad, but we need to improve. I would like to get it to 20 percent, and so that’s my goal. We are going to be running this campaign from next month until the elections, talking about why students should be involved, or why we should at least pay attention. It is important for the students to know what the TCSA does, and how they can raise their concerns. In my experience, I feel that in the spring elections, people want to vote for the levies and so that’s why we have such a ‘large’ turn-out compared to the fall.
What has changed?
My understanding from talking to alumni is that five or 10 years ago, Trent had this culture that was politically beautiful, everyone knew what was going on, and was aware of the issues, but I think we lost that sometime [between then and now]. I will say that, in part, this happened due to a general cultural change. I think that people are absorbed in their own world. For example, people I knew would complain or raise issues, but then would just walk by the voting table and not vote. I am planning a kick-off event towards the event at the end of November.
What other campaigns are you planning to carry out?
The second campaign I want to run is an awareness campaign about the CFS [Canadian Federation of Students]. Fifteen or 16 schools in Canada want to de-federate from it, and the question of what we plan to do about it was raised during the speeches. I myself was not aware about what CFS did, and so I researched it for this position. It will be an awareness campaign showing what CFS does, what they offer, etc. Trent already offers a lot of the services that they have, and they’re not bad, but the TCSA does it better. They do lobby at the national level, which is something students do not know about.
How will the campaign be implemented?
Visual posters about CFS will be posted around campus and some representatives from the Federation will be coming to Trent to speak about what they have to offer. One of the most popular services they offer is international student identification cards and discount cards.
What else is in your agenda?
The third campaign is very much in the planning stages and is about levy groups. I know there are a lot of questions raised about how levies should not be automatically charged. I think every student has the right to opt-out from levies (of those groups that are opt-out) and we should clarify how they should do it. These groups should not make it difficult for students to opt-out of the levy. I do not think we should change those groups that are not opt-out since they provide an important service that would be fundamentally undermined if they lost their levy funding. What I want to do with this campaign is mostly provide a way for students to know how to opt-out. On the flip side, I will go to the levy groups and advise them that if a student comes to them to opt-out, they should have a document that states, “You can opt out, but these are the reasons why you should not.” A better understanding of how levy groups work on campus is a goal of this campaign.
The fourth is a housing campaign. It is going to be targeted towards first years, and people who live on-campus, transitioning to off-campus residence. It is going to include what to look for, areas of downtown that are good for bus routes, shopping, and things like that. Also, it is going to include information about what landlords can and cannot do. For example, technically you cannot say “no pets” in a lease, but people still do it. Landlords get away with things like this because students do not know. The campaign would take place mainly in January which is when people start looking for housing.
The fifth campaign that I’m personally leading is an awareness month in February about LGBT issues around the world. It would have information on countries where members face challenges. It is going to address questions such as what can we do about it? How can we make these places better? How do we stop intolerance and ignorance? I find it very interesting to look at the U.S. and see the hypocrisy that goes on there. The irony rests on the fact that the country was founded on the principles of every individual having the freedom to choose what they want to do. However, this does not happen in reality. Fifty years ago it was about race, now it’s about sexuality. I want to be able to go anywhere in the world and say, “Yes, I am gay,” and not have any issues. It is going to be accompanied by a ‘NOH8’ photo shoot, which is a campaign organization founded in California when they banned same-sex marriages. Literally just a photo shoot saying, “I am for equality, and I am against intolerance and ignorance.” It is nice to bring in an organization like NOH8 which is known worldwide.