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June 19, 2014

What Does the Rector Even Do?

I've decided that it might be prudent to answer the age-old question at the beginning of my term that many have been asking for years:

"What does the Rector even do?"

"How do you Rector?"

Pictured above is the Rector patent letter. This is the document that instituted and recognized the Office of the Rector as the official 3rd officer of the University after the Chancellor and Principal. Our first Rector, The Reverend S.W. Dyde, took office in 1913. The tradition of Rectorship is one of the ways in which Queen's showcases its ties to its Scottish roots. There are 4 other University Rectors in the world (that this office knows of - one of them is actually Edward Snowden), and each of these Rectors is in a Scottish University. In fact, not only is the position of a student Rector unique to Queen's in Canada, but Queen's is the only university in the world that elects a student to this position. This is an incredible distinction that reflects the spirit of student engagement and passion for service - a spirit that differentiates Queen's from other institutions.

Now that our brief history lesson has concluded, I will try and explain what exactly it is that I do on a day-to-day basis. There are essentially 3 parts of the job that make up what the Rector does. The Rector does not have any formal commitments to take part in any Orientation Week events aside from welcoming students, but it has become a priority to become more involved in the welcoming of new students. Though I can outline the commitments I have, and while I can plan to do certain things with my time, what I do over the course of a week is largely dictated by what students come to me with. If a student comes into the office on a Monday morning with a new initiative that they need help with, that might be what I spend my week doing. That being said, here are the 3 main more 'formal' parts of the job:


The Rector is elected by the students to represent them in a number of different capacities. First and perhaps foremost, the Rector is a full voting member of the Board of Trustees. The Board is the highest governing body at Queen's and is responsible for all of the financial decisions at Queen's, as well as for overseeing our strategic and long-term planning. Along with the Undergraduate Student Trustee (Andrew Aulthouse) and the Graduate Student Trustee (James MacLeod), I am tasked with representing the student voice in the midst of making major decisions affecting the short and long-term operations of the university. The Rector sits on the Governance and Nominating, Audit and Risk, External Relations and Development, and Capital Assets and Finance Committees of the Board. Additionally, the Rector gives an address at the open session on the Friday night of a Board weekend. Being a trustee is a privilege and a large responsibility. If you ever have any questions about the Board, how it works, or something you'd like to be taken to the Board, please don't hesitate to get in contact with me at any time, or reach out to the student trustee who represents you.

More generally, the Rector represents students to the administration through an ongoing working relationship with the Principal, Provost, Vice-Principals, and other university staff and faculty. In addition to any meetings that arise due to particular issues that come up at different junctures, the Rector has monthly meetings with the Principal and the Provost, while meeting periodically with the other VPs and other university staff. The Rector represents the students to the University, while also representing the University to the students. In that sense, the Rector is uniquely positioned and wears two hats. The Rector also sits on various advisement, planning, and (re)appointment (for Principals and VPs) committees by request over the course of their term. The Rector sits ex-officio on the AMS and SGPS assemblies, giving reports to both bodies and gathering feedback on various issues to be taken to the Board and administration. The Rector is also an observer on the University Senate and a member of various Senate committees, such as the committee on Non-Academic Discipline (SONAD) and the Board-Senate Retreat Planning Committee. The Senate is the other major governing body at Queen's (in tandem with the Board) which focuses predominantly on formal academic programs/requirements, the broader learning environment, and various aspects of student life including student discipline.

The last main way in which the Rector represents students is in the role of an Ombudsperson. Students can take complaints and grievances that pertain to anything at Queen's to the Office of the Rector with the potential of the Rector representing those students at hearings and in more official, formal capacities. Though not a formal 'Ombudsperson' or a certified legal aid, I can provide you with support, resources, and representation with issues that may arise over the course of your time at Queen's. If I can't properly help you or don't feel I am the best person to help you, I will make sure you are directed to the right place.

