Mount Allison University was founded in 1839 in Sackville, New Brunswick, and from the universities formation, students have been at the heart of the institution. While student activities in early years were primarily academic, religious, and sports oriented, the establishment of the Eurhetorian Society in 1841 would formally mark the beginning of student political engagement at Mt. A. In 1862, the society hosted a debate on the southern states right to secede from the U.S. Union. The debate was a massive event leading to dozens of politically engaged students filling Lingley Hall.
This deep interest by Mount Allison students in political matters would eventually lead to the creation of the Mount Allison Students’ Union. In late 1908 and early 1909, a series of general meetings of the students in the Men’s Residence had resulted in the election of a student President and a small committee. In 1911, this basic form of student government would be legitimized upon it’s formal approval by the dean of residence Dr. Bigelow. This was an important moment in Canadian history, as it was the first time that any university in Canada put the governing of student affairs in the hands of the students themselves. Lew Buckley is recognized as the first President of the Student Council.
Over the next forty years, the student council would grow and become the Student Union upon the creation of a constitution in 1928. Initially characterized exclusively by male students, the MASU would represent all students on campus by 1936 and would add Class Officers, the Women’s Advisory Council, the Men’s Advisory Council and the Student Union Finance Committee as subsidiary governing bodies.
Concerns tackled by the Mount Allison Student Union throughout the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s focused on the issues of the time. In 1945, the MASU provided financial contributions to the war effort and introduced a Student Insurance Plan ensuring that all Mt. A students were covered in case of incident. During the depression period, the MASU began lobbying on student post-graduation unemployment; an issue the MASU continues to lobby on today via its involvement with the New Brunswick Students’ Alliance (NBSA) and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). It was also during this period that the MASU began to urge the administration to improve student space on campus.
By the 1950s, the Mount Allison Students’ Union had begun to solidify its place in the Mt. A community. In 1954, the first Students’ Representative Council was established to deal with governing matters of the Students’ Union. In 1957, it would begin to expand its services by offering a second hand bookstore and the first annual Winter Carnival. Additionally, it would lobby the provincial government to remove the 3% tax on textbooks.
The 1960s and 1970s marked an important time of change for the Mount Allison Students’ Union. Lobbying efforts towards the Administration by the governing body, now called the Students’ Administrative Council, had grown to include concerns over increasing residence fees, the lack of student input on faculty tenure decisions, improvements to student course evaluations, and cuts to varsity athletics. In 1966, the Union elected its first female Student Union President, Ieva Jessens, and in 1969, students gained the right to serve on the University Senate. Provincially, the union lobbied during this period for improvements to student financial aid and concerns surrounding reduced tuition financing.
In 1980, the Mount Allison Student’s Union became the organization it is known as today. In May of 1980, the MASU incorporated under the New Brunswick Companies Act and became a recognized membership based non-profit organization representing all full- and part-time students at Mount Allison University.
In the forty years since it’s official incorporation, the Mount Allison Students’ Union has rapidly expanded it’s services and lobbied on a variety of issues, including improved safety and security, health and dental insurance and student evaluations of teaching. While the union has changed in its mandate and composition over the years, its knowledge of student life and demands has allowed it to endure and foster an improved sense of community among Mount Allison students.
**All information used to draft this organizational history was pulled from the Student Union Archives, the Allisonian or John Reid’s “Mount Allison University History”.
All full list of past MASU Presidents can be found here.