Speaking on behalf of students

How the USC president interacts with Western’s administration

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Incoming Western President Amit Chakma

Courtesy of Western News

AWAITING A COUNTERPART. Incoming Western President Amit Chakma will be taking the reigns from Paul Davenport in July, giving the University Students’ Council a new face to negotiate with.

Next year, Western will have two new presidents: newly appointed Western President Amit Chakma and the soon to be decided president of the University Students’ Council.

But what is the relationship between the USC and administration really like? Former USC President Fab Dolan said his relationship with Western administration, though cordial, was actually quite strained.

“There was a passed down way of doing this, one where we depended on them and we too often were in a position where we were striving to ensure they that were happy,” Dolan explained.

“Eventually we felt we wasted time on that and we weren’t looking out for the best interests of the students. After that, we didn’t take as positive a tone as we could have.”

Unlike other universities and colleges, Dolan said Western’s USC and administration operate as separate organizations. While the university president is expected to oversee the university as a whole, as well as the education and business side of the institution, the USC’s sole purpose is to advocate for students’ best interests.

“The USC has a more clear mandate and that is [to do] what is best for students. That clarity of our purpose makes it easier for us to prioritize,” Dolan said.

“We try to ensure that our messages are as similar as possible noting that [the USC] has one constituency " the students " and the president has multiple [constituencies]; students, faculty and staff,” added current USC President Stephen Lecce.

Lecce said he meets regularly with current Western President Paul Davenport to discuss student issues.

“The president, of course, knowing his schedule, will delegate to his vice-presidents quite often on specific issues,” Lecce continued.

“We work with the vice-presidents on a number of issues. The president will be at one contact and if he feels comfortable then he’ll respond to it, but there are many times when he’ll delegate to others.”

Because the university president is not always available to students, Lecce said it is important for the USC president and members of the Board of Directors to also maintain a good repertoire with all of Western’s administrators.

“Professionalism is very important in the job. It’s important to be friendly, but you’re not there to be friends,” Dolan insisted.

Dolan added the biggest obstacle for the USC to overcome with administration is the fact the USC presidency is a one-year term, while the administration is more permanent.

“The university has an advantage, there is less turnover than the USC,” Dolan continued. “You are a short-term reality. Whether or not they acknowledge it to you, they know they will outlast you.”

However, with both presidents being new next year, the opportunity is there to create a fresh dynamic between the two organizations.

Lecce said he has great hopes for the incoming presidents but said it is up to the USC president to ensure the university is always considering the needs of its students.

He added the USC has long-term plans set in place to hold the university to their previous commitments to students.

“We have a long-term plan that many student unions in this country do not,” Lecce said. “And that gives us a plan to always revert back to that the university knows.

“What I hope my successor does, even in the face of financial challenge and adversary, is continue to demonstrate the high need we have for what I call our essential programs and experience.”

“You can have fun, but if people cannot take themselves seriously and present themselves professionally they will be taken advantage of and they will have difficulty accomplishing what they set out to do,” Dolan concluded.

“If you have candidates that aren’t campaigning in a way that is displaying that certain level of professionalism and maturity, I would question their merits.”

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