All in with the WLUSU presidential candidates

The Questions

1. Why did you choose this location as your favourite place on campus?

2. List one point of your platform, as well as one personal aspect, that sets you apart from other candidates.

3. What is one thing you think WLUSU does well, and one thing you would like to see improved?

4. A specific question, garanered towards each individual candidate.

Presidential candidate Annie Constantinescu. (Photo by Kate Turner).

Annie Constantinescu

1. The reason I chose Wilf’s was because, for me, it symbolizes a place on campus where a lot of people can come and kind of experience the Laurier community. For me, I absolutely love coming and taking either my students, because I’m a Res Life don, or I just come with friends to grab a meal and it’s just like a place where apart from academics it’s a place that we can just engage with what Laurier is — and also have some good food while we’re at it. So, it’s a very big part of my experience, because I come to Wilf’s at least once a week, and it’s ingrained in who I am and why I love this school.

2. One of the platform points I am a very big advocate for is a mobile app for students. I know that this is something that the Union has been trying to do in the past, but right now the marketing team has a task force trying to look into insuring that this mobile app will be feasible, and that it will incorporate a lot of the students, so my approach to it is trying to include as much of the student feedback because I do feel that through my experience at Laurier there’s a lot of things that I don’t know and that I wish I could engage with if that information was there. So, the mobile app; I want it to be a reflection of what the student’s opportunities on campus are.

Another thing that I’m really passionate about is my diversity and equity training portion, and that is because I really do believe that this school has a lot of opportunity to engage on the level that we associate with the school. So, you come to Laurier and everybody’s like, ‘everyone’s going to be really friendly’ and it’s a really inclusive environment, and I want to make sure that that does kind of carry through and we are all kind of accountable to that so that everyone does feels comfortable in the place that they call home. So the platform point essentially focuses on bringing diversity and equity, and training all of the Students’ Union staff and volunteers on how to have a comfortable environment, and one that doesn’t exactly exclude people or make them feel like they can’t engage. So those are the two things that I absolutely love and am passionate about.

3. So the one thing that I think the Students’ Union does well is that it does put a lot of effort into trying to advocate on behalf of students. So the effort is definitely there and I think that the best example is Michael Onabolu and his administration really doing a lot of work with mental health. I know that there’s a lot of task forces, outreach to external partners to bring in a focus to the students and also make it a topic that students feel comfortable talking about. So I absolutely love that there is a lot of administrative effort.

The one thing that I don’t necessarily like is that I don’t think it’s communicated properly, and that students aren’t really aware of what the administration is doing. And also that kind of ties into where their fees are going. So for me, personally, it’s only by applying to this presidential and doing all my background info that I’ve been able to gain so much insight into all these amazing things that the union’s doing, but the fact is that they’re not really communicating that to students properly, and at the end of the day if the student still doesn’t know that this is where their money is going, and that the union is actually representing them, the efforts are almost intangible on a student level because, again, we’re just very unaware.

4. With such a large platform, how are you reacting to any criticisms that you may not be able to fulfill all of your goals in a one-year term as president?
That’s a very fair question. For me, the reason that it is so extensive, even though it is extensive they really all correlate with one another. For me, a lot of it comes back to communication and it’s the knowledge of engaging students with the student body. So, for example, the partnership between WLUSP and the Students’ Union, it ties back to our communication point of we want the students to be engaged, we want these updates to happen. So, although it is rather extensive, the points more or less work with each other so that you’re not just accomplishing one thing at a time, it’s going to be something that, when we accomplish this one thing, it’s going to help these other things be a little easier to accomplish. So we have recognized it, but we do think that with collaborating and working with other people, that it is more or less very accomplishable.

Presidential candidate Caleb Okwubido. (Photo by Kate Turner).
Presidential candidate Caleb Okwubido. (Photo by Kate Turner).

Caleb Okwubido

1. For me the Concourse is a place where anytime I walk into this place I feel that sense of ‘whoa, I’ve arrived at Laurier.’ If I come on campus and I don’t come in here, I don’t feel as if I’ve come on Laurier, so it’s a very important space for me, it’s a space where you can see every student.

