Stephanie Ye-Mowe began her term as WUSA President on Sept. 1 this year after a 16-month tenure as WUSA VP Education. In an interview with Imprint, she shares her thoughts on the new WUSA governance model, her plans for the coming year, and more.
How does it feel to be returning as a WUSA executive?
It’s nice to be returning, honestly. You know, it’s a lot easier in adjustment, I would say. I am very used to the work environment and the work and just glad to be able to continue some of the projects that we were working on last year.
How do you feel about the new WUSA governance model, and being the first President under this model?
I’m hopeful for the model, but I will say that there are some kinks that I wish we had worked out. You know you have this idea, this governance model in theory, but when it comes in practice — it’s figuring out how to operationalize that, how to make everything work, and understanding where maybe the theory of the model doesn’t quite apply in our circumstances, so I’ve had to do a lot of, I guess, catch up, reading on governance. I’m talking to a lot of other folks who have done this sort of work before to figure out what’s best moving forward.
It’s a lot of pressure to be the one setting the precedents for the future and I’m very careful with whenever I make a decision about how something should be structured that I’m writing down why I’m doing it, and what considerations go into play. I do think that for the next couple years, there’s gonna be a lot of tweaking to make things work. So it’s going to be an evolving process and I’m hopeful that the person who takes over after me doesn’t just look at what I did and say, well, that’s what we did last year, so we should do it again. They should be looking at my notes and thinking if something worked well, then we’ll keep it that way, and if it didn’t, then we can always change it. But it’s gonna be a lot of playing around with things and seeing what ultimately works.
And that’s exciting. Also, a little frightening, but I guess it’s what I took on.
You initially ran to be the VP, but due to the lack of a Presidential candidate had to step up and become President. Has this affected your plans and goals for WUSA this year?
Yeah, I would say so. You know, when I was running for VP, I always anticipated that I wouldn’t need to get involved in governance work, to some extent. I just kind of expected to be taking more of a backseat role and providing my thoughts and assisting whoever ended up becoming president, but now obviously I have to take a more active role in that.
In the spring term, when I was VP Education, I was trying to set things up, for myself or for the person who would take the VP role so that their job would be easier. You know, laying the groundwork, and obviously now I don’t get to benefit from my own laying the groundwork. So it’s a little bit stressful in that regard.
So a little bit disappointing that way, but when I ran for VP, I knew that it was my responsibility to take on presidency, if the president was incapacitated or nonexistent so I know what I signed up for, and I will follow through with that.
Speaking of, what are some of your plans and goals for WUSA this year?
The three big, tangible goals that I want to get is (a) getting us an ombuds office. That was something that we were working on before, with the university, and it’s really important for helping students navigate petitions and grievance processes, but also just transparency and oversight. So that’s one thing I’m hoping that we can wrap up and actually move forward with this year.
The other thing — I’d very much like a goose statue or at least be on our way to getting one. You know, I think, the goose is a very… It’s a weird symbol in Waterloo, but I think it really embodies that sort of grassroots UW spirit and having a physical symbol of that I think would be really nice, and it was something that was tasked for us to do by a general meeting, which is the highest democratic body. So if students want a goose statue — it’s a little bit silly — but I think it brings smiles to people’s faces, so I would like one.
The last thing is getting a student-run accessibility service. I think it’s really important, especially now. There’s some work being done in the provincial government to create more standards when it comes to disability support within the post-secondary sector, so the university is in a place where it’s going to be thinking and working a lot on that and I think it’s really important to have a student organized group and a community.
AccessAbility services provides accommodations — sometimes they’re really good at that, sometimes they’re not. But there being a community and helping people understand that just because they have a disability, it doesn’t mean that they are lesser than — it’s a difficult process to navigate, and I think having a community there is really important to go through that and like currently we don’t really have that identified community. So I think it’s important for WUSA to step up and play a role in that.
Would you like to share a message with the student body?
I’ll say that if ever you’re facing a problem or you’re noticing an issue on campus that it is really important to communicate that to WUSA so that we’re aware but also being vocal about what you’re experiencing, telling those stories, whether that be on social media or or through protest or elsewhere. It’s really really important when I’m advocating to the government or the university or whatnot, that we have that student support backing that up. So you know, by responding to housing surveys or being vocal on Reddit, that there’s a problem like that, is absolutely pivotal to letting me do my work. There needs to be a student voice. There needs to be something that I can point to to get decision makers to jump and do something.
And then especially when it comes to housing, like get out and vote in the municipal elections, that’s gonna be really important. We make up a third of the city population. We’re a powerful voice and we should be heard. But unfortunately we don’t always get the voter turnout that we need. We didn’t get the WUSA voter turn out that we wanted and I’d like more but if we don’t get it, that’s fine. But please, please, please… Housing is a big issue. There’s a lot of students couch surfing right now. It’s miserable for everyone, and I want to change that. But in order to do so, I need people to be talking about the municipal elections, and I need people voting. I need the candidates knowing that students vote. So please do that.
Some rapid fire questions for students to get to know you
Favourite thing about UW: The Memes
Favourite thing about WUSA: I really like the name. It’s very fun to say.
Currently Listening to: I’m listening to the sound of this jingle jangle thing [Points at cat toy], that my cat is attacking right now.
Currently Reading: I’m reading a language lovers puzzle book, or actually that’s not the name of the book, I think. Or maybe it is. It basically talks about linguistics and how different languages, depending on how a language is designed, impacts how you think and it has a whole bunch of puzzles and stuff related to that.
Last thing you watched: I was watching American Horror Stories last night.