BOD approves three projects, rejects one

The board of directors of Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union met on June 16 to pass three capital expenditures that were proposed and decline a fourth. In total the capital budget amounts to over $140,000 that could increase if and when the declined proposal is amended and brought back to the board.

Failed space

The first capital project presented to the board was to renovate the bar area of the Hawk’s Nest, located on the fourth floor of the Fred Nichols Campus Centre (FNCC), for office space for the campus clubs and faculty associations depart. Following much debate among the board about the $60,150 project, proposed by Codi Costello, vice president campus clubs and faculty associations for WLUSU, the motion to pass it failed, with only two of the 11 directors present voting in favour.

Commenting on why he voted against the project, Chris Oberle, a third-time director, said, “When you’re doing big money proposals you want to make sure you’ve consulted everyone that could be affected by it.”

“They made suggestions on Facebook and Twitter, but it didn’t seem that they made a really strong effort to talk to clubs about what they actually wanted,” added Oberle, reiterating criticisms that were raised at the meeting that not enough individual campus club members were contacted about the potential office space.

The office was designed to include a large meeting table with a television screen able to hook up to computers, a comfortable seating area, and a reception desk and computer. Costello did explain to the board that these items reflected recommendations from previous assistant-vice presidents that oversaw campus clubs.

“I wanted to see more resources that help campus clubs do their job better,” said first-time director Luke Dotto, who also noted that many board members have also had experience being members and presidents of both campus clubs and faculty associations and overall felt that new resources were not adequate to meet the needs of those groups.

“There’s already meeting space on campus, there’s already comfortable spaces on campus. I want to see actual resources in place, tools, utilities to allow them to reach out to students more, that allow them to run more effectively, to allow them to generate more funding,” said Dotto.

Looking at the results of capital expenditure meetings in recent years, it is rare for the board to decline a project. When asked why the board showed such caution in approaching the 2011-12 proposals, Oberle said that the current board has learned from past mistakes of projects going wrong.

“We don’t want to end up where we were last year and approve something that’s at this cost and all of a sudden it ends up being ballooned by almost 50 per cent of the original,” he said, referring to the Terrace expansion that went over budget.

“If the board doesn’t feel that it’s within the best interests of students then there’s dollars then we have to review that and think what is important for student dollars,” Oberle added.

While this projected will not be coming into fruition, both Oberle and Dotto were clear that they want a new proposal brought to the board to ensure that campus clubs will eventually get the space and resources they need.

WLUSU president Nick Gibson ensured that there will be a new proposal put together and for the interim, a temporary space will be put together. “We do have a few plans but it’s a really small scale it’s not a long term plan,” he said, highlighting the fact that Gibson and the management group still have a lot to plan in the weeks ahead to improve the proposal.

Improved services

For the items that did pass, two of the major projects will include a $40,000 upgrade of the union’s website and a new member services desk on the second floor of the FNCC. Foot Patrol was also granted funds to upgrade their radio system.

Speaking to what the new website will provide, communications and marketing manager Kat Lourenco said, “What’s really different is that the back end of the website will be a social networking portal.”

“They’d be able to go in there and create an account and sign up for clubs and event calendars and talk to other students through that if they chose to,” she added. This social network on the website will be an addition to the new front end that will have blog-style updates rather than the current news feed.

Lourenco, who will be gathering a team of volunteers to work with her, will ensure that new posts will be available frequently in order to have the website update more often than it is now. The website, which will launch in September, will be constantly transforming in the following months to also have sponsored content to provide students with local deals and discounts and allow the website to start paying for itself.

The member services desk, or U-Desk, is intended to help students access the services the union and university have to offer. With the Centre Sport becoming International News, items such as Greyhound and concert tickets and local transit information will be transferred to the U-Desk. The employees at the desk will also assist students with opting out of the union’s health and dental plan and provide general information about the university.

“It’s going to be offering a lot of new stuff as well,” Dotto noted. “Never before have we had partnership, I know there aren’t many international students but as a student from out of province myself, I don’t like always having to go buy a ticket online to fly back to Vancouver…. If I can buy it on campus, it saves me a lot of time and saves me a lot of headache, and it could also save me money.”

The U-Desk is scheduled to be ready for the fall term.