2019 Students’ Union President and CEO candidate interviews

ZEMAR HAKIM

ZEMAR HAKIM

IBRAHIM MUSA

TALHA NAEEM

KLAUDIA WOJTANOWSKI

Q1: How/when/why did you decide to run for Students' Union President?

I was very involved in the Students’ Union and I was just doing it for fun obviously, for the joy of making new friends, having a good time and for my passions, and then people started to tell me ‘You might have the resume for this job’, and last year, about a year ago, people a year younger than me started talking about me running, and I didn’t think that I would, and then I talked to my manager about a year ago, so it would be in November I talked to my manager, and we’ve basically been working on the platform and campaign since.

I initially started to think about it a couple months ago. My friends actually just brought it up, I assume jokingly, but then later I guess they became a little bit more serious and then they’re like ‘you stand for a lot of the things that students stand for, a lot of students can relate to you,’ so I was like ‘hmm, maybe’ and I started to see a lot of the things they said in reality. And so that kind of gave me that motivation to take the initiative to go for it.

Throughout my engagement at Laurier, I felt at the end of my education I am a transformed personality. I have learned a lot from my peers, my mentors and I’ve contributed to build the Laurier community. That has inspired me to now step forward and take this initiative of being the President and continuing to serve the student body. It happened naturally -- I cannot think of a moment, but this was a collection of lovely moments that helped achieve that idea and deliver to students my platform which resembles their needs.

I’ve always had an interest in leading the student body in some way, shape or form, and it’s something that I’ve done my whole entire time here at university, you know I started off in Bricker, which is a residence, so that’s 250 people, and then going forward with the Board of Directors there’s undergraduate students, across two campuses, and then continuing on that path with the Board of Governors at a higher level, presenting students and being their voice, now having the opportunity to run for Students’ Union president just that on its own is really amazing. I really finalized my decision this summer, it was a lot of reflection and thought, and making sure that I was making the right choice for the right reasons, and that it was something that I knew I would be the best person for the role because I always have the best interests of students at heart, and that includes who should be their Students’ Union president because it affects a lot of students in ways that maybe they don’t even recognize yet. So that’s the why, I guess, the how, and the when, and the how really was having those conversations with so many people; past presidents, people that had considered for the role and then maybe went backwards, that really was one of the things I thought long and hard about.

Q2: If elected, how are you going to advocate for students on both campuses?

So my entire platform is multi-campus, all the initiatives and mandates in that are for the Brantford and Waterloo campus. There’s an external section which is through the university lens, so these are your 24-hour student building access that I’ve provided, smoothie bars in the athletic complex here, and in either the YMCA in Brantford or if they are continuing putting gym equipment in the Wilks House Gym. So that’s all external, and then internally, because the Students’ Union is multi-campus, all the platform points within the departments of programming & services, financial administration, university affairs and clubs would fit on both campuses as well.

As President, you do stand for the students -- you’re the voice of the students -- I’d like to think of it as ‘the students have a voice and you are going to be the megaphone in which the students can be heard from.’ So in my opinion, the only way that can actually happen is if the students are talked to in person. Social media is fine and all, but that connection you make with students in person is completely different; and I don’t mean in groups, I mean one-on-one conversations.

If I am the President, I will put forward the initiative of multi-campus. I have taken classes on both campuses, done volunteer work on both campuses and done paid position work on both campuses. That has enabled me and given me enough knowledge of both campuses to build a platform which is multi-campus and have a multi-campus approach when I go to my position. I will be working on multi-campus transportation to connect campuses, I’ll be having equal services on each campus and still have the flexibility to resemble each other’s need.

I think that’s an excellent question. I think that a lot of people look at the Students’ Union, look at Laurier, and think Waterloo and Brantford. The cool thing about the Students’ Union is it’s 18,000 undergraduate students across two campuses. There is nothing, really, that should dictate that we are separating things at all. When you’re the Students’ Union president, you’re focussing on both campuses at all times, and I think that most of my platform is multi-campus. It’s really important though to focus on that equity piece, right? Because Brantford students have different needs, and Waterloo students have different needs in certain areas. So, we need to hone in on those as well, you know, I think being multi-campus is absolutely phenomenal, and it gives us an opportunity to so many wide arrays of programs and opportunities to really expand our reach, and my goal as the Students’ Union president would be to continue that process, and you know integrate where it’s necessary and where it’s important, and making sure that every student feels the way that they should as a student in university, that they have that same access to support, to resources, so multi-campus? Absolutely, but let’s also focus on the things that are Brantford specific, and the things that are Waterloo specific. So, advocating for those students no matter where they come from, no matter what year they’re from, or even if they aren’t at Laurier yet. What are those students looking for in their future campuses?

