When you hear the words “Student Government”, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? I know personally, I used to think of student government as a popularity contest where the recipients merely act as a face that students could relate to. Was I ever wrong.
Upon entering the Brock University Students’ Union office (BUSU), I was immediately stricken by the amount of professionalism exhumed by the students, as I was politely told that Paul Dermody, my contact at BUSU, had come in earlier , but was currently out of the office.
After meeting Paul, I was lead to the middle of the BUSU office where a series of desks are located belonging to the various students involved in BUSU. Desks, that for much of my time spent there were mostly empty, a testament to the amount of running around these student representatives do in a day.
Paul Dermody’s day, like that of any BUSU representative was no exception to the previously mentioned rule.
Immediately upon seating me at his desk, Paul was off pacing across the BUSU office, stopping to have a discussion with BUSU safety manager Vince Wilson.
For the next 20 minutes, I didn’t see much of Paul, as I settled into the BUSU office environment and tried to grasp the “organized chaos”, that is student politics.
Following this, Dermody and myself went across the school to run some errands, stopping to talk to the Brock Improv club. From here, we were off to meet Brock’s Manager of Student Conduct, whom Paul informed me comes out to BUSU events providing guidance in regards to safety. As put by Dermody, “He makes sure we are safe and smart”, as well as provides “Guidance and hiring suggestions for special events”.
Realizing he was currently in a meeting, we proceeded to head back to the BUSU office to continue working through the day.
As we rounded the Taro Business hall, Dermody ran into Robbie Galko, a volunteer at BUSU who remarked that he, “Really loved BUSU. The student union treats students very well, as a first-year everyone is so nice. It’s like a family”.
Following all the running around and five minute conversations with people, Paul and myself grabbed a quick lunch at the Skybar and continued to discuss BUSU and their actual role in the life of students.
Dermody commented that, “We are actually working for the students. I personally don’t mind putting in the extra time so students can enjoy their experience here.”
When asked about how the average student can get involved, Paul remarked that, “As soon as you apply, your chances get that much better”.
Additionally, Dermody discussed how volunteering is an excellent way to get students involved in BUSU, remarking that, “Volunteering experience, helping out, working with us not for us, BUSU is like a very large hockey team, everyone has to pull their own weight.”
Dermody also touched on some of the other things BUSU does for the student body, remarking that they also happen to employ the most Brock students on campus.
“There is a lot of opportunity for students here, we employ the most students on campus, bar staff, General Brock, Union Station SLIC, SJC and the food-bank… 300 jobs and growing”.
From here, our conversation shifted towards addressing the stigma surrounding BUSU, a point to which Dermody commented that, “Everyone has their specific goal, we all do it for the collective good. If you see something you don’t like tell us. We are students, just like you”, further pressing students to, ” Get involved, that’s the most important thing, the more you get involved the better off you will be”.
Following our lunch, we returned to the BUSU office were it was back to the grind for much of the BUSU staff who kept on insisting that Friday was their slow day… I still don’t believe them.
Liv Meriano, current Vice-President Student Services(VPSS) took some time to discus her experiences through this past year when I got back to BUSU headquarters, remarking that, “At first when I started out, I thought student apathy was really high and by all means it will always be high… that’s just how University life functions you have a high population of students who have lives. But what this experience has shown me, is to never be discouraged. For every one student that complains and does not have a good time, there are fifty other people who are appreciative and go out of their way to acknowledge the work we put in. By no means do we ever need recognition, but I have always enjoyed hearing students’ feedback on the events. It just acts as a reinforcement as to why I am here. I helped some one change their life”.
Following our interview, the office slowly began to empty as Dermody and others began to get to other obligations they had such as school work, group presentations and preparing for seminars.
Despite what you may think about BUSU, it is clear that these people are doing their best to make Brock University students have the best experience possible. Too often, students forget that BUSU are representatives of themselves and thus, have their interests at heart. Additionally, students tend to forget that their elected BUSU members are students as well, facing the trials and tribulations that all of us young adults are. In fact, the only difference between BUSU and the majority of the student population is that they got involved. Can you say the same about yourself ?
