By Scott Strasser —
The Students’ Union can either play a big role in your university experience or be something you barely know exists. The SU’s job is to represent student interests and make our university experience better. A portion of our student fees go towards supporting the SU, and their mandate is to go head-to-head with government officials and university administration, manage student programs, plan events and operate MacHall.
The union’s members are elected by the student body every year. In February, the SU’s annual election campaign will be in full swing. Walls will be plastered with posters and costumed candidates will run around campus begging for your vote. Almost everyone hates this time of year — you will too.
A popular complaint is that the SU doesn’t do anything. If you don’t follow closely, it’s easy to adopt that mindset. Like most politicians, SU representatives sometimes make outlandish campaign promises that are never fulfilled or inch along at a snail’s pace for several months. But if you want to know what your elected officials are really up to, swing by the council chambers in MacHall on a Tuesday night when the union has it’s weekly Students’ Legislative Council meetings.
Oh, and fun fact — the SU is currently in an ongoing lawsuit with U of C administration over the ownership of MacHall. You’ll probably see a Gauntlet article about it every now and then.
President — Stephan Guscott
The head honcho. The big cheese. The man at the top — all phrases that have probably never been used to describe this position. Nevertheless, the SU president is the public face of the organization and manages the big picture. Guscott’s role is to steer the ship, so to speak. If you see him walking around MacHall, give him a thumbs up or something. He’ll appreciate it.
VP External — Tristan Bray
The vice-president external is the position that liaises with leaders from outside the university on behalf of students. Bray probably spends more time than any other executive jetting around the country, wearing suits and shaking hands with politicians. He’ll likely pop up in the news every few months. If you’re interested in student lobbying or how student life and politics intermingle, Bray’s your guy.
VP Op-Fi — Branden Cave
The vice-president operations and finance is in charge of the SU’s internal operations. Cave manages the SU’s budget — one of the largest of any student unions in the country — and oversees the management of the union’s various businesses like Stör, La Taqueria and the Den. His job is to make sure all of your fees are directed to the right place. If you’re concerned with how the SU earns or spends its cash, Cave is the one to talk to.
VP Student Life — Patrick Ma
Party on, dudes! Often called, “VP party,” the vice-president student life handles the fun side of student politics like student clubs, events and other initiatives. Ma is in charge of the SU’s most popular annual events, such as Frost Bite, Clubs Week and Bermuda Shorts Day. But it’s not all balloons and pizza days — mental health initiatives and overall student well-being play a big role in Ma’s portfolio.
VP Academic — Alicia Lunz
The vice-president academic manages the SU’s relationship with the university. Lunz represents the SU on several of the university’s committees and ensures students’ academic concerns are covered. Lunz also heads the Teaching Excellence Awards and the Undergraduate Research Symposium Committees. By the end of her term, she’ll probably know more U of C faculty members by first name than any other student at the U of C.
Every faculty has one or more student representatives in the SU, depending on the size of that faculty. Their role is less involved than the executives, but they’re still responsible for ensuring the students in their academic field have the best university experience possible. If your faculty has a hiring fair or students’ lounge, you probably have some former reps to thank for it. If you have any minor problems with your department or ideas on how to improve the lives of your fellow classmates, track your rep(s) down. They’re happy to help.