Thursday, June 16

Student Governance, Here I Go!

When I arrived in the Peg and looked around the University I decided that as this may be my last time around (PhD undecided), I was going to really, I mean REALLY, get involved in the University.  At every turn there seemed to be someone already in a position that I found interesting.  Towards the end of the first school year the Graduate Student Association advertised their elections in April and I began investigating possible ways to become involved.  As it turned out, the Vice President External position was available as I am adept and reaching out to groups and connecting them to each other it appeared to be an ideal position.  I ran unchallenged but according to the by-laws no one can win by acclamation and people can vote against you in the process.  Having achieved an 89% yes vote I took up my new position in May.  Thus far I am the only person on the 7 member executive that has no student governance experience so the learning curve is steep.  Tres steep.  I shall persevere.

One of the first jobs I had was to attend the Manitoba Canadian Federation of Students meeting where we discussed provincial wide student issues, which interestingly had changed very little from the early 1990's when I first started post-secondary education.  Rising tuition fees, privatization of education, privatization of university services, copyright issues, UPass possibilities, water-bottle-free campuses, not all repeats issues but many sounded familiar.  While at the meeting we voted for Manitoba representatives for all the CFS positions.  Having spent a good portion of my life with a penchant for seeing, understanding and enjoying Women's Issues I ran with another individual to be the Co-Women's Representatives for the province.  This means more meetings of course but it also means more opportunity to see how policy is developed, learn how to chair and attend official meetings, run campaigns to ensure student life improves, learn Robert's Rules of Order, speak up on behalf of the people I represent (graduate students or students who identify as women), and try to encourage groups to work together to find mutually agreed upon solutions.  Another interesting and steep learning curve.

The second task I took on was leading a small delegation of students who attended the National Confederation of Students meeting in Ottawa at the beginning of June.  It was a week full of meetings, meeting people, talking governance, discussing issues, cheering and chanting (I felt too old for both), listening to labour movement connoisseurs, and learning when to speak and when to shut-up.  Great week but I do wish there had been more concrete actions taken and fewer hours of cheering.

At the Closing Plenary
Oh the new words I am learning!
Maracary, Tonia, Greg in Solidarity

Eight hours in one meeting make people do
weird things with their voting cards.

Then upon my return, for the first time in my life, I meet with a provincial Minister.  The Manitoba's Advanced and Internal Education Minister wants to meet with students executives every other week to discuss issues and try to find mutual solutions.  Wow!  Every other week!  That is reaching out to one's constituency.  From my first meeting I learned that I need to know what is the government's responsibility, what are the Universities' responsibilities, what are my responsibilities, be prepared to share pertinent information, talk quickly and get to the point as the meetings are short.  More learning curves.

Did I mention in all of this I am starting to write my thesis?  Yep.  At least I sort of have an idea and a general topic that I am reading up on.  Not to give too much away but it shall be about cultural intermediaries in the 21st century in the field of tourism and their perceptions of their influence on people planning their vacations and travels.

For all these reasons and due to the sunshine, beautiful weather, and sunny days my blog posts may be fewer and farther in between for at least the summer.  So excited about everything I am learning but it is going to be a fast and furious ride.  Here I go!

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