It’s that time of year again: current student executives weigh their options, considering recommitting to jobs they may have learned to do; the optimistic, the power hungry, and occasionally the competent eye their chance to make a difference; and every student is given the opportunity to demonstrate their empathy or apathy.
It’s UVSS election time.
Having served as a student executive at Keyano College in Alberta, I have often seen well-meaning people make mistakes, myself included. Here’s some advice to whomever wins the upcoming election.
You are part of something bigger than yourself.
If you take one thing away from this article, hopeful nominee, please take this: as student executives, you’re the face and voice for the University of Victoria, and not just within the university. Student government is much more than resumé padding or a chance to look good in pictures. A key job of any student society is to serve the students it represents. You might be called on to interact with provincial or even federal members of government. Sure, it isn’t likely, but if something goes wrong, then it’s your problem. If you tweet something derogatory about the Prime Minister, you’re disregarding that responsibility. You must be willing to separate your private beliefs from your professional standing and own up to things that you post on your personal social media. Similarly, if you’re hosting an event then you’re responsible for what happens there. If something goes wrong, it’s your problem to solve because the repercussions are on your head. At the very least, pace yourself if you drink.
Everyone around you has an agenda.
We’re going to get a touch conspiratorial here. The fact of the matter is that everyone working around you will want something and will have their own understanding of what’s best for UVic, and in a lot of cases you’ll be the one who can give them what they want. That’s not to say that you cannot trust them, but rather that it’s essential you think critically, hold fast to your prioritization of student interests, and trust your co-executives.
Understand your own limitations.
No one can reasonably expect a 20-something student to be able to do everything that one of these positions requires all the time. But what we can expect is that you know what you can and cannot do. As an executive, you have a number of dedicated volunteers at your disposal, and a handful of permanent staff more than capable of offering expertise. Not only does asking for help make you an informed leader; it also makes the people around you feel more confident in your abilities. You’re showing that you care what they think, and value what they can do for you.
Don’t fuck with your co-workers.
I mean this both literally and figuratively. The people who share government with you are going to work more closely with you than anyone else. They know exactly what kind of pressure you’re dealing with (if they’re doing their job correctly). Don’t take them for granted, lie to them, or otherwise fuck up their lives. At least one romance is guaranteed to form. And it’s also almost guaranteed to end before your term is up. So just don’t do it. Because when things go tits up, you’ll be fortunate if your team remains intact.
It’s a running joke that a student society can’t or won’t make any tangible changes during its tenure. But that needn’t be the case. To whomever wins the coming election: good luck to you. And to any student who is not running: get involved. Vote with all of your might.