Jared Brown edged out his competition to become the first aboriginal student to lead University of Saskatchewan undergraduates in the school’s 105-year history.
Brown, who identifies as both First Nations and Métis, is studying sociology and has spent the past two years as an Indigenous Students’ Council representative on University Students’ Council.
Brown’s campaign was backed by the ISC and the Aboriginal Students’ Centre but also had wide support across campus.
His election strategy revolved around a handful of small-scale reforms — ideas he dug up while navigating other students’ unions’ websites, he said.
Integrating artwork into Place Riel, installing additional phone-charging stations, implementing a union-wide Ecofont that promises to cut down on ink costs and setting up a bookstore webcam feed were among suggestions that Brown endorsed.
“I think there are some very tangible things that I put forward,” Brown said. “They are not big changes… but absolutely I think I can get them done.”
The week-long race for union president was unpredictable and well-fought from beginning to end. Minutes before the final results were called, as candidates huddled with their supporters late Thursday afternoon at Browsers, there were no indications of a frontrunner.
Ultimately, Brown’s 819 total ballots pushed him past runner-up and third-year political studies major David Konkin by just 29 votes.
Trevor Paschke, a fifth-year engineering student and president of the Engineering Students’ Society, received 622 votes to place third.
Brown credited the win to those who initially encouraged him to put his name forward and kept him focused during election week.
“I had my family, my friends but I think what put me over the edge was Marylou Mintram,” Brown said, referring to her assistance throughout his campaign.
Mintram, a fellow ISC member, served as Brown’s running mate.
Mintram ran for vice-president academic affairs, but fell several hundred votes short of her opponent, longtime U of S Students’ Union Safewalk Co-ordinator Ruvimbo Kanyemba.
Steven Heidel, a third-year computer science major, defeated Edwards School of Business councillor Jenna Moellenbeck for the position of vice-president operations and finance.
Alex Werenka, current USSU Help Centre Co-ordinator, ran unopposed for the position of vice-president student affairs.
Sixteen per cent of the student body cast an online ballot — double last year’s total.
Brown said that after talks with previous USSU executives, he expects a steep learning curve as an entirely new team takes office May 1.
USSU General Manager Caroline Cottrell said the incoming executives will go through a detailed orientation process over the course of their first month in office.
“It involves them working with a variety of individuals [familiar] with governance… who come in to give them a particular perspective on certain components of their job,” Cottrell said.
To further ease the transition, the outgoing executives will be required to work closely with their successors early in their term, she said.
Cottrell said the election of the first aboriginal USSU president is meaningful, but pointed out that the union is gender, race, culture and religion neutral, and represents all undergraduate students.
Brown recognizes the historical significance of his election, but does not want it defining his presidency.
“In the long run, students aren’t going to care that I’m aboriginal,” Brown said.
“Don’t get me wrong, this is a huge barrier broken. But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, how I handle myself in everyday interactions, that’s going to define what has happened here.”
Last year’s vice-president student affairs Leon Thompson was the first aboriginal student to serve on the USSU executive.[box type=”info”]Click here for a breakdown of the votes per candidate, election turnout, and information about the executive as a whole.[/box]
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf