Calgary Herald: During a difficult week, four MRU students shone
For many observers, last week must have seemed like a rough week for Mount Royal University, and in particular, the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University. After all, the story — in print, radio, television, online and in social media — spread a negative image quickly and broadly.
And let’s be clear, there was much to be concerned about last week. For those of us who know former SAMRU president Meghan Melnyk, we were more stunned than most about the robbery charge laid against her.
We all know Meghan as an enthusiastic proponent of improving student access to advanced education. And though we cannot begin to understand the mindset that led Meghan through this series of unfortunate events, at Mount Royal, we support all of our students and we truly hope that Meghan gets the support and help she needs to get her back to a better place.
But amid the hyperbole surrounding police charges against a former student association president, there was an equally compelling story unfolding on campus, one that I believe paints a much more accurate portrait of our student body and our values at MRU. This story is about the three members of the SAMRU executive, Kaylene McTavish, Michelle Dennis and Jennifer Langille, and the publishing editor of the independent, student-run newspaper The Reflector, Bryan Weismiller (also a part-time reporter for the Calgary Herald) and the remarkable composure and professionalism they demonstrated as this situation unfolded.
When Meghan resigned in January, the three remaining members of the student executive were charged with two critical tasks. The first was to take up and divide the responsibilities of a full-time president while maintaining their own full schedules as student executives and continuing with their studies. They did this with aplomb. The second was to oversee, in a professional and legal manner, the internal investigation into the procedural irregularities that were uncovered.
Meanwhile, Bryan, as editor of an independent media outlet, had a responsibility to find out what was going on and report it to the student body.
With the arrest of SAMRU’s former president, the executives found themselves front and centre in a breaking news story that quickly went international. Bryan, wearing both his Herald and Reflector hats, found himself directing coverage of a story he knew more about than most, and that involved people he worked with every day. I have never been more proud of four undergraduates as I am of these young people and the mature, professional and competent way they handled a very difficult situation.
Two members of the SAMRU executive are students in our public relations degree program. Bryan is a journalism student. Few public relations professionals face this kind of situation in their entire careers. These student executives received a measure of on the job training that was far more challenging than most of the issues they will face after they graduate.
Each one of them exceeded the toughest of expectations. Michelle, a third-year PR student, faced a media scrum that would throw seasoned politicians off their best game, yet she never wavered and never lost sight of the bigger picture.
Put yourself in these students’ shoes. Imagine working elbow to elbow with a colleague for a year, only to watch that person hastily resign and then later be arrested, picking up her duties while continuing to focus on your own (not to mention your studies), all while facing criticism from people telling you how you should have handled things differently without realizing you acted in the only fair and just manner possible.
These three student executives successfully did all of that, with their heads held high and their integrity intact. Wow.
Our student journalist was exemplary in his ability to separate personal knowledge and relations from his duty to provide a fair, accurate and critically objective account of the story, while still pressing for further information — skills anyone would expect from any top-notch, seasoned journalist. Bryan never lost sight of his journalistic responsibilities while writing about someone he knew and saw on a regular basis.
All four of these individuals faced profound personal and professional tests. They not only passed the bar, they raised it. We at Mount Royal are fortunate to have on our campus these remarkable students, along with so many others, who are maturing into true citizens and contributors to our social fabric. For us, that is the real story here and one we see reflected in the faces of all of our students.
David Docherty is president of Mount Royal University.