Since arriving at UNB Saint John, I have always wanted to be involved. A mentor of mine once told me:
“If something isn’t working, or if you feel like that you don’t have proper representation, join the solution by creating a welcoming environment and not contribute to the problem.”
This quote was the main reason why I joined the UNB-SRC. As a member of the LGBT community, as well as an international student, I personally felt that I needed to make my voice heard. At the start of my time with the UNB-SRC, my single purpose was to offer minority groups on campus a voice at the decision-making table. While VP Student Affairs in my second year, I sought to encourage individuals to create clubs and try to create a unique community atmosphere. Now, as I finish my third year and my time as your VP External, my passions have evolved but are still rooted in the principles of advocating on behalf of UNBSJ students and ensuring that our students have a voice at the table.
Politics teaches you resilience and I have learned this over the past three years. There have been times where I disagreed with the direction the UNB-SRC was taking and no doubt I have wanted to walk away countless times. In those times, I forced myself to remember why I joined the SRC in the first place: it wasn’t for the money, or the titles, or the office; it was for the love and passion I have for my university and my desire to amplify the voices of our students at UNBSJ. I will cherish the fact that during my time as orientation chair, I was a part of the creation of friendships. I am also very pleased with the hard work my colleagues at the New Brunswick Student Alliance have done in prompting an increase in mental health spending in the province, securing affordable tuition relief measures for the lower and middle class — including total tuition coverage for low-income students, the expansion of healthcare to international students, and many other policy recommendations surrounding post-secondary education. The best payment I have received is knowing that I was doing my part to make the university experience here in Saint John better.
With that said, my time as a student politician has been the hardest experience of my life. This has been a steep learning curve, from embracing the necessary responsibilities of being a leader of a community and an organisation, to learning about the complex relationship between the UNB-SRC and its constituents, to the constant verbal and cyber-attacks along with my personal character always under attack. I am grateful to the individuals who have encouraged me, mentored me, and who have always reminded me of my goals. However, the strength needed to handle these factors have consequentially resulted in serious personal mental health impacts. I write this not for sympathy but to simply recognise that I am human.
In conclusion, I wish the newly-elected executive the best of luck and urge them to analyse the past five years of the UNB-SRC and recognise that serious reformation work is ahead of them. In times of doubt, do not forget that close to 25 individuals have been in your shoes; use them. I encourage my fellow now-former politicians to engage and support this new executive in their path to creating a stronger Council. To the incoming council: lift up your executive, challenge them, force them to be better, and be their voice of reason. Finally, to the students, the UNB-SRC serves at the pleasure of the membership; express your concerns in a respectable matter and understand your elected officials are people as well.
With kind heart,
Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steede has been a part of the UNB Student’s Representative Council (SRC) since 2014. He has served as VP Student Affairs and currently holds the position of VP External.