Year end review of the Students’ Union Board of Directors
The following reviews are based off of interviews with the Students’ Union Board of Directors to reflect on the year and if they best represented Laurier undergraduate students.
President & CEO
President and CEO of the Students’ Union Kanwar Brar is considered to be both highly knowledgeable and professional, offering his expertise to the board members on various occasions. Some directors noted that Brar often had to jump in and guide discussions during board meetings — a typical responsibility of the chair. It was a noted lack of board training early on that led to this recurring problem, according to multiple members of the board. Despite this being a recurring problem, Brar’s involvement in meetings decreased over time, which lead to the existence of a more cohesive and productive board. At times it was also noted that Kanwar had to actively encourage board members to hold him accountable.
While Kanwar’s representation at the board table was unanimously praised, some directors questioned his approach to representing the board and the student body at large. It was said by some that his consistent professionalism led to a lack of personal connection between himself and the board. Some directors also criticized Brar’s focus on off-campus advocacy, preferring a more campus-based approach for the role. Some critics noted a lack of on-the-ground student interaction, but ultimately commended Brar’s professionalism and dedication to the role of representing the student body on a larger scale.
Ultimately Brar is proud of the contributions that he has made as president and excited to see some of them come to fruition as they are implemented in the following years. Some achievements that Brar was proud to speak on included advancing The Turret renovation project, chairing the referendum campaign and introducing the “Orientation and Transition 101” fee to help integrate first year students as well as reviewing/updating the Students’ Union’s organizational structure.
Some important highlights of Brar’s tenure as president included responding to conflict and controversy on multiple occasions, advocating for student rights through organizations such as OUSA as well as interacting with various levels of government to vocalize student concerns involving mental health services and landlord/tenant rights.
Ultimately, through the introduction of the Orientation and Transition 101 fee, continuous advocacy efforts, updates to the organization’s strategic and marketing plans as well as his commitment to being transparent and accountable to the board, Brar’s year is one that has been marred with various successes and highlights, some of which have been reactionary and some of which were outlined thoroughly in his platform.
Muhammad Talha Naeem
Chair & Chief Governance Officer
Muhammad Talha Naeem was the recently elected chair of the board and chief governance officer for the board of directors due to Tarique Plummer’s conflict of interest. This was quite an anomaly for the Students’ Union and therefore there was no formal training for Naeem until the election results were finalized.
Naeem was caught off guard by the emergency election but ultimately exceeded his own expectations. Naeem was commended for his efforts by the board unanimously, although many board members noted that his transition into the roll was not ideal due to the circumstances at hand.
Although he stepped into the roll with a lack of knowledge and experience, he ultimately impressed fellow board members with his adaptability and openness to feed back.
Naeem’s ability to monitor and control discussions at the board table has noticeably improved. Though a lack of communication initially indicated some of his potential weaknesses as chair he was able to act on and apply feedback from the board and finished the year on a strong note.
Naeem will not be returning to the board due to his involvement with the elections process.
Students’ Union President-elect Tarique Plummer had what can only be summed up as an unconventional year on the Students’ Union board of directors.
Beginning his term as the chair and CGO of the board, Plummer’s campaign aspirations for the 2018-19 school year served to complicate several board proceedings early on, which led to some conflict at the board table and ultimately resulted in a controversial motion to silence the gallery in favour of moving the discussion forward.
Plummer’s decision to run for president was criticized by various board members who accused him of withholding his true intentions for the upcoming year. Despite some resistance from the board, Plummer moved forward with his campaign and, due to an obvious conflict of interest, was forced to pass the responsibility of chairing the elections portfolio on to director Talha Naeem.
In the months following the campaign process, the election of Plummer meant that he could no longer serve as chair and CGO and therefore his responsibilities were again passed on to director Talha Naeem who was voted chair in an emergency election.
After stepping down from his role as chair and CGO, Plummer fell back into the role of director but simultaneously worked to mentor director Naeem as he stepped into his new role. Despite taking a step back, Plummer made a continuous effort to be an accessible and useful resource for fellow board members.
Ultimately, Plummer’s actions this year served at times to divide the board, and his decision to run for president heavily impacted his ability to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities required of the chair and CGO.
Michael Del Bono
Vice Chair of the Board
With the switch up of the Chair position on the board early this year — where president-elect Tarique Plummer assumed the position of Director and Muhammad Talha Naeem took his place as chair of the board and chief governance officer — Michael Del Bono has been a stable presence in his position of vice-chair of the board.
He has worked to help maintain order at the board table when tensions arose among directors, and strived to maintain a degree of integrity among his colleagues. While he has been able to execute the responsibilities of his position throughout the year, the stress wrought by those responsibilities began to take its toll toward the end.
Nonetheless, Del Bono proved himself to be a valuable asset to a board characterized at times by strife and disorganization.
Del Bono’s commitment to remaining unbiased and serving the board was noted and commended by multiple directors.
Director Emily Rezkalla had a successful year during her tenure on the board of directors as she saw many things she mentioned in her platform come into fruition. A specific area in which Director Rezkalla saw success was her approach to informed advocacy and community engagement, amongst other components.
Since her mid-term review, Director Rezkalla has improved greatly in her understanding of policies and procedures during meetings. As a result, Director Rezkalla has been a confident contributor. She continuously stood up for efforts she felt were important and advocated for the most appropriate policies.
As well, Director Rezkalla is commonly seen coming to meetings prepared, after having fully read the agenda package and meeting minutes.
