Laurier students click for Gibson

Wilf’s exploded in cheers Feb. 4 as the election results for the 2011-12 WLUSU presidency were announced. Nick Gibson, with 41.5 per cent of the vote, walked away with the position of president and CEO of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union effective May 1.

In a follow-up interview on Feb. 7, Gibson said the culmination of a campaign he had been working on since September had not completely sunk in.

“It hasn’t quite yet,” he said. “I think it’s one of those things that will take a little time. I’ve been working at it for awhile, it’s against my nature to let things hit me that hard.”

He cited his campaign team as the greatest factor in his success. “The team was absolutely outstanding, I was going around trying to recruit some key people and basically used the mantra of diverse representation on campus but also competence and I definitely had both of those on the team.”

The election marked the first online election held at Laurier, using a system designed by the university’s ITS department at a cost of $16,425 for the system itself plus $2,625 for its operation. The platform allowed voters to log in and view candidate information and photos as they voted.

All told, 5,306 students voted — 35 per cent of the student body. The turnout easily cleared last year when a meager 1,987 votes were cast with conventional ballots and quorum was surpassed by less than five per cent.

“Last year we barely went over quorum, this year we had over double. It was very impressive,” Gibson noted. The 35 per cent turnout value surprised many, especially considering that the two-day election period was postponed by a day due to the university’s closure from snow on Groundhog Day.

Dean of students Leanne Holland Brown was present at Wilf’s. “I think that particular statistic shows the level of engagement of Laurier students in a really important process,” she said, noting specifically the move to online voting.

“The online piece just made it easier for students but it seemed like there was more engagement generally in the campaign this year and in the election, … that’s reflected in the amount of people that turned out to vote.”

Though Wilf’s was overwhelmed by a University of Waterloo pub crawl for most of the night, results were revealed with a strong crowd of candidates, election team members and students from Laurier present.

“As soon as we knew that we had a packed house of Laurier students we came down and delivered the results,” current chair of the board and chief governance officer Kyle Hocking said. The campaign and vote tallying went nearly seamlessly, he added.

“We had some demerits and appeals but they were all settled pretty well and I think all the candidates are pretty satisfied with how the elections process went and that’s the main goal.”

Gibson is intent on preparing ahead of coming to office, noting that he had objectives in mind for the coming weeks along with VP hiring.

“For the time being it’s just me equipping myself to ensure that I can hit the ground running right away,” he explained. “There are some specific tougher things in my platform that will be difficult but I made a checklist actually the other day of things I want to get done in the next couple of weeks beyond hiring.”

He also mentioned a desire to sit down with the other presidential candidates to discuss their platform items and how their ideas may be applied in the coming year. “I think we’d be able to bounce around some ideas,” he said.

“Obviously I had some disagreements with other platforms but there are certainly some ideas in there that I thought were good so I want to see what they thought and how it could work.”

A sweeping social media policy was narrowly avoided leading up to the election that would have limited candidates’ use of that form of marketing.

Gibson emphasized the role social media played in this election not only at letting students know that an election was happening, but as a means of informing them of all candidates’ platforms. “The biggest thing was simply getting your name out there,” he said.

Looking back on his campaign, Gibson said everything simply came together.
“The biggest thing for me was simply that all the big things I wanted to do were done, I couldn’t have asked for much better.”