By: Mackenzie MacDonald, Contributor
Another year, another election—the Student’s General Association elections have come and gone, and we’d like to introduce you to your new 2017-2018 SGA executives! We had the opportunity to talk with the new President, Vice President of Student Life, and Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, to learn more about their views on student engagement, campaign promises, and their specific visions for the future of the SGA.
All of our candidates this year ran unopposed, raising the question of whether or not Laurentian is suffering from a lack of student engagement. Roch Goulet, fourth-year Psychology and Con-Ed student and President-elect for the 2017-2018 academic year, attributes this problem to a lack of awareness about both the elections and the available positions.
“There was a lower [voter] turnout than we would have liked,” Goulet said. “We attributed this to the fact that there was no real competition, since there was only one candidate per position. I imagine students do not want to bother voting if there is no real choice.”
“I believe part of the problem of low student involvement is due to a lack of awareness about both the positions, and the importance of voting.”
Abraham King, a second-year Mechanical Engineering student and VP of Policy and Advocacy for what will be the second year in a row, also felt that a lack of promotion and awareness contributed to a low student turnout for this year’s elections.
“I thought there would be more students willing to get involved with the SGA to make a real difference here at Laurentian,” King said. “I believe this [lack of interest] may be due to the fact that we did not allocate enough time to promote the executive positions, or explain their roles properly to the student body.”
King stated that, “Next year we will be focusing on promoting the positions and explaining their roles, which will hopefully lead to more nominees. I believe that it is important for students to know that they can voice their opinion and contribute to the evolution of the SGA and its role at Laurentian.”
According to Goulet, the new faces of the SGA are planning to tackle this problem in several ways.
“Firstly, we believe in bringing a more personal element to our positions—engaging [with] students one on one whenever possible, being personally part of all of our events, and personally promoting the SGA, its events, values and policies whenever possible,” he said. “The idea is to really put a face to the SGA. We’re not some mysterious corporation, we’re students who want to make a difference in student life right here at Laurentian.”
“Secondly,” he continued, “we hope to have some really amazing events that will really appeal to the student body. We aren’t simply going to dream up these events [ourselves]—we hope to have the student body submit some fun, realistic ideas that we can hold throughout the year.”
“Thirdly, while chatting with the current SGA team, it became clear that giveaways and prizes are a great way to add a bit more enthusiasm to student engagement and a fantastic way to give back directly to students,” Goulet added. “I plan to leverage this, to really grow the number of engaged and active students in the SGA community.”
Simon Lafontant, a third-year French Nursing student and the new VP of Student Life, is planning on using his energetic personality to help create some much-needed change.
“I plan on bringing my own personal spunk into the mix,” Lafontant said. “Seeing as I’m a very energetic and empathic person, I feel like that could bring a new way into dealing with student issues and attempting to revive our student life here [at Laurentian].”
So, what can students expect from their new SGA execs for the 2017-2018 academic year?
Lafontant said that he wants to “recreate the face of the SGA” to make them “as approachable as possible.”
“I want to encourage students to come talk to us and let us fight their battles with them,” he said.
“Another thing that I really want to concentrate on this year is to have a really great [Welcome Week] experience, for the people who are [returning] to the university and for the people who are in first year, to really kick things off on a positive note,” Lafontant added.
Lafontant also plans to “tackle the communication between the SGA and the students themselves.”
“It’s something that obviously needs to be worked on, so that we can have more [interaction] from the students, so we know what the real problems are that they would want us to tackle, since we are there for them,” he said.
“As the newly elected President of the SGA, students can expect to have an active SGA President who will be doing their best to engage its members,” said Goulet.
“During my term as president I expect the SGA to have a different feel than it did this past year, simply because the new executive team is itself very different. I will be focusing on promoting student engagement, and making sure students and their interests are well represented on campus,” Goulet explained.
“I plan on having an open-door policy—students can feel free to reach out to me directly by email or even stop me in the hall to chat about what they would like to see us work on at the SGA. Event ideas, student concerns, student interests, changes on campus; we would love to hear what our members would like us to pursue,” he said.
As the re-elected Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, King explains that students “can expect more advocating on [their behalf]”.
“My goal for next year is to push Objective #4 in our strategic plan, which states that we aspire ‘to educate students on available services offered to them by the SGA’. We have services such as Aspiria Student Assistance Program, our food bank, free personal training at the gym and many more,” King said. “I also want to provide opportunities for students to gain awareness on current issues such as financial, career, government, and health and wellness.”
While the candidates believe that “what has been established works well,” in regards to the current structure of the SGA, their plan for improving communication and boosting student engagement has been vital to their campaign, as all three feel there is room for improvement.
“I want the LU community to know that the SGA is your student union,” said King.
“Many students don’t realize the importance of the SGA. We are here to represent your voice as a student to the rest of the Laurentian community. Therefore, the SGA allows your voice to be heard. Whether it be through fun events like Welcome Week or Frost Weekend, or more serious issues like talking with administration about revising policies, the SGA has your best interests in mind; we are here for you,” he said.
Lafontant wants “to hopefully try to revamp the way people see the SGA and the events [they] throw, to hopefully bring back that student engagement that [they’ve] lost the last few years.”
“Abraham, Simon and I are extremely proud and excited to serve as your Student Executives for 2017-2018,” Goulet said.
“We encourage students to chat with us in the halls, meet with us, emails us their ideas, worries and concerns,” he continued. “The new SGA team and I want to represent the values of the SGA members, but without student feedback and engagement, that is difficult to do.”