The Students’ Union is funded by undergraduate student fees and provides services for students including bus passes, Direct2U Prescription, Emergency Response Team, Food Bank, Foot Patrol, health and dental insurance coverage, Peer HelpLine, Student Life Line, and tech share. The Students’ Union also supports over 130 Clubs and Associations involving a large portion of the student body including yours truly, Her Campus Wilfrid Laurier, by offering financial support and acting as a liaison between the students and the University.
This past week Her Campus Wilfrid Laurier had the opportunity to sit down with Students' Union President hopefuls Olivia Matthews and Frank Domenic Cirinna to discuss their platforms, opinions of Laurier, and personal aspirations. *Dave Patterson politely declined an interview with Her Campus pending an upcoming announcement at today's open forum*
How long have you known you wanted to run for president of the Students’ Union?
Frank: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2011 – that was the second day of O-Week and Nick Gibson went up on the stage (He was Students’ Union President at the time) and did his speech. He said find something you love and make it your own. After that, everyone was leaving the AC and I stayed behind to speak to him. I walked up to Nick Gibson, stuck out my hand and said Hi my name is Frank and in four years I want to be standing where you are.
Olivia: If you had asked me this time two years ago I would have laughed. After elections last year I started to think about it more because there were still some things I wanted to see done with the Union. I thought I would volunteer for it first to make sure I enjoyed the organization. I started to volunteer in March as an Executive on the Policy Research Committee for Student Affairs. I found that this is the one department that most Presidents don't have experience in. I spoke to so many people throughout the summer including those who had been in the position of President before and those who had not won the election to just see if this was something I really wanted to do. I hit the ground running in September and have been spending my life on it ever since.
Olivia - is there a significance of the colour Purple for you?
Olivia: We chose purple because my campaign is all about bringing it back to the students. I’ve never seen someone run with purple since I’ve been at Laurier and let’s be real, who at Laurier doesn’t love purple?
What is the most personal point of your platform?
Frank: Because of my business experience and my experience in coop I’ve noticed that our hiring system sucks. STARR is not a good hiring system. We use it because one good company uses it, but you know what every other company uses? Cover letters and Resumes. You know what we don’t use? Cover letters and resumes. Why should we stop someone from walking people home at 3 in the morning because they can’t pass the STARR process? If you want to help people in need, there should be no barrier. People don’t want to reapply because they don’t want to do STARR. We are limiting our volunteer base and this greatly upsets me. Laurier doesn’t hire with STARR, why should the Students’ Union?
Olivia: This is hard I love all my foundations. I would say honestly because now my experience has been when people come up to the booth and ask “what is the students’ union” – that’s a huge problem for me because students should probably know what their union is doing for them, never mind simply what it is. I would say it’s not one of my more tangible steps, but attending more events and initiatives lead by students on campus. AS president you have to keep a student framed mind in a professional role. The only way you’re going to find out what students want is by attending their events and participating in their experiences.
If you had to pick just one thing from your platform to implement, what would it be and why?
Frank: I think the thing that would benefit people the most is the Visas for faculty association Presidents. It’s a Visa that would be available to the faculty association Presidents – FOSSA, CICDA, WLUMA, and SBSS. They have these Visas that would have a limit and be monitored tightly. Currently, if a guest speaker is coming and this speaker costs, let’s say $3000, why should a student have to put that on their Visa and then wait to be reimbursed? Also, because we are a not-for-profit organization, we actually lose the HST tax credit by having the money reimbursed. If the Students’ Union were billed directly, we would gain that tax credit.
Olivia: All of them? I wrote my platform so that it is all realistic to achieve in a year. There is vision in there for a couple more years as well but I believe all of it can be accomplished in a year. I think the thing that is most pertinent to students who are not involved is getting out there, but the most important foundation to students who are involved would be Faculty Associations. Fostering collaborations between them, online reimbursement process, making all of our Faculty Associations have elected presidents. I find that those students that I have met with are the most frustrated with the union.
What do you love about Laurier?
Frank: I’m allowed to do a lot of crazy fun things and nobody bats an eye. In 2nd and 3rd year, for Halloween I setup a door in the concourse and dressed up like an old lady with a bowl of candy. It was a real door with a sign on it that said ‘PLEASE KNOCK’. On Halloween people would knock on the door and I was able to let people trick-or-treat on campus and nobody said anything. I’m glad that I’m able to do all these fun things that I love and that people also appreciate them.
