Perched on the Goodes Commons steps, a Starbucks Cool Lime Refresher dangling between his fingertips, Brandon Jamieson seemed relaxed for the first time in over a month.
Brandon Jamieson had just come out of a tumultuous two-week campaign for the co-leadership of the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Society, a student government of over 10 000 students worth 1.4 million dollars. The campaign was one of the dirtiest in recent history, ridden with scandal and false accusations. Jamieson and his partner Andrew DiCapua, along with rivals Jon Wiseman and Brendan Goodman, did not come out unscathed, and were left with experiences that were far from the ordinary to an average Queen’s student.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jamieson post-election, after the dust had cleared and the Queen’s media had moved on from the sensationalism of the heated competition. By this time, Jamieson has clearly had time to reflect upon his election, and his answers came from a place of deep consideration.
As a Commerce student, I was completely unattached to the ASUS elections, and had no idea what a campaign looked like. In Commerce, an average Presidential campaign involved inviting friends to a Facebook event and doing a couple of class talks, and I believed ASUS was no different. I was not up-to-date on student politics in other faculties, so I started with what I figured would be a basic question: “Tell me about the ups and downs of your campaign.”
Jamieson let out a sharp exhale. “Well,” he begins, “I’m going to start with the ups. The most important part of this campaign to me was the fact that I got to meet the most amazing people. I would get up every day and go from class to class, just trying to meet as many students as I could, and just trying to get everyone’s stories. It’s easy to get to know people who are actively involved in assembly, but I got to meet other students too, like students who were focussed on their specific programs and not involved in ASUS at all, and just ask them: how can we make things better for you?”
“And then there were some cons,” he continued. “I found that Andrew and I had some boundaries that we had to overcome in this election. Things like our ages, our experiences, even our personalities.” Jamieson disclosed that he and DiCapua are both currently in second year, and leadership is generally reserved for people entering their final year at Queen’s. This, I understood, could retract some of their credibility in the eyes of upper year voters.
Jamieson grew more animated as he described his successful campaign trail. “We did over 100 class talks in one week period. Once, we did 6 in the span of 10 minutes. We would time it, 54 seconds per talk, then allow time to get to the next classroom. Sometimes we would have to sprint to get to the buildings we needed to be at. My day generally started at 7am with a meeting with my campaign team for a briefing of what we would be doing throughout the day, and campaigning would go on until 3am normally. There would be time for me to eat maybe once or twice a day, and I missed all my classes for the entire three weeks.”
He grinned sheepishly. “I tell people I’m playing the catch-up game academically, but at this point, passing is the biggest priority.”
“I just can’t believe that a school election takes so much effort,” I said bluntly. This story was worth more than the basic 15-minute chat I had expected with Jamieson.
“Let me paint the picture for you.” He set down his drink. “You’re sleeping four hours a night tops. You miss so many classes. Sometimes, we ate once a day. The first week, we were so into it. There was so much energy. But near the end of it, everything catches up to you. We were mentally, physically and emotionally beaten. And you can never act like you’re not happy when you are campaigning, you always need to be upbeat.”
“How are you feeling now?” I asked.
“I’m feeling great,” he grinned.
“Were there parts of the election when you felt doubts about whether or not it would all be worth it?”
“Yeah, absolutely. My personal relationships were strained. I didn’t get to see my friends for more than a month. At the same time, it was kind of fun because it really displays school spirit. You get a look into which candidate will work hardest, who wants it more.”
“Are there any hard feelings between you and Jon and Brendan?”
“No! No, not at all. Jon and I were good friends going in, we still are. He’s a great guy.”
“Moving on from elections, can you tell me a bit about your experiences with ASUS to date?”
“This year, I was an ASUS Senator. I sat on the committee of academic development, which develops all of the programs relating to an academic nature.” He gestures to the sprawling Commons. “Even all the classrooms here in Goodes, we probably had something to do with your learning. A lot of people think that enrolment increases is the biggest issue facing Queen’s, but actually, it’s faculty renewal.”
“How will you use what you learned as Senator in your new role as President?”
“If I didn’t have experience as a Senator, the learning curve would be a lot steeper. And there are other issues that I will have to face as President. Interfaculty relations are an issue because Arts and Sciences comprise 32 different departments with different interests, and I have a responsibility to all of them. We also serve as the chief negotiator with the Dean.”
“But you don’t know about all 32 departments. How will you work to serve areas you don’t know about?”
“I just have to remain as accessible as possible. My phone is always on. And I’m constantly asking questions. I need to know what matters to students because ASUS is a major lobbying power. ASUS needs to be seen as a resource for all students. Think of us as an union negotiator. We want to lobby for our personal interests, such as mental health.”
“Can you tell me a bit about what and who influenced you to develop such a strong passion for student government?”
“I met Isabelle Duchaine at an ASUS booth at the Frosh Fair, and she reached out to me on Facebook and asked to grab a coffee with me. I was so shocked. She told me I would make a good Senator, and I tried running for the role at the beginning of first year, but pulled out for personal reasons. At the end of first year, I ran again, uncontested, and won.”
“And Nick Francis, the previous Rector of Queen’s, visited my high school in grade 12 and really inspired me to love Queen’s. I applied to be his personal assistant and so did Andrew, but neither of us got it!” He chuckled. “He fought for student rights and really broke barriers.”
“What are your plans beyond your Presidency?”
“I couldn’t tell you, I don’t know what the future holds. After all this campaigning, it’s good to finally feel like a student again, and I want to enjoy this while I can. After graduation, I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I’m really interested in immigration policy and cultural affairs. I’d love to get involved in foreign services or diplomacy.”
“To end off, if you could give any advice to other students who want to get involved, what would you say?”
“I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I really mean this: anything is possible.”
After succeeding in a brutal election ridden with dirty campaigning and seemingly insurmountable boundaries, Jamieson is clearly proof of this.
“Let’s do fun questions now?”
“Let’s do it.”
Describe your typical Friday night.
No two-nights are the same for me! I got really close with my floormates on West Campus last year, I couldn’t have asked for a better group even if I’d cherry-picked them myself! I call them the Usual. I’m living with two guys from the group, Mike and Andrew, and they are definitely there for me when I need it. We love “The Underground” on Thursdays, but no matter where we go, somehow we always end up at “The Spot”. Other than that, I’m a slave to Netflix. I’ll watch all of House of Cards, and then start the series all over again.
Who’s your celebrity crush?
Amy’s Organic Burritos.
East or West Coast rappers?
What is the inanimate object your face most resembles?
I’m not very chiselled, so I’ll have to go with a soft rock. Like limestone.
You’re stuck on an island with Piers Morgan, Kanye West and your least favourite professor. Who do you eat to survive?
Kanye, 100%. I want to hang with Piers, and I’ve never disliked any of my professors.
A penguin walks into the Commons wearing a sombrero. What does it say, and why is it here?
It says “Hola”, and it’s here because it’s freezing in this Kingston weather outside so he comes in to warm up!