Profiling the president
The Wilfrid Laurier Students’ Union president and CEO may be a symbol of representation at the school, but he or she follows strict guidelines that govern whether the platforms they ran on to be elected can actually be accomplished.
“The president is the head of the entire corporation, so they technically have the ability to change whatever they want,” said 2006-07 WLUSU president Allan Cayenne. “[But] I think in the past a lot of people have made promises about WLUSU and [operations like] the Terrace without fully understanding the operations themselves.”
Despite any gaps in their platforms, each WLUSU president encounters unforeseen obstacles throughout their term.
The past four presidents experienced very different years in terms of obstacles and challenges.
The 2008-09 WLUSU president Colin Le Fevre said that clashes with the board of directors impeded his platform goals; 2007-08 WLUSU president Dan Allison felt his year was plagued with confusion regarding the newly implemented policy governance structure.
Current WLUSU president Laura Sheridan explained that her term was filled with new issues each day, all with the weight of students’ expectations on her shoulders.
The students’ union president must balance a job that, as Cayenne pointed out, is one that never ends.
Powers of the president
“You have the representative role because you are elected by students,” said Le Fevre. He explained that the WLUSU president is the spokesperson for students, the person the Laurier population goes to with concerns, as well as the check on finances and the manager of staff.
Under the model of policy governance, the president has strict rules they must abide by when it comes to making decisions on behalf of the students.
“[Policy governance] clearly defines what I am not allowed to do through executive limitations,”
said Sheridan. “This essentially guides the president at a very high level as to what they can do.”
Despite these limitations, the four past presidents are certain that their roles were not diminished by the rules they had to follow, nor were they hindered in any way by the full-time management staff that works for the union year after year.
“It’s very much a collegial environment,” continued Le Fevre, “Where you go into your management group meetings and everyone is working together.”
“You have a lot of ability to get things accomplished,” added Allison. “The administration was surprisingly very easy to work with.”
Policy governance ensures that the president is accountable not only to the full-time staff, but that they are also guided by the WLUSU board of directors.
Le Fevre explained that the president answers to the board of directors, who truly set the overall direction for the organization.
“One thing that isn’t often realized … is you may have a whole lot of ideas but if your board disagrees with them, you can’t get any of them done,” said Le Fevre of the president’s platform goals.
The board of directors ensures that the president does not overstep their boundaries, and the president provides the board with the information they will need to make decisions.
The president shares a close working environment with the board of directors, and because the 15-member board guides their accomplishments, their relationship has at times become contentious.
Le Fevre in particular expressed his frustration with the board impeding his goals as president.
However, Le Fevre said his relationship with the board should be utilized as a learning experience for current candidates campaigning to be president next year.
“If there are differences of opinion, sit down and actually think of negotiation points,” he said. “To scrap something just because there’s dispute isn’t necessarily beneficial to either side.”
Defining the role
Much of the work of the WLUSU president is behind the scenes, but over the past four years there have been some changes to Laurier that were implemented directly by the past presidents and their teams.
Allison oversaw the reinstatement of the Hawk in the Hall of Fame and extended the hours of the library and dining hall. Cayenne kept the doors between the Concourse and Wilf’s open past midnight, Le Fevre added extra electrical outlets around campus and Sheridan has worked with physical resources to install a clock in the science atrium.
Each past president claimed their role as president to be something different, which is perhaps what makes the position so diverse and mysterious for students.
“My mantra was ‘make a difference,’” said Cayenne.
“That was something I told myself every day.”
For Le Fevre, the position meant something much more complex.
“It’s a loaded position to say the least and most presidents will tend to focus in one or two areas and not everywhere because you can’t focus in every area.”
Nonetheless, all four past presidents agreed that their main role as president was to reflect the needs of students and to represent the Laurier population as best they could.
“When I walk into the office each morning I don’t know what’s going to come across my desk that day because it’s totally dependent on what students would like me to do,” said Sheridan, who believes that knowing what students want and are frustrated with defines a president’s role.
Allan Cayenne (2006-07)
“Goodbye to a beloved Golden Hawk” – Sept. 20, 2006
While overseeing renovations, Cayenne removes the Hawk from the floor.
Dan Allison (2007-08)
“Hiring an ‘obvious choice’: Allison” – Jan. 23, 2008
Allison supports the hiring of Matt Park who recently stepped down from his position as board chair.
Colin Le Fevre (2008-09)
“Radio Laurier cut by WLUSU”
– Dec. 3, 2008
Funding changes overseen by Le Fevre allows Radio Laurier to be cut from WLUSU.
Laura Sheridan (2009-10)
“WLUSU finalizes Charity Ball donation at $159” – Oct. 15, 2009
After much controversy, WLUSU releases the charitable donation from one of their activities committees.
Free rent – an apartment in Euler.
Food benefits – a discount card for food in the Terrace and Wilf’s,
Salary – full-time salary accompanied by health and dental coverage