The role of the BUSU President is very multi-faceted. As the head of the student union, they are both a brand ambassador for the union itself as well as the representative of all students at Brock. Their role is to assist the vice-presidents with their portfolios and also taking on any projects that do not fit into a specific portfolio.
“I like to say it’s being part-CEO, part-Special Projects Manager and part-mayor,” said Kyle Rose, the current president.
The president works very closely with the General Manager of BUSU and they also need to work well with all the other part and full-time staff of the union which represent around 300 people. As well, the president sits on a variety of committees as the student perspective.
It is the president’s role to provide the overall direction of BUSU and keep students informed and engaged with the union.
“The president has the interesting task to push forward and show students why they should engage with [the union],” said Chris Green, General Manager of BUSU.
As the person in charge, the president is also the face of the union. They are the one that will be held accountable if anything should not go as planned or if the union is receiving negative feedback for something. It is also their job to represent the union in front of the cameras.
Occasionally, it falls to the president to make tough decisions. They need to be able to think long term and in terms of the big picture.
“Sometimes they’ll have to make a decision that might not make an immediate positive impact for students but that will be beneficial in the long run,” said Green.
As well, the president has a seat on the Brock University Board of Trustees and a voting seat on the Brock University Students’ Administrative Council (BUSAC). This also includes submitting a bi-weekly report at BUSAC meetings. The organization of the Annual General Meetings (AGM) is also a part of the president’s role.
A factor that needs to be taken into consideration with the executive positions is the high turnover rate. Each year can see up to four new students, possibly with very little experience, taking up the top four positions in the student’s union. Their decisions have a huge impact on the student experience and have the potential to influence student enrollment numbers.
“The BUSU system of executives should fail every time you put in a corporate structure,” said Green. “It’s a lot of pressure, but somehow it works.”
Vice-President of Student Services
The Vice President of Student Services (VPSS) has the most interactive role with students. Their portfolio includes organizing and executing all the events that run throughout the year as well as overseeing all of the BUSU-ratified clubs on campus. The VPSS also has several student coordinators and other staff members that they are responsible for.
The four big events run by the VPSS during the school year are O-Week and Homecoming in September, Frost Week in January and Wellness Week at the end of each semester. Besides these key events, there are other smaller events that are held throughout the year which are also a part of the VPSS’ portfolio.
In terms of overseeing clubs, the VPSS sits on the Clubs Policy Committee which is responsible for giving out club funding requests. The Clubs Coordinator is the person in charge of the daily day-to-day business with clubs, but the role of the VPSS is to be an advocate for the more than 100 clubs on campus.
“[The VPSS’] main job is figure out how to enhance the club experience and how to make their interactions with BUSU better,” said Green.
Of all the BUSU executives, the VPSS is in charge of the most staff members. These include the Clubs Coordinator, the Volunteer/Isaac’s Army Coordinator, Health and Safety Coordinator and Events Coordinator.
“[The VPSS] has to be a manager,” said Green. “As much as it’s about planning, it’s also about giving direction and making sure that everyone is on the same page.”
In terms of the day-to-day life of the VPSS, it is the most fluctuating of the executives. It can include planning future events, going to meetings, organizing a group of staff and volunteers or actual hands-on help setting or cleaning up at an event.
“The hardest [part of the role] is that there are so many moving parts and they won’t always have the answer,” said Green. “They need to be open and ready to ask questions.”
The VPSS needs to be able to know how to work well with a variety of people as well as how to choose the correct the students for their staff positions. They also need to be able to strike a balanced role between a direct, hands-on approach and a planning and directing approach.
While each candidate for the executive positions has a variety of platform points that they would like to address during their term, the actual implementation of the platform is another story.
Before each school year, the executives come together with the General Manager to discuss which points are realistically and financially achievable.
“Platforms are very important but at the end of the day they don’t represent what [the executives] are actually doing,” said Green. “There are some things they run on that just can’t happen or somethings ideas won’t work out.”
Vice-President of Finance & Administration
The role of the Vice President of Finance and Administration (VPFA) largely consists of overseeing the finances of the union and making sure the budget stays on track. The two big portfolios that are a part of the VPFA’s role are the Universal Bus Pass and the Health and Dental Plan.
The VPFA works together with BUSU’s General Manager to create the yearly budget in May and to have it approved by the Board of the Directors. The budget is also to be presented to BUSAC at the beginning of the school year. The VPFA also signs all the cheque of the union and is accountable for any financial issues.
“[The VPFA] watches the spending of the money and looks at monthly, quarterly and semesterly reports to make sure we stay on budget,” said Green.
The Health and Dental Plan portfolio includes meeting with Health Services and making any necessary updates. This means looking at approving new formulas or prescriptions that could be covered by the plan or which areas of insurance coverage need to be increased or decreased.
