May 15 marked the first meeting of the newly elected CSU Executive and Council. Looking forward to the upcoming year, President Melissa Kate Wheeler is hoping to revamp the CSU, making students’ needs a priority as well as renewing their confidence in the union.
Wheeler, elected in April 2013, is eager to help provide “amazing experiences for Concordia students.” The union has the potential to impact the lives of a staggering number of people as it represents over 33,000 students.
“I’m excited to give some sort of an attempt at empowering our community,” said Wheeler.
In past years, the CSU has struggled with its reputation. Recently two VPs were asked to resign due to the mismanagement of funds. This election, Wheeler’s candidacy went uncontested, indicating a lack of motivation to run the CSU.
“People have told me I was crazy for doing it … It’s been painted as this terrible place but it’s really not. It’s all about the people that you’re working with and the attitude that you have. You can make it whatever you want it to be,” she said.
Regarding her uncontested candidacy, Wheeler said, “I feel the same way as we did when we ran. It sucks, but it honestly doesn’t make being here any less sweet.”
Wheeler’s experience as an Arts and Science Councillor last year and as the CSU Secretary in 2011 is now an advantage to her position as President. “You have a sense of how things are run, you know who the staff is, what the services are, you know a little bit of the history.”
Not yet fully staffed, CSYou is only three weeks into its term and will soon be hiring a general manager and communications coordinator. Still, members of the CSYou Executive team have already built strong working relationships and friendships.“We get along really well – too well. The office is filled with laughter, it’s sort of distracting,” said Wheeler.
Disagreements still arise, but Wheeler and the VPs keep open and continuous communication. She meets daily with at least two executives to discuss one project or another while executive committee meetings take place two or three times a week.“We trust each other and we have the same goals; we all want to succeed and see each other succeed,” she said.
While the CSU is still committed to fulfilling its election promises, its had to slightly adjust its goals. Its priorities include the opening of the Hive café by September and turning Reggie’s into a profitable bar. The Hive café could potentially be an alternative option for students in residence who prefer vegetarian or vegan options, as opposed to the current meal plan provider, Chartwells, which doesn’t offer the healthiest or cheapest options.
Wheeler also hopes to continue the Love Doesn’t Hurt Campaign she began last semester while working with the Centre for Gender Advocacy. It will be highly relevant next year in light of Concordia’s newly opened Sexual Assault Centre.
Considering the CSU’s amount of projects, communication with such a high number of students is daunting. Still, doing so is Wheeler’s main concern.“That’s something that terrifies me a bit,” said Wheeler. She plans on abiding by the CSU law that ensures at least two executives will be in the office at all times to be available for students who want to stop by and talk.“I don’t want to be some stuffy executive that’s out of the office all the time,” said Wheeler. “The door’s locked but it’s always open.”
Wheeler hopes that students will respond with more than apathy this year to the CSU’s endeavors to create change at the community level. “People should care because this [union] belongs to them, it’s theirs.”