Students’ Union Announces Executive Director Stepping Down

| Rebekkah Ankenmann |After nearly five years as Executive Director, Zachary Crispin is stepping down from the Selkirk College Students’ Union. The Students’ Union’s Executive Committee made the announcement at its most recent meeting held on the Castlegar campus.

“It has been an honour to work with so many talented student activists across the West Kootenays,” said Crispin, “We have built up the Students’ Union into a strong voice for its members with a focus on real wins that make life better for students.”

Crispin began his involvement with the Selkirk College Students’ Union as an elected student in 2008. From there, he went on to be the Chairperson on the BC Federation of Students and a member of the National Executive of the Canadian Federation of Students representing all British Columbia students.

Crispin was hired by the Selkirk College Students’ Union in 2015 when the organisation had only one staff person. Since that time, the Students’ Union has increased its staff compliment to six. Membership events and political campaigns of the Students’ Union have greatly increased over the last five years.

“A number of years ago the Students’ Union suffered from a lack of organization,” said Santanna Hernandez, Chairperson of the Students’ Union. “It has been great having someone with his passion and knowledge to get us to a place where we as student leaders can properly serve the students who elected us.”

Tough Political Campaigns Bring Big Wins

The Students’ Union runs political campaigns about various issues. The organization’s Constitution requires it to strive for a, “system of post-secondary education which is accessible to all, which is of high quality, and which is centrally planned; which recognizes the legitimacy of student representation and the validity of students’ rights; and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated.”

“As Executive Director, it has been my job to help the Students’ Union uphold its Constitution, which I’ve taken very seriously,” said Crispin.

Many of the Students’ Union’s campaigns focus on freezing or reducing tuition fees, the largest financial barrier to post-secondary education. Each year since 2015, Selkirk College students have asked for tuition fees to be frozen. Over the years these efforts have grown from a few posts on social media to a well-organized effort. During the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years, over 1,000 Selkirk College students signed a petition for a tuition fee freeze.

In 2014, the BC Liberal government implemented tuition fees on adult basic education, high school level courses provided at colleges and universities. The Students’ Union participated in a province-wide campaign against adult basic education tuition fees, which included petitions, lobbying, and presentations asking local city councils to endorse the campaign. Under Crispin’s direction, Selkirk College students secured endorsements from three municipalities in the West Kootenays. Tuition fees for adult basic education were abolished in 2017 as a result of the campaign.

“It has been an honour working with Zachary,” states Samson Boyer, Director at-large of the SCSU. “I have never met anyone in my life who is so committed to an organization and it’s ideals. He has taught me not only about strategy within mass movement organising, but also that you have to passionate in what you believe and to stand up for what you believe to be right.”

Struggles With The Canadian Federation of Students

During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Students’ Union became embroiled in a conflict between students in British Columbia and the Canadian Federation of Students. The resulting multi-year dispute ultimately resulted in all students’ union that are members of the BC Federation of Students, including the Selkirk College Students’ Union, being expelled from the Canadian Federation of Students. This conflict significantly coloured the work of the Students’ Union for several years.

In 2017, the Canadian Federation of Students was scheduled to hold a referendum to allow Selkirk College students to vote on leaving the group. When the CFS attempted to stop the vote, the Students’ Union asked Executive Director Crispin to act as a returning officer and ensure students had the chance to vote. In response, the CFS filed a court application against both the Students’ Union and Crispin. Eventually, the Students’ Union opted not to proceed with the vote at that time to save Selkirk College students from having to pay for an expensive legal battle.

“Zachary Crispin has never been afraid to put the interests of Selkirk College students above his own,” said Hernandez. “When it comes to facing conflict, his resolve is steel.”

New Horizons

Despite the announcement of Crispin’s departure, the Students’ Union’s Executive Committee showed no sign of slowing on its various endeavors. Reports were heard about the success of the British Columbia Federation of Students campaign to eliminate interest on BC student loans as well as the ongoing campaign for better transit in the West Kootenays.

“We are sad to see Zachary leave, but he has prepared the organisation to take on our important work of representing students and we will continue to do that,” said Kim Pham, Secretary of the Selkirk College Students’ Union.

When asked why he felt it was time to move on, Crispin stated, “students are often talked down to by out of touch politicians and bureaucrats, but only students know what is best for students. I recently finished my own post-secondary degree, and I would rather move on and let another organizer take up this important work than get comfortable and become a barrier.”

The Students’ Union has begun the process to find a new Executive Director.