Meet the Students' Union President Elect
Rebecca Mesay is no stranger to leadership. She has been a Residence Advisor, has coordinated study hall for athletes and has advocated on the behalf of students long before she entered the Union. Now, Rebecca serves as the VP of Residence Affairs and can soon add Students' Union President to her portfolio.
The third-year student is the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, hailing from Calgary, Alberta. She is also the first Black president of the university’s Students' Union (SU) to our knowledge since the union’s incorporation in 1965.
The Xaverian Weekly sat down with Rebecca to discuss her win and plans moving forward with the SU along with the feat of the student body electing her into office.
“10-20 years ago this probably wouldn’t have been something that students would have felt comfortable doing” Rebecca expresses with slight discomfort. She then speaks to her first year at StFX, a young frosh during Orientation Week looking up at the executive team. She remembers telling herself “you are going to do well here, you are going to work hard here, but this is not your hill to die on.” She speaks to the skeptical and arguably cynical nature she held as a young freshman, but these feelings are situated in a larger discussion on representation in the university environment.
Rebecca speaks to the privilege that comes with post-secondary education being a “given” for many people. And while she recognizes her own privilege with this, she also speaks to her community growing up; an environment where she so often saw people who worked so hard, not have the chance to attend university because of financial barriers, or because they had to support their families, or they had just immigrated to Canada five months ago and while being young, are expected to be sending money back home. A humbling reminder that the path to post-secondary is not always without barriers.
Now, as the SU President Elect, Rebecca speaks to her upcoming presidency in which she firmly roots her goals in pursing equity, collaboration and accessibility. A pillar of these three goals is to actively dedicate time in working with historically marginalized groups on campus through direct collaboration with the coordinator of students of African Descent, Aboriginal students and the Gender and Sexual Diversity Advisor to identify the issues that are faced within these demographics. The end goal of this, is to use the informational collected as the foundation in the formation of a strategic framework for addressing said issues. Rebecca notes that of course this will not be able to be completed during her term, but hopes as president she can create the momentum and a base standard for the years to come. She also speaks to her goal of advocating for students at the provincial and federal level to make post-secondary education more accessible to all students. There are many more pillars to Rebecca’s platform that are worth looking into; ultimately, Rebecca approaches her upcoming presidency by firmly acknowledging StFX’s historical role in the colonial system and bases many of her intended projects on “decolonizing the academy” in an authentic way.
“I want to be ensuring that the Union is seen as an open door for students; a mechanism for advocacy within our university. I also value the concept of decolonizing the academy. This is important, but the way in which we do that is what we need to think about. We are recognizing the Union and StFX is based on a colonial framework, but how we dismantle that slowly? How we make these spaces more accessible to those who have bene neglected to be represented by them, that is the true question, how do we push for this?”
Finishing up, Rebecca also mentions her excitement in working with the incoming VP Academic, Tiffany McLellan. Per our knowledge, this is the first female only pairing of President and VPA.
“I know it is very normalized that the decision making in our world tends to come from Caucasian, heterosexual men. I believe that your decision-making body should be indicative of your population, I believe that firmly, whether it be in government, this university, or in the Union.”
With 60% of StFX's student population identifying as women, Rebecca insists that it is time that the Union is more representative of what the student body is made up of.
Finishing up, Rebecca leaves us with some last words.
“As I am right now, I don’t know what the impact of this presidency could be…I think back to that moment in first year and If I had a president that looked like me, would the skepticism, would the cynicism had been different? I just want those who feel impacted by it to know that I am here for you. I am here to represent you. I don’t want you to feel as though that is not why I am here, that was fully my intention when I got involved in the union. When I decided to go for president it was with you in mind.”