What does the rector do?

Ninety-five-year-old position the only one in Canada

Rector Josha Manzanilla resigned Jan. 31. The rector election will be held on March11 and 12.
Rector Josha Manzanilla resigned Jan. 31. The rector election will be held on March11 and 12.

Students will elect a new rector on March 10 and 11, but may not know they’re voting for a position that’s the only one in Canada.

“The rector is the student at large,” said University Secretary Georgina Moore. “To not be accountable to a particular [student] society gives the rector a much broader view.”

The position was created in 1913 as a member of the Board of Trustees to give students a voice when it came to the financial management of the University. The first student rector was elected in 1968.

The position’s unique in Canada because it’s based on a tradition from Queen’s sister university, the University of Edinburgh.

The rector has a vote on the 44-member board to have input on financial issues. He or she also writes quarterly reports and presents them to the board about issues important to students. Two other students sit as voting members on the Board of Trustees—and undergraduate trustee and a graduate trustee.

The rector can be asked by the board or the University Senate to serve on various committees. The rector also attends convocation.

She said other than serving on the mandatory committees, each rector can decide for him- or herself which other committees and issues to get involved with.

This has resulted in different interpretations of the role from term to term, which also makes it difficult to train for the job.

“Basically, it’s learning by doing,” Moore said.

She said the incoming rector usually contacts her and former rectors soon after being elected to go over the role’s history as well as mandatory responsibilities. There are no specific accountability measures governing the rector, Moore said.

Although the position is officially a three-year one, the past several rectors have only occupied their positions for two years.

Rector Johsa Manzanilla said she has tried in her term to represent as many students as possible. “Everything I do is based purely on students’ opinions.”

Manzanilla said there are times when the opinion she expresses on an issue goes against the student government’s stance because it’s what she hears from students.

After a town hall meeting on the draft Code of Conduct on Oct. 15, the student senator caucus wrote a report with students’ comments to present to the Senate on Non-Academic Discipline (SONAD).

The report was leaked and students who opposed the code went to Manzanilla saying it didn’t accurately represent their opinions from the town hall.

“One of the things the report said was better wording on the ‘right to protest’ clause, but the students that approached me just wanted that clause removed completely,” she said.

Manzanilla brought the students’ concerns and the report to SONAD. She said it’s important for the rector to represent the average student’s interests.

“Every student on campus should have a voice … regardless of whether or not they are a student government leader.”

Former rector Ahmed Kayssi said in an e-mail to the Journal rectors have to work closely with students and be a resource to ensure they have help to get what they want.

“You have unparalleled access to senior administrators, so use that to help students accomplish their goals,” he wrote.

Kayssi said before every Board of Trustees meeting he met with faculty society presidents to discuss what they wanted to be presented.

“I tried to gauge student opinion by attending as many student council meetings as possible.” Kayssi said the rector’s most important job is to advocate for students on current issues. He said he thinks the most pressing issues right now are the University’s budget cuts and how they affect tuition increases.

“I remember a time when people rallied against tuition increases,” he wrote. “The problem is that our campus is growing increasingly apathetic over the years. … The new rector needs to express a vision for reversing this trend and finding ways of engaging people again.”

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