Volume 90, Issue 78

Wednesday, February 12, 1997



Voice from the past

By Karena Walter
Gazette Staff

Web pages, on-line voting, nine candidates – the University Students' Council presidential elections have come a long way over the last 30 years.

So has Western.

In 1965, the first paid student council president was elected. Peter White was given $100 a week during that summer but was not paid throughout the school year. "My fellow students thought it was an atrocious amount," White said.

Today the USC president is paid about $20,000 for a full-time 14-month job.

White said there was tremendous unrest on university campuses across North America at the time of his tenure. "I felt that some of the things that needed to be done on behalf of the students could be done without demonstrations, without burning flags, but by very forceful negotiation."

Although Vietnam was not an issue on Western's campus it was certainly an issue in people's minds among other things, White said. "John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and that was a very symbolic event."

White was a 26-year-old economics major with a full course load when he became president and his council hired the first full-time paid general manager of the council.

"I think we were a pretty successful council in that there was a tremendous amount of change going on. We managed that change really well considering how young we were."

Major issues at Western included a shortage of housing and the desire for a large theatre. There were also traditional issues like tuition fees.

"There was no Radio Western, there was no TV Western and the electoral system was different too." The presidents were chosen through a federal electoral system. White was enrolled at University College so he had to be elected by the voters in UC.

Campaigning consisted of putting up posters. "Occasionally there were some meetings which were generally not very well attended."

Once elected in University College, all elected members from colleges and faculties gathered and elected officers. White was unopposed at that stage.

White remembers a rapidly changing organization. Enrolment was going straight up and the campus was exploding in terms of construction. The medical school, dentistry school, Alumni Hall, Middlesex College and Talbot College were all being built. "John Robarts of London was the premier and so Western was unquestionably favoured in terms of construction fund."

Delaware Hall was also being built and the joke at the time was it was going to be named after the administrator responsible for student residences – Mr. Virtue.

White is now the president of Cariff Corporation, an industrial textile manufacturer near Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997