Volume 95, Issue 55

Thursday, January 10, 2002
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Baxter and Rafiq survive crucial vote

Kids love piercing, hate infections

More student housing, but at what cost?

SSSC still suffering budget blues

Elvis lives, vows to run again

News Briefs

Sunny Days

Sunny Days

The University Students' Council has enjoyed a largely peaceful and quiet first half of the 2001-2002 school year.

Such a start is largely positive, but too much peace and quiet could prove to be council's ultimate downfall.

With the 2002 USC presidential and vice-presidential elections just around the corner, The Gazette recently embarked on its annual series of interviews with senators, councillors and students to get a feel for how the Western community views the most high-profile elected student representatives on campus – the USC board of directors.

Generally, respondents noted all board members are very approachable and have been effective in their positions this year, but they need to work harder to make sure students know about what goes on in their third floor offices.

The Gazette's research revealed that many board members are taking on initiatives, starting committees and making plans to deal with future events – all of which amounts to a lot of work.

However, not a lot of what is being done is visible to the average student, which could prove to be the council's biggest shortcoming.

With the establishment of the USC Front and the drafting of the USC Strategic Plan, the USC has been slowly laying the ground work for a reformed and improved council in the years to come.

Mike Lawless B+

Far and away the most recognizable USC representative and Big Bird of the whole show, president Mike Lawless has managed to make a name for himself thus far.

Whether they key to his success is playing piano at The Spoke or his spiky hair and goatee, the King's College student has accomplished the not-so-easy-task of getting students to actually know who he is.

As far as his actual governing of Sesame Street goes, Lawless' easy-going, approachable, understanding and lead-by-example management style has garnered the respect of much of his council and deemed him a vast improvement over his predecessor, Dave Braun.

Some would like to see him act more decisively and rely on his own instincts more often. As well, many said they wished Lawless would have stepped up to the plate and made public the USC's position on important issues like the Undergraduate Engineering Society's Homecoming spat with administration and the safety of women on campus.

While he has not made any giant leaps through his residence tours and the USC Front, Mike's constant battle to reach the average, non-USC student seems to be on the winning side.

All in all, Big Bird Lawless has put a smile on many children's faces.

Erin McCloskey A

As the USC's governmental lobbyist, VP-education Erin McCloskey has flexed some serious muscle during her time on the USC board of directors, despite spending most of her time on the road.

McCloskey's tough outer shell has been apparent in her thorough presentations to council where she has consistently delivered detailed reports of her activities lobbying governmental big whigs.

Unfortunately, her efforts often go unnoticed by the average student because many of her lobbying efforts will not have immediate results.

When in town, McCloskey has toured the faculty councils giving presentations on the Ontario Undergraduate Students' Alliance (of which she is president) and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (the USC's official national lobbying group).

However, councillors would like to see more of a presence in high-trafficked areas (like the University Community Centre) where she can raise CASA and OUSA awareness.

McCloskey continues to make herself available to students having trouble with OSAP and loans and, even while away, she responds to phone calls and e-mails promptly.

Above all, McCloskey – the Prairie Dawn of this year's get-along-gang – has proven herself to be an excellent role model for modern women and has worked tirelessly, setting a high standard for her replacement.

Rob Irvine C+

Rob Irvine came into the office of VP-finance on the heels of a landslide victory that, thus far, has proven to be the climactic point of his time in office.

Irvine's 'to do list' to date has included publicizing and beefing up CHRW 94.7 FM, as well as doing Western's part in the Campus Advantage program, though students have seen nor heard little of it to date.

The On Campus Rewards program, implemented poorly in September, is Irvine's baby this year. Students were uninformed during Orientation week when they were handed the cards and USC retail outlets were unprepared for students to use them right away.

He did demonstrate his professionalism and procedural knowledge when he shot down the UWO Public Interest Research Group's off-the-cuff request for money to protest at October's Ontario Progressive Conservative convention in London.