Resources & Support

The second part of this job involves being a resource for Queen's students. No matter what you might need, come see me or get in contact with me and I will make sure you get the help you need. With records and binders about various Queen's issues dating back for decades, the institutional knowledge that this office contains is a resource that should be used by Queen's students whenever they have questions. As it says on the sign outside of the office, it doesn't matter whether you need directions, guidance, or a hug, the Office of the Rector is committed to being a support and resource for you. It is not necessarily the job of the Rector to know everything about everything that goes on at Queen's, but it absolutely is my job to find the answers to all of your questions, to point you in the right direction, and to keep in contact with you as you work through any issue, even if I am not handling the matter directly. It is a priority of this office to work with the AMS, faculty societies, and the Residence Society to better the student experience. Thus, it is important for me to support these bodies and their members in any way I can. Bringing the AMS and SGPS together, and being a resource for both bodies, is an important part of this job due to the fact that the Rector represents undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

One aspect of this part of the job that I'd like to increase awareness about is that the office is available to any student, with any issue, for confidential personal support. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, a relationship, your housemates, a professor, etc., please know that you can come into the office at any time and receive support that is 100% confidential. Sometimes students just need someone to listen. The Rector is not, in any way, a mental health or counselling professional. That being said, I will listen to any issue you have (no issue is too big or too small to talk about), provide you with immediate/ongoing support, and make sure you get in contact with the right people for more formal/professional support when necessary and appropriate. I am truly dedicated to making sure your Queen's experience is everything it can be and to doing everything I can to help you through the bumps along the way. With all of this in mind, a considerable portion of my time is spent meeting with students who drop into the office to chat. You can set up a meeting if you'd like to speak to me, but you can also just drop in at any time if I am around. Flag me down on campus if you see me!

Ceremonial Duties

There are some formal ceremonial duties that the Rector is responsible for as well. The most notable, of course, is the Rector's involvement with convocation ceremonies. Pictured above is the first formal installation of the Rector at the first convocation ceremony I took part in. At each graduation, the Rector sits on stage next to the Chancellor and Principal, addresses the convocation, and shakes the hands of graduates after they are hooded and cross the stage. Additionally, the Rector meets, welcomes, and poses for photos with honourary degree recipients, and also meets and greets guest speakers who are attending that day's ceremonies. With 21 ceremonies this past Spring, it is certainly a considerable time commitment while they last, but they are arguably the most enjoyable part of the job. It's an honour to share in the joy of a monumental accomplishment of finishing a Queen's degree with each and every graduate. Doesn't hurt that the robes are super-duper.

The Rector also confers the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award, which is awarded annually to Queen's students who have made incredible contributions to the Queen's and Kingston community. The award is chosen by a selection committee which consists of one individual from each faculty society at Queen's and is chaired by the Rector. The awards are presented to recipients at their convocation ceremony after they are honoured at a Tricolour Award Reception event earlier in the year featuring past winners, family, and friends.

Outside of convocation ceremonial duties, the Rector attends various galas and events throughout the year to honour various members of the Queen's community. Additionally, in some cases, the Rector represents Queen's and welcomes individuals who might be visiting. Often at Queen's events, the Rector will be piped in with notable guests in a formal procession before it begins. Occasionally, like at the Tricolour Guard Dinner celebrating 50+ year alumni during Homecoming Weekend, the Rector will be asked to make toasts at formal events to pay tribute to various members of the Queen's community. Lastly, every time there is a new Principal or Chancellor installed at a university in Canada, greetings are sent from Queen's to that school and their new leader. These greetings are signed by the Chancellor, Principal, and Rector.

So this is what a Rector does.

I hope this helps you understand the job of the Rector and how you might be able to utilize the office to its fullest potential during your time at Queen's. The term for the position is 2-3 years, so I am just getting started and am here for the long-haul. I cannot wait to dedicate my time to you all.

As always, let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns.

Princeps Servusque Es,

Mike Young