Scratching the surface

Senior News Editor Marissa Evans sits down with the Students’ Union presidential candidates to discuss their campaign experience and vision for the position

  1. What does your experience at Laurier bring to you as a candidate?
  2. What do you think is the largest issue facing students at Laurier and how would you address it, if elected?
  3. What element of the campaign has challenged you the most so far?
  4. What is the most important quality for the Students’ Union president to have and why?

Frank Domenic Cirinna - ONLINE WillFrank Cirinna

  1. The biggest thing I’m looking at in terms of experience as a candidate is both my education and my volunteer experience. I’m a business student, I’ve done the co-op thing, I’ve worked at BMO, I’ve worked at Investors Group, CDW, I worked a full time here for a semester at Laurier and that was a great co-op opportunity. Beyond that, my degree has taught me how to manage a business. I’ve learned about budgets, I’ve learned about hiring, I’ve learned about management. So when it comes to education I think I’m qualified in that aspect. But the Union, beyond being an actual day to day business you need to know the inner workings of it. I’ve been doing that for four years — three years as a Senator, four years on University Affairs as a coordinator. I know the ins and outs of how hiring works. I’ve learned a lot more this year about how clubs operate, and all of University Affairs. I’ve learned a lot about Brantford in the last year. So when it comes to pure Union experience I didn’t just start learning eight months ago. My knowledge dates back four years. The positives in that is some people will reference something and I’ll then know, oh yeah that actually is changed now because four months ago we put in a new policy. Or I’ll just know, oh yeah we tried that four years ago and it didn’t work for this reason so if we try it again we should do it like this because this didn’t work last time but we can try it again in this matter. So learning from trial and error of other people, learning from experience, learning from history. And then community involvement. Because the president sits on a lot of committees that are not necessarily tied to the Students’ Union. I’ve been sitting on a few myself. I’m on the gendered violence steering committee and I’m also a volunteer for the Waterloo Regional Police and the safety task force.
  2. If we’re looking at campus to campus, in Brantford the number one issue is safety. You notice it when you go there. The fact that they don’t have 24 hour SCS and they really, really want that. That’s the number one thing. The fact that the Union doesn’t have to pay for that for it to be instated we just have to push the University to do it. And the government has already stated, Katherine Wynne has stated, she wants to increase funding for Ontario SCS. So why aren’t we taking advantage of that? When we look at the Waterloo campus — now this is into my platform, but if I wanted to talk about something that affects every student across the board we’re looking at OneCard money rollover. Students lose thousands of dollars every year because our OneCards no longer rollover. I think the last year there was rollover was 2010. They stopped it in [my] year. And I remember on that last day I tipped some dude like $400 at Wilf’s because I’m like my last exam is today and I’m leaving tomorrow, have a $400 tip. Because I knew I wasn’t getting that money back. If we were to look at something that the Union can advocate on behalf of all students, that’s something that every student is affected by. The thing about university presidents and platforms is that we address issues in silos because that’s how students come. So we have the volunteers, and I’m addressing hiring with that. We have the faculty associations and I’m addressing that with the Visas. Safety — ERT and Foot Patrol affects all students so I guess I could have said that. I mean the fact that ERT went through their entire budget before the end of November and they had to go back and get an increased budget — that just doesn’t make any sense. In my mind, I get that we need the budget cuts, I get that we had to pay off the debt. In my third-year finance class, I learned that one of the most important things a company can do when they’re in debt is pay off the debt before they go bankrupt. But in the pursuit of that if you do not properly invest in your products and services, and for us our services would be stuff like ERT and Foot Patrol, you lose what the company is all about and your company will fail. Right now our company, our Students’ Union, is failing because we are not properly funding our services. Every year presidents do budget cuts, budget cuts, budget cuts. And I know we have to pay off the debt, and we’re paying it off great now. But if we do any more budget cuts, we’re going to be a barebones organization that can’t do anything.
  3. Pure numbers. When we’re looking at campaign teams, I think me and Dave have an average sized campaign team. We’ve been doing what is typical of previous years. Olivia’s team, props to them, they’ve just been all over the place. They’ve got booths in multiple buildings. And it’s hard to compete, right. Because I’m trying to focus on making sure that I’m not overworking my volunteers and I’m trying to make sure that everyone is only doing what they’re comfortable with. We’re trying to interact with students as much as we can. But that pure presence, it’s difficult to compete with that. It’s just hard.
  4. I would say advocacy experience. The main reason for that is I know students always talk about approachability and stuff, I would hope that I’m approachable. But when we look at what the president does in their day to day operations, a majority of the time they spend in meetings, they spend writing reports, they’re doing the day to day operations of the organization. And a lot of those meetings, when we accomplish things, when we have successes, it’s through advocacy. You need someone who knows how to go into a meeting and say, “Hey listen this is what we want, we’re not going to settle for this, let’s work on a solution.” Not only that, with the advocacy experience I have I already know on a first name basis the president of the university, both deans of students, the people who run SCS, all the people in this university that I would have to work with and meet with, it’s not like I would be meeting them for the first time and saying, “Hi, nice to meet you, my name is Frank.” It’s, “Hey, I haven’t seen you since the last meeting.” And I think that’s the one-up. I don’t want to start my presidency and take four months to acclimate to it. I want to start on day one and be sprinting. Because if I’m not running at the beginning it means I’m not doing my job ahead of time.

