Mike, as Student President Johnston insisted I call him, does not like the word “politician.” The Toronto native claims that in America, the term implies a negative connotation. But a politician, he is. As we sat at the Rat, he was constantly stopping our interview to acknowledge passersby, always introducing me and always throwing out one-liners and hardy hand shakes that would elicit their smiles and good will. This man was a pro at being the politico, without looking like the part.
It was with a certain dread that I anticipated our meeting to discuss the relevance of student government. I had to arrange our 4:30 appointment through Mr. Johnston’s full-time secretary, Gloria. For Gloria, being the secretary for student presidents has been a full-time job that she has held for over 26 years. Initially, I thought what arrogance that a student rep. should have a full time employee act as a firewall to fellow students. I smelled administrative pomposity at its worst.
Not so. Understanding that I was new to Miami, Mike pushed his other appointments back (including one with another Hurricane columnist, sorry Jorge) and took my questions for an hour over milkshakes and root beer. He told me that on an average day he attended to over 300 e-mails (hence the need for Gloria). Indeed, before holding my meeting he (with Gloria’s help) prepared a 90-page document listing his administration’s accomplishments for me to review, while attending to a series of questions from another concerned student.
Mike insisted that his effectiveness comes with his closeness to President Shalala. Indeed, he was able to pass daunting projects from his “10 point plan” that required millions of dollars to implement. Such tasks could not have been handled without a close rapport with the top brass in the Administration. Among his accomplishments: more cable channels for the dorms, increased police security for the campus and that popular crepe cart by the Union.
To test how far this politician would go to appease a member of the press, I voiced a personal complaint that I was unable to park at the Wellness Center because I commute. He said flatly that he could not endorse a request to change the parking lot regulations for the good reason that residents should not have to walk .2 miles in the dark of night to get back home. However, he did say that after 5PM I could legally park there (not something explained to me at Ponce De Leon Parking Authority).
Mike solved my problem without compromising his stance and the rights of the other party. What more could we ask of a student government?
Gunnar Heinrich is a visiting 3rd year Politics & International Relations major from the University of Aberdeen, King’s College in Scotland. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.