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A Sit Down with Class of 2020 President Ben Fickling

Editor-in-chief Ethan Gordon interviews the new the 1L Class President

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Last week, the Class of 2020 held the first student elections of the year, and among the winners was Presidential candidate Ben Fickling.  Campaigning on a platform of responsibility and accessibility, Ben brings experience in student government to Queen’s Law.  Our Co-Editor-in-Chief Ethan Gordon sat down with Fickling to get some more information about one of QL’s newest elected representatives.

EG: So Ben, tell me about yourself.

BF: Well, I did my undergrad at U of T in International Relations and Ethics, Society, and Law at Trinity College. I did varsity rowing for about four years, and stopped to have a little bit of a break, (and some sleep).

I was also involved in the association of Political Science students at the executive level, and was the the President of the Ethics, Society, and Law students association, while also being on a bunch of model UN boards prior to that.

EG: What originally sparked your interest in student government?

Mainly, I wanted to diversify. I had been a prefect in High School, but that was more informal and in a mentorship role. I wanted to give back to the community, as well as the people I looked up to, and wanted to do more for people below me and pay it forward.  Student government is great for that purpose, as involving yourself academically and socially really enhances the learning.  University and Law by extension isn’t just about academics, it is more about the people you meet.  You’ll likely forget half of what you learn in school…

EG: Probably more than half…

BF: *Laughs* I was being generous, but seriously, it is more about the experiences you have.  The most  growth I experienced in University was out of the classroom, and it is what I enjoyed the most.

EG: What challenges did you face during your first run in student government?

BF: One challenge in general is marketing, whether it be for myself (I am a pretty private guy), but also for events that I may organize.  As you go up the academic totem pole it can get difficult to justify going out for events when you have studying, papers etc, so one of the things I tried tackled was getting people to come out more to events.  This includes making people interested in your events, while seeing what people are actually passionate about.  I’m a big photographer and liked looked at things like ethics of photography in war and conflict, and I tried to organize events that highlighted these ideas, while also finding what the focus should be for a wider audience.  This year my audience is 1Ls, and I have to figure out what issues they want brought up, and what they want from the 1L President.

EG: What was your personal journey to Law School?

BF: I originally wanted to be a diplomat. My grandfather was in the airline industry during the Cold War, and was in Moscow as an “unofficial diplomat” for India.  During that time, he had met Yuri Gagarin (Russian cosmonaut), as well as Jawaharlal Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India) and would actually organize parties for various international figures.  His story made me interested in how countries and people conduct business at the state level, and how their religious and political beliefs empower those decisions. This interest moved to legal norms like the R2P (the Responsibility to Protect commitment), and other ideas built on very philosophical concepts of state power.  I found that the law has a huge hand in that, especially on protecting human rights, and while some may say international human rights laws are theoretical and do not exist, it pushed me to pivot from IR to the law.

EG: What made you choose Queen’s?

BF: I really like the community at Queen’s. U of T was a commuter school and I felt like some of the friendships I had were only on campus, then everyone would go back to their homes, which was a big shock from High School where there was an expectation you would see your friends after school and have strong relationships that way. I definitely wanted that back.  I like a smaller environment where your presence is more felt, and where you have your own personal value more on display.  I had spoke to enough Queen’s people and they really pushed that.  I actually came to Queen’s to look at undergrad and decided it against it because it was too small, and as someone who loves to walk around I felt like I could cover the entire town in a few hours!  But it’s funny, all those negatives turned to benefits later on when I changed what I valued in a school.

EG: When you got to Queen’s, did you know you wanted to run for student government?

BF: Not necessarily, there was a concern about the amount of work I was going to have, and I had to see what I could fit on my plate early on.  I always loved student government, and after talking to last year’s 1L President Liam it made me think I should definitely throw my hat in the ring.

EG: A Month into 1L and you are the president of your class, do you find you have a better handle of QL?

BF: I’m learning every day, and that has benefits as a student as well as a President. I’m in the same camp as the rest of my cohort but I do feel differently.  I used to spend every day in the LC (partially because I didn’t have a desk), but I stayed late every day and repeated that over a few weeks. I soon realized that was unsustainable.  I realized that I didn’t have to do that, even though I love the law, and I realized I could handle school differently and find ways to study efficiently while having more time for other interests.

EG: I’ve heard a lot of new students already being very stressed about school and feeling like they are working too hard.  Is trying to push a more well-balanced lifestyle something you would try to advocate for as President?

BF: Most definitely.  If you look at statistics, people who work out for example will be more academically inclined, my teammates in varsity rowing knew what their schedule had to be and how to be efficient, and it helped at deciding what was important and to not procrastinate.  You had to learn how to “learn better”.  It’s hard at the start when you have blinders on, and looking at law which is just so foreign, and the instinctual response is to devote more time to it and spend hours and hours at a time, but it’s not just how many hours in one sitting you put at it, it’s based on work over a period of time and invaluable experience from sitting down with upper years and your peers.

EG: What’s the number one thing you want to do as President?

BF: I have a number of things I want to do, but my #1 goal is to organize a big Med-Law social.  Many schools do this, and it comes from my experience in undergrad.  Multi-departmental events actually bring more interest and more variety, and at our first LSS meeting I broached it with Emily (our LSS President), and it would be a clear goal of mine.

EG: Is there one thing Queen’s Law has to change?

BF: Hard question, but actually the LSS meeting had a lot of discussion surrounding the coffee issue, and it is something I think we can work on! We on the committee think it definitely needs to happen.  We’re not sure about the details, but maybe implementing a vending machine that dispenses coffee, which may solve the issue of someone trying to steal a coffee maker, while also simplifying the cleaning and maintenance. It’s actually a contentious issue, not because people don’t like coffee, but because people don’t like dealing with all the ramifications of enacting change.  I’m a tea drinker personally, so for me it’s not a huge issue, but I know how many people care about it, and it does show you how tricky something small can be for student government.

EG: Finally, what do you have to do to be a good 1L President?

BF: I definitely have to be accountable, and deliver on my platform promises, while not getting overwhelmed by 1L and just doing the bare minimum of satisfying the job requirements. I really have to deliver on these to make sure I meet my own expectations, but the key is meeting it for the students I am representing.

Ethan Gordon is a 3L and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Juris Diction

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