WLUSU delayed in seeking input on fall reading week

Not more than a few weeks ago, students found out via The Cord that a reading break proposal could pass as early as Oct. 19, which would allow students to have two days off during the peak of midterms and the dreaded “paper season.” The proposal was heavily criticised for its possibility of compromising, or even shortening, orientation week.

The response from students was ultimately divided: some students didn’t want to see O-Week compromised while others were concerned that it would not be enough time off. The one underlying common denominator: students, especially volunteers, were concerned that Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) did not communicate enough with students over the course of the process.

To clarify, the proposal was passed through a committee of several students, including both past and current presidents/CEOs of Wilfrid Laurier University Students Union (WLUSU). The senate also has student members and WLUSU claims that orientation week volunteers were involved in the process. Yet, judging from the petition and groups being formed in protest, I have to personally question what extent they were actually involved.

After that article several weeks ago, the issue of informing students was brought up at the board of directors meeting. After the fact, WLUSU was forced to further inform students of the proposal: Nick Gibson, president and CEO, initially posted the proposal in his own words just over Facebook. Within an hour, there were more than 70 comments.

The proposal, though, still does not clearly state how this will not effect orientation week, nor does it fully address or solve any of the major logistical concerns that have been brought forth by volunteers.

As of now, there is a petition circulating against any changes to be made to orientation week and groups against the proposal are being formed on Facebook. Some of the major concerns surround the logistics of theoretically starting O-Week earlier or incorporating two days of classes into the programming. While Nick Gibson himself has said on multiple occasions to students as well as on record that WLUSU does not want to compromise O-Week, it seems that the proposal has done just that and will do just that should it be passed.

Yet still, the only efforts put forth by the administration have been minimal at best and have not resolved many of the concerns. Placing the proposal up on WLUSU’s website with the option to contact Gibson directly would have been helpful had it been posted months or even weeks before the proposal was to go to senate, taking into consideration not necessarily every individual concern but at least calming and addressing the obvious frustrations concerning orientation week logistics.

This is disrespectful coming from WLUSU. Something that impacts students this much should have had, at the bare minimum, more student input. In this case, we can’t let our union speak for us, as our interests are not adequately being served.
We need to identify what is more important: the logistics of orientation week, which could probably be conquered with the leadership and dedication that has brought O-Week to this point, or the mental health of students, faculty and staff. Two days off surely is a compromise that has taken some time to accept, as I am sure an entire week would be ultimately more beneficial– the fact remains that this is a break we so desperately need, and we were kept in the dark about the particulars until just days before it will likely be passed.

We are one of the last Ontario universities to gain any sort of October break and I feel as though that the benefit of having some time off grossly overweighs any sort of issues with logistics. That being said, my heart goes out to the volunteers charged with the responsibility of fitting two academic days into programming, something from which orientation week could even benefit.

As both a volunteer and a student, I can understand the frustrations that students have brought forth. I will never forget my first orientation week and it feels horrible to think that O-Week could be compromised. I do not question the ability of the senate, or interests of the committee, but the overall lapse of communication from WLUSU about this proposal. Clarifications were only sent out after the fact, a meagre four days before the proposal is sent to senate. Instead of sending it in November as Registrar Ray Darling had once mentioned, the proposal is being discussed Oct 19.
Rushing this proposal to senate only proves the further lack of efforts put forth by WLUSU to communicate with students. Students are frustrated with the current situation and the unclear proposal posted initially only on social media, which still only dictates that classes would either be integrated into orientation week or arrangements would be made to accommodate the two academic days. This is too little too late for WLUSU to make amends with its own volunteers and members, leaving students disenfranchised and disheartened as the proposal is at senate today.

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