The following article was submitted to the Editor-in-Chief by Student Representative Council President, Devin Debly in response to the Baron’s interview with him that was published last week.
Hello, thank you for accepting and taking the time to acknowledge my response to the article Meet your SRC President published by the Baron, on October 27, 2022. Although I believe the interview and corresponding article was written in good faith, I do believe that it does not represent me, the work that I do, and the SRC as I intended it too.
I believe some of the things that were quoted in the article were unintentionally taken out of context, and I hope for students and readers alike to understand the full picture. This response is not one of malice or pointing fingers, but one of clarity.
To start, I would like to mention the common thread of my article: Internal Governance and working more behind the scenes this year rather than being a more student facing figure. The article made it seem like I am not in this for the students of UNBSJ, that is not accurate whatsoever.
For myself and on behalf of everyone at the SRC, I can confidently say that we are here for you, the students of UNBSJ, and you are our only focus. Although we have priorities, agendas, and different strategies to benefit students, all of these things are made with only students in mind.
Sometimes I do find myself getting wrapped up in the internal push and pulls of the Provincial and Municipal government, UNB administration and groups, or the SRC itself. However, I do my best to try to ground and remind myself why I am here: because of you.
Going forward I can promise that I will do a better job of recognising the reason I am fortunate enough to do the work that I do, rather than doing it for the sake of doing it.
I am a firm believer that you need to change something internally before it can change externally. How can we expect to excel on the outside if we have so many problems internally?
You can apply this to anything: organizations, companies, or even each other as human beings. How can we go to class and function on a high level when we are drowning in so many issues in life?
This was the predicament I found myself in when I became President of the SRC. The Student Representative Council can do so much good for students. Whether that is incredible events, increased services, or effective advocacy efforts.
Without the internal capacity and capabilities, we are unable to give you, the students, the best we have to offer. This is what I meant to say when I said that “I’ll probably be the worst president the students have ever seen but the best one the SRC has ever had”.
Let me tell you a story.
When speaking with previous SRC Executives, I have heard horror stories. Long nights crying from the stresses of the job and frequent anxiety or panic attacks after their term completed. As someone who suffers from depression and high functioning anxiety, these things truly impacted me, so I thought to myself: how can I fix this?
Like come on, as the President of this organization there must be something I can do to help students in these positions not feel like this ever again. This is where my battle begins, how can students expect a high functioning Student Union when the people in the Student Union are suffering through this?
Answer is: they can’t. Because of this, the need to not only support the student executives within this organization, but to also empower them is why I will not be an extremely student facing President this year. I wish to make my executives and councilors those student facing positions.
Students bring their concerns, they then bring their concerns to me, and I bring them to UNB, Government, or other parties for effective problem solving. Every President has a different style of running the SRC. I wish to empower the team and share the credit rather than steal it. Whether that means my amazing Executive team, Councilors, or helping students take on their own projects. That being said, how am I empowering the people around me?
This year the VP External position is filled by Ridhima Dixit, and I could not be more happy, Ridhima has an endless supply of amazing ideas, a great work ethic, and most importantly, compassion. I am trying to support Ridhima by: advising them on their projects and advocacy efforts in an attempt to help the most students possible; revising the responsibilities of the role to narrow it down to a more concise position through extensive ByLaw changes; and attempting to make the position, as well as SRC at large, as accessible as possible to her and other International Students going forward. This is how I am empowering Ridhima.
VP Finance and Operations:
This year the VPFO position was filled by Dominic Rocca until mid September where he had to focus his efforts more on education. For the last month, Chris Tait has been doing an exceptional job in the position, and I am more than thrilled to be continuing the duration of my term with him. I am trying to support Chris by: having a smooth transition away from Dominic, advising Chris on anything and everything he needs, and most importantly, trying to make him feel as comfortable and welcomed as possible to ensure he can do the best he can. This is how I am empowering Chris.
VP Student Life:
This year the VP Student Life position is filled by Bertha Debly, who has and will continue to do a fantastic job on improving student life on campus. I couldn’t ask for a better VPSL and am extremely grateful and proud of the work that Bertha has done, and will continue to do. I am trying to support Bertha by: Assisting with key external relationships, like RBC and Area-506; increasing the Human Resources she has available to her including instructing the Events Committee; and creating two new positions to help elevate the sheer load of work she has to do. These positions include the Marketing and Communications Coordinator which is filled by the wonderful Estee Gerrits, and the Wellness Coordinator, which at the time of writing this is planned to open up for students applications very, very soon. This is how I am empowering Bertha.
In the past, council members have been underutilized. These people are elected by students to represent faculties or important groups of students at UNBSJ, and as such, their insight and knowledge should be taken seriously. This year, councilors have all of the resources at their disposal to do at least 1 project to benefit their students, these projects can include: events, advocacy efforts, or general projects. A few examples of this can be seen in Hayden Hovey or Faseeh Khalil’s work.
Hayden is the SRC’s Indegenous Student Rep and has had the amazing idea of creating a safe place on campus for Indigenous Students. The Wolimahask Lamsuk “Sweetgrass Room,” is run by Hayden and I am proud to be a part of this incredible project. Faseeh is the SRC’s International Student Representative, and has massive advocacy plans for international students within UNBSJ.
Recently, I advised and worked with Faseeh to purchase a Pool Table for the Whitebone Pizzeria. I am very privileged to be working with such passionate people, thank you both. There are a few student-led projects and initiatives that myself and the SRC are working on, but would like to keep under wraps for now.
I believe in accountability and transparency, so if students may not always see me and my efforts, what assurance can I give going forward on what I am doing and how it impacts students? For this I call upon the Baron to ask me for interviews, articles, or whatever method necessary to sit me down, and ask what am I doing, this can be as frequent or infrequent as you would prefer. I will continue to keep the SRC accountable, but I ask you to keep me accountable to students.
Getting back to the interview and article at hand, I hope I have made what I do slightly more clear. Although you may not see me as much as you did previous SRC President’s, my hope is to empower the people around me, so you can see the amazing work they are doing rather than taking all of the credit.
Why I ran for SRC President: To be frankly honest, to this day I am still not sure.
What went through my mind when I filled out this application is “man, I have done nothing since I started at UNB, is this really what I want to think back on”. I wanted to take on a new challenge, and what better way to challenge myself than to help students through this position. I thought back on my previous three years at UNB and how little I knew or accomplished for myself and for the students around me.
Why I ran was to change and empower those who are uninitiated in the university and take on new challenges. To help students like myself become more involved on campus. When I first sat in my office, I didn’t know what to expect nor where to go, but with the help of my executives, councilors, and the UNBSJ community, I think I found what vision I now want to look back on.