2. One point in my platform, and I want to hit on this is the collectivity, I’ll put it that way, of both campuses. Because it’s really important to me to see that we’re not just saying that we are the same Laurier. We’re supposed to carry that Laurier as one Laurier, even if we’re far away from each other, we’re still one campus. So, to me, this part of my platform is really important, and I will work hard for it.

One thing I would say, everyone has their own personality, but one thing that separates me, I’m very passionate about what I’m saying. I have personal experience with this job, so my passion for running is being I’m one of the few that just wants to run. For me, distinguishing the passion I have for this school and the love I have for the students around, which have shown me love, that’s why I decided to run. And that passion, I’ve pulled it into my platform and pulling it into my campaign too.

3. So for me to think about what WLUSU does well, it’s going to be really hard. I can’t really point out one thing. To be sincere with you, the students have lost faith in the governance. WLUSU is trying, but we need change, we need a change of the team and everyone. When we see the same faces, it gives out the same results. For me, that’s what I think.

I would like to work on one, the transparency and communication. Every year we complain about the same thing. Trying to have this kind of conversation with the student population, you have thousands of students here and I’ve only talked to some of them. That face-to-face communication, not just Facebook, I want to change that aspect of communication. If only a small percent of the population votes every year, then that’s a problem. That means the communication is not there, so I would like to improve that.

4. In your platform you mention student safety a lot, so if you are elected, how would you improve safety on campus?
It’s a very significant problem when I talk about safety. Two of us last semester, and the previous one, were robbed at gunpoint, and a girl was raped during the summer; I don’t want that kind of thing to keep up. I want to work with the regional police and Special Constables, and the police groups can come on campus and educate students on safety. And we too can work with the police to improve safe places, and how we’re going to make sure that events like this aren’t going to happen again. That’s what I want to do, basically working with the community to make sure that these places are safe. So when I talk about safety, it’s not just safety on campus, it’s on campus and off-campus, so every student can be safe.

Presidential candidate Dani Saad. (Photo by Cristina Rucchetta).
Presidential candidate Dani Saad. (Photo by Cristina Rucchetta).

Dani Saad

1. I did choose Willison because that’s where it all started, but the library, quite obviously it’s a big part of my platform. At least that first part in terms of study space, so just recognizing that and knowing that this is where I’m going to make some changes on behalf of the students, that’s important to me. And this is a very real place, this is where a lot of the dirty work happens. Sometimes it’s stress, sometimes it’s fun, a lot of group meetings happen here. I think it’s an undervalued place on campus, and I think that’s reflected a lot in the fact that it hasn’t really been talked about in this campaign season and that’s unfortunate.

2. In terms of a platform issue: the library, I think.  I haven’t seen anyone else as really discussing this as an issue, and I don’t know if that’s a lack of going out and seeing if the issue is there, or whether they just feel it isn’t important. I’ve been in talks with the university librarian a few times now, and just getting a sense of her passion for the future of this space is really refreshing to see, and I felt that was an issue that I really needed to pursue. When I convey my knowledge to students of this space they love the idea, and they’re really open to it, and they want to learn more and that’s fantastic. So, I feel like that is the one thing that really separates me.

In terms of just generally speaking, I don’t have any WLUSU experience, so that’s certainly the big one that everyone is most curious about and often concerned about and that’s totally fair. But I feel like I have a good understanding of the system, and I’ve spent the last couple of weeks meeting with all kinds of administrative staff. I’ve gotten to know some of the WLUSU staff, I’m meeting with some of the VPs and getting to know their relationship with the president and the students, and I think that’s important going in. But again, I think it’s healthy to bring in a fresh perspective and shake things up again, and again, when I talk to students they’re open to that and think it’s healthy.

3. I think that the Students’ Union does a lot of things really well. Their structure I think is fantastic, they do a lot of work for the school. In terms of caring about the students and advocating on behalf of the students I think they do that well; I think a lot of the criticism towards them is unwarranted too. And that’s part of being a student government, it’s not about the glory, but about seeing your results and hopefully it plays well.

In terms of what they don’t do well, they do a lot of things well, it’s just about improving on things. I think communication and approachability, making sure that students feel like their voices are being heard, and it’s a really vague kind of cliché statement, and I think it’s difficult to implement but you have to try; it’s not that hard to gauge what the issues are if you ask the right questions. It’s not always going to be about getting the vote or getting the answer you want to hear, it’s just talking and making that personal connection. In terms of approachability, one thing I’d like to do is move my office downstairs to the concourse once a week. The offices are very friendly if you go upstairs, but not everybody does that. The information is sometimes there, but it’s just physically, actually getting it out.

