WLUSU under review
These reviews were written collaboratively by Local and National Editor Linda Givetash, News Editor Lauren Millet, In Depth Editor Alanna Wallace and Editor-in-Chief Laura Carlson.
They are based on collective observations from attending the Board’s bi-weekly public meetings and conducting more than 20 hours of interviews with the student representatives.
These interviews were specifically designed to evaluate the elected performances based on both self and peer evaluations.
Photos by Nick Lachance and Yusuf Kidwai.
Despite having several strong directors sitting on this years Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union board of directors, it is hard to identify a single thing this year’s board has accomplished.
While they started the year off quite strong – acting very efficiently and effectively at the summer interim and operating budget meetings – the board seems to have lost the necessary passion and engagement that will make them successful.
In the beginning, the board appeared to work well together, fostering constructive discussion regarding topics on the agenda. The senior directors seemed to be paving the way for the newer members to become more involved.
As the semester has progressed, however, some board members – especially returning directors – seem to have given up on this years’ board, while younger directors are still struggling to find their role on it. A divide is evident, with directors often operating in subgroups.
Tension is most apparent between the chair and the other directors, which has significantly hindered their success.
The one noteworthy thing that has resulted from the board is the implementation of the market research project, which was proposed and passed by the board at the June budget meeting. This initiative shows that the board cares about the future of the student’s union, as the union is now in the process of collecting and incorporating student input into future plans.
The board needs to be careful when discussing issues, as sometimes debates can wander off topic. Board members should also be more willing to ask questions when they are unsure of something, for certain issues might be under-analyzed due to lack of examination.
Overall the board suffers from a lack of direction and engagement, failing to be aggressive in the presence of management or developing board positions on matters of importance to the student body.
As with most years, sadly, it’s another underproductive year in student politics.
Laura Sheridan – President and CEO
There is no doubt that Sheridan is passionate about her job as president and puts everything she can into the position.
She works countless hours and is constantly seen around campus effectively engaging with both the student body and administration.
In terms of her platform, Sheridan has worked diligently to complete several of her tangible goals, including ensuring the proper implementation of the WLUSU restructuring, upgrades to the Terrace, the new tray system and increased composting.
Having effectively utilized online forums such as Facebook, Twitter and the union’s website, Sheridan has provided mid-term reports and her President’s Updates in order to engage the student body and maintain a degree of transparency that has not existed under her predecessors.
Though her updates reach many students, they often do not contain tangible elements such as facts and figures, which can be frustrating.
The line between transparency and public relations is often blurred. Though initiatives such as the upcoming Know Your Fees campaign and additional assistance in the finance department have been implemented, there is some doubt that these reforms are actually making the union more transparent and accountable.
Sheridan came under fire following the small monetary donation the Charity Ball committee made, yet she failed to take responsibility for the union’s mistake and instead defended something that many students were unhappy with.
At times such as this – when someone is highly critical of the union – Sheridan fails to act in a satisfactory manner, as she can take things very personally.
To increase dialogue with students regarding the union, Sheridan has altered her platform to hold open houses rather than an open forum in early January. If properly utilized, they can engage students and open WLUSU to feedback from those who are not part of the union.
Sheridan has already worked to do this to some extent through the creation of the Student Congress. This group, which she chairs, brings together leaders from across campus and has started a dialogue about the importance of networking and combating silos between various student groups.
As the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, Sheridan has made some mistakes, including a $300,000 budget misallocation from the finance department and select monitoring reports the board has sent back.
Despite this, directors have great respect for her, and appreciate her conduct during board meetings – often allowing members of management to speak on issues she is less familiar with, which is helpful to board members.
Sheridan has followed through with the day-to-day concerns of students, including making greater study spaces available on campus during the exam period.
She has exhibited strong communication with WLUSU management and full-time staff. Her ability to reach out to all parties has maintained her role as an effective figurehead for the student body.
Saad Aslam – Chair of the Board
Coming into the position of chair – to which he was acclaimed – the learning curve was steep for Aslam. Unfortunately, in the eyes of his fellow directors he has failed to recover from an unproductive summer. With little transition between the incoming and outgoing chair, Aslam lacked definition in his role, and both directors and Aslam agree that the position should no longer be full-time over the summer.
Frustrations have been expressed regarding Aslam’s relationship with management, as many felt that he was pushing their agenda, with things such as trying to get the $43,000 videoconferencing project passed.
Directors have also expressed concern that Aslam is not always receptive to what they say. Often during meetings it appears that Aslam attempts to push the board in a certain direction, even if it clashes with what the majority of the directors want. Aslam has been able to streamline discussion during board meetings, avoiding last year’s prolonged discussions. He has succeeded in maintaining control of discussions during meetings, moving topics along from one to another while not allowing ideas or statements to be drawn out too long.
Aslam sometimes fails to remain impartial on issues, and his language in the boardroom can be harsh. At times he prematurely cuts people off, and becomes visibly upset if discussion goes a certain way, showing bias when he should remain neu0tral.
Though his conduct during meetings is something Aslam should improve upon, he works well with directors outside of the boardroom. He always makes himself available for anyone who has questions or concerns. His implementation of one-on-one meetings has been a valuable resource for directors who opted to take advantage of this opportunity.
For the remainder of his term, Aslam needs to regain the esteem of his directors, show respect in the boardroom and demonstrate confidence and leadership abilities.
Others need to be reminded of why Aslam was the strongest choice for chair going into this year.
