WLUSU board under review
With extensive training and preparation, as well as the strong leadership of a competent president, the 2011-12 Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union board of directors, so far, have conducted themselves quite well in terms of policy and procedure. Over the summer, reforms were made by WLUSU in terms of policy and governance and as a result the board has been able to work more effectively than years past.
This year the board has faced some pretty unique situations, some of which were obviously out of their control.
Trouble has arisen with the prolonged construction of the Foot Patrol office, the transfer of the Terrace to Aramark, the creation of a new campus clubs space and social media policy for elections, and for the most part they have been dealt with diligence and care, though better outcomes could have been possible.
With that in mind, the board has improved from their predecessors, taking the past into account how they make future decisions — especially with the expansion of the Terrace last year going over-budget.
The most notable change from last year is the increase in professionalism, preparedness and composure of the board members, probably to do with a large turnover rate from last year. Inevitably the board will stray off of what should be discussed, but most meetings typically go without much contention or absurd amounts of heated debate.
The board isn’t perfect, and to ask for such a thing wouldn’t be possible, mainly because every member on the board has their own sets of strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes it appears that some of the directors are afraid to challenge opposing opinions, or to delve into detailed conversation. Points of worth should be debated, and the board shouldn’t feel like they need to reach a certain decision just to conclude the meeting at a reasonable time.
So far, the board hasn’t quite gotten itself into any blunders or major failures, and as a whole, they seem to be cooperating . With a semester’s worth of work completed and with perhaps a bit more attention to detail, the board is on its way to a rather successful year.
President and CEO
There’s a very good reason why Nick Gibson was the front runner for last year’s election, and ultimately chosen for president and CEO of WLUSU. Coming into the role thoroughly prepared, Gibson has proven to the student body, so far, that he has what it takes to be a WLUSU president.
The first half of his term hasn’t exactly been smooth for Gibson, but he has dealt with any issue that has arisen with a strong effort. With the O-Week/fall reading days debacle, Wilf’s and the Terrace flooding and the deal that saw Aramark take over operation of the Terrace, Gibson has spent much time making sure those issues are addressed, and that the student body understands what’s going on.
Though relatively new to WLUSU procedure and policy, Gibson, with his passion in political science, is extremely well-versed on how to tackle the role. He has kept somewhat true to his platform, and has been instrumental in the reconstruction of the 2-4 lounge in regards to study space on campus.
The role of a president at WLUSU can, at times, be a bit unclear, to both the students’ union and the student body. But Gibson has prevailed through that confusion and has made it clear to students what he does. Ultimately, his strength is connecting with other students and keeping transparency, consistently meeting with people who have concerns.
Though a very strong president —arguably the best in the past few years—Gibson needs to take a stronger stance on certain issues, and to avoid attempting to cater to various differing opinions.
There will be in instances where students will be dissatisfied with a particular decision and he has to understand that will occur. One example, while he dealt with it reasonably well, was the fall reading break situation, where he tried to cater to both sides of the argument, which was quite polarizing.
Gibson is somewhat of a perfectionist, and there’s nothing wrong with that, just as long as he has a clear focus for future. One of the sole reasons WLUSU has remained on track this year is because of the work Gibson has done. The student body at WLU should have nothing to fear for second semester.
Chair and CGO
Walker has excelled in making the difficult transition from a director on the board to board chair and chief governance officer. After being one of the more passionate, outspoken members on last year’s board, he has done a good job becoming a more neutral voice during meetings, ensuring all sides of an issue are debated.
As chair of the board he is also charged with the running of board meetings, a task he has performed well. For the most part, Walker maintains good control of discussion during meetings, and while there have been a few instances of debate becoming circular and off-topic, largely thanks to Walker’s leadership, board meetings have become much more efficient than in previous years.
While Walker’s performance during board meetings has been good, where he has really excelled is in his work outside the boardroom. According to his fellow board members, Walker rarely leaves the WLUSU offices and makes himself very accessible to both directors and management. Walker’s experience with WLUSU proved to be an asset in terms of training the eight new directors on the board this year, as the board was able to function efficiently even in the summer board meetings.
