David D'Eon
David D'Eon

USSU president determined to make a difference

David D’Eon may count himself lucky to have won the election for University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union (USSU) president, but when he set out to run he had higher priorities on his mind.

Win, lose or draw, D’Eon wanted to end the race boasting a proud, issues-focused campaign.

“I really wanted to run a campaign that I would be OK losing, and that I would feel like I got my ideas out there and presented myself well and started a conversation,” he said

D’Eon didn’t follow an ordinary academic path to where he is now. He struggled in several classes his first year in 2009, and seized that defeat as an opportunity to grow. What followed were four years away from Saskatoon, working at a bank in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories and a stint travelling the country.

When the call to return to school reached his ear, D’Eon dove back into his degree program by rebooting the Political Studies Students’ Association (PSSA). The PSSA had devolved into a group that only came together to organize grad banquets and other events, but D’Eon, alongside a few other founders, wanted more.

“I noticed that there were a bunch of very talented and ambitious people who didn’t really have a sense of direction in terms of what they wanted to do, or things that they could do right now,” he said. “The opportunity for this organization to bring people together, get them working together and show them that our degree has application— that there are skills that you can learn through it—was very possible.”

Heading into his election campaign, D’Eon focused first and foremost on building trust with the campus community and introducing himself to those whose votes he wanted to earn. He established a platform founded on creating a soapbox for the student voice in important conversations, such as tuition and the provincial budget.

“What I really wanted to do was restart some conversation that students haven’t really talked about in a few years, particularly with regards to tuition,” he said. “It’s maybe not the best year to jump in and say we’re going to stop tuition hikes, but nonetheless I feel like there’s a lot that we can be doing and I want to have the opportunity to show the student body that we can act on this and we can ask for better.”

David D'Eon, a political studies major, won the USSU presidency this past April.

D’Eon sees himself as somewhat of an outsider choice for USSU president, explaining that previous years have traditionally featured a vice-president of the outgoing executive stepping into the role. Coming from a position as arts and science representative on student council, D’Eon grappled with whether or not reaching for leadership would be seen by colleagues as an attempt to leapfrog his place in line.

“When I sat down and looked at the positions and thought about what I wanted to accomplish, I realized that what I wanted to do fell into the portfolio of the president,” he said. “The skills that I have also best apply to the role, and I think that those skills are being able to have and encourage ground-up leadership, being able to resolve conflict, being able to organize different port- folios and understand where they are crossing over and where we can work together and where we need to separate.”

D’Eon narrowly eked out his victory, besting fellow candidate and outgoing vice-president operations and finance Emmanuel Barker by a slim two per cent margin of votes. As the results were announced, D’Eon said he was humbled and appreciative, even amidst the immediate excitement of the moment.

“It raised the hair on the back of my neck,” he said. “I thought about every little thing I did in that campaign, and I could not take anything for granted. I’ve been sending a lot of ‘thank yous’ out to friends, to everyone who pitched in on my campaign and who went to bat for me.”

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