Sunday, January 14, 2007

Interview with Spencer Keys, President 2005/2006

1. What skills that you had did you find most valuable in your capacity as President?

On the window of my office I wrote "my ambivalence will be my success" because I actually believed that my ability to dispassionately consider all sides of an issue helped me greatly as President. We often think of the President as an advocate for students, and they are, but they are also responsible for being a leader within Council meetings, supervising the Executive, and making decisions about personnel that the rest of the Executive don't need to do. I think our year was a great success because I was a dispassionate President surrounded by passionate Vice-Presidents, which meant that I could reasonably balance those personalities and maintain a calm, professional image on behalf of the AMS.

2. What skills did you wish you'd had, in order to be a better President?

As the year went along I gained a greater understanding of how to gauge an employee's effectiveness, but at the beginning of the year I didn't have a clue. I wish I had had more experience managing people so I could more responsibly evaluate their behaviour on an ongoing basis.

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced as President?

The biggest challenge I faced was a lack of money. The AMS is one of the most efficiently run student organizations in the country, able to survive on $12.50 per student for its operating costs, compared to an average of ~$55, even at very small student societies like SFU's. Our ability to create a more cohesive community at UBC, effectively lobby the provincial government, provide more student space, provide more funds for clubs, or mobilize students on various issues important to them like teaching evaluations, campus development, etc. requires money. Over the past few years the AMS has largely come in on budget because of the growth in our conference and catering business. These commercial bookings take up substantial space in the SUB, which could be used for clubs and students. Removing our dependence on these businesses and increasing our overall revenues will provide substantial benefits to students, by giving your elected officials the resources they need to implement their goals.

4. What would you identify as the biggest issue for an incoming AMS President?

The biggest issue facing an incoming President is to figure out how the Executive will work together and then set out your plan for the year. Entire years can be wasted if a President doesn't figure out a coherent plan within the first month or two of taking office.

5. What advice would you give the incoming President?

When I left office I wrote a 60-page opus for Kevin Keystone but if I was to bring it down to the fundamentals it would be these: 1) There will be students, staff, and university administrators that don't like you at various points for various reasons and that's just the way it is, 2) Learn how to say "no" and make sure you're spending your time on the things you care about, 3) Set up a support network for yourself outside of the AMS. Stay in a hobby. Hang out regularly with non-AMS friends. Go to counselling if you're comfortable with that. What you don't want is to become inseparable from the job, and 4) Be honest and up-front with the media. If you show them courtesy and respect, they will return that respect to you.