By: Laura Clementson and Nouran Abdellatif
As the first semester draws to a close, the Algonquin Times editorial staff found it only fitting to review the progress of Algonquin President Kent MacDonald and Students’ Association President David Corson during their first terms.
This has been done in report card format to assess transparency, communication, achievements, mandate/ strategy and representation/ role in the community.
The review has been based on their performance since September. The Times had the opportunity to sit down with the two presidents before conducting the review to get their perspective on how the semester has gone.
Thus far, it appears that MacDonald’s administration has been clear about their objectives. When asked questions, he typically provides frank and well thought-out answers. It would appear that public relations have not gotten the best of him yet. We’ll have more of an indication of how transparent he is once he deals with his first hot water issue.
MacDonald uses a variety of tools such as Twitter, his blog, and writes an advertorial for the Times. When it comes to the media, the Times credits him for making himself available, which includes taking a call from a Times reporter while at a conference in California in early November. He appears to be interested in feedback from students, which is evident through the time he blocks off to meet them. To further his interaction with students, MacDonald periodically will eat lunch in the main cafeteria or will stop by the Observatory for breakfast. This is definitely one category where he deserves high praise.
Due to the fact that MacDonald has only been in office for a few months, he has not had a great deal of time to stretch his legs although his smooth transition warrants him credit. He has achieved a new reputation of how staff and students view the administration. The Times looks forward to see how he’ll govern in 2013 once he has his footing.
Mandate/ strategy: A-
MacDonald’s team is currently working on the budget for the 2013/2014 academic year, which deserves a great deal of his time. He is also working on making sure the strategic plan is being implemented. When it comes to this plan, one of MacDonald’s top priorities is to help students be able to transfer credits among post-secondary institutions. He has taken his fight for students to Queen’s Park when he submitted the college’s three goals to the province in September—something that would save students both time and money. MacDonald appears to be using his strong background in education as a means of governing instead of looking at the college as a business, a fine line that one must walk in his position. We’ll see how he handles tougher economic situations and pressures.
Representation/role in the community: A+
MacDonald has conducted himself in a professional, yet genuine manner. He is very friendly and outgoing, which makes him approachable. MacDonald has attended several speaking engagements on and off campus. His philosophy is that he’ll only attend events where he can promote or represent the college instead of attending just for the sake of being a figurehead.
When it comes to priorities, clearly they are in order because MacDonald chooses to stay on campus when needed opposed to mingling at a who’s who event in the Ottawa scene. He can also be spotted on the sidelines of sporting events cheering on the Algonquin Thunder. MacDonald deserves a pat on the back in this category because his personality has built him a reputation within the larger Algonquin community. MacDonald has given the college just the fresh face that it was looking for.
Though he worries about the transparency of his office, Corson is very open with the college community. In his interview with the Times, he was frank about his discussions with the city regarding the age cap on student bus passes. At the launch of the mental health support initiatives iCopeU and Starting the Conversation, he openly announced that he struggled with mental illness to highlight the importance of students getting the help they need. Corson doesn’t shy away from questions and his answers are honest.
Corson’s schedule is made available to students in the Student’s Association office and students can come in to speak with him one-on-one. Anything that the SA staff believes needs to be brought to Corson’s attention is flagged. He appears to be communicating within his administration effectively. He also responds to emails within a few minutes of receiving them. On the other hand, Corson does not make use of social media to connect with students or the broader community and relies instead on the SA social media accounts. He also doesn’t use his column in the Times to its full potential.
Mental health is not only an issue close to Corson’s heart, but also one that affects a portion of Algonquin’s student population. He managed to address the issue by launching the mental health website that got 990 hits in the first three weeks. Corson has also been working hard to get a food bank on campus because many students use the facilities on other campuses. Corson cites a lack of available space for this service as the roadblock. Although Corson appears to be pouring his heart and soul into the OC Transpo age cap issue, the Times would like to see him put his energy into projects that would have a more immediate outcome.
Corson’s administration went for the family feel, particularly since the Student Commons
opened. He seems to care about the day-to-day experience and the smaller things. He has students’ best interests at heart with the Fair Fares campaign and filing a human rights complaint. Despite the good intentions behind the complaint, it is not the ideal route to a fast solution. If he chooses not to run next year or is defeated in the elections, there is no guarantee his successor may want to follow through with the complaint, resulting in a waste of SA resources. He was very ambitious with what he wanted to accomplish, but he needs to bear in mind that he may only have the one year in office. He does go over and above the required hours he has to put into his position.
Representation/role in the community: B
Corson says his role as president and his own coursework have taken away from his being able to participate in the broader community. He is in touch with college ward councillor Rick Chiarelli and is looking to get involved with ward meetings in January. The community doesn’t know that Algonquin participates in things such as Movember and Relay for Life and contributes to the food bank and United Way, so the SA is in contact with community newspaper EMC. President Kent MacDonald received positive feedback from Mayor Jim Watson on the SA’s professionalism and how they’re standing their ground on the bus pass issue.