However, his biggest test will be when the budget comes out at the end of this semester – will he sink or swim?

Overall, Irvine has done his job well, but seems to lack an opportunity to really make his mark. His sunny disposition makes him a regular Guy Smiley, but at the same time, makes questionable his ability to make tough decisions and crack the whip.

Wes Brown B

Next to Big Bird, Elmo is the second most popular guy on the block.

Second to Lawless, VP-student affairs Wes Brown is the most well-known to students or at least his events are.

Just like Elmo, Brown is hyper, likes to be in the spotlight and wants to be everyone's best friend.

For many of these reasons Brown had an uphill climb convincing many he can put down his funny stick and handle the serious aspect of the job. But, at this point, polls indicate he has proven he can change hats when need be – a pleasant shock.

Many traditional VP-SA events – like Orientation week, Homecoming, Clubs Week and the United Way Campaign – have gone well.

Brown is currently working on an O-week double cohort action plan and plans for an Off-Campus Students' Council have been well-received, while his work on CHRW's "Wake-up Western" morning show is entertaining.

However, because of this creative and outgoing persona, it is disappointing the student body has not seen any similarly colourful and new ideas from Brown. Some fear he may be playing it too safe in order to avoid screw-ups like last year's Operation Massive disaster, but, in the meantime, he may be squandering away his creative talent.

However, the near unanimous decision says he's been a success.

For the guy that's supposed to be VP-fun, we'd say "that tickles."

Sera Vavala B-

Like Maria, the mother figure of Sesame Street, VP-campus issues Sera Vavala is good at keeping the peace and taking care of both the groups she represents and the commissioners in her portfolio.

With a friendly disposition, students and clubs feel comfortable approaching her with their concerns. However, she is not a well-known figure to much of the student body.

Vavala handled the situation on campus following Sept. 11 in an even-keeled manner, keeping her door open to all Western students with any concerns.

When administration took away student parking spots, she fought hard and successfully got them all back – plus a few extra. But, it was an action for which she didn't receive enough credit, councillors said.

There was much criticism of this year's Coming Out Week, a low-profiled event that featured a drag show – and that's about it.

While Vavala has more recently been working with the University Police Department on campus safety concerns, she needs to take a more public role on the issue. Many women at Western are concerned about their safety and by making herself visible as a leader, she could take her VP-campus issues position to the next level.

Vavala has shown she can deal with situations well when students approach her, but she needs to be more proactive. If you want to keep the neighbourhood safe, you don't wait for something bad to happen before you act.

Tim Shorthill C-

Getting off to a good start was easy for this year's communications officer, especially with the five-figure raise he received in the summer.

Keeping up with that momentum, however, has been another story.

After losing out in the presidential elections, Tim Shortill took on the communications officer position with many ideas from his previous campaign and was off to a great start.

He helped launch the USC Front – a mock USC office where students can get easy information without venturing to the third floor. He revamped the USC website and made a CD-ROM multimedia "business card" for the USC to distribute to students, other universities and government big shots.

He also made the USC Notes, a more visible publication, although many councillors feel there are too many inside jokes for the regular student.

Despite such accomplishments, many councillors said most of his duties were finished in the summer and he hasn't really taken on anything new that he didn't set out to from the start.

At the same time, the wannabe lawyer has spent much of his time preparing for the LSAT, possibly during office hours. Even in the USC Notes, he stated, "So here I sit, at my desk, in my office, typing this article instead of what I should be doing – preparing for the LSAT." Sorry Tim, you're wrong – your councillors think what you "should be doing" is your job.

Just like Snuffy, Shortill has been dragging his feet recently. However, Shorthill goes out of his way to help students who approach him – even if the issue does not fall under his own portfolio – and is very accessible.

Doing an adequate job thus far, Shortill will have to pick up that ball he seems to have dropped at the end of October and pick up the pace in second semester to prove and reinforce that the communications officer is worthy of full-time pay.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002