The year in review: thoughts from Miss Taylor

Carissa Taylor (right) at karaoke night at SUDS with BU President Dr. Deborah Poff (left) during
Snowientation. (Jenna Clinton)

This is my last article for The Quill as BUSU President, so I think now would be a good time to reflect on this year, as well as share with you my thoughts on some of the things that need to happen in the future to ensure the success of BUSU.

I am proud of a lot of the things that we have done this year, but we could have done a lot more. One of the things that is essential for our organization, and which I believe would have helped us to function better this year is to have long-term office staff.  This year, we had a lot of staff turnover, and failed to find a replacement for our General Manager who left in August.  This meant that her job responsibilities had to be divided among those of us left in the office.  We were able to pick those responsibilities up, but it was also detrimental to our work.  For me, it meant that I wasn’t able to spend as much time outside of the office connecting with students as I would have liked.  It also meant that our staff were not utilized to their full capacity, as they did not have one person to whom they could go or who assigned and created tasks for them.  I have been lucky to have been involved in BUSU for the last few years, and to have friends who had been involved for many years before me, so I was able to gather a lot of organizational knowledge, which was hugely beneficial.  We currently have a Financial and Administrative Coordinator, Ashley, who has been an incredible asset to us.  She is our only full time staff member.  Ashley is leaving in August for bigger and better things, so that will leave a huge hole that BUSU will need to find someone to fill.

We have had some huge successes this year.  SUDS is likely going to break even, which is actually an incredible accomplishment given the difficulties it has had in the past.  We had the most successful Rock the Block ever, both financially and in the number of attendees.  We brought in Wab Kinew to speak, our first Aboriginal speaker.  The first Campus Christmas was held, which received great reviews and a good turnout, and which brought people from across BU together for the holidays.  Both the first orientation in September and the second in January were well-attended.  Karaoke and trivia have both been surprisingly successful this year, and it was great to see faculty, staff, and admin in attendance at both.  This speaks to the relationships that we have strengthened between all stakeholders in Brandon University, of which I am incredibly proud.  We have been very well supported throughout the year.  We have built relationships with community members with whom we didn’t previously have relationships.

In contrast to our successes, we also had things this year that didn’t work out as well as we had hoped.  There were basically no events held throughout the second term this year, as the speaker series we wanted to hold never came to fruition.  We didn’t see a student rights document go through to Senate, nor did we end up with a final strike policy.  We wanted to build a stronger relationship with the ACC Student Association, which was never fully realized.  There were things which created negative publicity for BUSU, both with a poorly worded article and an embarrassing mess of an election.  I truly hope that the good things that we did outweigh the bad, but I suppose only students can tell us whether or not that is the case.

Moving forward, I believe there are major things that need doing.  Firm decisions should be made about staffing, and I believe the incoming BUSU members will hire good people to help sustain BUSU, and to support the new executive and recently-hired staff, all of whom are building their organizational knowledge.  Furthermore, I believe that our bylaws need major revisions, especially those that deal with elections.  In my opinion, it would help if the elections officer should be someone from outside the organization, and the Elections, Referenda, Discipline, Interpretation, and Enforcement (ERDIE) Board should be composed primarily of students not currently on BUSU council and representing a variety of different faculties.  Also, there need to be provisions made for cases where the majority of council is either re-running or is in a conflict of interest, as it is not feasible to run the organization without being able to meet frequently over the election period.  This is especially pertinent when, according to our current bylaws, the Board is the only body who can remove our elections officer.  If all three executive members decided to run for re-election in the same year, would the BUSU office basically shut down?  These all need to be considered.  Finally, I believe we need to make more of an effort to connect our students with the broader voice of education.  There exists a world outside of Brandon University which impacts us – and whether that is the government, our community, or other universities and student unions, it is important to keep students connected with what is going on.

In closing, thank you to all who helped make this year successful.  I wish us all the best of luck next year.  There will be huge barriers to overcome, as there are every year, but I believe that we will be able to succeed.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 28,  April 9, 2013.