Olivia: As an Ambassador I get to tell people what I love about Laurier every day! I would say what made me come to this school and what I still love about it today is the community. It’s great ot have such a small campus, but it’s not about the place, it’s about people. I love the people here; what they do together, what they accomplish together. Sense of student experience on campus – there is always something you can get involved with.
What is your proudest moment as a leader on campus?
Frank: I think my proudest moment was probably when somebody that I influenced succeeded beyond what I’ve done. When I was a first time breaker, one of my first years was applying for breaker and he didn’t get it, but he did get Go team. The next year he applied for go Team Exec and got it. I now have first years who do all sorts of things all over campus. When I see people who I have influenced who thank me for doing the stuff that I did I am proud. I encouraged a brother to go for a position in our Fraternity [Sigma Chi] and he got the position. Every time I see him he reminds me saying, “Thank you for pushing me to do that”. When people say stuff like that, I don’t care if I am successful, I know I’m helping people to advance and it makes me really proud.
Olivia: I’ve been very fortunate to have lots of leadership experiences. I would say when I went on exchange and came back that was a huge step for me. I had to first go outside of my bubble and I was so scared to be a rookie all over again. Then coming back was a challenging year getting involved again. Getting outside my comfort zone and then coming back and re-figuring out my comfort zone was challenging but in a good way.
What is one decision in your university career you would go back and change?
Frank: When I was in first year, I got double hired. I got hired for Winter Carnival Executive and I got hired for University Affairs Executive. In that year we had a rule that you could only be an Executive on one committee. I chose University Affairs. The only reason I regret that is I could have still been involved with University Affairs as a general member and eventually get to where I am now. For Winter Carnival I could have been an Executive once. The execution of the logistics that week; I think I would have really enjoyed that. I wish I took advantage of that opportunity.
Olivia: I wouldn’t. Even though some of the decisions I’ve made may not have been great have lead me to this and that’s important to me. I’m not saying everything I’ve done throughout university was the smartest decision, but I am very fortunate to be where I am right now so I wouldn’t want to take anything back.
What advice would you give ‘First-Year-You’?
Frank: Be mindful of your enthusiasm because some people might not interpret that as enthusiasm. Some people might take it the wrong way. Because of how outgoing I was especially in first year I think that some people were thrown off and didn’t understand where I was coming from. I would have advised me to focus myself more.
Olivia: Don’t be so concerned about what people are going to think – just do it. At the end of the day, if you’re going to do it anyway, why worry about it? That’s the same thing right now with the election. I’m always so nervous but I’m doing it and my head is in the game so let’s do it!
Who is your #1 role model?
Frank: I have a philosophy on role models that you shouldn’t necessarily idolize them because everyone has a weakness. What you should do instead is find out what strengths your role models have and mimic those, and find out what their weaknesses are and cover those bases. That’s the way to become better than your role models. I’ve taken a lot of different aspects from different role models; Nick Gibson, Chris Walker, Chandler Jollife, and Charlie Dixon.
Olivia: This is going to sound cheesy but it’s definitely my mother. She’s so strong in everything she does and even when she’s faced with difficult times in her life she’s always been able to get through it and always been there for my sisters and me. Even throughout this entire process, I’ve called her almost every night and she’s just there. I wish I could be like that for other people.
What is one thing you think the Students' Union did really well this past year?
Frank: There were a lot of issues this year because we had a lot of staff members leave. I think the Students’ Union did a really good job of hiring the best people for certain positions. Our new Executive Director’s first report was so in depth it was fantastic. I believe that by putting the right people in the right spots, that’s when real work and real progress gets done.
Olivia: I would say listening to their student volunteers with regards to changing the hiring process for Orientation Week. Also, within the management team, I really like the new management project where we are critically assessing all of the Students’ Union services and outputs to figure out where money is being spent and where it could be spent better. I think that’s a really good initiative and really essential.
What is one thing you would have done differently?
Frank: One of the main things I think people have a problem with in the Students’ Union that we’re finally getting rid of is the hiring system especially with the lottery. One thing that was really poor this year was training. Training was just awful this year. There was a training exercise that was extremely rude and inappropriate. It was similar to ‘Cross the Line’, but there was no reset after each question so people ended up just really far apart and it had more of a segregating effect than anything. They crossed the line with Cross the Line. The other odd thing about it was that we didn’t use the Student Leadership Centre for training. The Students’ Union pays for 50% of the SLC’s operations and their entire job is to train leaders and we didn’t use them.
