Volume 91, Issue 53

Tuesday, December 2, 1997



Council Castaways

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a USC trip, that started in this Western port aboard this mighty ship. The mate was a giddy sailin' man, the skipper tall and sure, three passengers set sail that day for a three-hour tour.

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the students of the fearless school, the USC would be lost. The ship set ground on the coast of this uncharted desert isle, with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Movie Star, the professor and Mary Anne, here on council's isle.

The Gazette's visiting tribe of news editors Sandra Dimitrakopoulos, Brendan Howe and Sara Marett checked out Gilligan's island to see how the council castaways were surviving.

©Geoff Robins/Gazette

Parks is getting ready to set sail

Armed with only a dog, a female companion and a laptop computer with Internet connection the, Skipper, Ryan Parks, is leader of the council castaways who reside on the deserted USC isle.

As president, Parks has navigated through many rough waters but is now hoping to successfully get off the island in a sink-or-swim scenario.

Although the castaways have yet to be rescued, Parks said he has been extremely visible and accessible to all students on the campus mainland, especially with respect to issues regarding student loan programs. "I have made an attempt to get out and talk to students and various groups on campus."

As for student concerns, the Skipper has been sending smoke signals about several issues including the effort to increase student representation on the Board of Governors. But stormy weather created by what Parks believes to be an adversarial relationship between students and the head-hunting administration may prove to impede the process. Although Parks said he has improved the existing rapport with senior administration, this is one relationship that is always on the rocks.

One campaign initiative set to sail is a Maclean's commission based on student input. Parks said the commission will include those generally involved in compiling the information in an effort to discuss the concerns of the survey and its accuracy in correctly portraying campuses.

One of Parks' biggest tasks this year has been the Education Party of Canada, an initiative which ran a student in this year's federal election. As party president and engineer of a $13,000 student donation to the party, he admits some things could have been done better. He added the party's financial statement should have been more detailed when published in The Gazette which Parks believes would have led to less questioning of the budget. "We made lots of mistakes. It sucks to be the guinea pig." Overall, he stands by the initiative and is proud of the EPC's accomplishments.

Restructuring the VP positions, another campaign promise, is something Parks currently has in the works. Parks has proposed to council a renovation for these posts, which should provide a good structure for the island dwelling future.

It seems the future is more what Parks is thinking about after executing most of his campaign promises. He is now looking to make sure the next skipper won't rock the boat when taking the helm.

Firefighting Symsyk

As Ginger the movie star, Meghan Symsyk has nothing but her picture album, a stereo system and a laptop computer with Internet service as she sits on this deserted island with the rest of the passengers of the S.S. Minnow.

Frustration has been the theme so far for VP-student affairs Meghan Symsyk as she tries to get off an island where she's had trouble getting some of the things done she wanted to.

The aspiring movie star is responsible for a wide range of affairs affecting students – including all USC clubs, Orientation Week, housing issues, Homecoming and various other forms of event-planning for the student body.

She described her role as a fire fighter who spends a lot of time extinguishing problems in areas of her portfolio – some when dealing with administration, which has kept her away from getting other important things done.

Orientation, the biggest event of the year for Symsyk, has skyrocketed this actress to stardom. The program was a little different from last year yet ran smoothly, she said.

"We brought in different types of programming. It wasn't always main stream rock 'n' roll stuff or alternative stuff," she added.

She admits her orientation program was slightly tarnished becaused of alleged actions taken by Stuart Trier, USC representative for Saugeen, who was de-Sophed and faced a failed attempt of removal from council. This event could have been handled much more effectively and she admits the whole incident blew up in her face.

For the rest of her island tenure, one of the important issues Symsyk will face as chair of the University Committee on Student Housing and a member of the Orientation Governance Board is that of upper-year students living in residence next year.

This is an issue in which the castaways must compromise with administration on the mainland and she said the best way to do this is to have the limited number of spaces available for upper-year students given to Sophs and residents' council members. This is a valid compromise provided it works.

What goes with the territory of being on a deserted island is the problems which float onto shore and whether it's extinguishing fires or rubbing a couple of sticks together to make one, Symsyk needs to overcome frustration and accomplish what she set out to do before she sets sail for the mainland.

Changing weather for Deans

James Deans has proven by his choice of hats alone that he is no other than Gilligan himself and although no one wants to be off the island more than he does, Deans came prepared with a solar powered generator, a computer and his girlfriend.

As first mate, little buddy Deans is in his element on the island and as VP-communications, is keeping mainland students in touch with council castaway activities.

"I'm at a bit of a disadvantage from other portfolios because I have to learn the ropes while doing things," Deans said, referring to producing the Westernizer, the Student Directory, the Experience and PRAVDA, the USC promotional newspaper. Deans has a lot to keep him busy while stranded at sea and is learning there's more to his job than what is simply stated in the job description.