Q3: Can you critique one aspect of the current President’s performance?

I think that he’s been very transparent, but I do think accessibility is a big one. So, when he’s not in the office I don’t see him on campus a lot, whereas with other presidents in my first and second - and third - year, I kind of saw them walking around the concourse, science atrium, or Brantford. That’s my critique I guess.

The current President’s performance -- don’t get me wrong, he’s been an amazing guy, obviously my other opponents have mentioned how he has checklist stuff, he’s fairly active on campus, but I feel as though students would want to see a little bit more of their President’s presence on campus, in physical form, whether it’d be in Brantford or Waterloo.

The current President, Tarique Plummer, had a very elaborate platform and that was a very courageous platform to put forward and he has been working really hard to accomplish that. Some of those initiatives are longer term, in terms of two or three years or maybe beyond that -- and I have yet to see a structured plan to accomplish that over two to three years. I’m not sure, it’s only a half-year, there’s still four more months to go, so I’m really waiting for him to give something out to students about that.

This is a question that I got at the open forum, and I’m going to stick with that answer to be honest, because I think that Tarique has done an excellent job, or president Plummer has done an excellent job, of bringing some really cool initiatives to the forefront. Um, The Perch is one of those initiatives that, you know, has really changed the way that clubs interact, not just with themselves or within each other, but also to the external community. Students think that it’s awesome, and I think so too. There’s still glitches and things like that need working out that they’re working forward to fix as a students’ union, I know that for sure, I think one of the things that I could critique is just the execution of some of those plans, you know the real follow-through at the end of the day, with different ideas on his platform that it really wasn’t there, and maybe it wasn’t there from the beginning, or somewhere along the way it got lost, um, so, that’s definitely one of the things I would critique like I mentioned, he still has four months, so he has a lot of ways that he can turn that around and fix that. I’m happy to provide that critique because I’ve spoken with him one-on-one also, and he’s very happy to take that into his advice and be like, “Well let’s see what we can change”, and you know maybe hopefully I’ll be the one to help him along those last three months as we transition.

Q4: Why do you feel you’re the best candidate for this position?

I think I’m the best candidate for this job because I’m very informed in the Students’ Union, and I’ve been involved in pretty much every department; I’ve been a VP of clubs, I learned the hiring and recruitment process through being a coordinator of the university affairs department, and the programming and services department, and I’ve been on the board so I know policy.

I feel as though many students can relate to me -- I’m not overly active throughout the school, I can’t say that, but nor am I just focussed on my studies. I have found this perfect balance, where I can balance my work life, my social life, my academic life and my volunteering all inside the walls of Laurier and beyond -- and I feel that many students can relate to that and being relatable is very, very important.

In my Laurier career, I have more than 20 co-curricular recognitions on my record and I have volunteered on both campuses. I have served Students’ Union as chair of the board and CGO and also the chair of elections and also served as a director on the board within the volunteer positions as well. This makes me uniquely qualified and have the vision of both campuses and makes me uniquely qualified in a way that I have this qualification to serve the students and once I go to the office to serve the students, I have that connection with the students. I have volunteered not only for Students’ Union but every single department on campus -- I already have those connections built and I know what are the needs of our diverse campus and what are the needs of our student body with the wealth of organizational information and knowledge that I gained from my work within Students’ Union.

