Student governments: the voice behind the student body, the reason behind big decision making, the memory makers for your university and college experiences. But have you ever really wondered exactly what it is that your student government does for you? Ever wondered where the all money goes that you pay every year for your student experience?
Eddy Avila is the University Student Council President at Western University, a man at the top of the totem pole when it comes to decision making. “I’m kind of like the main spokesperson for the university student’s council,” says Avila. I also oversee the operations of our organization, so it’s important to realize that the president is also the CEO of the $27-million organization here at the USC.”
But Eddy certainly doesn’t operate alone, he’s got an entire team behind him of executives behind him: Communications Officer, Emily Ross, Student Programs Officer, Allie Adamo, Secretary Treasurer, Isaac Jacobi, and Avila’s right-hand-man, Vice President, Jamie Cleary.
But how does the University Student Council really work? How are they chosen and who is elected?
“We run as a slate, so president and vice president get elected at large, and for our other three executive positions, one of them, the Student Programs Officer gets elected internally,” says Avila. The other two, communications officer and secretary treasurer are both hired.”
At Fanshawe College, they’ve got a similar, yet different way of doing things – The Fanshawe Student Union, governed by President Carlie Forsythe. “I’m on the floor all the time, I try to be extremely approachable,” says Forsythe. “So I try to get out there and talk about the FSU more and more, and for the most part it’s pretty successful; especially when I’m at the gym and someone walks up to me and says ‘hey! You’re the president!’ and I’m like ‘yes, yes I am!’”
And Carlie’s sidekick is always by her side – VP Internal, Kevin Kaisar. “So many emails! Lots more emails than I ever expected,” says Kaisar. “But most prominently I run the club system, we have 34 on campus.”
When it comes to student governments, university or college, they can all agree on one thing: lack of student participation. So why is this?
“I think when it comes down to it, it’s sometimes ignorance,” says Student Programs Officer Allie Adamo. “It’s on us, as executives, to make our voice known and to have them be aware…24/7. What they don’t know, they can’t participate in.”
“I think it’s one thing to ask students, do you use your bus pass? And they will say yes,” says Avila. “But it’s another thing to ask them, did you know that was a USC service?”
“A lot of people only come to Fanshawe just to get their diploma, degree, whatever it may be,” says Forsythe. “They just come and go, they’re only here for school. But it’s those students who get out there and get involved that seem to get more out of their experience. It all depends what you’re looking for.”
Some may argue student governments should not exist. Why have students in power when the administration makes all of the executive decisions anyways? Are they really effective to change? How much of a say do they really have?
“As direct representatives of students, our number one priority is students, and that’s not complicated by anything else. We have a very unique position of only having to cater to that, and only having to make decisions on behalf of the students, for the students. Western admin has a lot of different things to consider and a lot of different stakeholders, and we basically just have students.”
“Having a student union is so important,” says Kaisar. “When we advocate to the college, the city, the provincial government or even the federal government, it’s all about saying ‘we represent all the students of Fanshawe College, whether they’re involved or not, whether they’re affected by the problem or not. I think when we say ‘we’re here, we represent 15,000 students, then we’re taken a lot more seriously. Our primary goal is serving the students. I don’t think there’s any other place in any educational institution with such a student driven focus that the very reason for its existence is to help students.”
So next time you wonder, what is it that my student government does for me? Remember the team of individuals who are there for you, day to day, whether it’s making small or big decisions. The Spoke, The Wave, The Oasis – all your go-to foods: student services. Your bus passes, dental plans, health plans: student services. The clubs, the concerts, the frosh week activities: student services.
Now picture your last couple of years, university or college, without your student government. Wouldn’t be the same, would it?