‘Hail to the chief’
Like many student leaders, Colin Le Fevre, Nick Gibson and Kyle Walker were all compelled to run largely due to change that they wanted to see within the union and believed they were qualified to make those changes.
2008-09 president Le Fevre, who had sat on the WLUSU board of directors in previous years, had a vision of a more united Laurier student body. “There was a lot of potential being missed,” he told The Cord. “The biggest thing was more of an outreach outside of the typical ‘union people’ — more interest in the people who weren’t exactly typical volunteers. Outreach to ResLife and WLUSP. There were just a lot of bridges that needed to be built between different organizations that hadn’t been built at that point in time.”
For Le Fevre, confidence in his past WLUSU experience reinforced his decision to run.
But for 2010-11 president Kyle Walker, he relied more on instincts. “There’s no particular academic background you need for this sort of thing,” he said. “I mean, I have a BA in geography.”
Having little experience in the union and focusing more of his energy into donning for Residence Life, Walker knew that it was his personal qualities that would give him an edge. “Someone once told me that I don’t talk to people or students, I talk with people and students,” Walker recalled from his donning days. “That helped me last year to build a lot of relationships on campus.”
He had also become involved in the planning of the school’s proposed Milton campus. “I’m from Milton, so it means a lot to me,” he told The Cord.
“As soon as I heard about it I approached Max [Blouw, president of WLU] and I said, ‘I’d like to be involved in this in any way I can.’”
Self-proclaimed “policy nerd” Nick Gibson totes a strong history of student involvement, but felt that his drive was what pushed him to victory in 2011.
“I’d had a lot of different experiences, but ultimately it was this instinct in me saying, ‘I can do this, this is something I have to do’ that pushed me to run.”
“You really have to be a visionary,” he continued, advising those in the running. “But you also have to have a concept of not just policy but higher concepts and contexts for policy.”
Facing the challenges
For all presidents, the challenges begun as early as the week of campaigning. “I was literally sick that week,” said Walker. “With a lack of sleep and being so exhausted, by the time I won I was just like, ‘oh my God, all I want is to go to sleep.’”
Le Fevre’s journey was complicated, to say the least. “In the end there were only two of us running,” said Le Fevre, referring to controversies which led to two of his opponents getting disqualified.
Le Fevre felt like his broad, more inclusive platform gave him the edge over fellow candidate Ross Fraser.
Despite his platform to involve a larger variety of students and keep them more informed, Le Fevre admits he strayed from that promise when he found himself having to find a new home for Radio Laurier.
“I learned that people really don’t like not being consulted or not being a part of a transition of moving things from one place to another,” Le Fevre reflected.
The transition referred to was the decision made in the spring of 2009 to move the operations of the radio station from WLUSU to WLU Student Publications (WLUSP).
“[WLUSP] was the right place to move it at the time because it was a publication and a news source and less of a student activity,” Le Fevre rationalized. “But the idea of me and Greg [Sacks, former WLUSP president] just deciding, ‘Yeah, this was a good place to move it, let’s switch it!’ without public consultation was probably a bad idea.”
Le Fevre had to deal with backlash and criticism from students on several levels. “We had petitions, we had a sit-in at one point. Even though it was in our minds the right thing to do there’s something to be said about consultation and bringing more people into that kind of process.”
He also had a difficult time when it came to butting heads with the board. “The chair and I — we were actually friends and still are friends — but we were always split on things. When you have someone that you’re clashing with every day, it really keeps you on your toes.”
Even the best presidents haven’t been immune to criticism, including Nick Gibson. “There’s been some criticism about the campus centre construction which was stressful,” he said. “But you definitely need some way to pull yourself away from that role. For me it’s the frat [Sigma Chi]. Having them there is huge to me, and even though they’ll joke like, ‘hail to the chief’ when I walk in the room sometimes, it’s nice to be in a place where I’m not president Nick Gibson, I’m just Nick.”
Reflecting and moving on
“There’s a lot of trouble with having a one-year term,” Le Fevre said. “If you spend half your time just getting used to everything, you’re not going to succeed.”
With all the chaos of the short term, all three men have admitted to growing as people throughout the process.
“You learn so much about time management,” said Walker. “I can’t say that enough. Managing your stress and your emotions will help you get through those seemingly impossible situations.”
Gibson has learned plenty about his management style. “Everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses that they have to acknowledge. I can sometimes get frustrated because I think everyone knows the same things that I do, or has the same amount of knowledge that I do.”
With his term coming to a close in a few months, Gibson has marvelled at how the role has opened his mind.
“From a day-to-day standpoint, I don’t know if it’s changed how I act around people, but I’ve gained such a larger perspective. Even my political views have adjusted a little bit just by having this role.”
Despite any struggles he faced, Walker enjoyed the role so much he has transitioned into a different role within WLUSU as the member services manager.
“The one thing I miss so much was honestly how much fun it was,” he said. “It’s such a positive atmosphere, so many great people. I really got along with the [vice presidents] and met some amazing people. Like, it’s hard work, but it’ll be worth it.”