Students’ Union presidential candidates emerge
Tuesday at noon marked the deadline for intent-to-run form submissions for the upcoming Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union elections. At this point, there are four potential candidates for the position of president and CEO of the Students’ Union.
The three potential candidates who have confirmed their intent to run with The Cord are Chandler Jolliffe, Sam Lambert and Justin Tabakian.
A fourth potential candidate also submitted an intent-to-run form; however, the potential candidate had not responded to requests for an interview prior to publication.
Candidates will be made official after the all-candidates meeting on Jan. 21. This is when the campaigning period will officially begin.
The intent-to-run forms were a new addition to the election process put forward this year by chief returning officer, Dani Saad. In the past, candidates were only bound by election policy and rules after the all-candidates meeting. The forms, however, now bind potential candidates to election policy and rules prior to the meeting.
“Traditionally we ran into some troubles with candidates who were breaking campaign rules, but were doing so prior to officially being candidates, so they weren’t bound by those rules,” Saad explained.
The forms are also intended to add a week of preparation time to allow potential candidates to become more familiar with the process and the election rules.
However, prior to the deadline for submissions, potential candidate Chandler Jolliffe had taken actions that violated election rules.
Last week, the Jolliffe campaign team announced his candidacy via Facebook. This violated the rule that no active campaigning can take place prior to the all-candidates meeting.
“I spoke with the campaign and had them remove the post so that they’re no longer in violation of the rules,” Saad explained.
When asked about the incident, Jolliffe said that his team was merely following precedent for what was allowed last year.
“This year’s elections management team … decided that this was not something they wanted. Unfortunately, they made the decision after it had already happened, and we were simply going off of the precedent that had been set last year.”
No demerit points were awarded to Joliffe.
“It’s hard to give out demerits when you can’t have possibly known it’s illegal,” Jolliffe said.
“I’ll just say that the rules are clear,” Saad said. “But people can misinterpret them or perhaps not understand them or see them— whatever the case is. So we gave candidates, particularly the first time, the benefit of the doubt. And then once we’ve clearly, beyond any reasonable doubt, explained the rules then there are no second chances.”
In terms of his campaign, having been heavily involved in the union for the past four years, Jolliffe believes he can bring a more realistic platform to students as a potential presidential candidate.
“My biggest apprehension with our elections is our candidates come forward generally with very unrealistic platforms,” he said. “Often, maybe because they don’t know the organization thoroughly or because it’s easier to sell students.”
Then, when the president elect gets to office, he continued, they realize they are unable to deliver their platform to students.
“Essentially, the point is that my entire campaign is grounded in reality. What can we realistically achieve, not necessarily within one year, because not everything can be done within a single year, but what can we start to do within that timeframe that the organization actually has control over and is achievable within the framework we’re given?”
Sam Lambert also confirmed his intent to run for president.
“Everything that I’ve done over my time at Laurier has been really dedicated to bettering the experience for students,” explained Lambert. “I think this position … is the perfect culmination of everything I’ve done.”
The experience Lambert was referring to was his time spent at Laurier as a member of his residence’s House Council, as a don, as an ice breaker, as head ice breaker and as a teaching assistant for multiple courses.
“The main idea is bring the focus back to the average student,” he said of his platform.
He continued that he wants to bring forward tangible initiatives that will impact students in their day-to-day lives at Laurier.
Of the next few weeks, Lambert says he’s anticipating learning what his fellow potential candidates have to say.
“I respect all of those who I know are running. I really think it’s going to be a great race, so I’m looking forward to that as well.”
Justin Tabakian, the third potential candidate, believes his background at Laurier makes him a good candidate for representing the average student at Laurier.
“Generally, I would like to see the Students’ Union much more accessible to the average student and I would like to see much better communication,” he said of his aim.
His involvement, he explained, includes House Council, the Laurier Enriched Academic Program (LEAP), campus ambassador, career centre peer advisor and employee at Wilf’s.
In terms of his preparation for the role, Tabakian said, “I’ve been trying to reach out to the students and make sure the ideas that I have, that I’ll be willing to put forward, is representative of the majority of the student population here.”
He also spoke to his lack of experience in student politics.
“I’m proud of it. I think it’s going to give me, I guess to go back to past elections, a fresh perspective. I think that I’ve really tried to do my best to learn a lot about the organization in the past few months,” said Tabakian.
“I think learning it from an outsider’s perspective helps me understand where the Students’ Union is going and at the same time, be critical and see a positive direction that I would like to move towards.”
Andres Melendez, the fourth potential candidate, explained that in his three years at Laurier he has experienced some negative aspects of the school that he has always wanted to be able to change. This was his motivation for submitting his intent-to-run form this past Monday, which was a decision he made, as he described it, “at the heat of the moment.”
He went on to explain that — prior to September when he spoke at the Students’ Union State of the Union event — he “didn’t even know what the Students’ Union was entirely.”
Despite this lack of knowledge about student politics, Melendez claims he isn’t worried.
“I think this puts me in an absolutely great position becuase I have the perspective of an outsider,” he said.
“This will all come natural at some point. When I say that I’m going to do it and I set my mind to something, I always accomplish it. So it should not be a problem.”
In terms of his platform, Melendez said that his biggest focus is going to be on diversity.
“This is a business school, it’s a sports school, it’s a party school—but I want to reach beyond that. Not just appeal to one crowd, but everybody. I want nobody to feel they are an outsider here.”
Candidates have until Jan.21 to withdraw candidacy without being bound by election rules. “It’ll definitely be a close and interesting race to follow,” Saad said.
*Disclaimer: Dani Saad is also the opinion editor for The Cord.