4. How are you reacting to criticism that you haven’t had at any previous WLUSU experience?
That is an issue I talk about with students because I’m very open with that and it’s not something I want to hide, and I have the upmost respect for Chris and Caleb, and it’s not about me saying their experience isn’t valid because it is, because it is and there’s no way I can compete with that on that level. There’s been some issues here at school, I’ve heard about Fall Reading Week, for an example for four years now. I’m in fourth-year and it was an issue when I came here and again, when you have a problem that can’t be solved or no issue is being created, you need to bring in a fresh set of eyes, bring in a new perspective. Bring in someone who understands the issue and has met with the right people, and I mean I have a great relationship with Ray Darling, the registrar and we were talking about Fall Reading Week. If it’s ‘no’ then why? And if it’s ‘yes’, then great. It’s just about coming to these ends so that we can definitively move forward. For me, it’s just about bringing a fresh perspective and shaking things up a bit.

Presidential candidate Jennifer Taborowski. (Photo by Kate Turner).
Presidential candidate Jennifer Taborowski. (Photo by Kate Turner).

Jennifer Taborowski

1. Originally when we were planning on meeting in Brantford, I was hoping to meet in the S. C. Johnson building. It’s a new building to the campus and it’s really pretty inside, and I love that there’s a fireplace, so to me it’s a nice, cozy spot on campus where you can meet and have discussions. And the staff kind of has fun with decorating the mantel for the seasons, so I think it’s just one of those really welcoming places to meet and chat.

I chose the Science Atrium here, it’s kind of become my new favourite spot on the Waterloo campus. I love how it’s open, very airy, and it seems to be a popular spot with students. And I love the trees; it’s sort of bringing the outdoors in, I like being outside, so to me it’s a very comforting spot, and it’s a great way to interact and talk to students. I’ve talked to a lot of students in here and it was a positive feedback, so it was a very nice environment to engage students with.

2. I think multi-campus governance is a big thing that has been initiated. Many have seen this, being a Brantford-based student as a downfall. Or they’re not sure how I, as a Brantford student can run successfully in the campaigning, but also run the Waterloo campus, but as I mentioned, I think it gives me an edge that other candidates cannot offer. I have that unique experience of working and being on both campuses. It’s never been my agenda or priority to further just the Brantford campus and those students, it was just a position to make sure that all students were being heard. So I feel like those experiences on both campuses give me that edge that other candidates don’t have.

I like to think that my passion, it’s my passion that drives everything that I do, it’s how I got involved. It was my passion to work with others and to help others, but it originally got me started within the union. And from that, I feel like those experiences have only grown, and I just love the potential to help other students succeed and to reach those goals that they may have individually, and doing it through the position of the president of the Students’ Union.

3. I’ll first address what I believe can be improved upon. I believe it is communication and the value that volunteers can sometimes feel is lacking. I think we have a lot of people that get involved because of their passion and drive, and wanting to be involved, but then sometimes they feel that they’re not being heard, and I think many students have feedback and input, especially those that volunteer almost at the front lines, I think they have the opportunity to see and be a part of things that, for example, I as the president would not have the opportunity to because I can’t be, unfortunately, everywhere at the same time. They have this feedback they want to share, but then it gets lost somewhere.

I think the Students’ Union is doing well on making the transition to multi-campus governance. We saw such changes happen on the board when the campus council was dissolved, however it was dissolved in hopes that the referendum question would be passed, allotting two seats saved for Brantford students and two seats for Waterloo students. I think that’s a fantastic step that the Students’ Union is doing well, as well as integrating the website, so it’s now all one and students can have access to information on both campuses. So, I think this is working well and it just needs to continue and greater steps can be done just to make sure that all students have information available to them, but then all feel involved and part of one organization.

