Where you sit: student swaps roles with president

photo of student and President for their swap for President for a day

"President" Rabia Sajun, left, listens to an appeal by "student" Mamdouh Shoukri as the two discuss their Pres4aDay schedules

“President” Rabia Sajun, left, listens to an appeal by “student” Mamdouh Shoukri as the two discuss their Pres4aDay schedules

Rabia Sajun had one thought when she heard about York’s first-ever President for a Day contest: ” I wanted the president to go to my classes. He really needs to go to biology class and see what life is like for us,” said Sajun, who is in her third year doing concurrent degrees in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and the Faculty of Education.

With that goal in mind, she set to crafting her submission, answering the required question: “What would be your top three priorities that would directly impact students if you were appointed president of York University?”

Competing against 40 other students, her winning entry addressed the need for more space for students in York’s Steacie Science Library, smaller class sizes and continued enhancements of campus safety measures. As a student who uses the Steacie Library regularly, the expansion of that library space is particularly important to her. “With the increase in the number of science students at York, we need to really think about more space,” she said.

As part of the swap, York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri will attend all of Sajun’s courses and participate in all of her extracurricular activities. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with the York community and really experience life as a student. “I haven’t been a student in some time, so it will be interesting to see how things have changed. It will also enable me to look at ways of fulfilling our commitment to improving student life on campus,” he said. More importantly, he said, it’s a chance for Sajun to learn about the governance of the University, its checks and balances, and the need to have a clear framework for doing things. “It will be good to have a student appreciate what a president does to serve the community. There are many and varied constituencies to satisfy.”

To begin her day, Sajun will be picking out her best business attire, borrowing her parents’ car and heading out for an 8am arrival in the president’s office on the 10th floor of the York Research Tower. Shoukri, for his part, will be boarding a GO bus in Mississauga for his trip to the Keele campus, where he needs to arrive by 9am to get to the library to do some reading for a lab assignment. He will then meet with the executive of the Chemistry Society, of which Sajun is co-president. “He will be meeting in my office, which is substantially smaller than his,” she said.

For lunch, Sajun will dine with some friends, while the president will be lining up in the Student Centre Food Court to microwave his lunch. He has already heard that there aren’t enough microwave ovens available for students to heat their lunches, so he is prepared to be patient.

Sajun then has meetings scheduled with Patrick Monahan, vice-president academic and provost, to talk about class sizes, and with Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration, to talk about safety on York’s campuses. She also plans to deliver remarks at a campus event.

Shoukri is excited about the day and already thinking about where to sit when he attends Sajun’s biology class and how he is going to take effective notes when he knows very little about the course matter. “Rabia might be better off if I didn’t take any notes at all in that lecture,” he said. “But I will make up for it in her physics class, which, as an engineer, I know a thing or two about.” It’s just as well, since he will be required to turn in the lab assignment scheduled for that day.

On Wednesday morning, the two will meet for a debriefing session over breakfast to compare notes.

For more information, visit York University’s President for a Day website and follow the day’s events on Twitter at @yupres4aday. Sajun will also be tweeting throughout the day and she can be followed at @rabiasajun.