Presidential candidates go head-to-head in debate

Friday, Jan. 11, Laurier’s four presidential candidates went up against each other for the presidential debate held in the Lobby of RCW. 

This election season, the four candidates who are running to be your Students’ Union president are: Ibrahim Musa, Klaudia Wojtanowski, Talha Naeem and Zemar Hakim.  

The debate was separated into four rounds and moderated by Adam Kovacs, chair of the board and chief governance officer at Students’ Union. Round one, candidates were asked questions derived from their platform which were expanded upon. Round two, were rebuttals of their platform, Round three was designated for community questions — a list of predetermined questions that were developed by Students’ Union and approved by Kovacs and round four were questions directed to and made by the presidential candidates.  

Naeem is the only candidate running from the Brantford campus, while Wojtanowski is the only woman in the race to be Students’ Union president. Naeem, Wojtanowski, and Hakim all have previous governance experience having held positions on the Students’ Union board, while Musa is only completing his second year at Laurier.  

Ibrahim Musa  

Platform highlights: Musa’s platform highlights seven pillars that he wants to carry out if he is elected Students’ Union president and they are: transparency, summarized audits, accountability in finances, extending hours in buildings with study spaces, decreased parking permit costs, maintaining and enhancing the welcoming environment at Laurier as well as improving the wifi network.  

Debate Highlights 

Q: Ibrahim, you want to decrease parking permit costs, can you please explain what it currently costs? How much you would decrease it by? And how you would do it?  

“If I’m not mistaken, it costs 300 to 400 hundred dollars per couple of semesters. For these parking permit costs, where does the money go?” 

“Yes it possibly goes to parking assistance and maintenance. If you can find a cheaper contract or a cheaper route to be able to pay off these maintenance services and these fees then obviously you could decrease these current parking prices and in doing so you need amazing negotiation abilities, I have always been using [services] like Kijiji and Letgo. It sounds funny right now, but when you can get something from 300, 400 dollars down to 50 bucks, that takes some serious skills.  

Q: “How can we trust candidates from waterloo to ensure that they are for students (?) and have an equal amount of say for upcoming plans, when candidates have not shown up to campaign here, to get to know student opinions, unless required to come to Brantford for election related events? 

I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Unfortunately for me, this is only the second time that I’ve been here at the Brantford campus. Having that said, as listed in one of the previous questions, I have a lot of other commitments I have made prior to this year, prior to running in this election. Because I say what I mean and I mean what I say, when I make a commitment you’ll see me there at that day. If elected not only will I have to drop all those commitments, I will drop all my classes to serve you better, I will purchase a car just to be able to drive back and forth and you will see me at least two or three times per week here at Brantford. On top of that, I will have open hours which I will be listing if elected, for you to come talk to me any time, anywhere, at your convenience.” 

Wojtanowski to Musa: “In your platform, you talk about enhancing the welcoming environment at Laurier. Can you tell us how you plan about doing so, and why are you uniquely positioned to create that experience over the other candidates running?” 

“What’s really unique about my platform is that you’ll find that a lot of points are vague and I will say that they are vague. There’s a reason for that, okay? When I say ‘hey, what can make Laurier better’, one individual will tell me one thing, another will tell me another thing. If elected, I want to create an elaborate, huge platform, put it up online and be able to check all the things that we’ve done. Having that said, how are we going to make Laurier a better place? Well, I talk to students. I talk to the students to see what they want to see–both campuses, Brantford and Waterloo–and having that in our ultimate platform.” 

Klaudia Wojtanowski 

Platform highlights: Wojtanowski’s platform runs on three main initiatives; providing mental health training to o-week volunteers, a promise that reimbursements will take one to two weeks, and provide students more explanation for their ancillary fees. 

Debate Highlights: 

Q: Klaudia, explain your timeline for your mental health phases and when you expect to have it completed and your lack of information regarding it?  

