Originally Published April 22, 2012 in The Eastern Echo
For leaders of all types, leaving a positive legacy is important. For Eastern Michigan University Student Body President Jelani McGadney, his legacy has yet to be determined. With past accomplishments overshadowed by current tasks, even McGadney hasn’t had a moment to reflect.
“Jeff and I both have the same problem where stuff will happen and then we’ll say ‘oh, that was great,’ and then we’ll forget about it. Now, I’m sort of coming back to [them],” McGadney said.
He did have a few personal highlights from his term, which included the digitization of Learning Beyond the Classroom credit and academic advising, and providing students tools to map out their matriculation at EMU.
“The crux of a lot of problems that students have at Eastern is academic advising. Working for six months and finding out that what we wanted to achieve was possible and that it was being implemented. That was very exciting for me because to me it proved – and this is going to sound cliché – that anything is possible,” he said.
It’s not an accomplishment, but one of McGadney’s favorite parts of the job was being able to attend events and meet people.
“I always really enjoyed reconnecting with students and learning who there were. We have a dynamic student body and for me to do this job, I have to keep up with that,” he said.
Although his presidency has been one full of highs, there are several moments that McGadney admits were not everything he wanted them to be.
“My goal this year was to lead an organization that was going to be very united,” he said, and then paused for a moment.
“Even though people don’t sometimes like to see it this way, student politics is still politics,” he said. “That pull for power, even on a student level, is very strong.”
He continued, “That was tough for me. Not necessarily having to do the politics, because that was something that I was capable of doing. But it wasn’t pleasant having to go through it.”
Not being able to unify Student Government was just one of his regrets. He also laments not being able to fulfill one of his largest campaign promises.
“The one thing that I had campaigned hard on was getting bus passes for students,” he said. “And we achieved that, depending on how you measure your achievement.”
McGadney then pointed to the discounted Ann Arbor Transit Authority passes available to EMU students.
“One might say ‘Well yeah, you were successful. You got bus passes here.’ And I would say ‘Well, we were partially successful,’ ” he said. “What I wanted is that we would have bus passes for every student to travel through the Ypsi/Arbor area freely.”
Given all the various highs and lows of the McGadney presidency, one may wonder just how the man himself feels about his performance over all.
“I would give my vice president a 4.0. I say that because he’s probably the hardest working person that I know,” he said. “When it comes to myself, I can honestly say that I don’t know. That one I leave up for other people’s judgment.”
He continued, “I would love to wake up and know that I was awesome and I did everything that I planned to do and that I will go down in history as the greatest Student Body President ever. But there’s a reality, which is you come in to work. You have good days, you have bad days.”
“I leave that up for the people to decide and I hope that if I did a good job that people will remember that and
expect that from their president. If I didn’t do a good job, I hope my successors don’t repeat that,” he said.
Although he’s reserving judgment on his own performance, he was decidedly clear on what he wanted his legacy to be.
“I hope that I’m remembered, and this year is remembered, as a time when student had a strong voice. I hope that that is continued and that students continue to push the university to make sure that they are part of the decision making process,” he said.
“A university cannot exist, without students. There’s no point to a university, without students. Because of that, we need to be the driving force of what happens on this campus. I hope that this term and my legacy is seen as a place where that has really started.”
He concluded, “Even though in a few years, they’re not going to remember my name, they’re not going to remember that Jeff and Jelani ever existed except for a few etches on the plaque on the wall, but I hope that that attitude continues.”