By Kim Stock
The Students’ Union President is often thought of as an ambiguous figurehead, lacking personality and a personal life: the person who struts around campus, attends banquets and formal functions, talks to the press, participates in numerous councils and meetings, and is difficult to reach unless you have his cell number.
While this year’s SU President Rob South fulfills all such obligations of his current employ, there is much more to the man.
Anyone who knows South well knows he’s a man of two sides: one side humorous, the other serious. As quickly as he will chance a joke, he will adopt an earnest attitude to talk about issues important to him.
"I was born in England, just outside of London," says South, beginning his epic story soberly. "We moved to Calgary when I was three, and we’ve lived here ever since."
"My dad is a private consultant in an area between marketing and strategic planning," South says of his father. "My mom works in the Developmental Disability Resource Centre of Calgary."
South also has one older sister, Tessa, who’s 24.
"She left for Ghana [last Tuesday] for two years with Canadian University Students Overseas," South says. "I felt like a real bastard earlier this week. I only saw her for 15 minutes before her plane took off."
He concedes he doesn’t spend nearly as much time with his family as he’d like. It’s a struggle to organize his friends and family with his job responsibilities.
"It’s hard," he admits. "If I’m doing one thing that evening it means there’s two other things I’m not doing."
On average, South puts in 65 hours of work a week.
"An easy week would be 55, the hectic ones are 80-85," South explains. "I don’t know how Dr. White does 80-85 on a regular basis."
Just like the number of hours he works each week, South’s itinerary changes from day to day.
"Some days it seems like I do nothing but go from meeting to meeting," he says. "Some days I have barely any meetings at all. Some days I’m in the office all day dealing with internal stuff–writing up letters, writing reports, tracking my budget items. Other days I’m talking to the press all day. Some days I’m out of town or out on the university campus having functions to do."
The Prez doesn’t take his responsibilities lightly.
"Nobody my age can say that they’ve earned or are fully qualified for the responsibilities that come with this," reflects South. "You’re the head of a $5 million corporation and you’re on the board of directors for a $400 million organization at 21? It’s a strange thing, but you learn a lot awfully fast."
He has also given extensive consideration to his role and responsibilities as SU president.
"The president and executive members are meant to lead, provide vision, and inspire others in the organization," said South. "Outside the organization I think I’m supposed to advocate and represent what I think [students’] views are, and that means I have to speak to a lot of students to get a clear read on what people want.
"The best way I’ve ever heard my responsibilities described to me
is that you’re supposed to be everything and nothing to your organization at the same time," adds South. "That’s very true because people expect that you’re ultimately accountable for everything that goes on in the organization and that you know everything that’s going on."
South sees his primary goals is to improve student outreach by becoming more involved with the student body by appearing at more student functions, an idea he feels wasn’t emphasized enough in his campaign portfolio.
There are perks to being SU president.
"You can get a lot of people to help you out with political connections once you’re SU President," South remarks. "I’ve met with Ralph Klein, Paul Martin, [former Human Resources and Development Canada minister] Pierre Pettigrew, Preston Manning, and Joe Clark." Thus far in the year, South has not had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of any rock stars backstage.
The year has picked up for the SU president since school started.
"Now all of the ceremonial functions of the job have picked up again and there are all these dinners I’m expected to go to," South says of his busy schedule. "I think all of my passes say ‘please bring a guest’ because administration likes to cruelly taunt me about the fact I don’t have a girlfriend."
Although the year isn’t even half over, South is pleased with the progress he has made.
"What I take most pride in what I’ve done so far in the job is that there’s a team-feel to the Executive [South and the four SU ffice-presidents]," he says. "No one’s goals are just their goals–they’re the Exec’s goals. We’re on a consensus basis. I like the fact that often it’s hard to tell where my work begins and other Exec members’ ends. I’m one of five in a team."
South adds they like to play practical jokes on each other, none
of which are appropriate for publishing.
"I’m the most easily victimized of the group in terms of jokes," he confesses. "I have the thickest skin about it, too."
The Exec’s good rapport extends beyond office hours.
"[SU VP Events] Jared [Lorenz], [SU VPOperations and finance] Amanda [Affonso] and I all like to play Hydrothunder in the Campus Cove Arcade," South says of his spare time. "The amount of cash Jared and I have blown on that game is amazing."
Besides playing arcade games, South likes to play basketball, soccer, read and go to the movies. Remember ladies, he’s single.
"I am gaining weight," South concedes. "Jared keeps telling me I’m getting fat."
South also has a notable number of gray hairs.
"I think I’ve been going gray since I was 17," he acknowledges. "It’s been getting worse and worse the older and older I get. I think I’ve gotten a lot since the start of the job."
Before the end of South’s term, he’ll likely acquire a few more.