Looking back on another year

First-year flounder
First reported Feb. 9

The Cord reported early in the winter semester that a startling 43 per cent of first year arts students and 34 per cent of first year science students were sitting below a 5.0 GPA or C average. The findings drew attention to the loosening of admissions requirements in areas of the university, especially the faculty of arts. Students below a 5.0 are unable to declare a major, and students below a 4.0 are placed on academic probation going into second year.

The university tailors different support programming to students in difficult academic situations and the faculty of arts offered a series of information sessions which about a third of the affected students attended.

Laurier’s first year class was larger by more than 200 students this year over Sept. 2009, and the number of first years this year more than doubled that of ten years ago.

Dean of Science Paul Jessop assessed the situation. “We’re certainly concerned,” he said. “We think and we hope that come May when we’re looking at these numbers that they will be much better.”

Election jumps online
First reported Feb. 7

In the fall, WLUSU moved forward with the long speculated online voting initiative.
The project saw the university’s tech department, the people behind LORIS, develop an electronic system for students to log in to and cast ballots over a two-day period in early February. The move to online required extensive policy changes and discussions in the WLUSU boardroom.

The election went off without a hitch and 35 per cent of undergraduate students at Laurier voted by logging in and clicking their preferences.

The turnout handily trumped the previous year’s dismal 14 per cent number. Other than failing to randomize candidates’ names on the ballots, few flaws emerged and online elections seem to have a promising future at Laurier.

The Terrace Project
First reported Oct. 14

A project initiated on paper in the 2007-08 year, the expansion of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union’s Terrace food court began in earnest in May 2010.

The project was slated for total completion in Jan. 2011 but the area surrounding the addition remains incomplete.

Crucial to the story is the approximately $400,000 cost overrun the originally estimated $1,050,000 project ran up. To cover the cost, $50,000 from a green fee was reallocated and the remainder came from a line of credit with the university spread over five years.

The WLUSU board of directors was “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” director Chris Oberle said — forced to approve the measures early on in their term.

President Kyle Walker gave the rationale that, “this is what happens when you approve projects so far in advance.”

Food Services cooks up a hearty deficit
First reported Feb. 7

Since the year 2000, it was reported in February, Laurier’s Food Services operations have accumulated a $3.65 million deficit. A variety of factors were blamed for this gaping hole in the university’s books, including labour costs and benefits to workers.

Despite the heavy losses incurred, including a $788,000 loss in the 2006-07 fiscal year, there have been signs of improvement in years past, and the operations are forecasted to reach a $100,000 surplus this year. Strategies to recover include encouraging growth of the OneCard program to off-campus merchants, director of student services Dan Dawson said. “There’s no magic fruit tree out there we can pull money out of, we’re going to have to earn it, one operation at a time.”

Plans for the future
First reported Mar. 7

Surrounding Laurier’s centennial celebrations, plans for development at the Waterloo, Brantford and a third campus in Milton were recurring themes.

Government support permitting, the university’s master plan outlines an extensive facelift in Waterloo, with new development including the Global Innovation Exchange building situated on the St. Michael’s campus site.

Detailed plans were approved by the university’s upper administration in February although there remains uncertainty as to when the projects will actually proceed.
Executive: strategic initiatives Ginny Dybenko noted that, as with everything, the money talks in this case. “There’s still a long way ahead of us because what gets serious now is fundraising,” she said. “We obviously can’t progress too much
without a substantial amount of government funding and we’re also looking for private funding.”

While the cost of the building on the St. Michael’s was projected in 2010 to be $27.5 million just for the building, with associated costs doubling that price, no further financial details have been discussed.

Lobbyists draw ire
First reported Oct. 6

In October, based on a freedom of information request placed by the New Democratic Party of Canada, it was revealed that Wilfrid Laurier University was one of six universities to have hired lobbyists to advocate on their behalf to government.

The information came to light as a ban on public spending on private lobbying
firms was explored at Queen’s Park.

Laurier spent $69,825 on the services of lobbying firm the Devon Group over a year beginning in 2009 as it dealt with budget and pension issues. Subsequently, the university hired a dedicated staff member for this government relations role.

In an interview with The Cord, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities John Milloy spoke out against the practice, which had also taken place at York University and seven other Ontario colleges and universities.

“At a time when public dollars are so scarce, that money is best spent on students.”

Campus reacts to G20 arrests
First reported Oct. 14

In the aftermath of June’s G20 Summit protests in Toronto, Laurier students, graduates and community members with ties to the university engaged in various forms of protest.

Much was centred on alumnus Alex Hundert after he was re-arrested for breaching his bail conditions in part by speaking at an event at Laurier’s Kitchener campus.

Hundert, who had been a member of the AW@L group present at Laurier for much of the late 2000s, went through a series of legal proceedings and drew the public support of the university’s faculty association, WLUFA, in a letter sent to Ontario’s Attorney General.

An on-campus protest occurred in October and a conference on dissent focusing on matters surrounding the G20 was hosted in March.

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