Deans changed the Experience this year – the mail-out given to all students in the summer with information on September activities and USC operations. This year, students received a year-long events calendar, rather than a pamphlet, with phone numbers and club listings.

One initiative Deans is proud of but said he can't take all the credit for is programming and recruiting improvements made to CHRW and TV Western due to their recent amalgamation. "Everyone wants to go faster with improvements but we have to take baby steps right now."

Deans admitted he missed the boat on preparing for the Student Directory and as a result it is late being delivered to students. "I should have started working on it earlier." He explained new ideas such as including email addresses didn't mesh with the timeline for the project.

A lot of time has been spent recently by Deans on the restructuring of the USC Board of Directors as it is his portfolio that will incur the most change in the future. One project Deans will alter once rescued back to the mainland is PRAVDA. "It will become a needs-based paper rather than every two weeks."

Improving communications with students is also on Dean's agenda but in order to do so, USC Web sites must be improved. "They've taken low priority."

Deans has enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of the tropical island but if he plans to be successful with his Gilligan-like attempts at being rescued, will have to pick up the pace to fulfill his mainland duties.

Pinheiro is sittin' pretty in the sand

As the bubbly Mary Anne, Lucy Pinheiro finds herself happy as a clam with only her dog, a picture of campus and her trusty calculator to keep count of the coconuts on the island.

The balmy island weather seems to be suiting Lucy Pinheiro just fine as she is settling into her surroundings as VP-finance. As a council castaway, keeping the USC's financial records on track and voicing student concerns is somewhat of a juggling act, she said. "You have to wear two hats – one political and one business."

Pinheiro said the summer provided her with time to realize where she fits into the configuration of the corporation and the council. "Every VP approaches the job quite differently according to their personality," she said. Being the socially-apt Mary Anne, Pinheiro decided she would focus her attention on the budget and student awareness of where their money is spent.

Pinheiro has promoted her open-door policy in hopes of receiving more feedback from students on their fees. She published a rave card with the breakdown of the $158.15 USC student fee and distributed it in a summer mail out to students.

A plan to publish the budget in The Gazette equipped with a suggestion card, however, was not panned out. "It's quite expensive to publish – I want to see how much feedback I get by January and maybe we can find the money if the need is still there," she said.

Pinheiro has not gotten the amount of feedback she hoped from students on the mainland. "The information on the budget is out there but I need to spark a response from students in order to have student input for the budget."

An initiative which kept Pinheiro busy while school started on the mainland was organizing the first annual all-VP-finance conference with representatives from universities across Canada, she said. The conference was organized without any cost and sponsored speakers discussed implications of being both political and business leaders.

Pinheiro is pleased with her work so far and seems to be adjusting quite well to island activities. Once back on the mainland, however, she's got a lot of work ahead of her. The new year brings expectations of a long-term plan and balancing the books – no more days of fun in the sun.

Sam navigates inward

As the well-versed Professor, Sam Castiglione is happy to live on the island with his girlfriend, as much food as he needs for them both to survive and the largest library possible which allows him to help both mainland students and council castaways.

This VP-student issues has learned more this year than many do in the course of a university degree, but now has decided to take a side-step from external student issues to internal issues in an effort to make the island more habitable.

It was during the summer that Castiglione soon realized life on the island would be far from the sun-and-surf vacation of the campus tropics. The amount of information necessary to understand his role was vastly larger than he imagined, but he digested it in addition to preparing a response to an academic paper by Western's VP-academic Greg Moran.

This knowledge set a precedent for the first two terms which consisted of much dialogue with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance with regard to student aid – in an effort to help students on the mainland graduate with lower debt.

"The legislation on student aid goes through now, so if I hadn't participated Western would have missed the boat."

As Castiglione moves into his final term, the future of the island and its inhabitants will now be his main priority.

Many of Castiglione's internal campaign goals have already been met, including efforts to have a woman accept the commissionership for lesbian/bisexual issues, ensuring safety at Essex Hall and maintaining a promise to have awareness week booths distributed throughout campus as well as within the University Community Centre.

Castiglione has not yet succeeded in his aim to acquire larger office space for the Women's Issues Network which he said has been under continual discussion with the 'head-hunting' administration. He could also not project his aims as academic affairs officer in terms of evaluating class curriculum or counselling practices, but he did change teaching awards from a quantitative to a qualitative focus.

If Castiglione hopes to achieve all his goals before leaving the island he will have to maintain the balancing act to keep both the native board members and mainland students happy. "I want to be supportive without compromising the integrity of the organization."

To Contact The News Department: gaznews@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998