From The Sputnik – January 19, 2012
For the first time in seven years, Brantford students will not be guaranteed a voice in the Wilfrid Laurier University Students Union.
A new structure released yesterday from the office of WLUSU President Nicholas Gibson threatens to eliminate any student voice from Brantford in the coming year.
The major change to the structure that will affect Brantford is the dissolving of the Executive Vice President: Brantford position, which Holly Kaiser currently sits as.
Currently, the Executive Vice-President role has the privilege of speaking with the university and sitting on some thirty campus committees, however that WLUSU Brantford voice will disappear
The Brantford Operations Team, which is the EVP position along with the three associate vice-presidents, will be replaced by a new position known as Vice President: Campus Experience Brantford.
The decision has left some WLUSU Brantford coordinators scratching their heads.
“It’s a lot for one person to take on, I’m not saying it’s not possible, but it’s going to be a lot of hard work, a lot for them to do,” says Jordan Copeland, a fourth-year student who works at the PeerConnect Desk. “I didn’t see any problems with the system, so it’s kind of the if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Unlike the EVP position, the new position will be open to students on both campuses, thereby eliminating the guarantee of a Brantford representative in the student executive.
If a Waterloo student were to be hired for that position, it raises questions about their knowledge about the culture of Laurier Brantford.
“There’s a lot of stuff that Waterloo doesn’t understand about our campus, the same way that there’s stuff that students from our campus don’t understand about Waterloo campus,” Copeland said. “I always thought it was good to have someone from Brantford in that position, because they understand that position. I always thought it was good to have someone in Brantford run WLUSU Brantford and someone in Waterloo to run WLUSP Waterloo.”
The decision comes in a year where WLUSU has discussed the idea of multi-campus growth, but also just weeks following the decision to dissolve the Brantford Campus Council.
Trevor Faessler, Chair of the BCC, discussed the potential that the restructuring at the Board of Directors level has, but that the timing leaves Brantford in the lurch for one year.
As Faessler explains it, Brantford will be guaranteed two directors for the school year beginning September 2013, but will be without any directors for the upcoming year. With the BCC dissolved, there is also no medium available to connect Brantford students with the Board of Directors.
“My only concern on the issue is with the timing,” Faessler said. “I would have liked to have seen them wait to dissolve the BCC until the new board structure goes into place, instead of having this one year where there potentially are no Brantford directors.”
Combined, there is the potential risk for not one single Brantford representative on either the board or executive levels.
While the new structure does allow for a potential increase of Brantford representatives to be part of the student executive, it leaves some doubtful.
“There’s no way that someone from Brantford could take over one of the VP positions based out of Waterloo,” said one concerned student close to WLUSU who asked to be unnamed. “We don’t have a lot of those services here, it’s impossible to think they could understand that position enough to run for it.”
“It really gets us back to the notion of student executives and students truly leading the organization, truly setting the direction of the organization, setting the vision of the organization, and making sure they are the ultimate decision-makers,” Gibson said. “We want, moreso that the VP positions, the executive positions, we want those positions to drive the decision-making and ensuring that vision piece is clear, because if we get too bogged down in executing, that vision piece isn’t going to be there.”
The new structure was formed out of a multi-campus principle document, which stemmed from an idea pitched by Kaiser at a university conference this summer, as well as a third-party external HR review.
A major concern in the development of the new structure was the lack of Brantford input that went into it, according to Nick Savage, External Affairs Coordinator of WLUSU Brantford.
“[The structure] was created without Brantford input,” Savage said. “And it goes against what the input of Brantford students was.”
Gibson said that the structure was created from the multi-campus and HR documents, as well as two rounds of meetings with student executives and members of the Management Group. However, no meetings were held with those lower than associate vice-presidents on the Brantford campus, meaning coordinators and general students had no say.
“My personal opinion on the matter is that the people involved in making this decision did not take into consideration any of the feedback that was given to them in previous sessions, previous recommendations that they’ve asked for from the student body in Brantford, they’ve completely ignored them,” said Nolan Kreis, a candidate for WLUSU president this year. “They’ve actually regressed in the way that we run our students union.”
“There’s been a lack of research, a lack of leadership, and a lack of asking Brantford what they think they need,” Kreis continued. “So, I think the decisions were made very rashly, were made with no consideration to what we need, and that it’s a gigantic mistake on WLUSU’s end.”
“Getting more student input would have been a great idea, what’s the harm in asking? Whether they are going to use it or not, at least ask and see,” Copeland said. “I’ve already received a lot of text messages from students asking what does this mean, so I think there are going to be a lot of strong reactions.
In the end, the decision to change the structure rested on Gibson himself.
“The informant piece mostly came from the reviews and the multi-campus piece, and those were essentially left to my position to make sense of it all and put something together and make something work,” Gibson said.