SU Report Card: VP external Jen Smith

Undeniably, Jen Smith has strong convictions.

Unfortunately, Smith has proven unable to put aside her strong beliefs to diplomatically compromise on problems between her and her commission, SU staff, university administration and even government officials. Earlier this year, Smith faced a barrage of charges from her SU colleagues for her inability to play nice with others. Censure and/or impeachment were avoided on conditions including that she consent to sessions with a communications coach. According to a number of SU officials, these lessons haven’t paid off. According to Smith, she’s tried to mend these relationships but nobody’s been willing to meet her half way. Whatever the case, the problems have hampered her effectiveness.

The external commission was in tatters at Christmas and, despite a half-hearted attempt to smooth things over, by February it was all but dead. Smith claims this is due mostly to her commissioners’ choices. Her ongoing spat with commissioner Mike Soron became painfully clear during the VP external candidate’s forum when she publicly accused him of skipping out on his responsibilities–hardly the actions of someone looking to smooth things over.

Smith’s relationship with the rest of the SU executive has also been rocky, though she claims her efforts to repair these relationships have not been reciprocated. She also says she has been hampered by a lack of staff support within the SU–but her inability to take responsibility for these rifts is almost worse than the squabbles themselves.

With Smith at the helm, the Council of Alberta University Students has been an active stakeholder in the ongoing PSE review process. On the local front, she brought then Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock to campus, organized political action week and helped introduce a successful new tuition policy at the U of C. From now on, the inevitable yearly tuition increase will be accompanied with a letter from administration. Not bad, but it probably wouldn’t have happened without Bryan West’s diplomacy with admin.

Although it has been an admittedly troubled year, Smith is a strong and sincere advocate for students. She is extremely knowledgeable about PSE issues, but passionate to a fault. Her desire to affect political change–though rooted in good intentions–has been conducted abrasively on nearly all fronts. She has been elected to the U of C Senate next year, and must learn to choose her battles or risk alienating members of the community like she has most of her colleagues this year.

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