First I don’t think that’s a lack of information, I think what it does is open the opportunities for different avenues in which we can explore the actual implementations as well as the opportunity for students to ask questions, which they have been able to do on my instagram feed multiple times. Now the actual phase process of the implemental health is first to provide mental health training to all icebreakers as they interact a lot,one on one with students and making sure that that is a priority for them. The second part is to actually implement mental health training for students in general; icebreaker training would usually happen in August and right before O-week; the second part of that would be allowing other students to open up, so allowing sessions throughout that first semester and during that time we would also be working with different student organizations like TA’s and IA’s on our campuses to have them trained in mental health first aid as well so they are able to better serve our students.”  

Q: “How can we trust candidates from waterloo to ensure that they are for students (?) and have an equal amount of say for upcoming plans, when candidates have not shown up to campaign here, to get to know student opinions, unless required to come to Brantford for election related events? 

“I have classes on the Waterloo campus until 11:30 and I have done my best to be here when I don’t have commitments on the Waterloo campus. Next week I am very happy to say that I will be here for three days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday–so you’ll definitely see me–and the times I have been here, I’ve taken the time to engage with students with my campaign team by actually walking around. We went to the student centre, SC Johnson, Digital Commons, Carnegie Building, the Market Darling Centre–just about everywhere. We’ve been to as many places and talked to as many students as we possibly could at that time.” 

Q: “Klaudia, you lost twice the chair to Tarique Plummer and Talha Naeem, these are the people who voted are representatives of the students, why do you think these representatives wouldn’t vote for you but the students would?” 

“I believe in the democratic process and I believe that each individual will make a choice that they feel will be in the best interest of undergraduate students. Are boards perfect? No and we see that in non-profit organizations such as the student union, but we also see these in professional organisations–in corporate settings. I ran for chair twice, absolutely, because I’m absolutely, 100 per cent committed to being the voice for the students. Am I happy that wasn’t my position and they had it for a different way? Yes, because it allowed me to have a very strong voice at the table at some real, critical points of discussion with the board and bring a different opinion of the student voice to that table.” 

Hakim to Wojtanowski: “Several advocacy initiatives of your platform have been denied by experienced decision makers, how do you feel about about not being able to deliver promises you have made to students?” 

“The reason that’s under the advocacy piece is because advocacy is continuously working in order to change something. If every single time we gave up because something failed or didn’t go our way, does that mean we would be here today? Absolutely not. With different initiatives that we have like the line from Brantford to Cambridge, as Brantford continues to grow there’s different possibilities. Here in Brantford, the Students Union–especially the University Affairs department–they’re part of the business improvement area committee. What that does is they help work with under representation from the students union and it allows for them to have a voice in the Brantford community to push that agenda, to see that actually happen and come to fruition. I think that it’s important that with the initiatives I’ve put forward that we continue to fight for what we believe in. Brantford students should not just be forgotten because they’ve been told no once before.” 

Talha Naeem 

Platform highlights: Some of Naeem’s platform initiatives include providing holistic approaches to health and wellness, serving physical and mental health needs by digitizing the access to services and empower students by providing financial and organizational support for their extra curricular initiatives.  

Debate Highlights 

Q:Talha, you have a lot of initiatives, how do plan on finishing them all before the end of your term and what initiatives will you delegate to other students in the student’s Union department? 

“In terms of completing the platform ideas in one year, not all of the platform ideas can be completed in one year. For example, the tuition fee advocacy, that will take years to come into its true actualization, but the sad thing is, is that it has not been started already and we are late on that. I don’t know why that is a phenomenon on our campus but it should really be addressed. Now in terms of partnerships, those are very important because the president has only the power of advocacy in many of the external issues that students are having to delve into with other university departments. I can promise the portion of advocacy that my voice would count to represent students whenever there is a senior executive staff is getting together to make those decisions which are supposed to be serving students.”  

Q: “How can we trust candidates from waterloo to ensure that they are for students  and have an equal amount of say for upcoming plans, when candidates have not shown up to campaign here, to get to know student opinions, unless required to come to Brantford for election related events? 

