I couldn’t have written this editorial yesterday. That’s because, when it comes to AUSU, The Voice Magazine, and myself, have to strive to maintain impartiality. Yesterday was the last day of former AUSU President, Brandon Simmons.
Brandon joined AUSU during a tumultuous time back in 2015. AUSU had become, as some student unions do, somewhat dysfunctional due to some bad actors within the organization. It happens.
The organization had been nearly wiped out, with only three councillors remaining, only one of which was on the executive group, when the by-election took place.
Brandon Simmons was one of the people elected, as was Tamra Ross, the former Executive Director of the organization (and, in full disclosure, my partner). From my point of view, Tamra rejoining AUSU Council meant an increased possibility that AUSU would be able to pick up where it left off—before the dysfunction had happened—by utilizing her experience as a previous ED to help guide the organization.
However, one of the first policy changes the new group put forward, and supported strongly by Brandon, was one that disallowed former staff from serving as part of the executive for a period of years. At the time, it seemed to me that this was almost an effort to stop things from getting back to normal. And as the council progressed, I saw increasing work that was directed toward making it less of an organization that showcased how it was possible to operate at a distance, to a more traditional format that, at least in my eyes, seemed to less represent the unique nature of AU.
Over time though, I came to realize my misgivings were misplaced. While preventing former staff from leadership positions may have made it slightly more difficult for AUSU to recover at the time, I’ve come to recognize that it was the right thing to do for the longer term health of the organization.
And while COVID-19 now forces the organization to once again begin operating almost entirely at a distance (and brings to light how some skills and practices that used to be common within it were lost in the interim), I have to admit that, when it comes to the goals of AUSU, moving to a more in-person format has been, overall, good for the organization. After all, that’s still the way that government works, and for AUSU to influence government it must be able to work as they do.
As for Brandon, my initial reservations toward him were slowly challenged, then replaced, by a growing respect and admiration for what he brought to the organization and the work he’s done to not only make AUSU stronger, but to do so in a manner that brings together the different opinions of Council and those outside it to form a consensus that almost everybody involved can get behind.
As I said, I couldn’t have written this editorial yesterday, because I wouldn’t want a serving President of AUSU to know that I wasn’t keeping a critical eye on him or her. But today, now that he’s gone, I can admit I haven’t worried about what AUSU has been up to for quite a while now, in large part knowing that he was at the helm. So kudos to you, Brandon. You will be missed.