Despite issues amongst the board, alledgedly surrounding unprofessional behaviour within meetings and gender inequality, Director Rezkalla was a thriving, consistent and dependable member on the board this year.
Although she is graduating and, thus, will not be returning next year, Rezkalla remained one of the most significant contributors on the board.
Zemar Hakim is one of the quieter members at the board table, however, Hakim has shown significant understanding of both policy and procedure when it comes to the Students’ Union bylaws. Hakim has also been one of the few directors who has not been involved with much conflict both inside and outside of the board.
His passion for the board does not go unnoticed although he remains quiet; Hakim has been working with Kawar Brar to learn and understand more about the board. Hakim has become involved with both the ownership linkage, election appeals committee and student teaching awards.
Ultimately, Hakim has been able to prioritize his biases and bring a level head to the board table which allows him to complete his tasks assigned rather than getting caught up in conflict.
Hakim has shown a commitment to the board through his attendance to board meetings, of which he only missed one.
In addition to his almost perfect attendance record, Hakim has fulfilled his platform by advertising board of director’s membership to second and third-year students.
Director Klaudia Wojtanowski continued to bring dedication and passion throughout the past term. Her participation on Student Life Levy committees allowed her to make contributions which will have a positive effect on Laurier students even after she has graduated; for example, the Friendship Bench, the new charging stations in the Concourse, the Turret, etc.
Director Wojtanowski is widely known as one of the strongest members on the board due to her thorough knowledge. This knowledge of policies and procedures has allowed her to be one of the most effective directors at the board table. Director Wojtanowski also clearly puts forth the time and effort to read agenda packages and come prepared to meetings.
Multiple board members have acknowledged the inappropriate behaviour, particularly surrounding gender inequality, that has been targeted at Director Wojtanowski. Despite this, Director Wojtanowski has overcome this obstacle and continued to strive to be a strong director.
Director Wojtanowski will not be returning as a director next year, but will be on the board of governors after being elected with over half of the overall student vote.
Director Momita Paul’s contributions were noted to have waned in the second half of her term.
Though her attendance to meetings remained consistent throughout the year, some directors expressed surprise at her lack of enthusiasm despite her obvious capabilities and the benefits she brought to the table as a director.
Paul was contacted by The Cord to conduct her end-of-term review but did not respond to interview inquiry.
Joseph Small is a third-year Economics student and maintained the position of acting chair during former chair Tarique Plummer during his Students’ Union presidency campaign.
One of Small’s significant strengths as a director is his professional decorum at the board table. Small has been able to effectively communicate his concerns to the board in a productive manner which showcases his ability to read and understand meeting packages. In addition to this knowledge about meetings, Small has a significant understanding of policy and procedure. Small wishes that he could do more about the board cooperating as a team but unfortunately his efforts fell short due to lack of response from board members.
Next year, Small is looking forward to continuing his relationships with undergraduate students in different capacities aside from the board of directors: Small will be working with the board of governors and the department of residence as an education advisor in the upcoming fall semester.
Idris Omar Hassan
Director Hassan, who last term proved to be a divisive and polarizing presence on the board, hasn’t been able to affect a significant change to those perceptions.
Where some board members find his contributions to be deep, probing, and constructive, others find them to be counter-productive, harsh, and alienating. Some have noticed that, after his unsuccessful run for Students’ Union president (only receiving 6% of the vote), he has displayed less interest in his responsibilities as director. Regardless, he has this term managed perfect attendance to board meetings. He has also contributed within various committees on the board, and outside of the Students’ Union, Hassan has kept himself busy with a multitude of extracurricular activities.
Ultimately, Hassan’s directive style of conducting business at the board table has most likely been a contributing factor to the wanting performance of this year’s board of directors.
Director Roitman, a quieter presence on the Students’ Union board of directors, has maintained cordial relations with her colleagues.
Evading the near omnipresent strife wrought by this year’s factious and conflict-prone board, she has helped accomplish some modest wins. In her role on the student life levy committee, for example, she helped approve various projects—including the new “Friendship Bench” located outside of the Wellness Centre. This, coupled with perfect attendance to board meetings and two visits to the Brantford campus, have established Roitman as a steady, effective member of the board.
Director Bonnell had a solid year during his tenure as director of the board. Since his mid-term review, Director Bonnell has made more significant contributions and has been a more vocal presence at the table during board meetings.
Director Bonnell has made an evident effort to spend time at Brantford, which has allowed him to embrace the multi-campus aspect of Laurier.
A main success of Director Bonnell’s tenure has been his participation on the Student Life Levy committee which ultimately allowed him to be involved in making critical decisions, advocate for important projects and draw from his extensive experience.
Director Bonnell will not be returning to the board of directors next year as he is graduating; however, he believes his position as a director has been a valuable experience to his personal self-growth. He hopes to make room to allow a new individual to have the same, beneficial experience.
Director Ricky Liu continued to have great attendance to board meetings in the second semester, having been in person at all but three meetings — which he phoned in to via conference call.
Liu has expressed gratitude for the diverse range of skills and voices that this year’s board has brought to the table. According to Liu, the diverse interests of the group allowed each to excel in their own right; him specifically with finance related matters. Liu enjoyed working with each director and was excited to be a part of the direct inspection committee for finance.
Overall Liu commended the continued efforts of communication put forth by the team and by newly-elected chair, Talha Naeem.