(The inverse was applied to Naeem) “When it comes to me, that’s not accurate because I’ve been spending time on both campuses. I’ve been counting hours–two hours in waterloo, two in Brantford. That’s how I play my game. I have a strong team on both campuses, you would be surprised. My booths are pretty much twice or three times all of the candidates. If you combine all other booths you will see mine are outnumbering them. You know why that is? I might not be the most popular candidate, but my team is the strongest and represents both campuses equally. You can hold me accountable by the virtue of a stopwatch.” 

Q: “How can students trust you to follow policies as president, when you couldn’t even be held accountable to follow the policies while you we elections chair last year?” 

“This is really interesting because running elections is not an easy job; it takes courage, it takes a lot of preparation, it takes day and night of your effort to actually do that. Looking back at being Chair of Elections, I remember not only starting earlier on in the year, I started right in the middle. I pulled off everything that was required, for me as a chair, to accomplish and make that election successful throughout the end. Trust does not come from following the policy, but by building a relationship and being of service.” 

Musa → Naeem: “How do you plan to make free or cheaper textbooks a reality?” 

“Getting the writers, researchers, and publishers paid–we can work that out. That is workable, there are so many different places where we can access that pool of funding. We can access a pool of funding from the province, we can access a pool of funding from our auxiliary fee, but that’s a longer term conversation that we will get into. The main point is, are you happy paying the prices for textbooks that you’re paying right now? Let’s fix that, let’s make it a part of the platform so we can have a front foot advocacy so students voices can be heard. I don’t want you to pay $1000 for textbooks in a matter of a year and I think that’s too much for many of our students. So let’s start talking about that and let’s start advocating about technology enabled learning where the cost of education is just the cost of you taking an initiative.” 

Zemar Hakim 

Platform highlights:  

Hakim’s platform looks to serve the community on both an external (“through the university lens”) and internal (“through Students’ Union departments”). Hakim’s internal initiatives include; enhanced food bank services, volunteer discounts, essential students’ rights services and organized club distribution. His external initiatives include 24-hour student building access, smoothie bars in athletics facilities, extra-curricular recruitment committee and campus to campus event transportation.  

Debate Highlights 

Q: Zemar, please explain your extra-curricular recruitment committee and how it is different from student ambassador committee?  

“The extra-curricular recruitment committee is a committee for all non-academic involvement on campus to be put into spot. How it differs from student ambassadors’, is that Students’ Union ambassadors only market to student union committees within student union committee format; so it’s a circle going into another circle. What my website wishes to do is to take all departments across campus, whether it be athletics, residence, career centre, any on campus job even the dining hall in waterloo and bring them to one place. SU only takes Students’ Union committees and put them into one committee … I want to grab the market from every opportunity on campus and put them into a single management software.  

Q: “How can we trust candidates from waterloo to ensure that they are for students  and have an equal amount of say for upcoming plans, when candidates have not shown up to campaign here, to get to know student opinions, unless required to come to Brantford for election related events? 

“Firstly, my entire platform is multi-campus. Secondly, I [set up booths] from 10 to 4 on both the days that I’ve been here in Brantford and the events have only lasted two hours for this one and four for the open forum.” 

Q: “Zemar, according to the majority of meeting minutes, you have not provided comments or stances on major discussions on the board during your time. How are you going to represent the student body when it’s claimed that you are known to avoid conflict and, as CEO of the student body, it will be your job to confront conflict? 

“Just to clarify, the role of the president is not to confront conflict. During my time on the board, the board of directors engaged in, yes, contentious arguments with each other. The board is supposed to present itself as a united front and that is why I won’t pick sides on the board.” 

Naeem to Zemar: “You mentioned you want a bus from Waterloo to Brantford so students can attend the big and famous concerts on the Waterloo campus, why don’t bring those concerts to Brantford campus and make this city and campus shine? 

“Obviously on the Waterloo campus Wilfrid Laurier University owns larger venues to accomodate for larger scale artists. I would like to give Brantford students the opportunity to attend those concerts but, in the platform, it also states I would like the same opportunity to be given to Waterloo students that enjoy the artists that Brantford presents.” 

Jan. 22-24 polls are open to vote for your next Students’ Union president.  

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