Dave Patterson - ONLINE WillDave Patterson

  1. I think my experience in different facets of the university provides me with an insight as to the needs and desires of a wide variety of students, not necessarily one small individual subpopulation but the entire student body. My experience starting and coordinating the mental health education group, my experience being involved in intramural sports and donning and doing all these different things within residence, as well within the music faculty, have given me a really well-rounded understanding of the Laurier student body as a whole.
  2. I think the largest issue facing students at Laurier right now is the need to see tangible value as an outcome of the fees they’re paying. I think that’s one that all students can agree with, that they pay so much to go to Laurier — they pay to be a member of the Students’ Union, they pay to be in the faculty associations and all these different things — and they need to see tangible value as an outcome of that. And I think that’s one thing that’s year in, year out. Obviously the tuition amounts aren’t necessarily under Students’ Union control, but what the Students’ Union and the president of the Students’ Union can do is make sure that the money students are paying toward the Students’ Union provides them with that desired outcome. So that students can look at their invoice and say, “Oh, that money is going to the Students’ Union and man I’m glad I’m paying it because it gets me this and this.” So it’s about not only making sure that not only are we providing quality programming and services, but we’re educating students as to what we’re providing and why we’re providing it, so that they’re able to understand where their money goes and why they benefit from it.
  3. I think coming into the open forums and the debate, that will definitely be the challenge to try to make sure that we’re all clear headed enough amidst a crazy couple of weeks to answer the questions the best we can. I think the biggest challenge up until this point has just been trying to assess your weaknesses. It’s easy to look at the things you’re doing and I think the biggest challenge has been to look at what haven’t I been doing. What are the other candidates doing that I’m not doing, what is there I should be doing that will help take my campaign to the next level. I think that’s been the hardest part because you get caught up in oh I’m doing this and this, and I’ve got so much to do to organize the things I am doing, that it’s easy to overlook what you’re not doing. But at the same time I think that’s one of the most important things. That’s definitely been the hard part, is to take a step back and say where am I weak and how can I improve.
  4. I’d say leadership. And I say that because leadership encompasses a variety of other characteristics, such as accountability, reliability, relatability, responsibility. I think to be a leader you have to be someone who others trust without knowing. You have to be someone people can look up to — you have to lead by example. And I think that’s something I can really bring to the role, is being someone who students are able to relate to, but who is also capable of representing the student body to the degree to which Laurier students deserve. I think leadership is often overlooked, to be able to lead your vice-presidents and your AVPs and the coordinators, it really takes a sense of vision and purpose and a skillset that allows you to manage a team and to inspire other students to really seek leadership opportunities themselves. Leadership is also about not only having others trust in you, but having the ability to trust in others. So trusting in your VPs and your AVPs and your coordinators to do some of the work that lets you focus on your vision, that lets you focus on making sure the voices of Laurier students are heard. I think that’s a very important quality of the leadership that I think is needed of the Students’ Union president position.

Olivia Matthews - ONLINE WillOlivia Matthews

  1. Well I’ve been fortunate to be involved in various aspects of the University, so I’m not simply a one line candidate, for example. I’ve been involved in Residence Life for three years, I’ve volunteered in the Dean of Students Office as a peer conduct advisor, I volunteer for the Students’ Union as a policy research exec — and all those different experiences have brought me into contact with different students. And bringing all those university departments together I think would be very beneficial in the role.
  2. The largest issue — see I think it’s an interesting question because some people will phrase it as what’s the largest issue facing students for the Union, that the Union can tackle, and what’s the largest issue facing university students. I think the largest issue that the Union is going to face in upcoming years is the fact that I think students are over-programmed at this point and then we’re going to lose volunteers because of that because they’re so busy. And also we’re going to lose people coming out to events. So on the Union end, I think that’s an issue. The biggest thing for university students I would say would be — I know this is going to maybe sound interesting because I’m a woman candidate — but I think we’ve seen a lot of talk about gendered violence on campus and I think we could do a lot of things as a Union in order to support the gendered violence task force and also just create some sexual assault awareness campaigns on both of our campuses. So campus security and safety with regards to those issues I think are huge for the University right now. It’s a topic that no one has, like the student led initiative with the gendered violence task force is great. But I think the Union could be doing a better job of also supporting students and offering services.
  3. My number one goal to set out for my team was to make sure their time was being valued as much as possible because let’s be real, they’re volunteering their time for me for a few weeks and are just getting an experience out of it. So I think the most challenging thing is I want to be there for students who I haven’t met yet, because I want to obviously get my name out there as much as possible, but I also want to be there for my team as much as possible because they’re the ones that have supported me through this entire endeavour for months. So making sure that I’m getting out there as much to new students but also making sure that my volunteers feel valued. It’s a challenge, but it’s so rewarding in the end. Like when you come out at the end of the day and a volunteer could come up to me and be like, “Hey I had a great conversation with a student,” it’s like awesome, you’re killing two birds with one stone right there.
  4. Approachability. I’ve said this before: I think it’s based on person and platform. You have to have good ideas, but there’s no sense in having good ideas if you can’t be trusted to enact them. I think approachable in the sense that students can come up to your office and you’ll go out to events as well. Because how are you supposed to advocate on behalf of student needs if you don’t know what they are. Absolutely being a good representatives means you can be approachable to all students on both of our campuses.

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