However, where Walker has been perhaps most impressive is when it comes to his duties as chief governance officer. This year has seen a massive overhaul in WLUSU policy, something that Walker has played a large role in executing. Walker’s strong background in policy has been an asset for WLUSU during this process.
When it comes to acting as a bridge between the board and management, Walker has, for the most part, maintained an effective working relationship with WLUSU president Nick Gibson and the rest of the management group, but remains committed to his responsibilities as chair of the board, challenging management when needed and keeping the board informed.
By coming in as a University of Waterloo and WLU double-degree student, Papanastasiou has the potential to be a valuable asset to the board in his ability to see how students are treated at both institutions. Unfortunately, he has remained consistently quiet during board meetings and when speaking to matters that have arisen, seeming apprehensive to participate in much conversation.
Papanastasiou is actively engaged in the Greek Students Society and other various campus activities, so he has shown strong involvement outside the boardroom. Though he has been quiet, he had exerted more confidence in the later weeks of the fall term and is appearing to be more comfortable in the role of a director.
From his platform to his performance in the board room, Collaton displays a strong understanding of his role as a director. He is engaged in the board room and mindful of support he can give to new directors, asking questions that they may have themselves. Collaton’s work also extends outside the board room in participating in committees reviewing monitoring reports and policy that will guide the board in the future. He should work to maintain a strong attendance record at meetings and be a mentor to new directors.
Collaton is also often a source of comic relief, cracking light-hearted jokes and keeping the mood light during board discussion.
An unfortunate scheduling conflict with one of Habtemichael’s classes has made him miss five meetings over the course of the fall semester, which has obviously hurt his tangible contribution in the boardroom. However, to his credit, Habtemichael has taken extra steps in meeting with other board members and CGO Chris Walker to keep himself informed and involved.
Habtemichael did contribute by sitting on the pre-elections review committee. However, at the Dec. 2 board meeting, during which the committee’s recommendations were presented, he was largely silent. This continues to be Habtemichael’s biggest obstacle: actively participating in board discussion. While it is clear he has passion for his role he needs to express himself more often and forcefully during meetings.
Despite this being the first time Nyhof has sat on the WLUSU board, he has made a fast transition into his role as director and vice chair. In the board room he exhibits strong understanding of board policy and practices. With his experience now as vice chair, he should play a key role in committee meetings about reviewing the position. Now with a semester of experience under his belt, Nyhof should work towards being more vocal and engaged during board meetings.
Nyhof has worked towards his platform goal of connecting students with WLUSU in taking part in ownership linkage events. His involvement on an environmental review executed by the university reflects his concerns for Laurier as a whole.
Chudnovsky has made a concerted effort to make an impact in this, his first year as director on the WLUSU board. On top of attending every board meeting, he has done outside work with CGO Chris Walker to develop as a director and accelerate his learning curve. Chudnovsky also served as part of the ownership linkage committee, staying true to his platform pledge to “Bring the Student back into the Students’ Union.”
In the boardroom, Chudnovsky isn’t the most vocal director on the board by any stretch. However, he maintains a good level of engagement during discussion and is consistently well versed on the issues at hand.
This being his third year on the board, Oberle’s experience has come through in and out of the board room. He has a thorough understanding of the board’s purpose and practices, raising strong discussion points in the board room to ensure all sides of any issue are considered. His involvement in the pre-elections review committee as well as an upcoming election-focused committee is valuable because of his interest and experience in WLUSU election policy.
Oberle is respected by his peers and is a mentor to new directors. He should be confident in his knowledge of WLUSU and the university as a whole and put his ideas and concerns forward in the board room.
Although quiet in the board room, Papanastasiou fulfills his role as a director through committee participation and thorough consideration of the issues brought to the board. In chairing a committee, he has taken on greater responsibility, demonstrating his knowledge of the WLUSU board and policy. As a second-year director, Papanastasiou should be more vocal in board meetings to share his opinion with his fellow directors and be a role model to those who are in their first year.