You know what, I am the best candidate for this job, and the reason why is first and foremost, yes, you’re representing the voice of the students, it’s something that I’ve done across the board. No one can say that I’m not outspoken, I have 100% advocated for students and not been shy about what students’ opinions are, and what they should do, and where the students’ union really fits into that, and where undergraduate students fit into that. I’m the undergraduate rep on the board of governors, there’s only two, there’s 50 people there, and they’re all adults, academics, people in executive positions at the university. I’ve had no problem raising my hand at those meetings and advocating for students’ needs. Recently you got an email about the strategic plan, students got an email about the strategic plan, and the outreach towards undergraduate students, I’m happy to say I was the one that asked the question at the last board of governors meeting when we were saying hey, what are we doing, how are we reaching out to stakeholders, and I didn’t hear anything about undergraduate students. So, I raised my hand and I said, what’s the outreach going to be like? How are students going to contribute to the strategic plan? I think that definitely this was part of the university’s plan all along, to involve students, but I think really brining that to the forefront, it made it a priority on their agenda, and that’s what it’s all about. Taking the time to then say, “Hey, you know what, this is a priority, this is what students want.” So, can we do it? Can we provide those opportunities for them? I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m most qualified, I have a ton of management experience, I was on the board of directors for the Students’ Union, I’ve sat down with so many people within the Students’ Union as well as outside of the Students’ Union. I’m a fresh face, you know, I haven’t been very involved in the extra-curricular activities in regard to the Students’ Union, but I’ve been able to have my pocket in things like residence life for two years, I’ve worked with so many students in my time there, and I just want to continue to represent them. I think that I’ve done a really good job representing them, this whole time that I’ve been in the university, and at Laurier, but if there’s one thing I would just love to continue to do is that for at least one more year at full scale, whatever I can to help them out.

Q5: How have your past experiences at Laurier prepared you for running for SU President?

I think my past experiences have helped me, knowing the fulfilment and joy that there is to get involved on this campus, and through that passion I met so many people, that are help bringing this campaign to life right now.

Past experiences at Laurier would include things as simple as just being in class. For example, when we had clicker questions: sometimes there would be something that happened -- it wouldn’t have posted the right answer, so the entire class would get it wrong and I just put my hand up and [would] speak out on behalf of the class, whereas everyone else was just silent and was going to take a few marks off. So just standing up for students on simple occasions like that speaks quite a lot. Working with the [AM Student’s Association?], we’ve had charitable organizations where we help them out, fundraise a bit, for natural disasters around the world, for helping out orphanages around the world. Things like that, students kind of have a soft heart for and they admire that kind of stuff, so I feel that’s why.

I have worked for all departments at Laurier: I have worked for the Diversity & Equity Office, Laurier International, Students’ Union, Dean’s Office -- and I have worked with all the campus partners in terms of my volunteer record. This gives me a holistic vision and also I have served the Students’ Union in different capacities. Currently, I’m in AVP of Finance and Administration, which gives me a wealth of knowledge, informs me about the issues and prepares me ahead of time to expect what will be expected of me as a President and make myself so ready for the position when I’m there. I feel like I’m already transitioned in and ready to go today as a President.

I’ve ran for elections twice before, so I ran when I was running for the board of directors, that’s when I was running in my second year, and I ran for board of governors for my third year, and so this is my third rodeo. I definitely have had that help me in general because I know the processes, I know the policies, they’ve changed a little bit over the years, but that was definitely a huge help on my side. The other thing that’s really helped me prepare is honestly students. I sat down with 40+ students to determine my platform. I’m going to be very completely honest and say that every single point on my platform was something that undergraduate students developed. That I then brought to the next person I sat down with and was like, “Can you think of anything to expand on? Do you have any other ideas to contribute?” Every single student had so many great things to say. Some of those things aren’t even on my platform, because I just didn’t see that they were feasible, or something that I knew the Students’ Union wouldn’t be able to take control of, or in general just a little bit out there. I know it’s important to have their voice, and be able to know that someone is listening to them. To give them honest feedback, and let them know why something is or isn’t feasible. They were the ones that prepared me, because they questioned every single part of my platform. My team had no problem not being shy about asking and being like, “Why are you doing this? How are you going to do that?” With that being said, that totally changed how I looked at certain parts of my platform. My platform evolved extremely over two months. We started from things that now I could never think of doing because I realised they’re not what students want versus what students need. Those students definitely had a huge, huge impact on developing that platform, questioning me on my platform, but also really driving my passion, and made me realise how many issues aren’t represented on this campus, and how many simple and practical things that we can bring to the forefront, if we just take the time to listen to students and listen to their ideas, it just once again reignited that in me and that’s why I love elections season.

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