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This article was published 30/4/2018 (632 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The success of Brandon University’s downtown project hinges on the will of the school’s incoming president, according to departing student union president Nick Brown.
"Once the new president of the university comes in, it’ll be their vision, and if they are strong-willed towards completing the downtown project, it will get done and the money will come in for that," Brown said. "But if the person who comes in is not interested in that project, it will die right here."
In an interview with The Brandon Sun, Brown spoke on a number of issues facing the university, including the fate of the downtown project, the future of the Brandon University Students’ Union with no elected president and its relationship with the provincial government.
On Tuesday, Brown will officially end his four-year career with BUSU, after serving two years as vice-president internal and another two as president.
As he prepares to vacate the president’s job, the 25-year-old music education student from Deep River, Ont., said it feels strange for him to leave something he has been involved in for four years.
"This is my longest-ever job and it’s going to be a shift for me personally and BUSU as well."
When he became president in 2016, Brown said what surprised him the most was how broad the job truly was — sitting in board of governors’ meetings, hauling propane tanks for barbecues, choosing tiles for the soon-to-be-built gender neutral washroom, or simply engaging with students on a day-to-day basis.
But one matter that has come up repeatedly is the downtown campus, a project initially championed by former BU president Gervan Fearon, who left the institution last year to become president and vice-chancellor of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.
Early ideas for the project included mixed-use apartments, a child-care centre, black-box theatre, fine arts building, art gallery and retail space, but the university’s board of governors has since been advised by its hired consultant, the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corp. 2.0 Inc., to re-evaluate the scope of the more than $103-million endeavour.
"I think it’s possibly a little bit too big of a piece for the university to work on the scale that Gervan envisioned," Brown said. "But I think that long term, those plans will develop and the downtown block will become a part of the BU campus. Unfortunately, it comes down to funding."
Brown said he supports the idea of a black-box theatre as something that could rebuild the nightlife in downtown Brandon.
"I think the city is interested in that, I think BU is open to it and I think that in the next 10 years that’s what we’ll see built there," he said.
But without a full-time president, Brown said it is difficult to bring new ideas forward.
The firm Perrett Laver is working on hiring a new president and while there are hopes of having someone in place by September, Brown said the process will likely finish a year from now.
The presidential void is also being felt by BUSU, which had no candidates in this year’s election.
The hope is to appoint a president by the end of May, But Brown pointed to the current political climate in Manitoba as having affected students’ participation in politics, the elimination of the tuition cap and a current proposal to take international students off public health care being among those concerns.
Although he admits the student rallies in opposition to the government’s tuition bill were unsuccessful, he hopes BUSU will continue its political advocacy moving forward.
As for what comes next, Brown will continue his studies in the fall and says he could see himself being involved in provincial politics one day.
"I’ve been perfectly happy to put my academics on hold to do this job because the journey has been more important to me," he said.
"Discovering the world outside of school has been a lot of fun for me and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m sad to leave BUSU, but I’m happy to see the place that I’m leaving it in."
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