Despite there being a strong presence from all five candidates on both campuses, this year’s Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union election was plagued by campaign gimmicks, overused sound bytes and a far too amicable debate. While each candidate had their strong points, the majority of their platforms and public interactions during the debate and open forum had more weaknesses than strengths.
For the most part, the candidates’ promises lacked substance and conviction — a common theme seen in most WLUSU elections.
That being said, there were two candidates that appeared to have the right skillset to become WLUSU president and CEO — Chris Walker and Dani Saad. However, of these two candidates, Walker emerged as the strongest candidate and, in our opinion, the best choice for Students’ Union president.
Walker’s experience within WLUSU was an asset to his campaign and will likely eliminate the large learning curve that usually comes with the job. Largely due to his time as a director, his position as chair of the board and chief governance officer and vice-president of university affairs, Walker is best equipped to take over the job and immediately begin producing effective results.
Overall, Walker’s platform was the most feasible and within the bounds of the president’s role. The job is by no means glamourous and is extremely policy and advocacy based, and Walker’s platform reflects an understanding of this fact.
The part of Walker’s platform that got the most skepticism was his pledge to decrease textbook prices; however, this skepticism was misplaced. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) — of which WLUSU is a member — is already working toward this goal on a national scale. Furthermore, Walker’s involvement with university affairs and advocacy could create a potential, long-term — not immediate — solution for textbook prices.
Aside from this, Walker in general shows a greater understanding of the role, such as his emphasis on student mental health and food services, especially in Brantford. While he may not be able to break down the walls of the WLUSU “clique” or have a spotless record in his previous roles, Walker is still the best choice.
If he were to have at least one year’s worth of WLUSU experience underneath his belt, Saad would’ve been a more qualified candidate. Arguably the biggest surprise of this election, Saad carried himself well during the open forum and Cord-hosted debate, often posing many thoughtful questions and pointing out existing flaws of WLUSU.
Saad’s main downfalls are his lack of WLUSU experience — which would likely bring a large adjustment period if he were elected — and his underwhelming platform. Saad’s platform was too vague and not bold enough to offer students real confidence in what he could do as president.
Annie Constantinescu gained a considerable following over the course of the campaign period, and in terms of student outreach, she did well. Her platform, however, lacked substance and was ill informed.
For instance, she outlined plans to implement a WLUSU mobile application, however, the Students’ Union has already tried this and failed. Furthermore, her pledge to give more autonomy to individual facilities when it comes to O-Week academic sessions showed a lack of prior Students’ Union knowledge as the faculties are already completely responsible for these sessions.
In addition, Constantinescu relied too heavily on using her business degree and her overwhelming “love” for Laurier as qualifications for the position. Presenting these as major selling points just exposed her lack of capability for the position.
Jennifer Taborowski was only the candidate from the Brantford campus, and she should be commended for not using Brantford-specific issues as a crutch for her campaign. She made a distinct effort to campaign on the Waterloo campus, and advocated for the many points of her platform, which affected both campuses, including her stance on fall reading days and mental health.
But she unfortunately lacked the strong presence that the job of president requires, as she showed in her weak performance at the open forum. Similarly to the other platforms, hers was not specific and more rooted in her “passion” rather than tangible solutions.
Out of all five candidates, Caleb Okwubido’s platform was the weakest. It didn’t cover a variety of student issues and the points he did cover were vague and required much more elaboration. For example, his platform does not specify how he will approach any advocacy or financial aspects. Although Okwubido preformed well at the debate when it came to questioning his opponents, he did not offer concrete solutions, nor did he add to his platform points.
Board of Directors
Chair: Jordan Epstein
Through his experience as vice-chair this year and his engagement with WLUSU as a whole, Epstein will be the best possible choice for chair of the board and chief governance officer in 2013-14. Regardless of the fact that he is the only one running for the position, Epstein excelled in the open forum and should be applauded for his plan to make the board more of a transparent environment. By thoroughly understanding the purpose of the board and what it could achieve, Epstein would make an effective director and chair of the board.
Vice-Chair and returning director: Matt Casselman
Probably the most vocal director on the board this year, Casselman more than deserves to be re-elected as a director for the upcoming 2013-14 year. His knowledge of the organization and the specific role of a director, especially in terms of presidential accountability, is what made Casselman stand out upon the rest. He should be commended for his electoral reform referendum efforts as well as the engagement he has with the student body and community groups. As a result, he is clearly also the best choice for vice-chair, a position he could easily excel in.
New director: Michael Kates
Unfortunately many of this year’s director candidates had a weak understanding of what the board actually does. Kates was one of the few director hopefuls who performed well at the open forum, providing insightful answers and demonstrating a clear grasp of the position he was running for. This was most evident in Kates’s response to the question about the role of the board of directors. He was one of the few non-returning candidates that understood that the board’s role is to hold the president accountable.
Board of Governors: Frank Cirinna
After running for the board of directors and not getting elected last year, Cirinna re-focused his efforts by getting involved with university affairs this year. Also serving as a student senator this past year, Cirinna has experience dealing with the university and, of the two candidates, is better positioned to step into a spot on the board of governors.
Initially only two candidates came forward for the three vacant student positions on the WLU Senate. And after Luke Dotto and Elias Eerikainen were acclaimed, Zahra Sultani and Jazz Clement entered the race for the remaining spot. However, because neither Sultani nor Clement submitted a platform or showed up to the open forum, it would be difficult to give our support to either one. Even of the two acclaimed candidates, Dotto was the only one to submit a platform and be present at the open forum, and he deserves credit for the amount of time he spent during the campaign encouraging students to get involved.
These endorsements was agreed upon by the 13 members of The Cord’s Editorial Board. The arguments made may reference any information gained through interviews, documents, public appearances by the candidates or other sources. These views do not necessarily reflect the views of The Cord’s volunteers, staff or WLUSP.