New SA president hopes to make the most of six months
Tisha Raj – writer
“Do what you believe in. Do what you think is right and never give up.” Those are the words from a father — an inspiration to Jed Johns as he takes on his role as the new Students’ Association (SA) president.
Johns is comfortably adapting to his position. His vast experience as an SA volunteer and a students’ council member have been imperative to the transition. As he adjusts to his new role, knowing key players in the SA and having a close working relationship with the rest of the executive council have proved beneficial.
Johns admits that accepting this prominent position halfway into the school year came with a price. “The obvious one when people ask me is my academic sacrifices. I pushed my degree off at least by another year or two. Second would be my loss of personal time with my partner who I usually spend a lot of time with outside of work and school,” the third year political science major explained.
Being offered this position would be a dream for many people, but Johns weighed his options before deciding to vie for the post. “It took a lot of reflection and soul-searching before I even decided if I wanted the position,” he said.
Besides consulting his partner and friends, he also discussed the opportunity with the executives of a political club for which he was president. “You have to have buy in. You have to have support from people who care about you or rely on you, so I consulted them,” he explained.
Everyone Johns questioned encouraged him to pursue his ambitions. “There was no really ‘a-ha!’ moment. For me I just thought there’s six months of this term left — I can make these sacrifices and there are some initiatives you want to pass which will be easier to do as a president than as a councillor,” he said.
Though presidency has more heft than a councillor position in some instances, Johns points out that experience in both areas is an asset. “I can’t remember the last time we had a president that had councillor experience, because I think that’s very important,” he said.
Johns pointed out that there were times in the past when there were clashes between students’ council and the executive council. “I think that comes out from the misunderstanding of the roles of what a student council does and what the roles of the executives do,” he speculated.
The new president believes that his qualifications made him a candidate for the position. “I worked at the SAM Centre, an entry position in the SA. You get to feel the effects of all the policies implemented top down. So I’ve seen it from that angle, seen it from a volunteer angle, a club executive angle and a councillor angle, of all the policies and bylaws,” Johns elaborated.
One of Johns’ accomplishments as a councillor was managing to appeal against the student fee increase suggested by the Students’ Association to $15 per credit from $12. Facing critics, a compromise was made at $13 per credit.
Johns was unhappy with the initial budget process during his time on students’ council. “When I was a councillor, all I did was get the budget at the meeting, they passed it to me and I had five minutes to flip through it,” he said.
“The VPO [vice-president operations and finance] told me what our revenue was and what our expenditures were, what went into our capital development fund and that was it. It’s all the information — done! Let’s move on!”
As an elected representative Johns felt something was amiss, as the council did not have the power to voice concern over the budget. “So we changed bylaw and we gave council that power and we passed policy to make sure there was a process on how that was done,” he said.
As president, Johns hopes to make the SA identifiable and hopefully get a building for the organization. If that is accomplished, it could be a huge win for the association, as it would be able to generate revenue from renting out space to other businesses.
“We can’t make any money,” he explained, adding that most revenue comes from student fees. His main mission is to get the association on a path to deter it from depending on those fees.
His other initiatives include changes to certain bylaws and policies and revamping the structure of the SA. He added that he has a positive relationship with current councillors and SA staff, and would like to see the same for future students’ councillors and executive councillors.
Having only six months until he runs in the next executive council elections, Johns has no concerns about accomplishing his goals because he is confident in the current harmonious tone of his fellow executives.
“All four of us are working very well together, and because of that I think we are able to accomplish a lot of changes.”
On Nov. 7, councillors voted five to two for Johns to take over presidency.
The previous president, Eyobe Melketsadik, resigned in October after completing six months of his one-year term, citing structural issues within SA governance.