4. How do you think having a president from the Brantford campus would affect WLUSU?
I don’t think much will change overall because I believe that the same things will continue to happen with any president in place. But I think it will definitely be a moral thing and will show trust. I think that students are always concerned or slightly worried about having someone from the Brantford campus, which is the smaller campus. But we’re all students; students have ultimately the same needs, and I’m here running for all students. But I think it shows a big leap of faith, and I think Brantford will take that well knowing that we’re not that smaller, little-kid brother campus. And for them I think it’s a giant leap of faith, and I think they also feel empowered, but I think too with Waterloo students, it’s showing that it doesn’t all matter — we’re all equal and on the same page, and we all have the same opportunities.

Presidential candidate Chris Walker. (Photo by Cristina Rucchetta).
Presidential candidate Chris Walker. (Photo by Cristina Rucchetta).

Chris Walker

1. I chose the concourse because it’s a hub of student activity, and it’s really a place where a lot of students connect and meet each other. There’s clubs, there’s associations that put up booths and engage with students, and it’s really an opportunity for community. I was talking to a couple Brantford students today and that’s really what they feel like they’re really missing on that campus, and I think that’s something that maybe Waterloo has a little more established just because the Concourse is a high traffic area where a lot of people go through and it’s a hub of community.

2. In terms of a platform, the thing that we’re really focusing on is student finances and affordability of education, more specifically around textbooks and day to day finances of students. We want to look at textbooks now and see what cost-savings we can work with the bookstore on. I talked to the director of system and retail services at the bookstore and it’s something that he’s very excited about pursuing. Working with them on that is going to be very exciting. Also, encouraging faculty to move more from textbooks to coursepacks, so in cases where you may have five or six textbooks in a course and you’re only using one or two chapters out of each textbook, we could condense that into a coursepack, which is significantly cheaper. The other thing we’re looking at is micro-loans for students. So $300 interest-free for ninety days, and that’s just a model where you would apply, we would give you the money to tie you over, and that at the end of the 90 days, you pay us back and if not we make a payment plan with you that is based around your finances at that time. So affordability is a thing that we’re really after because finances are tight for students and we want to be very cautious about that, and we also want to be spending the money students pay in student fees in the organization effectively, and we want to be accountable to those dollars.

From a more personal standpoint, what sets me apart from the other candidates is certainly my experience in the organization. I’ve really seen the organization from a lot of different angles, and I’ve developed an intimate knowledge of the way we operate, our partners on campus, our stakeholders in the community and at the provincial level and the federal level as well.

3. In terms of what we do well right now, I think our stakeholder relations and our relationships with our university is very good, and I fundamentally believe that we have one of the best relationships in the country, and that’s based on conversations with my colleagues at other institutions. So, that’s something that we do very well. We also have an immense volunteer culture, and we want to have effective mechanisms of recognizing volunteer achievement, and connecting volunteers with the value of what their volunteer role is, so identifying those transferrable skills and enhancing that volunteer experience.

Something to improve on in the Student’s Union, is how we monitor our businesses and our services. So there’s a number of different ways we can do that, so one of the things in the platform is a more open and responsive organization, and a very student-driven organization. That type of feedback and student-driven model, if we were able to achieve that, then we would become a more dynamic organization that caters to the needs of students.

4. After holding so many positions within WLUSU, why have you chosen to run for the position of president and CEO?
The president is the top job in the Students’ Union, and I’ve had a lot of other opportunities to focus on specific areas in the organization and within the school, but president is really an opportunity to take a leadership and drive that strategy moving forward. To take the next step and to build on successes that I’ve already been had in my previous and current roles, I need the promotion to be able to get it done and to be able to drive that strategy forward. There’s a lot of more internal things I think we could be doing better within the Students’ Union, and I like and am really attracted to the challenge that exists within post-secondary education and there’s always opportunities to do new things.

Hear what the candidates have to say on some key issues in our interactive video below.
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Annie Constantinescu Caleb Okwubido Daniel Saad Jennifer Taborowski Chris Walker
About Me About Me About Me About Me About Me
Mental Health Mental Health Mental Health Mental Health Mental Health
Study Space Study Space Study Space Study Space Study Space
Student Outreach Student Outreach Student Outreach Student Outreach Student Outreach
Multi-Campus Governance Multi-Campus Governance Multi-Campus Governance Multi-Campus Governance Multi-Campus Governance
Food Services Food Services Food Services Food Services Food Services

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