SU Reviews: VP Op-FI Gavin Preston

The VP Operations and Finance ensures the facilities and businesses of the Students’ Union are run well. This includes building maintenance and redevelopment, providing clubs with offices, and ensuring that the SU student and retail partners are well cared for. Many administrative items, such as the budget, travel and conference funding, bylaws and elections are also the responsibility of the portfolio.

There are very few things about which our student leaders almost unanimously agree. That Gavin Preston is the hardest working of all elected officials this year and that he needs to control his temper are two of them.

Preston has hastened the perpetually-slow MacEwan Student Centre redevelopment. He has improved considerably the functional and financial operations of the Used Bookstore and, by the time this issue leaves the stands, about a dozen clubs will have new offices and the copy centre will be ready to relocate into new space.

But, despite his best efforts, Preston has been unable to motivate lawyers, administrators and others related to redevelopment (currently: CJSW, NUTV, prayer space, private health provider) in an equally expedient manner, and he acknowledges that redevelopment will never be complete as such.

With five months left in his term, Preston has quietly fulfilled many campaign promises, including cheaper Den prices, a more fiscally-efficient SU, building the aforementioned clubs space and securing a Health and Dental Plan contract at no additional cost to students. Preston says several referendum questions relating to SU fees are forthcoming, which would fulfill the remainder of his platform. Working 80-hour weeks using very assertive behaviour instead of using paid time to post about video games on Internet forums probably has something to do with his success.

Emergent items such as the General Manager transition, prayer space, tobacco sponsorship, the Molson/ballroom issue and bylaw changes necessitated by the recent by-election were handled very well by Preston, who provided both immediate and long-term means of addressing such issues. He is also interested in areas outside his own portfolio, including academic issues with which he is familiar.

However, Preston’s direct and sometimes confrontational approach combines with his (improving) temperament to create discord with his fellow elected officials, obvious during Students’ Legislative Council meetings. He acknowledges this as a problem that impedes progress, and has worked to be more open to critiques of his ideas. Hopefully, Preston will extend his new attitude towards inter-office relations where he does not always play well with others, including some commissioners.

Preston is one of few people who recognize the SU lacks defined, achievable institutional goals, yet he is reluctant to do much to align the organization towards those goals unless they coincide with his own. For someone who wants to revolutionize so many aspects of the SU, he shows remarkable restraint in not filling the leadership void himself, a mixed blessing for students to be sure.

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