Not being vocal in the boardroom is Allen’s biggest weakness as a director. Self-admittedly Allen is shy and often refrains from asking questions when she believes they might be irrelevant or she is unsure of something. Though Allen has shown some improvements in this area she needs to find the confidence to speak up and offer her perspective, as she very often has valid points to bring to the table.
Behind the scenes, Allen seems engaged, as demonstrated in her work on the ownership linkage committee. However, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what this committee has accomplished.
Despite having good ideas, Chan has trouble communicating them to his fellow directors. Though his comments at times may seem random, usually his statements have validity.
Chan has a firm grasp on policy governance and the role of a director, but in order to be taken seriously he needs to be more coherent when expressing his ideas. Having failed to be elected to any committees, Chan has pursued involvement in other areas on campus, notably within the faculty of science.
Dobson remains a strong director; she is very passionate about her work, understands her role as a director and is always prepared for meetings. As a second-year director she has a thorough understanding of policy governance and remains a valuable asset and resource to the board.
Despite her senior status on the board, it’s disappointing that Dobson has not taken on more of a leadership role in committee work. To maximize her engagement in the boardroom she needs to speak more frequently to set an example for her fellow directors.
Evans brings a humourous yet passionate voice to the boardroom table. He keeps meetings lighthearted while still offering valuable advice to fellow directors and taking a balanced approach to board-level issues.
Though many directors enjoy his sense of humour, others feel that he often acts immature and unprofessional.
Evans’ co-curricular involvements, which include his roles of president of Sigma Chi and a director of Laurier Musical Theatre, keep him in touch with the needs of students, which is important for an effective director.
Although taking an active role within the board by participating in the ownership linkage committee, Francis could take a more vocal approach to engaging in board meeting discussions.
She rarely voices her opinions, which makes her one of the more unnoticeable board members.
Fryer is one of this year’s strongest directors, being recognized by his peers for his leadership, knowledge and engagement in board meetings.
As a second-year director, Fryer is highly regarded by other board members and many turn to him for advice. He has made an effort to improve his conduct in the boardroom following last year, when he was often accused of being disrespectful and unprofessional.
Fryer effectively proposed the market research project, which, although setting WLUSU over budget, will provide students an opportunity to voice their concerns and expectations of the union.
Glover’s poor attendance at board meetings and lack of communication with his peers have been his biggest flaws as a director.
Having missed four out of the term’s eight meetings, it does not appear that Glover has been able to effectively fulfill his role. Glover attributes this to his rigorous work schedule, and he has also resigned from his student senator position.
When he is in attendance at meetings, Glover often appears unprepared, having not read the material, which disappoints other directors.
On Jan. 5, 2010, Glover announced his resignation from the board.
Though quite vocal in the boardroom, Hanna’s comments are often interpreted as accusatory and rude. At times he appears stubborn in his opinions and is hesitant to take what other directors say into consideration.
Although he sat on the elections policy review committee, he failed to show up to any meetings and then was very critical of the work produced by the committee. This demonstrates his apparent lack of commitment to the board.
Despite numerous requests, Peter Hanna refused an interview with The Cord.
Harason is one of the least vocal directors on the board, often remaining silent for entire meetings. However, she surprised everyone and has been applauded for having successfully chaired the committee for sustainability development.
Now having the experience of working well with a small group, Harason would benefit from bringing her ideas forward in the boardroom.
Hocking’s ability to seek out directors for advice has given him an upper hand in the boardroom.
He is willing to scrutinize management and raise student concerns, which are important attributes for a director to have. Hocking’s perfect attendance and obvious eagerness shows his promise as a director, yet there is still much work for him to do in the remainder of his term.
The ends policy review committee he has been elected to, which failed to meet first semester, would be the perfect opportunity for him to take on a leadership role in an area he is very passionate about.
Hyde has effectively immersed himself in the role of a director and has taken the time to ask questions and educate himself on various issues. He is often vocal in the boardroom, facilitating discussion, asking valuable questions and putting forward motions. Hyde’s business background and ability to analyze WLUSU finances is an asset to the board.
His focus on short and long-term goals for issues such as environmental sustainability have made him an effective board member. This, combined with his ability to remain impartial, has won him the respect of his peers.
Disclosure: Jordan Hyde is the chair of Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publications board.
Oberle has taken a leadership role among first-time directors both during meetings and while sitting on committees. Oberle sat on the sustainability development committee and acted as the chair for the elections review committee.
Fellow directors applauded Oberle for his work on the elections review committee in particular, regardless of the fact that the board rejected many of his suggestions.
Because of his great passion for student issues, he at times gets emotional in situations such as these.
Onabolu has a positive presence in the boardroom, asking important questions and supporting fellow directors. Holding the role of secretary, Onabolu has been given the opportunity to take on a leadership position and has performed adequately in this respect.
His charisma and general demeanor allow for his words to be considered by other directors, even if they do not always agree with his views.
As a second-year student with great potential, Onabolu should take the remainder of his term to be more engaged with WLUSU issues.
Being the board’s only representative from the Brantford campus, Smith attempts to represent not only the 2,400 students of Laurier’s satellite campus, but also keeps in mind how her decisions will affect Waterloo students.
She chaired the Brantford realignment committee, which allowed her to excel in an area she is knowledgeable in. Other directors claim Smith brings a good perspective to the boardroom, because it allows them to always keep the Brantford students in mind.