Brantford students dissatisfied with structural change

Tensions were high at Friday’s Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) board of directors meeting, as approximately 50 Laurier Brantford students came to ensure that new restructuring of the multi-campus governance framework for the 2012-13 year did not go into effect.

However, the first phase of the model, which would create two new vice president (VP) positions on each campus, was endorsed by the board from a vote of 5-4.

“We only found out about this two days ago,” said director Jonathon Collaton, who voted and spoke against the endorsement.

The students in the room, who were mainly from Brantford, seemed to express a strong disapproval for the new framework.

“I’m personally here because I was on Nick’s Brantford campaign team,” said Angela Hoornaert, a fourth-year Brantford student, noting that Gibson went against his platform. “I feel like Brantford is losing it’s voice, it’s losing representation, it’s losing influence. We shouldn’t have to go to Waterloo to have a decision made in accordance to our student body.”

Nick Savage, the external affairs coordinator of Brantford WLUSU, echoed her statements.

“First and foremost, I think that the fact that we came up and the fact that 50 Brantford students voiced their opinion is phenomenal,” explained Savage. “I am disappointed with the board’s decision. I do think that this structure is rash, I do think that if president Gibson wants to make an actual organizational change, he’s got to think bottom-up rather than top-down.”

The two new positions that are to be created will be VP:campus experience, where each campus will have their own representative. However, some guests, as some spoke about in the room, were afraid of a potential conflict of interest with the creation of the position, especially if someone from the board wants to run for it.

One of the other main concerns had to do with consultation, especially with those from Brantford.

“It’s totally fair that students are concerned about this,” said Nick Gibson, president and CEO of WLUSU. “For too long we’ve had a support model for the Brantford campus in particular — but I would argue both campuses — that is not adequately meeting the needs of those students.”

Asserting that WLUSU will now have to be “creative” in its decision making, Gibson added, “All we have today is that direction. We have direction, not finality. We have work and consultation to do.”

He noted that this consultation will not give definite answers, but will largely have an influence on the final decision.

“There’s so much uncertainty. And that’s absolutely fair,” he said.

The dissent was not only evident in the board room, but also online, as a Facebook group has been created. As of Friday, there were about 500 members in the group.

“It’s very inconvenient and convenient at the same time to time this during the election,” said Brantford Campus Councillor Cameron McGregor. “With many board members unable to vote and others not present, it reduced the number of people able to voice their opinions and vote on the subject.”

As Gibson mentioned, the final decisions for this new structure is nowhere near completion, but this issue appears to be nothing new to WLUSU multi-campus decision making.

“We’re going to see this in another 12 months, there will be a group that comes forward saying that there’s too much pressure on the VPs and we need to split the roles back in half,” said Collaton. “I mean, one of the things that Nick Savage said as well, he pointed out that the BOD last year voted against it. I was on that board.”

“There’s not much else to say.”

Check out this Wednesday’s issue of The Cord for more on this story.

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