O-week hot topic for candidates at 'geers forum
By Karena Walter
Presidential contenders tried to build rapport with Western's engineers yesterday in a standing-room-only forum.
The nine candidates for University Students' Council president drew questions from engineering students who were eating lunch in their cafeteria, but they strained to hear some candidates' soft-spoken responses.
Two of the concerns addressed were Western's image as a party school and the administration's push for a more academically-focused orientation.
Brian Astl said he disagreed with setting an academic average cut-off for sophs. "A lot of the qualities of sophs require leadership abilities."
"A bigger part of orientation is making people feel comfortable at Western," Mark Smiley said, adding orientation should be more inclusive to groups on campus.
Kevin Mol also disagreed with an average cut-off. "I don't think you can measure sophs by percentage."
"Academics is not an issue when it comes to sophs," Saj Butt said.
But Christina Gural disagreed and said students should have a minimum academic standard because sophs are role models for new students.
Students have to show the administration that they can have a balanced O-week, Ryan Parks said. "We should go through applications on a person-by-person basis." Parks said he hopes to attract sophs who are not just competent academically.
Sean Martin said they should standardize the soph selection process and work with the administration rather than separately.
Orientation is important but if students do not show a genuine interest in academics Orientation Week will be gone altogether, Scott Graham said.
Roy Sproxton said he fully supports a movement towards an academic focus.
When it comes to Western's reputation, focusing on academics during Orientation Week could help improve Western's image, Butt said.
Sproxton said students must work with the administration and try to find a common element.
Students can change their reputation by turning people's heads with positive actions, Smiley said. "We have to be innovators and do new and innovative things."
Martin said images of Western are often held over from years past and the fact the administration is no longer going to be collecting residence fees because of Western's image problems does not sit well with him. "Quite frankly, it makes my stomach turn."
Graham also touched on this issue. "I can understand the liability issue but I think as students we have to fight for our social rights."
The administration is afraid of bad publicity and students should push for more coverage in the media about the good things students do, Astl said.
The negative image of Western has a lot to do with negative relationships students have with their neighbours in London, Gural said.
"Like it or not, the Maclean's poll has largely shaped high school students' and their parents' perception of what Western is," Parks said. He proposed to start a Maclean's commission to see what concrete criteria Western can send to the magazine.