Despite the fact that he isn’t one of the more outspoken board members, it is clear that Papanastasiou is an engaged, effective director and is highly respected by his fellow directors.
Though at times one of the quieter directors on the board, Desson still proves himself as a valuable first-time director. His strong attendance and his work with the pre-elections review committee has demonstrated just some of the effort Desson has put into the term thus far. More importantly, when he does speak, Desson is not afraid to take a stance and to be vocal about his opinions.
As a teacher’s assistant and former icebreaker, Desson has the opportunity to be more engaged with the student body, something that he could improve on. Overall, however, Desson is a well-rounded director that has a thorough grasp of the role.
As he progresses into the second semester, Fleming, a first-time director, will need to take a step back and re-evaluate his role as a director. While he had class during most of the meetings, Fleming needs to make sure that he is up to date with board procedure and conduct when in the board room.
Uncertain and at times seemingly oblivious of his role, Fleming tends to make comments that are out of place and that don’t contribute to board discussion. As he increasingly spends more time at the WLUSU offices, Fleming has been taking steps to improve on his skills and shows promise to be a better director in the future.
Chan is no stranger to WLUSU, and there’s a good reason for that. Knowledgeable, engaged and confrontational when necessary, Chan has been a strong presence on the board, both inside and outside the board room. He is vocal during meetings and brings up valid and worthy points of discussion.
While his communication, at times, can be unclear, his work and devotion to board has been substantial. He demonstrates enthusiasm and pride in the work he does – and rightfully so. By being the only science student on the board, he brings a unique perspective to debates, and through his extensive experience on the board. Thanks to his extensive experience within WLUSU, he also thoroughly understands board procedures and has shown strong initiatives of how he can contribute to the board in a long-lasting way.
Over the past year and a half as a director, Pryce has exerted professionalism inside and outside the board room by actively engaging with the student body. Pryce is heavily involved outside of his role as a WLUSU director, serving as the president of campus club ACCESS U and sitting on the board of directors for WLUSP. However, this has not hindered his commitment to the WLUSU board, as he uses his background from various campus clubs and activities to effectively speak to a wide variety of student concerns.
Along with his involvement in the ownership linkage committee, he continues to show promise for the future; his confidence is evident through his composure and conduct. Pryce acts as a leader and model for the first-time directors, as well as any of those who will want to run in the future.
Disclaimer: Jon Pryce is on the board of directors for Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publications
Sher’s performance during board meetings has certainly come along as the semester has progressed. He was particularly vocal in the last two board meetings before the winter break, which is a sign of his development as a director, as earlier in the year he was largely silent during discussion.
As a Residence Life don, Sher brings a valuable, unique voice to the board in his ability to see and speak to the issues facing a large number of first-year students, as well as those in the Residence Life community. However, he needs to start raising these issues, where appropriate, along with being more vocal overall. While his responsibilities with Residence Life takes up most of his time, Sher has remained committed to his role as a director, attending every board meeting in the first semester.
While Dotto is in his first year sitting on the WLUSU board, he is anything but an inexperienced director. He comes from a strong policy background having previously worked with the External Affairs Committee, as well as the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) and that background shows both through his committee work and his contributions in the board room. Sitting on multiple committees, including the post-elections review and multi-campus governance committee, Dottto’s ability to understand policy and translate it into real world terms has been an asset in revising some of WLUSU’s policies.
During board meetings, Dotto is frequently one of the most vocal board members, and is often the one to reign in a discussion when it starts to get off track.
Disclaimer: Luke Dotto is a staff writer at The Cord.
Having experience working in many groups on campus, Solda is aware of students’ concerns. In the board room, she is careful not to contribute to discussion that veers off topic or becomes circular; however this can come across as a lack of interest or understanding, which is disappointing in a second-year director. She should take leadership in debated topics and present her opinion that may mitigate potential problems and make discussion more productive.
Exhibiting strong attendance and preparation for meetings, Solda has, for the most part, been an engaged director, particularly in taking a role with ownership linkage. However, considering she is one of the more experienced directors on the board, Solda should take a stronger stance in board meetings, not only asking questions but offering her perspective to influence policy- and decision-making.