Is it WLUSU or the Students’ Union

Students’ Union detaches from the ‘WLUSU’ acronym to send accurate message to students

Photo by Paige Bush
Photo by Paige Bush

Over the past few years, the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union gradually began to distance the organization from the WLUSU acronym.

Although there was no official announcement of this detachment, the acronym was eventually removed as daily vernacular within the organization.

Wilfrid Laurier University is a school of acronyms, whether it stands for organizations, clubs or even its physical buildings, such as FNCC for the Fred Nichols Campus Centre or DAWB for the Dr. Alvin Woods Building. Students and faculty are evidently using the short-form version for these titles.

Colin Aitchison, chair of the board and chief governance officer, said “WLUSU” is far too ambiguous for new students to understand. Is it a club? Is it an object?

“If you think about it, the average student who’s not involved in a lot of things on campus, mainly first-year students, when you come to campus you should know what your Students’ Union is doing and what your Students’ Union is,” Aitchison said.

Olivia Matthews, president and chief executive officer of the Students’ Union, jokingly echoed the same opinion.

“What is a WLUSU?”

“From my understanding, it’s to be more inclusive for all of our students,” Matthews continued when asked about the abandonment of the acronym.

Inclusivity is the main focus for this change, as with the Students’ Union, students are more aware of what the organization represents.

“When you hear Students’ Union, it’s very different from hearing WLUSU. People actually know what you’re representing; people actually know that you’re there for students. I think that’s the reason why they changed it — it’s more inclusive,” she said.

Phil Champagne, executive director and chief operating officer of the Students’ Union, said the person in charge of marketing for the Union four or five years ago, Kat Lourenco, advised the Union to abolish the use of acronyms.

“Students’ Union gives you an idea, at least somewhat, what we can do for you as a student,” Champagne explained.

“The idea was to make our company accessible to students.”

Champagne said the only way to “break a habit with people is to constantly remind them.”

“With our university partners and every time they say WLUSU, we’re like, ‘actually it’s the Students’ Union.’ We’re not trying to be jerks about it. We’re trying to get the message across,” he said.

Matthews said the Students’ Union internally made an “acronym ban.”

When vice-presidents and members of the Students’ Union staff are talking, they don’t use acronyms. She continued to explain that WLUSU isn’t the only potentially problematic acronym within the university walls. There are several acronyms and short form titles that can be confusing to the average student.

“For every year we’ve done it, I think we’ve done better in terms of acronyms in general,” she said.

“When you come to Laurier the first time, you are thrown out so many acronyms. Think about the DEO, WLUSU, we are a representative of OUSA … those are all just shortened names or acronyms and students don’t know what they are.”

As for stigmas surrounding the Students’ Union, Matthews explained the organization is focusing on what they can do rather than what they are perceived to be.

“It doesn’t matter what the name is. We need to be focusing on what we’re doing great, not the perceived cliquey-ness.”

With WLUSU as the acronym etched in history, it can be hard to enforce change.

But the members of the Students’ Union are dedicated to fostering a culture where ‘Students’ Union’ is the main name for the organization.

“I’ve seen huge strides since my first year [as a student] with the idea of exclusivity within the Students’ Union. But for students who have no idea that WLUSU is the Students’ Union, [abandoning the acronym] aids to the idea of exclusivity or stigma,” Aitchison said.

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