Conestoga Students Inc. will have a new president for the 2014-2015 academic year.
After nearly 10 hours of speeches and voting that began at 9 a.m. on Feb. 8, the selection committee chose Jeffrey Scherer, a third-year business administration – marketing student, as the president after three rounds of voting.
The committee was assembled by CSI and made up of six randomly-selected students and three members of the current CSI board of directors. Only directors who were not running for president were allowed to vote on the proceedings, and one director, Nitika Oberoi, was not present.
Students had to apply to be a part of the committee, and then were randomly chosen from applicants. Student members of the committee were paid a $150 honorarium and were given lunch and dinner. The committee was supposed to have two more students, but they didn’t show up Saturday.
The event’s format consisted of a morning spent listening to 15-minute speeches by the 10 candidates, who were not allowed to be present for the speeches of their competitors.
After the first few speeches, the Sanctuary, where the event was being held, began to smell heavily of gas. Security was contacted and they confirmed that the proceedings should be moved elsewhere while the issue was resolved.
The remainder of the event was held in the more intimate confines of the Student Life meeting room – directly across from Room 2A122, also known as the “clubs room,” where candidates were already relaxing before and after their speeches.
Some candidates made use of visual aids or handouts during their speeches. Scherer showed a personal testimony video shot by a broadcast journalism student, while Zoey Ross handed out a dossier containing more than 500 signatures supporting his candidacy.
Adam Rochon, a broadcast journalism student and a candidate for the position, showed a selection of the work he had done in his program. Hayley Press, current member of the board of directors, outlined a full platform and strategy in a distinctly PR-oriented style.
The platforms presented were varied, but there were some points in common. Most candidates said that transparency and communication were important to them, some referring specifically to a story that Spoke ran previously about the $945,000 CSI budget surplus.
The speeches were mostly well-received. But the question and answer period, which took place after a lunch of Quiznos subs, was where candidates truly faced down the committee.
Each candidate was given 25 minutes to answer questions from the committee and audience members.
The committee did not pull their punches.
The questions were pertinent to the candidates’ platforms and often demanded specific examples. Scherer and Rochon both performed well during their stints in front of the committee, despite some dangerous questions.
Shayna Collin, a second-year business student and one of the student members of the committee, asked Scherer a potentially crippling question, who may have actually turned the query to his advantage.
“If you were given the choice and you could only choose one goal for the year to achieve as president, what would it be and why,” Collin asked.
“The one thing I would change in the year would have to be unifying our school colours. I know it’s not a huge thing … it’s something that can help build our school, and how people feel around our school and the stuff they can bring home with them, as well,” Scherer said, adding that many people don’t know what the school’s colours are.
Another of the committee, Kassie McLean, questioned Scherer’s answer to Collin’s question. The second-year community and criminal justice student asked why this would be Scherer’s priority.
“If we have a unified school colour, and we have that community, and we have that mentality that we are all one, we are all connected, we’re all working towards the same goal … I believe that unifying our school identity is somewhere where I’d like to start,” Scherer replied.
Incumbent CSI president Jason Wright faced some tough questions from current board members about some of the internal troubles that the board of directors faced during the year.
Current director on the CSI board and committee member Danielle Wingfield asked about Wright’s flaws.
“You’ve outlined your external successes very well, but what I’m interested in is your flaws, because I’ve seen them. I’m just wondering if you’ve seen them. On an internal level, where do you think you went wrong this year, and how can you plan to not let that happen again, should you be re-elected,” Wingfield asked.
“I said ‘no’ too quickly on a lot of things, and that’s something I didn’t really take into consideration when I first got this position. For me, I was too quick to dismiss ideas just because I wasn’t sure, I didn’t research them enough, didn’t look into it enough, so that would be something that I’d like to change,” Wright replied.
Zoey Ross, who had campaigned at all of the Conestoga College satellite campuses, faced questions about his previous time on the board of directors as well as his decision to campaign despite the fact that the president was to be selected by committee. Wingfield had a question for him, as well.
“You said that you are in support of CSI. Knowing the voting process, don’t you think it was a little unfair to heavily campaign so much, because you did create a lot of bias within students that made it very hard for us to find an unbiased presidential selection committee and that is the point of the selection committee … knowing the way it is, do you think it is unfair,” asked Wingfield.
“I don’t think it was unfair … what I needed was responses from the students to build on my platform. How do you know what students want unless you go out and ask them,” Ross replied, adding that if he affected public opinion at all, it would have been 10 per cent or less of the student population.
With these types of in-depth questions being fairly common, most of the candidates utilized the full 25 minutes. After all the questions and answer sessions were completed, the committee took a break for dinner before voting. In order to limit conversation about the proceedings, candidates got first crack at the pizzas while the committee waited nervously.
When it came time to vote, Sheena Witzel, the CSI operations manager who was acting as primary electoral officer, handed out the ballots. She explained that the president would need a majority plus one of the total nine votes to be elected – in this case, five.
“Unless in the very first round a candidate does receive five votes, there is not a clear winner, so we will eliminate the candidates with the lowest votes,” Witzel explained.
Witzel asked a Spoke reporter to act as scrutineer for the balloting process, with the caveat that he not report on vote totals outside of the final round of voting to protect the feelings of those who may not have received any votes. The reporter agreed to act as scrutineer and abide by this condition.
The candidates were again kept in the clubs room while voting took place. It took three rounds in total, with the committee being told each time which candidates were still in the race at the beginning of each round. All ballots were clearly marked and none were spoiled.
In the final round against Rochon, Scherer earned the nod with six of nine votes, or 66 per cent of the committee’s votes.
After the announcement, Scherer looked genuinely happy as well as lost for words as the committee and his fellow candidates looked to him for a response. Moments after the announcement, Scherer sat down for an interview with Spoke to talk about how it felt to win.
“I am ecstatic, but at the same time, very stunned. When my name was announced … I was lost for words, for a couple minutes … I’m very excited,” Scherer said.