Cooper Millard- PRESIDENT
The office normally opens at 8:00a.m., when Sandra Hammond, and more recently Kelly Henderson, opens up the front doors. Then into the morning ritual: look at today’s agenda, check email, check voicemail, write a to-do list, attend meetings, etc. On any given day an Executive will send anywhere between 20-30 emails and will receive what seems like double that! The phone is always ringing, and sometimes your office seems to be outfitted with a revolving door… but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the President of BUSU, every day is unique. Some days I can have time to myself to answer emails, messages and questions from students; but most days see me racing across the school from room to room, meeting to meeting. The meetings and appointments outside the walls of BUSU are an integral part of the job. Each and every BUSU President is expected to speak on behalf of BUSU, and more importantly, on behalf of the undergraduate students that BUSU represents. As such, I sit on a number of committees representing undergraduate student interests. There is a committee for everything at Brock.
All of the above balancing acts, emails, calls, meetings and running probably only gets you to lunch. Lunch is where we get a break, meet up with some friends here on campus, and eat at Sky Bar! After a 30-45 minute break, we’re back at it again – trying to make this campus a better place, one e-mail or meeting at a time.
Equally important to this is the time we spend talking to students in the halls and the volunteers and Brock University Students’ Administrative Council members who frequent the office; these folks have their fingers on the pulse of student life and provide an essential understanding of specific student issues that we seek to find solutions for.
After 6pm, when the office doors close, I will head over to the gym or head out to play some intramural. In all likelihood, this long day is probably followed by a commitment to drop in at a Club or charity event in the evening. Participating in community events is another important part of the role as BUSU Executive and frankly, it’s the easiest and most fun!
Overall, I’d say the toughest part of any BUSU Executive is facing the daunting task of making roughly 16,000 undergraduate students happy – all at once. It almost never happens. All we can do is attempt to satisfy as many of our platform points as possible, because after all, that’s what we have to assume we’re voted in for.”
Liv Meriano- VICE PRESIDENT of student services
“Well I get into work at 8:30 everyday. I usually have a lot of meetings but I always make sure that whenever we have events running that I take the time to be in the halls and meet one on one with students. I really value that because when I came into Brock, I had no idea who our BUSU members were. I think executives should be in the halls and give the student lots of face time. I know personally that was part of my platform. Usually I am at a meeting and doing this until about 7 until 8. After this, I usually have dinner and work on school-work from 9 until 1 or 2. It’s a balance between full time work which is really demanding. I usually put in about 60 hours a week.”
Paul Dermody- VICE PRESIDENT Of Student Services Elect
“I show up at 10, check emails and phone calls, respond to anyone who has been trying to get a hold of me while keeping constant connections with athletics and Liv and Jimmy’s ties in events. I will usually discuss with Jimmy what is going in the week, what events he has planned and if I have anything pressing coming up. After this, I will occasionally help Jimmy with whatever he needs often consisting of a lot of desk work. Basically this job is a lot of planning. I would say that 90 per cent of my time goes into planning, 5 per cent into doing and 5 per cent reflecting on the success of events. On top of this, I am constantly checking my e-mail. 5 e-mails turns into 25 and this can literally take hours of each day away. After this, I usually end between 3 to 4 depending on if it has been a slow or fast day.”
Roland Erman-VICE PRESIDENT OF University Affairs
“Usually I come into the office around 9:00 a.m. If it’s a Monday or a Wednesday, I will have an Exec. Meeting with everyone where we will go over what we are facing in our portfolios and anything the group should be updated on. You may think this doesn’t take long or there won’t be a lot to talk about… but it usually goes for an hour and a half and we could probably be there longer. After that, it varies a lot but on a typical day I can have one or many senate meetings. There are different committees that I sit on. One consists of approving new academic programs. Another, looks at the facilities of Brock and what is/has been doing . Also, I’m on a panel that discusses other academic issues and issues students face (last year this committee approved the Fall Reading Week). Next is my Board of Trustees meetings. These are confidential and always in-camera. What I can say here is that we oversee the University’s $284 million dollar budget. As well as Board of Trustee meeting , I also have OUSA and CASA meetings. These are my political lobby groups. Federal and provincial that many other schools are a part of. We have a lot of conferences through the year but obviously meeting face-to-face isn’t always possible. I spend a lot of my time on the phone in conference calls. We create/write/carry out policy and have discussions with many politicians on issues students face. There is a lot more to my job. The great thing is it changes every day. But these are some of the day-to-day things I deal with.”