The role of Vice President Academic and External has consistently been filled by heavy hitters, and Taya Nabuurs is no different. Nabuurs has displayed an impressive command of her portfolio and it is hard to find flaws in her work to-date.
In one of the most substantial SU advocacy efforts in recent years, Nabuurs has been working to address sexual violence on campus. Nabuurs was pivotal in launching the UPEI Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Task Force, which she co-chairs with Jackie Podger, UPEI’s Vice President Administration and Finance. Nabuurs has been effective in ensuring important provisions are included in the policy, at times even convincing the university to reconsider when it was headed in the wrong direction.
The task force has held substantial consultations on how to address the issue on campus, and a new student position was created to conduct research on the issue. In October, the task force held campus consultations, with an invitation to students, staff, and faculty to give their feedback regarding education programming and the campus culture surrounding sexual violence. The task force is currently working on a website where anyone can view the draft policy and give anonymous feedback. Nabuurs was also instrumental in bringing the Our Turn to UPEI, a movement dedicated to sexual violence prevention on Canadian campuses.
Taking it to the next level, Nabuurs has been advocating for the provincial government to implement legislation that would create standards for sexual violence policies at all postsecondary institutions in PEI.
Along with the SU’s Policy Research Coordinator Colin Trewin, Nabuurs presented the issue to the province’s Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development, and she is also actively looking for an MLA to sponsor such legislation. It appears her efforts are being noticed; earlier this month, an opposition MLA repeatedly asked about the government’s efforts to address this issue, with the SU being referenced numerous times.
On the academic front, Nabuurs has worked to address Student Opinion of Teaching Surveys (SOTS). SOTS are the course evaluations student fill out at the end of each semester. Under the current framework, written comments given by students to faculty members are the sole property of that faculty member and can not be seen by others without the faculty member’s permission, resulting in reduced accountability to take such comments seriously. Through the Enhanced Teaching and Learning Committee, a committee formed through last year’s labour negotiations to review such surveys, Nabuurs has written and brought forward multiple proposals. Taking a more collaborative approach than what was used in the past, Nabuurs might be able to effect progress on an issue where there historically has been none.
Another important issue for university students is access to mental health supports, and so, Nabuurs has developed an SU policy calling for a per-student funding model similar to those seen in other provinces. Additionally, along with Students Nova Scotia and the New Brunswick Student Alliance, Nabuurs has called on the Maritime provinces to fund a number of mental health solutions already endorsed by members of the Atlantic Associations of Universities. We’re impressed with Nabuurs’ careful examination of PEI’s specific needs in mental health, and her collaborating with other Atlantic provinces who have resources that she can utilize.
Nabuurs’ mandate for the 2017-18 school year includes the roll-out of a new Membership Engagement Strategy (MES). The strategy will see councillors designated as liaisons to underrepresented constituencies on campus like Indigenous or LGBTQ+ students, giving a greater place to the voices of students that have traditionally gone unheard. Even though Nabuurs’ MES will be released two weeks later than promised, we’re still impressed with the way she took a vague idea and turned it into a well-researched, realistic initiative to diversify the SU.
We haven’t even gotten to all the other work she’s been doing, like her work to address issues with the government’s recent Career Connect program, efforts to indigenize the SU which have included the introduction of land acknowledgements at the start of every Council meeting, her work as vice-chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations’ policy committee, and her involvement with a Canadian Federation of Students’ reform group.
When it comes to who has been the best executive this year, Nabuurs is the consensus pick. Nabuurs has been the strongest voice for students at Council and in the media, and her work speaks for itself. For this, we have to ask ourselves: did Nabuurs wake up being this flawless?
By: The Cadre Editorial Board
Photo: UPEI Galleries