Midterm review of the 2020-21 Students’ Union Board of Directors

Devyn Kelly – President and CEO

Following her experience as a director on the board in 2019-20, President and CEO of the Students’ Union Devyn Kelly has displayed a great deal of professionalism and dedication to her role of advocating on behalf of the student body. 

Despite the many challenges of this year, President Kelly’s overall performance has been commended as strong by the board. She is considered to be a dedicated and supportive leader and has done a great job of adapting her team in the midst of this new remote environment.

Following an unpredictable and unprecedented term thus far, many board members have commended President Kelly’s handling of the school year so far, but believe that she could do a better job communicating and conveying her position to students. 

President Kelly has heavily advocated for students this school year on various issues, but there is room to be more transparent and communicative with students — many of whom may not understand the various functions and roles of the Students’ Union. In the coming semester, President Kelly is encouraged to continue to take measures to ensure transparent communication between the Students’ Union and the student body. 

President Kelly has done a good job of handling the criticisms thrown at her and the Students’ Union thus far. Her noteworthy qualities, as mentioned by the board, have been her resilience and organizational skills, which have helped to assure the board in the midst of the current health crisis and other instances of pressure, such as the Health and Dental plan discussions. 

With that said, while President Kelly has been commended for doing a good job in her role, she is encouraged to continue to make her presence known and find a way to reach students more directly. Many directors stated that they believe regular updates for students would be beneficial. 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of President Kelly’s platform have yet to be realized. Some of her platform during her campaign period last year have been brought into fruition, but many things that she was campaigning for have changed with the pandemic. 

For example, President Kelly acknowledges that more pressing issues have taken precedence over some of the services she campaigned for originally, such as Wilf’s takeout, health food vending machines, or free on-campus printing. 

One aspect from her platform that has been brought into fruition is the enhancement of the Students’ Union’s online presence through the brand new clubs and associations online platform.

With new issues coming forward regularly, President Kelly has had to refocus her efforts towards issues such as exam policies, lockdown browsers, credit withdrawal and more. 

President Kelly has been present at every board meeting this year; however, in the next term, some directors expressed that they would appreciate it if she could elaborate more on her section on the agenda packages, and provide clearer updates and communications — both with the board and the student body as a whole. 

It is recommended that President Kelly continue to engage meaningfully with board members and maintain the sense of transparency and advocacy that the entirety of the Students’ Union has been working to maintain this term. 

Sameed Hussain – Chair and CGO

In his third year as a member of the board of directors, Chair Hussain has established himself as a great resource for other members of the board who may need assistance or who have questions.

Despite the unprecedented year thus far, many directors have commended Chair Hussain on his ability to cultivate productive and professional relationships within the board, and for successfully adapting the board meetings to an online environment. 

With that said, many directors believe Chair Hussain’s communication with the board, via online means, could be better and more timely.

Chair Hussain has been to all but one board meeting thus far, and made sure to prepare Vice Chair Dang well in advance to ensure a successful meeting. However, some also believe that Chair Hussain could show a stronger sense of accountability for directors who are less active or who miss meetings. 

Chair Hussain has done a good job in making strategic decisions alongside the board — for example, with the Health and Dental plan discussions — but he is encouraged to facilitate more opportunities where board members are able to critically engage with meeting materials.

His implementation of this year’s board training has been critiqued as needing improvement, especially when compared to previous years’. Some have also stated that he could do a better job of directing discussions in meetings by making sure conversations don’t run too long or in circles.

Chair Hussain is encouraged to continue to find ways to lift board members up, create opportunities for everyone to contribute and critically engage in meetings and to make sure that all directors feel comfortable speaking up and voicing their opinions. When conversations go longer than needed, it is recommended that Chair Hussain keep conversations concise and direct so that material can be covered in a timely manner. 

