A look at the first ladies of OUSC

With the Oakland University Student Congress elections season just around the corner — presidential ticket candidates will be formally announced in early March — president Kristin Dayag and vice president Saman Waquad will soon be ending their term.

When Dayag and Waquad were sworn into office as president and vice president, respectively, on April 6, 2009, they became the first all-female executive office pair in OU history.

Provost Virinder Moudgil said their election should give the student body “pride” that they elected a “capable” pair of women.

 “I think that has to be celebrated, whatever it means. It’s an important milestone,” Moudgil said. 

Goals and promises

Dayag and Waquad’s campaign flier didn’t mention any specific promises, but it did list seven goals that they said they’ve held themselves accountable to.

“One of the reasons why our platform was a little vague at the beginning is because I didn’t want to be one of those presidents that had false promises made because I actually wanted to see through every initiative and goal that I put forth for myself,” Dayag said. “And I think I was able to do that.”

One of their goals was to endorse OU pride, which they accomplished through hosting an OUSC tailgating tent before the Homecoming games where they handed out sweat towels.

Another listed goal was effectively listening to and addressing a multitude of student concerns. 

Twelve suggestion boxes have been ordered and will be installed in every advising office throughout campus, Dayag said.

Strengthening the foundation of student congress was another focus.

Dayag and Waquad said there have been issues within the legislature this year such as attendance and meeting quorum.

“If you were to go to every legislator and ask what they have done with their position, I think the facts will back up my statement,” Waquad said.

To combat this, they’ve created ad hoc committees and focus groups to more readily address student concerns like parking and Chartwells food service.

John Beaghan, vice president for finance and administration, was one of the administrators who worked with Dayag and Waquad on parking.

“We modified some of our thinking and plans related to parking … because of their input,” Beaghan said.

Other highlights include the creation of Kresge Library’s reflection room.

Dayag also said she was especially proud of the initiatives taken up by legislative affairs director Amy Ring and student services director Jarret Schlaff. 

Ring helped bring Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mike Bouchard to speak on campus while Schlaff worked to extend Kresge Library’s hours, among other initiatives.

While both have worked toward the same end goal, Mark Medaugh, student activities funding board chair for OUSC, said there’s a distinction between the two, personality-wise.

“Kristin’s a little more easygoing, Saman’s a little less easygoing, but for the most part they compliment each other well,” Medaugh said.

As with every administration, the two student leaders said there were bumps in the road and things would unexpectedly come up that had to be dealt with immediately.

This was the case last summer, for instance, when tuition was a big issue.

The university was pushing to increase it by 11 percent, but Dayag and Waquad lobbied to prevent that. 

A 9 percent tuition increase was settled on.

“I don’t think that would have happened if the students hadn’t been rallied and prepped to get out there and speak strongly against it,” said Mary Beth Snyder, VP of student affairs. 

Having a presence

Despite busy schedules, Dayag and Waquad try to be as visible around campus as possible.

“Saman and I have made an effort to go to almost all the major events held here on campus,” Dayag said.

Moudgil recognized their consistent attendance at board of trustees meetings, saying they always come well informed and offer constructive input.

“You know, I am always there in the front row and I see them take stands in the interest of students,” Moudgil said.

Their depth of involvement has also impressed Snyder, who noted that in addition to recreational events, one or both of them also attend just about every administrative meeting.

“If students want to share the governance, then they have to show up at the meetings where decisions are made,” Snyder said.

Waquad said building a relationship with the administration has been paramount to their platform because they’re the people who can help bring about substantial change.

Dean Glenn McIntosh said he meets with them on almost a biweekly basis and that he’s worked with them on taskforces pertaining to issues like the bike share program and the pouring rights contract with Pepsi.

“It was always obvious that they would come to the meetings with questions that were on target and relevant,” McIntosh said. “That’s very refreshing for us.”

Others students leaders have taken note too.

“I’ve seen them at virtually every event I’ve attended,” said Tawnee Milko, student liaison to the board of trustees. “That they’ve also been able to tackle other issues on their agenda … when they have so many other commitments reflects an administration that has been dedicated to addressing the issues that are important to them.” 

Toward the future

With two months still left in office, Dayag and Waquad said there’s still a lot they’d like to accomplish.

Tuition remains an issue and Dayag said she’d like to have a tuition forum where they discuss either lowering or freezing tuition costs.

Dayag also said she’d like to see OUSC’s constitution updated as well as look into making classroom texts available in Kresge Library, an idea that got put on the backburner earlier this year.

Student congress currently has a rollover surplus of about $70,000 that Dayag said she would like to see used toward the welfare of the university.

“I have been having executive board meetings on a weekly basis challenging them to think of creative ways of how we could spend the money that would most benefit students,” Dayag said.

Another goal before leaving office is to make sure the transition goes smooth for whoever takes over.

“One of the things we really want to do is make sure the next administration has the resources to do a good job and carry on what we instated,” Waquad said.

Waquad, who is entertaining the idea of running for student body president, said she feels she has a responsibility to continue the work she started but might pursue other passions.

Dayag, a junior, said she doesn’t see herself holding a position in student congress next year and will instead focus on her schoolwork. 

She encourages students to get involved in the elections, however.

“Don’t be discouraged or overly confident in them,” Dayag said. “Just hold them accountable to their responsibilities and duties and make sure they’re going above and beyond what is required of them.”