Olivia: One thing I would have done differently pertains to transparency. They are doing a lot of work in that office but I think we should be able to tell students what we are doing behind those doors. Going back to the point that a lot of students don’t know what the Union is doing for them when they’re paying several hundred dollars into it, I think they should know. That’s why I have in my platform having a strong online presence and getting out to students what we’re doing upstairs in that office. I think it would be great to see the Students’ Union more in the community.
This would seem an intuitive question perhaps, but why do you want to be President?
Frank: I don’t want to be president for the job or for the glory or anything like that. The reason I want to do it is that I’ve spent 40 hours a week the past four years of school and we’ve been able to do some good things. I just think of all the amazing things I could do if this was my only commitment. If the only thing I had to worry about 50 hours a week was this, think of what I could do. I wouldn’t have to worry about leaving for class; it would be my full time job.
Olivia: I want to be president because throughout my Laurier experience I have been very fortunate to have a lot of leadership opportunities through Residence Life, Dean of Students’ office, Students’ Union and I’d like to take that to a macro level now. I’ve built all those personal relationships and now I’d like to take that to another level where I can help all our students; it’s not just about loving our school, it’s about loving the people that are in it.
Frank - Can you speak to your recent Sigma Chi Fraternity Presidency and the early termination of your term?
Frank: Being Sigma Chi President was great. I did my job to the best of my ability. One of the main pushers towards the end of the discussion was me running for Students’ Union President. I thought back then that I would have time to do both, but looking back now, they were right, I had to make a commitment to one or the other. One of the alumni told me I would have to choose. The chapter was left in good hands.
Frank - If some large real-world opportunity comes up, can you reassure the student body that you won’t step aside from this Presidency too?
I’m not looking for a job because I have a long-term plan that requires more education. The program I’m looking at begins in January, so after my presidency I would have my summer to travel and money to pay for school. I would spend the Fall Semester preparing for my masters’ degree and then start in January. There is no job that would take me away from this position. This is the biggest thing I can do for students.
Olivia - When I was reading your platform, I noticed that it differs from other platforms in the wording. A lot of it is ‘advocating for’, ‘working on’, ‘leading the discussion on’, etc. I know that a lot of students will read that and say, “Well where is the promise? What are you going to do?” We were wondering if you could speak to that for readers who may not understand how this terminology translates to the position of Students’ Union President.
Olivia: Absolutely – when I started my journey into this position, I wanted to know what the role of President actually was and I think I’ve come up with a really solid definition of it. Half of it is your advocating on behalf of our students, you’re sitting in our student affairs committee meetings and other meetings to advocate. The other half is leading and managing those VP’s. It’s not a highly operational role, it’s very much a visionary role and a representative role. So when people see all these tangible steps for those VP’s, I don’t want to be a micro manger for those VP’s, I want to have a vision for what we are all going to accomplish in the year. For the role of the President though, it’s not his or her job to be super hands-on because they need to be all encompassing. What’s in my platform is achievable. It’s something we can work towards as a full Union.
Any last comments for Her Campus Wilfrid Laurier readers?
Frank: I’ve done a lot of stuff in community service. Two of the biggest things I’ve done in the past year involve safety. I am on Waterloo Regional Task Force. I’m working with them for St. Patrick’s Day to make it safer for students. The biggest thing I am doing is the Gendered Violence Steering Committee. It just started up through the Women’s Centre. It’s looking at ways to reduce gender-based violence to make both campuses a safer place for both genders.
Olivia: I’m so excited! It has been a very long time coming. There’s a lot of research that has gone into this platform and I’m excited for students to read it. I’m also excited for students to realize that those of us running – Frank, Dave, and I are all students. I have spent a bajillion months planning for this while I’ve been working, while I’ve been studying and I’m really excited that it’s finally here. Get out there and vote!
Have more questions for our Presidential hopefuls? Feel free to ask them anything at today's open forum in the Upper Concourse from 10 am - 4 pm. Be sure to check out all candidates' full platforms and get online to VOTE on February 4th!
* Today's Open Forum has been rescheduled to Tuesday February 3rd 10am - 4pm due to weather restrictions and campus being closed. *