WLUSU open forum caps off election campaign

The four candidates in this year’s Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union presidential race were given opportunity to respond to students’ questions Monday afternoon in the Concourse during the annual open forum.

Asked for a single important change to make in WLUSU if elected, Nick Gibson opened with his ‘back to basics’ platform that suggests the students’ union needs to focus more on its student representation and advocacy role. Aeron Lawrence explained a need for greater focus on approaching students rather than waiting for students to approach their representatives.

Dan La Cute also pointed to advocacy as important along with accessibility in the presidential role. Matt Park expressed that the most important change to be made needs to be with student engagement with WLUSU. “Students don’t see the value, they are forced to pay fees in to an organization and they question if it’s valuable,” he said. “It’s about going to them.”

Candidates were also asked for their ideas for improving female representation in elected students’ union positions, quizzed on policies and ends and methods of lobbying the university.

Gibson spoke to lingering problems with wireless Internet connectivity on campus, saying the focus should be on reliability over exceptional speed. La Cute explained that the university’s information technology services (ITS) arm has received funding to put toward improvements.

The question as to what the relationship between WLUSU management and the president should be was posed. “In talking with the current president, there’s a very rich relationship with the [general manager]” Lawrence said.

La Cute expanded, saying that general manager Mike McMahon’s role is to advise the president and his experience should be taken into consideration. Park again noted his experience in WLUSU, replying, “If you consistently have to defer to his interpretations then you lose student control over the organization.”
Experience was a topic revisited numerous times throughout the forum. Asked to describe experience with policy and governance, La Cute said that though he has not had practical experience in WLUSU, he has prepared on his own.

“To be honest I’ve done a lot of my own research,” he said, noting his attendance at board meetings. “A lot of other presidents haven’t had policy background,” he added, “I’m definitely willing to put in the time and effort to ensure that I do the best job.”

Gibson, who has not had firsthand experience with WLUSU policy either, highlighted his background outside of the union. “I have not been on the board before but I have done external lobbying and external advocacy,” he said. “I also know the policy governance manual very well – I’m a policy nerd.”

After questions on campus clubs restructuring and environmentalism, the candidates made their final remarks.

“What we’re going to change is make you the focus of your organization,” Park said. “Give you power and control over what you’re supposed to have power and control over.”

La Cute encouraged students to make informed choices. “We’ve all spoken about our platforms and you’ve been able to critique us,” he said, “go out and read the platforms and get educated.”

Lawrence said that the campaign had been about communication. “It’s people that are going out to you and giving you information, going to where you are.”
“This is not a two-week commitment to your cause, this is a continuation of my four years of passion to things that go on here at Laurier.”

Gibson closed, saying, “My legacy is simply going to be this: I want to ensure that the students’ union is in a better place than when I entered it. That means that students are more engaged, that students feel like their thoughts, concerns and ideas are