The other big role of the VPFA is looking at student transit and evaluating whether new routes or new times need to be added. Any new routes that are added become separate one-year contracts with the transit company and are paid for by the union. This also applies to additional times for existing routes.
The VPFA therefore needs to look at what can be feasibly done with the transit budget and where the greatest transit issues are based on student feedback.
The transit portfolio represents millions of dollars and interaction with multiple different regions. This year, the Niagara Region Transit was a not a part of the Universal Bus Pass though it has been in previous years.
“The next VPFA will need to look at what we do with regional transit. That’s a discussion that will have to happen,” said Green.
Due to the importance of the executive positions and the nature of their content portfolios, the transition from one executive team to the next and from one school year to the other is a long process that the General Manager and BUSU staff tries to make as easy as possible. The official start date of the executive positions is May 1, but a lot of initial transition and training is done in April and March, basically as soon as elections are done and the positions filled.
“The staff at BUSU always asks how we can transition them and help them with the learning curve,” said Green.
Vice-President of External Affairs
The Vice President of External Affairs (VPEA) is the liaison between Brock students and the St. Catharines community, other Ontario and Canadian universities and the Canadian government at the municipal, provincial and federal level. They are frequently on the road and interact with some high-level politicians.
“[The VPEA] probably has the most interesting and mysterious position,” said Green.
Political savviness is an important factor of the VPEA’s role as they are the representative of Brock students at all levels of government. They also need to have an interest in research and policy-making.
The VPEA needs to know what Brock students want and then how they can incorporate those with plans of external parties.
The VPEA is Brock’s representative on the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). Their job includes travelling to conferences and lobbying the government alongside other student representatives. The platform points of the VPEA also need to be able to fit in with the priorities of OUSA and CASA, for it is mostly through their collective lobbying efforts that the platform points can be successfully implemented.
“The hardest part to understand [about the VPEA’s role] is that a lot of their successes will take some time. A lot of their work will be seen in future years,” said Green.
Another part of the VPEA’s role is the organization and management of BUSU’s Advocacy Campaigns. Each month, the advocacy team organizes a couple of campaigns that they want to focus on. The goal of each campaign is student outreach and awareness.
“The on-campus advocacy is where we can see the tangible effects [of the role],” said Green.
The VPEA also acts as a spokesperson for the university. While the president of university is the official spokesperson, the VPEA often takes on that role when travelling and interacting with other schools or with politicians.
“[The VPEA] works unbelievable close with the president; they need to be on the same page,” said Green.
Due to the large amounts of travelling that needs to be done, the VPEA needs to be prepared to be very mobile and a light packer. They will be in Toronto at Queen’s Park for a day or two every month, and at CASA conferences two to three times a year. Moreover, the VPEA will be interacting with politicians from all parties and backgrounds and needs to know how to work successfully with them.
The VPEA is also responsible for a few staff members including the Research and Policy Coordinator and the Advocacy Coordinator.
“[The VPEA] needs to be able to set out priorities for the staff and be able to articulate what they’re doing or the students,” said Green.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors (BOD), comprised of seven people, is the real power behind BUSU. Every big decision is first approved by the Board of Directors. They meet every week and are run by one of its members elected as Chair.
The BOD is comprised of the BUSU President and VPFA, two members elected from among the BUSAC councillors and three members elected as Student-at-Large from the student population. Two of the three hold two-year term and the third holds a one-year term. The positions are voluntary and not paid. BUSU’s General Manager also sits in on BOD meetings.
The weekly meetings of the BOD are mostly reactionary in nature, in that something has come up that the BOD needs to deal with it.
As well, over the summer and during the Reading Week and Christmas Breaks when BUSAC is not in session, the BOD oversees the duties of the council and acts as its temporary remplacement.
“[The BOD] have an interesting role because they’ll be making some high-level decisions on human resources, legal and financial matters and contracts,” said Green.
The BOD approves BUSU’s budget and they have a say on any contract signings and job creations. They are also responsible for any financial or legal issues that BUSU may encounter.
For this reason, the BOD members are under insurance for up to seven years after their term if any lawsuits are brought against them. This also means that they can be held liable for up to seven years after their term. However, the insurance only works if their decisions were researched and reasonable.
If there was an negligence on behalf of the BOD member, the insurance is no longer valid.
Due to the gravity of their position, the BOD members go through extensive board and government training before they begin their role. They are also given access to all the information they need to know and they can talk anytime to representatives of BUSU’s law firm or insurance company.
The BOD acts in the best interest of BUSU. Since BUSU represents the students at Brock, this should also mean that the BOD acts in the general interests of Brock students.
A lot of what the BOD deals with is deemed sensitive information and so kept confidential. All BOD members sign confidentiality waivers at the beginning of their terms.
“I always say, if you don’t think you can be trusted with something, please excuse yourself from the conversation,” said Green. “It’s a trust issue with the BOD.”