On Friday afternoon, the SU Presidential candidates got a chance to talk specifics during the Gateway and CJSR Forums. Candidates arrived prepared for what would be a forum based on specifics and concrete examples – no buzz words allowed. Moderators asked the candidates a series of questions designed to explore the specifics of each platform, and candidates were in turn given the opportunity to ask one another questions, and were encouraged to be “as ruthless as possible”. It was clear both serious candidates had hit their stride by this point in the game when it came to forum discussion. Combined with Horse’s live-tweeting, this forum was both entertaining and informative.
Candidates opened with statements that clearly expressed what each believes is their advantage over the other – experience. Petros outlined his reputable SU involvement in his answer to the question “Why am I running, and when am I graduating?”. Experience however, is not a detriment to his ability to pose fresh and new ideas, and further gives him the background to pursue past and seemingly forgotten projects, in his opinion. Saadiq by contrast, successfully played up his perceived weakness in terms of experience, highlighting the fresh outlook this gives him and the fact that he hasn’t been wrapped up in SU bureaucracy for too long yet.
As has become customary during this election period, candidates were asked to be critical of the SU’s handling of the Lister situation. Petros once again forwarded the argument that the Lister issue was misbranded, and he would have sought to build a consensus with other stakeholders to market it as a student issue, not just one that affected Lister residents. Saadiq by contrast, believed that the SU could have improved its handling of residence issues in general, not just specifically in the case of Lister. He pointed to the June 15th shooting in HUB mall as a primary example, arguing that the university has not yet made any substantial changes in this area, something that he would like to work on if elected president.
Gender neutral washrooms was another hot topic on the agenda, and candidates were asked to clarify the specifics of their plans regarding these washrooms. Saadiq began by indicating that he would like to refer to these washrooms as “accessible”. He then outlined that he would like to overhaul the washrooms in SUB by Java-Jive, to create multi-stall accessible washrooms with an emphasis on privacy. Petros also clarified terminology, preferring the term “gender inclusive”. He instead would seek renovations for washrooms by the bookstore, which he believes will be easier to implement. He also clarified that he values the consultation aspect of these washrooms’ implementation, believing that it is one thing to install such washrooms, yet it is another to overhaul the culture on campus regarding their use.
The conversation then switched back to the Lister issue, and candidates were asked how they would specifically work with the university to address concerns regarding Lister. Reiterating points from the Residence Forum earlier in the week, Petros emphasized that having a “new face” spearheading the issue, especially one from outside of the Lister community, would be highly beneficial. Specifically, he would seek to form alliances and garner support from other groups on campus for the Lister cause moving forward. Saadiq emphasized working with the university and specifically the Lister Hall Student’s Association (LHSA). Interestingly enough, he also suggested potentially reuniting the LHSA and the Residence Halls Association (RHA). He also stressed the importance of being more cognitive of how the university perceives the SU, and believes a “frank discussion” is in order to clarify the SU’s role in student advocacy to the administration.
A specific part of Petros’ platform was also up for discussion, namely the pursuit of “Block Week”. Petros was specifically questioned on his reasoning for bringing up the establishment of one week courses, and further how he views this initiative developing. Petros argued that these courses have the potential to enhance the undergraduate experience, and that giving students more choice in their academic programming is always beneficial. Citing Quest College and the University of Calgary as examples, Petros believes that further research should be done into these courses, and that we should “begin planting the seeds of change” now, for the benefit of future undergrads. Saadiq was able to forward his own views on the issue near the end of the forum, with his question for Petros directly addressing the “Block Week” topic. Saadiq questioned how tuition for these courses would be determined, and how these courses could lead to the potential decrease in student engagement.
As was seen in the forum, the Presidential race is beginning to heat up. While both candidates have been addressing similar issues with their platforms, the difference of opinions is beginning to become more noticeable. With a few forums under their belts, I believe the presidential candidates have begun to kick it up a notch, and discussions from here on out will focus more on specific platform initiatives, as was emphasized in this forum.
Written by Erica Woolf.