CSU President Khaleed Juma

He’s been called inaccessible, over-enthusiastic, unrealistically idealistic. And a lame duck. His executive has been accused of colluding with the administration. Just who was in charge of the CSU executive this past year?

What’s the year been like?

It’s been difficult, because Concordia is carved into so many different niches, everyone wants so many different things from their institute. At McGill, it’s much easier to find a blanket solution to any problem, and Concordia . . . it’s hard to cater to all these different demographics. I don’t think Concordians can learn lessons from anyone other than ourselves right now. It’s that uniqueness that’s our greatest strength.

Do you feel you were equipped for the job when you started?

I wish someone would have told me what this job really was. At the same time, I don’t think I could ever describe what this job really is to the next president. Every year is different . . . This year, we got slammed with some pretty big things. We got hit with the student centre in the first three months, the Mezz within the first two months, we got hit with Taylor [Noakes] the first six months, Earl [Freidberg] disappeared, there’s a lot of challenges that popped up out of nowhere. I guess it’s hard to tell someone what the challenges would have been. It made the job pretty damn exciting.

Did the battle for the Mezz derail your priorities in office?

I’m glad that it happened so early in the game. It gave my executive and me a chance to feel what it’s like to fight for something we believe in. It gave us a little bit of faith to see what it would be to accomplish a goal like this. If this had happened in October, I think it would have blindsided us a bit, we would have been riding off Orientation – smiling – not as ready to dig our feet in as in the summer when this was defining who we were and what we stood for as an executive.

Do you think you got elected because students were attracted to the Experience slate’s promises, or because you were good at marketing your ideas?

The way we initially crafted our campaign was very different from the way we executed it. We looked at previous campaigns and it just got taken to this next cool hip, marketing level. It was a marketing campaign.

A friend of mine . . . who has no interest in anything to do with politics, said ‘I . . . put on a yellow Experience t-shirt, not because I was your friend, but because all the cool kids were doing it.’ Elections were cool last year, it was something to be a part of, it was an event. And it was due to both sides.

I don’t think elections in previous years had been as much a part of the mainstream as they were that year. It was pretty representative of the big jump we had from 4,000 to 7,200 [voters] – as much as the incentives were a big part of it [too]. There is a level of marketing that goes into making elections exciting. There has to be some kind of sensationalism . . .

About the people who got involved: last year, on both sides, I saw a lot more of an army. This year it was more about the eight executives and a bunch of other people in t-shirts. Last year, people adopted the platform.

[A successful campaign] needs to be a delicate balance between a very strong set of ideals, a dedicated group of individuals and a very clear message. I think the message that comes out needs to reach the broadest group of people. That’s one thing that Experience, Evolution, Unity – whatever you want to call them – has always been pretty good at. It’s really hard to represent 32,000 students. . .

I think Unity and Go both learned a lot from Conscious and Experience in terms of what they promised. In no small part due to the fact that all year, we heard nothing but…

(writer interjects) Heated bus shelter!

[But out of] seven things on our poster.

And a thousand on your website.

Those were ideas, we’re all allowed to dream!

What’s the CSU’s relationship with the administration? Does the administration take advantage of students’ lack of organization?

Oh for sure. I don’t blame them. If you’ve got an agenda and your job and your livelihood depends on pursuing that agenda – then take advantage of a bunch of kids running around like a bunch of chickens without their heads. It’s the way of the world, it’s how everything outside this little microcosm works. I feel it’s unfortunate that we get stuck in our idealism sometimes, especially at a university like Concordia where everyone is championing so many different things. I think that when people say, “The administration this. admin that,” I could have told you they were going to [pursue their agenda] and so could you if you’d stopped to think about what their greater goals and agendas were. That’s their job. They have more money, more resources, more connections, more power than we’ll ever have. We operate, in a weird way, on their campus. But at the same time, it’s our campus, we pay the fees, we pay with our taxes and it’s a really weird back and forth balance.

If I were a student union executive for life, it would be a very different battle to fight.

How so?

I’d be equipped. I’d have years of institutional memory [and] an army of tools and resources that I’d know how to use. Even with my executive, it took us awhile to find out what everyone was best at. I’m the most ready to do this job, right now. In a year from now, I’ll be even more ready to do this job, and that’s what I mean in terms of taking on the administration. If you take them on knowing everything you need to know and are as well-equipped as you possibly can be, then it’s a very different fight because you have a very different set of resources.

Has the administration ever asked you to communicate something specific, that they wanted done, to the student body?

No, they usually just do what they want to do and then we fight about it afterward. It’s very much a union mentality . . . [Similar to] CUPE’s philosophy: “Do what you’re asked to do and then grieve them later.” That’s very much the relationship between management and employees… Sometimes the university does what it wants to because they believe it’s in the best interests of the university. And then we fight back. But more often than not, this year, and in the last couple years, ever since students stopped being so adversarial to administrators and fighting them on everything, even if it’s not needed to be fought, they’ve become a lot more open with us and started asking us what we think.


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