Directors have also commended Chair Hussain on his hard work and ability to put together agenda packages. Some have suggested it would be helpful if agenda packages could be sent out sooner and with more attention paid to double-checking avoidable errors, so that directors will be able to better prepare for meetings and engage with the material. 

One of the key pillars of Chair Hussain’s campaign platform was a focus on the Students’ Union elections, as the 2020-21 voting rate was significantly lower than previous years. Chair Hussain, alongside Chief Returning Officer Nidhi Shah, will need to focus on their strategic, concerted efforts to ensure that the ongoing election process runs with ease. 

The added difficulty of an online format this year has made student engagement more difficult. To combat this, both Chair Hussain and CRO Shah have pushed to have a stronger social media presence for the Students’ Union elections. 

Overall, Chair Hussain has done a good job of making sure meetings run smoothly and are productive. He is considered by his peers to be a hardworking, reliable and dedicated leader.

Andrew Dang – Vice Chair

In his second year with the board, Vice Chair Dang has been a helpful resource for other directors, and has historically been touted as being one of the stronger and more vocal board members. He is also an elected member of the Senate — one of three who also hold positions as directors.

Vice Chair Dang’s prior experience on the board has made a significant impact this year. He is known for being a very involved member of the board and for having a thorough understanding of finances, which is particularly useful during budget discussions. He has displayed comfort in expressing his insight, is always engaged and frequently poses relevant questions. 

While Vice Chair Dang is certainly a strong member of the board, there are areas in which he can continue to improve. 

Many directors have acknowledged that newer board members might have a difficult time speaking up, either due to their comfort level or inexperience. Although this issue does not solely rest on Vice Chair Dang, a suggestion was made that if he were to raise his thoughts last, or work with Chain Hussain to approach this issue more directly, perhaps less vocal directors would have an opportunity to weigh in. 

Within the role of Vice Chair, Dang is responsible for organizing social events for the board. While many directors have said that meetings have run smoothly, some have noted that they haven’t had an opportunity to connect and socialize with each other. 

While this can be partially credited as a result of the current health pandemic, many directors are wishing for more opportunities to get to know one another. 

Although hard to do when not in person, Vice Chair Dang has endeavored to connect with each member of the board individually, making interpersonal relationships a personal goal of his.

Last year, Vice Chair Dang helped guide the Students’ Union Strategic Innovation Forum (SUSIF). In the coming semester, he will be looking for ways to top that idea and explore further methods of student engagement.

Overall, Vice Chair Dang is commended for being a vocal director and a helpful resource for newer directors. He has not missed one meeting this year — a signal of his dedication to the role. 

Ezra Ceniti

In his first year as a director on the board, Director Ceniti has proved himself to be a qualified and capable member, despite never having been present at a physical meeting due to the restrictions brought on by COVID-19.

Director Ceniti has adapted to online board meetings through a period of adjustment and has attended every meeting this term with a level of preparedness that was more apparent and developed as the term progressed. With a strong focus on student connections and outreach in his platform during the campaign period last year, Director Ceniti has endeavoured to communicate more with the Laurier community.

As a current LOCUS don, this position has helped him initiate open conversations with students about the Student’s Union and the role the board plays in addressing their concerns. Director Ceniti is involved with SLL Waterloo, the GP#2C Direct Inspection Committee, as well as being a Shinerama executive and a general member of Right to Play.

Director Ceniti has been attentive during board meetings and is open to new ideas, having shown that he works to push the agenda forward. He has asked questions when necessary and contributed to discussions consistently when relevant.

Director Ceniti has also taken on additional work that has benefited the board and reached out to organizations such as Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Student Services to bring in presenters to speak to the board. Overall, Director Ceniti has had a very strong first term on the board of directors and has demonstrated his commitment to representing student voices effectively. 

Kayla Han

As a first-time member of the board of directors, Director Han has been a standout representative in her role this term. Although new to the position this year, Director Han has successfully demonstrated her active and passionate involvement as one of only two women on the board.

