New student leaders reach out to students

For the first time in Oakland University’s history, women were voted into the top two executive positions of student congress.

It was announced at the Oakland Center’s Fireside Lounge Friday, March 27, that Kristin Dayag and Saman Waquad are OU’s 2009-10 student body president-elect and vice president-elect after receiving just over 45 percent of the total 892 votes.

The other 55 percent of the votes were split among four other tickets, with the closest competitor, Janelle Arbuckle and Nick McCormick, drawing just over 25 percent of the votes.

While the percentages have a higher spread than last year’s student elections, with Steve Clark and Dan Evola winning by a mere seven votes, this year’s voter turnout was roughly half the volume.

Evola will be officially handing over the reigns Monday, April 6, and is confident in the new leadership. 

“I know [Dayag is] going to do a great job … She’s been on the executive board for two years and she’s always just been a really hard worker, extremely dedicated,” he said.

Arbuckle also expressed her support for Dayag and Waquad when they were announced as the winners.

“They’re going to do a fantastic job, no matter what, you know they’re our president you have to support them,” she said.

Once Dayag and Waquad’s term officially begins, they will start working on several initiatives geared toward increasing student involvement, interaction and awareness of the resource that student congress can be.

Coming together

“We are first and foremost trying to integrate our community as best as we can. The way we’re going to do that is work with the student organizations, work with faculty and staff,” Dayag said.

In order to integrate the OU community, they want to open up the lines of communication among the different offices, departments and the administration.

“I think that’s one of the avenues where student congress sometimes tends to lack based on the administration,” Waquad said. “The more open those lines of communication are, the more we can help improve student life at OU.”

As part of creating better communication, Dayag and Waquad said they will continue meeting with members of the OU community as they did during their campaign to learn about specific problems affecting students.

One idea they have is to create a mentor program where faculty, staff and professors volunteer to help students who are involved in the social aspect of the OU community to keep up their grades.

“The student leaders are the people that really make a difference on this campus and we need them,” Dayag said.

Dayag also said she wants to incorporate some of the things she’s doing now, as OUSC’s multicultural affairs director, into her goals as student body president. For instance, she is trying to get student organizations in a specific category to collaborate with one another.

“I know we do have a diverse campus but at the same time it’s very segregated,” Dayag said. Getting organizations to work together will not only connect student leaders, but it will also promote more, bigger events that can reach more students and create a stronger community, she said. 

Getting involved, whether by joining an organization or attending the events made available, can be just as beneficial to the academic experience as attending class. Waquad, who used to hire and train people for a marketing firm, said somebody’s GPA wouldn’t guarantee them a $33,000 salary.

“I don’t care about your GPA, what is your GPA going to do for my company?” she said. “For me, it’s very important to have students at OU realize that we do go to a university for the academic experience but what you gain outside the classroom is what will carry you through life: the leadership skills, the teamwork skills that you attain, the appreciation for diversity.”

Another program that they want to get going is one designed to encourage more students to attend on-campus events so they can take more away from OU than their degree.

“A lot of people complain, ‘there’s nothing to do here, there’s nothing to do.’ When you look around there’s so much to do, there are so many different kinds of events that we have here and a lot of people don’t realize it,” Waquad said.

So Dayag and Waquad want to initiate an incentives program, where every class offers extra credit for on-campus events that relate to the study.

“For example, if you’re a health science major or a biology major you could have gotten extra credit for something like Dr. Ben Carson,” Waquad said. “[Students] will be able to experience a lot more at OU.”

One other initiative that is in the planning stages is getting textbooks for every single class to be available in Kresge Library so students who cannot afford to buy books can still study.

Dayag and Waquad also said they will look further into getting Kresge to have more accommodating hours. The library is open 7:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, but is only open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

In their campaign, Mark Medaugh and Ashley Marthen said they would work toward getting Kresge to stay open 24 hours. Dayag and Waquad said they didn’t want to promise something that is not likely to happen.

“Given that it is a commuter school and you don’t have people utilizing the 24-hour area in the OC, if we don’t have demand the university’s not going to provide us with a 24-hour library,” Waquad said.  

They will be looking for student input on the issue to see if there really is a demand.

“I actually do want to look more into that to see what steps we can take in order to essentially get to that goal,” Dayag said.

‘Hold us accountable’

While in office, Dayag and Waquad want to be visible and accessible to the student body.

“I could ask 10 people, more than half of them probably don’t even know that we have a student congress,” Dayag said.

It might be hard to go to somebody with problems when you don’t know they exist.

“My overall vision is for people to be able to feel and know that they can come to us with their problems and their concerns with this university,” Dayag said. “And we want to keep an open communication with not just departments, not just student leaders, but every single student that may have a problem and we want to hear all of those problems.”

“Basically anything and everything that has to do with student organization and student life and representing student interest comes back to OUSC and we want people to know of that any time they have an issue they can come to us,” Waquad said. “They don’t have to just stop by to get a Scantron.”

In order to make students aware of OUSC, Dayag and Waquad said they will be more proactive in their approach to helping students solve problems.

“We’re not going to wait until somebody comes to our office asking to speak with someone” Dayag said. Instead, they said they will probably put out suggestion boxes in the residence halls, the recreation center, different academic departments and advising as well as revamping the website so people can blog about their concerns.

“Hold us accountable. Feel free to contact us with any concern, any issue.”

Looking to the future

The low voter turnout this year is a concern for OU’s new student body president and vice president.

“I think the most important thing though is to get the word out because having [892] votes out of 18,000 is not OK. Having less than one eighteenth of the student body vote is not OK,” Waquad said.

The winni

ng candidates were not the only ones to notice the lacking turnout.

“This is a campus where our biggest problem is people not getting involved, so you can kinda see that by this low voter turnout that it’s still a problem and it still needs to be fixed,” Medaugh said.

The low turnout may impact how the elections are run next year.

“We should have polling locations in every single building during the entire time,” Dayag said.

The new OUSC leaders are now seeking applicants to fill the executive board as well as four open legislator seats.

Some candidates that ran for president want to keep working in OUSC.

Medaugh said he is considering applying for the student activities funding board chair position or being a legislator.

Arbuckle, the current OUSC public relations agent, said she also wants to be on the executive board again. Anthony Ivone said he wants to be involved too.

Evola, who did not run for reelection, has secured a spot as a legislator for next year. He, 21 new legislators, and Dayag and Waquad will be sworn in on April 6.