Consider your options
The University of Regina Students’ Unions elections are now in progress. I would like to offer some thoughts on what students might want to consider before voting for a candidate.
Before I do that, however, in the interests of full disclosure I would like to say that I am running for re-election as a student senate representative. So, to be fair, I will not offer any thoughts on the always hotly contested and cutthroat world of student senate elections and will speak only to the executive positions.
First, the position of president. Few people know that the president really does not hold any more or less authority than the vice-presidents. Each executive position has its specific responsibilities and the president’s main task is to be the official spokesperson of the students’ union. As such, the president is often the face of the student body in the media and on campus. Thus, it is important to consider what exactly does the student body look like and which candidate would best represent that. Some facts to think about include the increasing enrolment of international students. The University of Regina has done a wonderful job of fostering worldwide partnerships to bring more students from abroad to our campus. The diversity in background of our student body ought to be reflected in our president. Another interesting statistic is that women make up nearly 70 per cent of all students. It makes sense, to me anyway, that the face of the students’ union should be representative in terms of gender as well. Unfortunately the year I ran for president all three of the candidates were white males; thank goodness that is not the case this year.
Another position up for grabs is the vice-president of external affairs. This individual should have a solid grasp of activism, community engagement, grassroots organizing, and coalition-building. The vice-president of external affairs needs to be someone who is comfortable working with our friends in the labour movement and someone who has extensive contacts in existing community-based organizations. The vice-president of external affairs has to be passionate about issues that affect students. Going to fundraiser suppers every now and then won’t cut it; this person needs to be an efficient on-the-ground organizer.
The vice-president of operations and finance is, in my opinion, perhaps the most misunderstood of the four executive positions. Although involved in the financial operations of the students’ union, this person does not hands-on run the Owl, this person does not enter cheques or do payroll, and this person does not make the students’ union’s budget. Basically, being a business student or economics student in this position is just as valuable as being a fine arts student or a social work student. I would argue the majority of this person’s day is spent communicating with student groups, working directly with clubs on campus, attending committee meetings (such as those regarding workplace health and safety) and being responsible for staff resources and relations in a macro sense. This position, really, is not about being good with money – it’s about being good with people. Vote for a candidate who has demonstrated an ability to work with seemingly opposed sides and vote for someone who has a diverse background of involvement.
Finally, the vice-president of student affairs. This person is not a pep rally planner, nor are they solely responsible for making sure free beer gets into the hands of those who want it. Sure, some functions relating to campus-life are co-ordinated through the vice-president of student affairs, but that is not at all the only responsibility of this position. In fact, most of the vice-president of student affairs’ time is spent representing students on university committees meetings – discipline and academic appeals committees, sustainability committees, the parking committee, and so on. This person also works closely with our student advocate and has a fundamental role in developing and implementing on-campus campaigns. Vote for someone who has proven themselves knowledgeable about the academic structure of this university. Vote for someone who is patient and enjoys making and reviewing policies and procedures. Vote for someone who has experience working with a diverse groups of students – international students and aboriginal students for example. This experience will help immensely with completely understanding the university, and will lead to better representation overall.
Each executive member must be well-suited for their position and be able to work together. Keep in mind that most of the day for any executive member will be spent scheduling meetings or being in meetings and answering calls and emails, typing letters, reading documents, and so on. Thus, vote for people who you think will not only be visible, but will do all the necessary behind-the-scenes work as well.
Good luck to all the candidates and I certainly hope all the great work we’ve been able to accomplish together this year will be continued in the future.