From toddler to the top

Devan C. Tasa, News Editor Ω

TRUSU president Dustin McIntyre has come a long way since his first memories at the students union. – Photo by Mike Davies

While many past presidents of TRUSU can claim to be connected to the student union for a long time, not many can claim a tie that stretches back as far as current president Dustin McIntyre’s.

When McIntyre was young, his mother was the secretary for the University College of the Cariboo’s student union, which later became TRUSU. One of his first memories as a child involved the student union.

“I remember being a kid, sitting behind the front desk, playing with toys, while she worked the front desk and dealt with students,” he said.

Born in Kamloops, McIntyre moved to Vancouver when he was 11 to live with his mother, who eventually moved back to Kamloops when her son was entering grade 12.

“I stayed and lived by myself in Vancouver for grade 12 and then stayed there for about five years, then I decided it was time to come back home,” McIntyre said.

Before he came back, he attended Capilano University and Douglas College.

“I came to TRU in hopes of getting my acting degree,” he said. “It just wasn’t the right fit for me, so I was bouncing around and then I ended up taking classes with [anthropology professor] Lisa Cook and she was fantastic.”

McIntyre kept taking Cook’s anthropology classes until he decided to become an anthropology major with a First Nations certificate.

“It resonated with me,” he said. “You get to study culture, as well as history and you get to study different people. I really, really enjoyed it. It was challenging.”

In his first year at TRU, McIntyre worked at the TRUSU-run Common Grounds coffee shop. It was there he decided to run for the student union.

“I was really passionate about helping students,” he said. “I felt TRU could do a lot of great things and to do those properly I felt I had to be involved in TRUSU.”

He first became the arts and science representative, then the vice president internal, and finally president.

Heading into the new academic year, two accomplishments stand out to McIntyre from his time as an elected member of TRUSU. The first is being part of the successful lobbying effort asking the city to accept more transit hours to make the bus system more efficient. Those changes will take effect this fall. The other is getting the university to release exam dates earlier.

“It really makes an impact on every student,” he said. “Students need to know if they can work, if they can go home, if they can travel back to their country. They need to know when their exams are.”

Over the summer, he and the TRUSU executive were also successful in getting state-of-the-art security phones installed where the new bike shed will be and the common area in front of the Campus Activity Centre.

Over the next year, McIntyre has two main goals, both of which are connected to tuition and the provincial election.

“My goal for my presidency this year is to get the board of governors to actually listen to us this year and take into consideration the needs of students and not increase tuition by two per cent,” he said. But it’s not a failure of his presidency if TRUSU isn’t successful in doing that, he added.

In fact, it’s rare to see a tuition hike increase at the rate of inflation come to an end. The College of New Caledonia’s Students’ Union was successful in stopping it for the 2011-12 school year. McIntyre said he was talking with them to discuss their strategy.

McIntyre also aims to increase voter turnout in next year’s provincial election. Over the next year, TRUSU will be hosting tables to get students registered to vote and to inform them about post-secondary issues. He hopes students will examine each party and their respective positions.

McIntyre said he faces two major challenges in his work. The first is student apathy and making them aware of the student union.

“Those are things we deal with every day, is making sure that people understand and feel that the student union is valuable to them,” he said.

The other challenge is effecting change in the university structure.

“Once you’ve got something so big, it becomes an immovable object,” he said. “We have to help TRU change for the better to help students.”