Director Han was responsible for creating an email signature initiative that recognizes and includes an Indigenous land acknowledgment. As well, she has worked diligently to remain as transparent as possible when addressing student concerns.

Navigating the increase in criticism directed towards the Students’ Union from outlets like Spotted at Laurier has proven to be a challenge. However, Director Han has pushed for more balanced advocacy that accurately reflects the desires of students.

She is currently involved in Enactus Laurier and is an SRAC coordinator on the Waterloo campus. Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19 has presented unforeseen obstacles that stood in the way of consistent proactivity regarding certain issues.

Despite these unexpected barriers, Director Han is continuing to push for first-year student representation in SU clubs and has been dedicated to pushing for more ongoing clarity surrounding board-related items.

Having only missed one meeting this term due to medical reasons, Director Han has gone above and beyond to positively represent the student collective in her position.

Osman Alwi

This is Director Alwi’s third year on the board of directors and his first year holding the position in a virtual format due to COVID-19.

During his time on the board, Director Alwi has passionately advocated for students on the Laurier Brantford campus, working to represent them as fairly and compassionately as possible. Brantford and multicampus representation has been an ongoing goal that has been included in each of Director Alwi’s platforms, and is something that he has continued to enthusiastically promote the importance of.

He has endeavoured to be a strong voice and advocate for a campus and collective of students who are typically overlooked in student politics and decision making. Director Alwi has exhibited his dedication through advocacy and a push for things such as hockey jersey approval for Laurier Brantford athletes.

Striving to cultivate a culture of positivity and professionalism, Director Alwi has fostered effective relationships with members of the board in and outside of meetings. He makes a point of trying to get along with all of his fellow board members and remain neutral in the face of any unnecessary conflict.

The board’s inability to have in-person meetings has presented certain challenges, but Director Alwi has persevered alongside them despite the obstacles they have faced due to remote work. Director Alwi has only missed one meeting this term due to an emergency, and has continued to adequately apply his past experience and skills to his current role on the board.

Lauren Rutherford

In her first year on the board, Director Rutherford has had to quickly adapt to the different circumstances presented by COVID-19 and worked hard to keep her dedication as consistent as it would be if meetings were conducted in person.

During the last campaign period, Director Rutherford advocated for student engagement and transparency, which has proven to be more difficult to accomplish with online-focused alternatives. As a first-time board member, Director Rutherford has taken some time to adjust to and become comfortable with the ways the board operates, as well as properly grasping protocol.

Although reluctant to always speak up and make her voice heard, she is encouraged to participate and express her opinions more consistently in meetings, as her input is valued.

Director Rutherford has established respectful and professional relationships with members of the board. She has strengthened and expanded her knowledge throughout the term by asking board members questions when needed and using them as resources to improve her overall understanding.

Director Rutherford is involved with Brantford SLL and is currently working as a TA. Having only missed one meeting this term, Director Rutherford has clearly shown her enthusiasm for the board through her ongoing commitment to student advocacy and her efforts to learn more about board-related policy and protocol.

Ty Thomas

In his second year on the board, Director Thomas has showcased his developed confidence in the position. With this experience, Director Thomas has become more comfortable expressing his opinions during board meetings and has been able to speak up about issues when necessary.

Director Thomas’ platform, during both campaign periods, have focused on board transparency and a commitment to fairness with succession opportunities. Although he was not able to have all points on his platform fully realized, he has remained dedicated to ensuring there is clarity and meaningful direction in board meetings.

This term, Director Thomas has shown his ease and ability to steer board meeting conversations back on course if they get off track. He is open and speaks when needed but does not dominate conversations unnecessarily. Director Thomas leaves space for others to voice their opinions and has put in an active effort to make sure new directors feel comfortable.

Director Thomas is involved with SLL Waterloo and has had perfect attendance to meetings this term.

Overall, Director Thomas has had a successful second year on the board and has demonstrated his adherence to representing Laurier ownership with equity, kindness and authenticity.

