Bringing a new perspective

Jared Brown is the newly elected University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU) president, and he is also the first Aboriginal student to step into that position.

"I think the Aboriginal perspectives are overlooked, not for any reason other than people don't understand the issues," said the 22-year-old Brown, who was born in Prince Albert, Sask. "I bring that perspective. It's already in my mind so I don't have to learn it or ask someone about it."

Brown explained that legally, he is Métis but "socially I am Aboriginal and I kind of look Italian or Portuguese, so I have been able to sit on the fence and listen to a lot of different conversations, and some of the conversations I have heard definitely need an Aboriginal perspective."

The significance of being the first Aboriginal USSU president isn't lost on Brown. "It is a big thing, I get that. It is breaking down barriers, but beyond that, I hope I can help improve Aboriginal retention rates and issues of feeling comfortable at the university."

Brown also hopes that other Aboriginal students will be encouraged to get involved in student politics at the university. "We have a very strong Aboriginal community here—mentors, students, teachers and programs. It's a great place to come and get an education as an Aboriginal student. The experience is strong, but it could also be stronger. I think more Aboriginal perspective will do that. But I know I will need to focus on more than Aboriginal issues."

Looking beyond the Aboriginal perspective, Brown said that his area of study will provide new insight at the USSU table. "As a sociology student, I think I will also look at repercussions of decisions from a social point of view, not just an economic or political one."

It is an important distinction, he explained, as the last few USSU presidents have come from political science backgrounds. "The USSU should not be just about breeding politicians; it should be about creating leaders—within communities, families and our campus. I am really excited to get started and learn what the USSU does."

While Brown recognizes there is a learning curve with his new position, he is no stranger to U of S politics having served as president of the Indigenous Students' Council and as a member of the USSU student council. "I realize that a year is not a very long time to get things done. When I talked to people before the election, I avoided rhetoric like ‘I will lower tuition.' I didn't talk about revolution; that takes more than a year," he said, referencing the Place Riel project that was many years in the works.

Some of the ideas Brown hopes to move forward include developing a partnership with the art department so that student art can be displayed in Place Riel. "Art is tough to get on public display and there are a lot of good artists at the U of S who could benefit from some profile in a high traffic area like Place Riel." He also wants to work with Campus Safety to improve lighting on campus and "maybe get some cameras installed in the libraries. When students are in libraries doing what we should be doing, we should feel safe. I think cameras would help with that, but we need money for this project so it could be tougher."

Now that his final exams are done and his papers are handed in, Brown can turn all of his attention to next year and the work he and the new USSU executive—including Steven Heidel (VP operations and finance), Ruvimbo Kanyemba (VP academic affairs) and Alex Werenka (VP student affairs)—will tackle, not to mention the last two classes he needs to finish to get his degree.

"I was also accepted into law this year, but I am hoping to get that deferred until the following year. It would just be too busy to manage all of that at once. But for now I can focus on one thing: I am Jared Brown, USSU president," he said with a laugh.

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