The Students’ Union struggles to engage students

What is the Students’ Union? What do they do? These are just some of the questions that went unanswered when students were asked about WLUSU. The Students’ Union is actually responsible for many campus clubs and events, and their mission statement is to provide the best student experience. Students pay into the Students’ Union and generally fail to take advantage of its benefits, even though the organization exists entirely for the students.

“I don’t really know too much about the Students’ Union,” says first-year student Jesse Stainton.

Stainton is not alone, either. A lack of advertising seems to be a concerning theme surrounding the Students’ Union. It could be that students aren’t exposed to what is offered by the Union. Students could also be benefitting from groups like the Food Bank or Night Hawks and not even know that they, like many groups, are what makes the Students’ Union. What do students know about the Students’ Union?

“I know they sell tickets to student events,” says fourth-year student Chris Williams.

Williams’ comment reflects the lack of involvement from students around the campus. Some of the presidential candidates rated student involvement and the results were no more encouraging. Sam Lambert figures that 10% of students are very involved, while the same percentage are minimally involved. Justin Tabakian believes that 20% of students are very involved but also that 20% are minimally involved. The two support the widespread notion that students are not very engaged with the Students’ Union. How can only a fraction of the students be involved with the union that represents them? Campus clubs coordinator Falynn Whynacht can only guess why this might be.

“This could be that they simply do not know or care about what is offered,” she said. “Or they know about what they can do and do not want to participate because they choose to do other things with their time. Or they know what is offered and do not know how to get involved with the Students’ Union.”

If students want to be involved, the resources are there. Any questions concerning the Students’ Union can easily be answered, by residence life Dons, for example. In later years, the U-desk is just one of many resources you can visit to find answers, or at least be pointed in the right direction.

As long as there is a Students’ Union, there will be a need for volunteers. What it comes down to is whether or not students want to make the effort. There are reasons for not participating in clubs or events, but being misinformed doesn’t seem to be a legitimate reason.

“I think that students need to realize that there is more to university than just the academic side,” stresses Whynacht. “University offers so much more freedom and opportunity. Students just have to realize this and hang on for the ride. University is what you make it, and getting involved makes the experience so much more vibrant and memorable.”

Students can get involved with the school or the community without being a part of the Students’ Union. There are all sorts of activities and not all are school-founded or even school-related and it seems that most students simply choose other activities. This could stem from a lack of publicity or simply a lack of interest. Students don’t even seem to care who runs the Students’ Union, according to the voting numbers. In last year’s presidential election, only 29.8% of students voted, with online voting also available for students whom could not vote at a ballot box on campus. Based on that, it would be reasonable to assume that a majority of students couldn’t tell you when this year’s elections are, which are on February 5 and 6. Regardless of a student’s level of involvement with the Students’ Union, $600 per year would encourage students to pay more attention to their representation, or at least being able to name the current president.

“I guess I don’t hear enough about it or what they’re doing,” says third-year student Joseph Horrigan.

Again, the lack of engagement from the part of the Students’ Union is on display. There needs to be a better way to reach out to the student population. There is no lack of reaching out to students on the part of the Students’ Union, as evidenced by the efforts. There are posters around campus advertising the election and most groups advertise on bulletin boards, Facebook, or via a kiosk. The only area they really fail in advertising is by word-of-mouth. This can only be accomplished by making oneself relevant and so far students have not been overly successful. For the sake of the Students’ Union and the students they represent, a change is needed for Laurier’s student body.

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