Christy Francis

Director Francis is a first time member of the Students’ Union Board of Directors and also holds a position on the Senate. 

As a member of the EL#2B, GP#2D and EL#2F Direct Inspection Committee, as well as the Honorary Degree Committee for the Senate and the Senate Governance Committee, Director Francis is very involved in Laurier governance and has an extensive commitment to his various roles. 

Although he acknowledges that he is one of the quieter members of the board, Director Francis has been able to contribute meaningfully during committee assignments and reaches out to other committee members with any issues or questions he may have. 

He is encouraged to weigh in and express his opinions more consistently in meetings, as his insight is valued. 

One of the three pillars of his campaign platform was to provide students with a clearer understanding of Students’ Union activities. Although this aspect of his platform has yet to be fully realized due to the obstacles of a remote school environment, Director Francis has worked to do so when applicable.

Director Francis has been to every meeting thus far, only showing up late to one, and has shown a clear dedication to his position on the board that we would like to see continue to grow in the new year. 

Akshat Shah

Having been nominated to the Board of Directors in the previous school year, Director Shah has shown his commitment to his role in returning to the Board of Directors once more.

As an experienced director, he has adapted well to the current remote nature of board meetings. Shah has displayed a strong sense of self-assurance in meetings, and is a highly effective member of the board. 

Director Shah contributes meaningfully in meetings, asks questions when necessary, approaches each meeting with a critical eye and regularly catches mistakes in meeting minutes, reflecting his noteworthy attention to detail. 

Touted as having a thorough understanding of policies and Roberts’ Rules, Director Shah conducts himself with a highly professional manner during meetings. 

In addition to being a member of the board, Director Shah also holds a position on the Senate and has experience as a Residence Life Don, which is helpful in connecting with the student body. 

Though initially responding to the interview request, Director Shah did not answer when contacted for his board review.

Shane Symington

As a first-time board member, Director Symington has managed to establish himself as a competent and adept director.

Director Symington’s efforts throughout this term have made him a standout member of the board and he has been cited as one of the stronger directors, notably in regards to his communication and participation.

Although this is his only first year on the board, Director Symington has been capable in his role and pleasant to work with. He’s contributed frequently during discussions and has shown proactivity in meetings.

Overall, Director Symington has displayed initiative and enthusiasm for student advocacy in his role.

Though initially responding to The Cord’s interview request, Director Symington did not answer when contacted for his board review.

Ibrahim Musa

Director Musa, like many others, is a first-time member on the Board of Directors. He was also elected for a position in the Senate and is an involved member of the Laurier community, holding positions in various other clubs and associations at Laurier.

Although difficult to gauge whether his campaign platform — consisting of maintaining accountability for the Students’ Union, informing students and strengthening multi-campus relationships — has been fully realized, Director Musa is encouraged to continue to see his campaign promises through in the new year. 

Director Musa has been a helpful resource for other directors and has displayed a good sense of teamwork. He is encouraged to weigh in more consistently during meetings. He has shown a considerable deal of comfort with practicing the functions of the board, abstaining from motions when he deems it necessary. 

Director Musa did not respond to The Cord’s inquiry for an interview to discuss his term on the board.

Justin Doolittle

Director Doolittle is a first-time member of the board. In addition, this is also Director Doolittle’s first time being involved in a Students’ Union organization of any kind. He has also worked for Laurier’s on-campus food court. 

In his campaign platform, Director Doolittle noted that he would like to encourage student participation and campus club awareness. Although difficult to gauge his success with this thus far, Director Doolittle is encouraged to continue to take steps in fulfilling his platform goals in the next term. 

While Director Doolittle has shown a significant deal of comfort in making or abstaining from motions where applicable, he is encouraged to voice his opinions and weigh in more frequently during meetings as his insight is valued. 

Director Doolittle did not respond to The Cord’s inquiry for an interview to discuss his term on the board.

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