It is unfortunate, and maybe even unfair, that Trent Central Student Association President Braden Freer’s career in Trent student politics will close on this sour note.
Regardless of the fallout from his leaked conversation with Trent Conservatives Vice-President Corey LeBlanc (see cover story), Mr. Freer has already chosen not to seek re-election in next month’s TCSA general elections and so, one way or another, his time with the union is now at its end.
I have known Mr. Freer for the better part of three years, since he was first elected to the TCSA board in 2012-2013, and although we have at times disagreed on aspects of Trent politics I am of the opinion that he has, for the most part, done an respectable job with the important portfolios he has taken on.
Under his presidency the TCSA has successfully grown its health and prescription benefits; it has maintained its excellent stewardship of the Trent Express bus service; it has implemented an important Aboriginal land recognition policy; and it has made meaningful strides forward with its student centre project. Given all of this, it should be made clear that the legacy of Mr. Freer’s time as TCSA president is not one of administrative incompetence.
However, the 18 screenshots leaked anonymously to Arthur last week paint a picture of an executive who, at a crucial moment in his presidency, failed to recognize and uphold the standards of conduct required for his position.
Although Mr. Freer maintains he did not break any TCSA by-laws during his conversation with Mr. LeBlanc (an opinion with which I disagree), it must be stated that at the very least his actions were not in accordance with their spirit nor were they in accordance with the spirit of professionalism, openness, and respect for which the Association strives.
One of the TCSA president’s most important responsibilities is to build and maintain meaningful relationships within the broader student and university community. Unfortunately, Mr. Freer’s leaked comments could now result in significant damage to the Association’s public image as well as to the relationships of trust it has built with its own members, with Trent administrators, and with the broader Trent community.
Mr. Freer clearly should have known better than to actively assist Trent4Israel in their BDS rescindment campaign when he was scheduled to act as AGM chairperson, his actions have now called into question the legitimacy and neutrality of that meeting.
He should also have known better than to use terminology like “TCSA takeover” to encourage members to run for office, especially since the Association has only recently recovered from the disastrous slate campaigns of 2008.
Finally, he should have known better than to be party to disrespectful comments made about TCSA directors and members of the administration as these comments reflect poorly on the Association as a whole.
I can sympathize, to a certain extent, with Mr. Freer’s argument there should be some division between one’s personal and professional personas. After all, everyone has said things in private that they would not wish to see publicized.
In this situation, however, given that the conversation in question so intricately involved details of TCSA politics, I believe that Mr. Freer’s words and actions cannot be divorced from his position as the president of Trent’s largest student union. Therefore, I am sadly forced to conclude that he should resign as TCSA president.