Peter Henen, this year’s Vice President, External Affairs (VPEA) with the Brock University Students’ Union plans to apply his many years of experience at Brock to his role. The VPEA is responsible for advocacy and lobbying for student interests at each level of government, as well as working with other community stakeholders.
Henen used an eloquent analogy to describe his perception of student concerns throughout his more than seven years as a Badger: like oil mixed with water, student complaints have always been present, though they are brought to the surface over time and become impossible to ignore.
Some key points Henen highlighted when asked about student complaints around food affordability include the new all-day breakfast at the Schmon Tower Tim Hortons, and a Pizza Pizza franchise location coming to the Hungry Badger in Walker Complex — major successes, in his opinion. Henen believes students are dissatisfied with Sodexo, the food service corporation working with the university in food services for over 36 years.
“Brock administration has put the current system to RPF, which is a request for a proposal,” said Henen. Henen hopes this will either encourage Sodexo to evaluate their affordability, or result in other changes in food services.
In terms of his platform including more accessible textbooks for students, Henen is firm in his resolve to bring Open Education Resources to Brock. OERs are online lectures, textbooks and other resources intended to supplement university courses.
When asked about his hopes to improve the on-campus culture surrounding mental health, Henen noted past BUSU efforts to commit funding to mental health professionals on campus. Henen believes, however, that BUSU’s focus this year should be on building resilience within students.
“You don’t have to be a Psychology student like me to know humans are social beings and need more opportunities to engage,” said Henen.
Henen proposed regular campfires to give students an outlet to de-stress as his primary approach to improving student mental health. Henen offered no alternative plans for mental health support or building resilience. Should they require mental health support, students can make an appointment with a doctor, mental health nurse, or psychologist at Student Health Services, attend personal counselling, use their health and dental plan coverage for an external registered social worker or psychotherapist.
This past election, voter turnout was only 35.3 per cent. The concern of low election participation was part of Henen’s platform when running, and he maintains the importance of addressing this issue. “We need to make elections relevant to students,” said Henen. Henen was elected VPEA with a lead of only 59 votes. When pressed for actionable steps to achieve this, Henen again recommended that we “make elections more relevant.”
Henen shared his hopes to “promote campus culture and integration” including working with the International Students’ Centre and Aboriginal Student Services. Henen reiterated the importance of improved indigenization on campus, though he declined to share how he hoped to do this. Certainly, Henen has great pressure to improve support for Indigenous students and students with other marginalized identities.
In closing remarks, Henen highlighted the monthly campfires again as his first and foremost goal for the year and shared that he does “feel for the students” who experience mental health struggles.