Presidential candidates confirm for Students’ Union elections

Elections for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union will be underway in a week, and as of Tuesday at noon there are three confirmed candidates running for the position of president and CEO.

Frank Cirinna, Olivia Matthews and Dave Patterson all confirmed their intent to run as of press time.

“It’s going to be very interesting this year. I love that we have a very diverse group of candidates,” said Kaipa Bharucha, assistant chief returning officer of the Students’ Union. “I think it’s a really great scope and everyone is going to bring something a little interesting and a little interesting based on their background and based on what they’ve been involved in at Laurier and how they see things progressing next year.”

Unlike last year when there was a dispute before the campaign period began about announcing candidacy on social media, this year the candidates were allowed to post as long as they did not solicit for votes. Cirinna and Matthews both posted on their Facebook profiles about their intent to run.

“The difference this year — which was specified to them — was because it’s not campaign period, don’t solicit a vote. So nowhere in your post should it say, ‘vote for me,’ ‘go out and vote,’ that kind of thing. But just a public statement of recognition is totally fair,” Bharucha said. “As long we’re the same in telling the message to all of the candidates, that’s what really matters. And ensuring they have equal and appropriate opportunity to let people know they are going for these positions.”

Frank Cirenna (Heather Davidson)

Photo by Heather Davidson

Cirinna, who said he’s wanted to run for president since first-year, believes his heavy involvement in various advocacy-based roles through the school and community helps him provide a realistic approach to the position.

“What I’m focusing on are realistic things that are possible and I’m going to do my best to get them accomplished, but at the same time getting people to understand that the president’s role — like [former president and CEO] Annie Constantinescu said — 95 per cent of the time you don’t actually complete things in your platform. 95 per cent of the time you are the president dealing with day-to-day operations as well as problems that come up,” Cirinna explained.

He claims this approach will help him be an ideal candidate. He also wants to focus on mental health and safety, specifically on the Brantford campus.

“I don’t know how to say it without sounding cocky, but I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I was the best.”

Olivia Matthews (Heather Davidson)

Photo by Heather Davidson

Matthews, the second candidate to confirm, has been involved with campaign teams over the last two years with Constantinescu and Chandler Jolliffe. Learning from those election periods, she saw there were still facets missing that were crucial for students.

“For me, one of the things I want to focus on a lot in the election … is that I really want to increase the partnerships we have on campus and do some relationship building,” she said.

Matthews only started volunteering for the Students’ Union this year as an executive on University Affairs, but feels her experience in different aspects of the university will help with her overarching goal of relationship building.

“I think the one common complaint the Union gets is that people don’t feel like it’s approachable for people who are not volunteers for it. And as a union, the word in itself means you should be representing all students. So the best candidate is the person who is going to be able to connect with the most people.”

Dave Patterson (Heather Davidson)

Photo by Heather Davidson

Patterson, the third candidate to confirm, has been integral in mental health initiatives on campus. He acknowledged his Students’ Union experience has been minimal, but wants to use that as a strength.

“My Students’ Union experience from an internal perspective is pretty minimal, there’s no denying that, however I have a lot of experience partnering with WLUSU. I worked with [former president and CEO] Michael Onabolu two years ago to start the mental health education group,” he explained.

“I also think that while lack of internal experience can be seen as a negative thing, it can also be a positive thing because it brings a fresh voice to the Students’ Union and the student body.”

Patterson’s focuses will be on student engagement and student well-being, which he says should be at the forefront of the Union “every year, not just every few years when someone steps up.”

The all-candidates meeting on Jan. 19 will initiate the campaign period. Candidates have until then to withdraw their candidacy.

“I think it’s going to be a tougher race this year because all of the candidates are well-prepared and they’re all pretty set on making sure this campaign period is as exciting for their teams as well,” Bharucha said.

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